Summary of Academies and who can apply

A Summary

We have produced a 96 step guide detailing the actions a school needs to take on the way to becoming an academy. This is available to any school considering whether conversion is the right option for them.

The aim of this document is to give a brief overview of the eligibility criteria for becoming an academy and the stages involved in the conversion process.

What is an Academy?

Academies are publicly funded independent schools free from local authority control.

Academies are funded and maintained by the Department for Education (DfE) at a level equivalent to maintained schools. However, an academy also benefits by retaining the Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent (LACSEG) part of its budget that is currently top sliced by the local authority. This will vary by Local Authority and year on year but usually amounts to 10% of the school's budget. LACSEG is being replaced by the Education Services Grant (ESG) in September 2013 which for most mainstream academies will be a flat rate of £150 per pupil.

Academies also benefit from a number of key freedoms including the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff, freedom from following the national curriculum, and the ability to change the length of their terms and school days.

Who can apply to become an academy?

Initially only 'outstanding' secondary schools were invited to become academies but now any school - primary, secondary, special or PRU - can become an academy.

A school is eligible to convert on its own if it is rated by Ofsted as 'outstanding' or 'good with outstanding features' or the Department for Education assesses the school to be 'performing well'.

When assessing whether a school is 'performing well', the DfE will consider each application on a case by case basis taking into account the following factors:

  • The school's exam results from the last 3 years
  • Comparisons with exam results in similar schools (locally and nationally)
  • The school's latest Ofsted inspection, taking particular notice of the school's:
    - Capacity to improve:
    › Outcomes
    › Effectiveness of the leadership team
  • Any additional evidence which the school feels is significant in proving its performance

All schools (irrespective of their Ofsted grade) can apply to convert in a formal partnership or chain with a school that is 'outstanding' or 'performing well'.

Academy chains are becoming increasingly common particular among primary schools which may have lacked the resources to convert on their own. (The DfE is currently providing an additional grant of £50,000 to support chains of 3 or more primary and special schools joining a Multi-Academy Trust with their conversion costs.)

The 4 Stages in Summary:

  1. Registration. Complete the Department for Education's on-line registration form -https://www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/typesofschools/academies/primary/register The Department for Education will contact you directly with further guidance and documentation. The person who contacts you will be your named support throughout the process. The Governing Body may wish to start the statutory consultation with interested parties about becoming an Academy (the consultation can start later but must be completed before the Funding Agreement can be signed).
  2. Application to convert/eligibility checks. Submit a short application to convert form, including the confirmation of the Governing Body resolution; the agreement of your Foundation and Trustees and those entitled to appoint foundation governors (if applicable). You will also need to discuss with your DfE contact your in-principle agreement to support another school to help raise standards. The Secretary of State will confirm whether he is content for your school to proceed to the next stage and, if he is, he will make an Academy Order. The current employer of the school staff starts the formal TUPE process at this stage, prior to the funding agreement being signed.
  3. Obtaining funding agreement. The Department will support the Governing Body and head teacher to ensure that all legal documents are completed relating to governance, land, property and staff transfer and company registration. The Governing Body must complete the statutory consultation with interested parties about becoming an Academy before they and the Secretary of State sign the Funding Agreement. This stage of the process is completed when the Academy Trust and the Secretary of State sign the Funding Agreement for the Academy. The Funding Agreement will stipulate the date when the Academy will open and the local authority will cease to maintain the school from that date. The current employer of the school staff will continue (and ideally complete) the TUPE process.
  4. Pre-opening. The Governing Body will need to finalise matters in preparation for the Academy opening. This will include setting up new contractual arrangements as required and completing registrations.

It is not necessary to follow these steps in sequence. Depending on how quickly a school wishes to convert, they may need to undertake some steps in parallel to ensure that the necessary work is completed before conversion.

The timescale from the start to the end of the process is usually a minimum of three to four months, but it may take longer if there are complicated issues to resolve.