Taking the Big Decisions
Are we going alone or in a group?
Schools will have gone into the formal process having made that decision. It is possible for further schools to join the company later and the company would have to be changed to the multi-model. Schools are not confined to the single model for ever.
The legislation does not provide a way in which a single academy can withdraw from a multi-academy company and set up a single academy company, or join some other grouping. It could be that the company a school has joined will not let permit it to leave.
If a school converts with a single academy company, but agrees to operate collaboratively as part of a group, then the Heads of Agreement under which such collaboration would be formed will provide for ways in which individual academies could withdraw.
VA schools should use Model 1 on the Church Schools section of the DfE website. It is designed expressly for that purpose and incorporates the concept of corporate church members and governors, which firmly secures the church character for the future.
Foundation majority schools should use the same model but will require some of the detail from Model 2 to reflect their employment, RE and worship “as is” positions.
VC converters must use model 2 as this is agreed with the DfE to reflect the complex VC position. Note the important provisions for foundation members and foundation governors and the powers accorded to them. These are essential to safeguard the character of the academy into the future.
Foundation minority converters must also use Model 2 for the same reasons.
Model 3 is drafted mostly for situations where the DBE itself (or the trustees, especially in RC schools) either themselves comprise the membership and governorship or appoint almost all. It can be adapted for more normal Church of England situations where the members and governors will be or will be appointed by a variety of Church of England bodies or persons. In such circumstances it is not really different from model 1.
The Society advises that VC and Foundation minority schools should always explicitly address this question and decide it in consultation with the diocese before entering on the formal phase of conversion. Schools should not avoid the issue as the majority academy model is much more able to safeguard the character of the academy into the future than any minority model could ever do.
It may be also that all Foundation schools should consider such a prior change, since that would give the consequent academy the full independent school employment powers instead of being restricted to the powers of the Foundation category.
VC schools could more easily change to Foundation majority before conversion, but this is less effective than the change to VA
This is clearly the alternative. It should be formally agreed so that parties are all sure that it will be done. Such a subsequent change will probably require a consultation and the decision will be made by the Secretary of State. It is our understanding that he would normally approve such a change.
Schools and dioceses differ considerably in current practice but the trend is towards greater buy-ins from dioceses. The National Society strongly supports such developments. There is the possibility of mutual self-help, perhaps facilitated by the diocese, and of regional services provided by dioceses together. These can offer economies of scale, but dioceses should not to try to become a kind of Local Authority. Light central staffing structures to manage the support processes plus buying in consultants or specialists as necessary seems likely to be useful approach.
This should be agreed in advance. Much depends on what the LA has on offer and the current relationship with them. The question should not be ignored.
Commercial and charitable agencies of various sorts will be trying to sell their services and schools should check the market ensuring that any company is aware of the position of Church of England schools. This will be important in areas such as HR.