An academy is an independent school, which reports directly to the Secretary of State, with no formal structural or financial links to the local community or the council. It is funded by the taxpayer. The government describes them as independent state-funded schools.
Click here for a list of Academies in Newcastle.
Becoming an academy would remove the provision of support services from the local authority, such as their school improvement services, special educational needs (SEN) and disability support, behaviour support, child and adolescent health and social care services, emergency contingencies, training and professional development, payroll support, and facilitation of school networks. Any school that becomes an academy would need to fund such services from its own budget. It can, in a commercial relationship, continue to purchase these services from the local authority.
If a school does not purchase such services from the local authority, these may well become more expensive for schools to procure since individual academies would not benefit from the same economies of scale as the local authority. Provision in the academy is likely to cost more rather than less.
Yes they do. The local authority provides an important safety net for schools, supporting them particularly when they encounter difficulties in performance, deficit problems with their budgets, financial management problems, and support for schools and the workforce in terms of responding to staff health and welfare issues, maternity provision, reasonable adjustments for disabled staff, statutory induction provision, staff training and development, safety and security, challenging parents and pupils and so on.
Local authorities also facilitate effective working relationships within schools and, as a result of mechanisms such as the Joint Negotiating Committees, provide better industrial relations.
In an academy, the school governors become wholly responsible for the full range of statutory responsibilities, many of which would previously have been discharged by the local authority or other relevant body. These include the requirements of pension provision, health and safety liability and other legislative provisions previously monitored, managed and administered by the local authority on behalf of schools. Governors may also be personally liable in the case of the failure of the academy school or if the affairs of the academy are inadequately or unlawfully discharged.
No. A headteacher has no power to determine whether a school becomes an academy. The decision rests with the governing body and if the school is a voluntary aided or controlled school, with the relevant additional voluntary authorities.
The governing body of the school makes the decision about the school applying to become an academy. Schools are legally required to consult before becoming an academy. It is important that the voices of parents and the local community are heard on such a crucial and irreversible decision, and we would encourage parents to make sure their views are heard by the governors.
Schools thinking about becoming an academy should have a thorough and extensive consultation with parents, carers, children, young people and other stakeholders. Schools should be able to explain how becoming an academy will raise standards and improve outcomes for children and young people.
Parents who wish to make their views known should contact the parent governors and the chair of governors requesting that a full consultation with all parents takes place. The governing body should be asked to give a balanced view of the advantages and disadvantages of converting the school to academy status. A public meeting should be sought to enable everyone with an interest in the future of the school to discuss the proposals.
The local community may wish to call for a ballot on whether the school should apply for academy status. If the governors refuse to engage in consultation with parents or the local community, then you should contact your local council, your local councillor and your local MP.
No. A decision to become an academy is irreversible.
The government says this can be as little as three months, including the Summer holiday. Further details can be found on the DfE website (external link).
You may know nothing about this process until the Governing Body has taken the step of voting to become an academy. It is important to seek confirmation from the headteacher and Governing Body on whether the school is considering conversion to academy status.
Not necessarily. Independent research and evaluation provides no evidence that academies are better than other schools in raising educational standards. Academy schools have no better record of educational achievement than any other type of school. Some do better, some have a far worse record.
All schools will incur additional costs as a result of conversion to academy status. These include costs associated with support, branding, external services and warranties, personnel functions, legal functions, IT maintenance contracts, health and safety duties, special needs provision, public liability and asset insurance, as all may currently be managed, provided or covered by the local authority.
Potential accrued and contingent liabilities of the school that will fall on the academy can be considerable, particularly liabilities for pensions. Costs for some schools have been in excess of £300,000. Depending upon the circumstances of each school, these costs will not only be considerable but could also be ongoing.
The Department for Education’s (DfE’s) own impact assessment indicates that all schools should expect a minimum one-off cost of academy conversion of £78,000. However, costs do depend on the complexity or not of the individual school conversion. On completion of the process, the DfE has indicated that it will provide schools that have converted with a flat-rate grant of around £25,000 towards the cost of conversion. However, this will not be sufficient to offset the total cost associated with academy conversion, leaving each school with a possible shortfall of around £53,000.
The government has confirmed that academy status should not give schools a financial advantage. Academies’ funding is worked out on a per pupil basis, just like other schools. A key difference is that academies receive directly the money which would previously have been held back by the local authority to provide extra services across all schools, such as help for pupils with a whole range of special needs, pupil support, education welfare and school transport. This is estimated to range from 4 to 10% of the funds allocated to the school.
All new academies are required to organise and pay for the provision previously provided by the local authority themselves, with the added work, difficulties and risks that this procurement involves. They are less likely to benefit from various financial levers that local authorities have, including economies of scale, long-established relations with suppliers or the expertise that the local authority currently uses in order to reduce costs.
So an academy may receive additional funding but it has to pay for additional responsibilities out of that funding. For example, it is possible that an academy with a significant number of pupils with special needs could find it has insufficient funds to match the provision previously provided by the local authority.
Academies are not protected from the cuts to public expenditure by central government. There is no protection for the governing body if an academy school encounters a future budget deficit. Currently, all local authorities have statutory powers that enable them to provide financial support to schools in financial difficulty. Such support would no longer be available to an academy and members of the governing body may not be indemnified against any financial liability or loss as a result of a failure of the school’s provision.
There is no additional money to support new buildings or refurbishment to existing buildings for schools that become an academy. The governing body of an academy school would need to make arrangements for raising additional funding to support the development, upgrading or expansion of the school or any other capital projects.
Maintained schools continue to attract funding from central grant through the Local Authority for emergency repairs and maintenance. Local councils can also make additional funds available for capital investment in maintained schools but not academies.
Where an emergency arises, such as the development of a major structural fault or serious fire damage or flooding, the local authority will not be required or be in a position to provide the capital to repair or rebuild the school. The governors of the academy would have to find the funding. The DfE has suggested that this could be from the school taking out a commercial loan, with all the resulting issues of personal liability for governors and high interest rates on the loan, or by increasing its insurance cover (and premiums).
Academies are not allowed to charge fees for pupils to attend the school. However, there may be hidden costs by academies introducing, for example, new school uniforms or charging for certain activities and use of resources. Also, unlike maintained schools, academies are able to charge whatever they like for school meals and refreshments.
It is often said that local authorities exert operational control over the day-to-day running of schools. They do not. Non-academy schools enjoy autonomy over their affairs and have done for many years. All schools are accountable for their use of public money.
Academy schools remain subject to inspection and their performance would continue to be included in the league tables. Furthermore, academy schools remain subject to primary legislation, including employment law, health and safety, and equalities legislation.
Every school currently has the freedom to implement its own curriculum within the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum. All schools will continue to be accountable for how they deploy their financial resources and the standards they achieve.
Academies are their own admissions authority and, therefore, set their own admission policies. They are at present required to follow the statutory admissions code. Whilst academies cannot choose their intake, there is some evidence in some parts of the country that academies’ intakes are not representative of their local community. Academies also have a higher exclusion rate than other types of schools.
Academies can set their own term dates and school day timings without consultation with parents or the local council.
All available evidence shows that in existing academies the governing body is smaller as a result of either reducing parent governors or staff representatives. Academies must have at least two parent governors.
In the first instance, as now, parents can complain to the school. However, academies are not part of the local authority family of schools and, therefore, if you are not satisfied or are unhappy with the outcome, parents cannot complain, as they can now, to the local authority or their local councillor to ask them to intervene on your behalf. Any complaints about the academy would have to be raised with the Secretary of State for Education in London.
All schools that are ‘performing well’ can apply to convert, except for nursery schools and pupil referral units. Schools that are not ‘performing well’ can also apply to convert as long as they apply in a formal partnership with a sponsor.
To decide if a school is performing well and so eligible to convert to academy status the following will be taken into consideration by the DfE:
Any decisions on conversions will be taken on a case by case basis, including consideration of the financial management of the school, including any deficits.
For schools that do not collect the data outlined above, such as infant schools, the DfE will use the following information to build a view of a schools performance:
The current legislative framework means it is not possible for alternative provision, such as pupil referral units, to become academies but the DfE is legislating to change this.
Nursery schools cannot become academies because they cater for pupils below compulsory school age, and to qualify as an independent school, a school must have at least five pupils of compulsory school age. However, when a school with nursery provision plans to convert to an academy, the entire school will transfer into an academy, including the nursery provision contained within.
No external sponsor will be required when a school that is performing well converts to academy status. A sponsor is required for schools that are judged not be performing well. DfE has “approved list” of sponsors which includes universities, colleges of further education, charities, businesses and existing academy chains.
In the first instance, their pay and conditions would remain the same because of the protections of TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006). However, new employees can be employed on different pay and conditions because academy schools are not in any way bound by the national school teachers’ pay and conditions framework nor any agreements negotiated locally with your local authority.
All sorts of changes can be proposed. For example, in some existing academies across the country there is Saturday working. Others have longer school days and longer school years. In some, there is slightly more pay for these extensions to working hours. In others, there is not. Some academies pay less maternity pay than their neighbouring schools. In some cases, staff who have moved to an academy have not had their previous service recognised for maternity purposes and have lost all built-up entitlement to maternity pay.
Page last updated: 6 March, 2012