The Formal Process
Which schools can now apply for conversion?
Outstanding schools can all apply and move fast-track. Ensure sufficient time is allocated to do this properly.
Failing schools may now find themselves directed to become academies.
Good schools with outstanding features may now apply and in due course all schools will be able to. The DfE to may require you to undertake various tasks like finding partners to convert with, depending on your circumstances.
The governing body passes a resolution to request an academy order from the Secretary of State. The procedure from there on is set out on the Lee Bolton Monier-Williams website and on the DfE website and is not repeated here.
The trustees and all those bodies appointing foundation governors have to agree. We advise that this should include the diocesan bishop, since he appoints the ex-officio governors. If this group does not include the DBE, it must be separately consulted under the DBE Measure. The trustees must also consult the DBE under the Measure.
The various consultations required are described in the LBMW and DfE documents as are the points in the process when you should undertake them. Schools should produce a brief consultation document describing for all consultees what the school aims to do.
The National Society advises schools to consult widely and openly, although the decision to apply for conversion is that of the governing body – subject to the agreements required from the listed bodies (in 93). Schools should not try to bypass these agreements. They are required and the Secretary of State would be acting illegally if he allowed schools to convert without them.
An adviser form the DfE will be allocated as soon as the formal process starts and lawyers will be needed. Schools must ensure that the firm is sufficiently experienced and specialist. Ensure that any local firm bases its work on the agreed model documents and does not try to reinvent them.
It should be satisfactory and less expensive for one firm of lawyers to do all the work. However, if school, trustees and DBE are not in agreement with one another about matters of fundamental importance then separate legal advice will need to be taken. This can be avoided if full discussions take place before the formal process begins.
The DfE provides a standard grant of £25,000. This can be increased if a case can be made out. However the DfE is unlikely to provide extra funds for arguments over changes to the model documents which DfE has already agreed. Use the models as much as possible - they are drawn so as to protect schools and have been agreed by the DfE on the basis of the appropriateness of their approach.
Experience to date suggests that the £25,000 is sufficient, but complex land issues or major local disagreements could add cost.
The Secretary of State either agrees or does not agree to the governing body’s request for him to make an academy order. There is no appeal against his decision, except that if he was thought not to have followed his own law he could be subject to judicial review.