Posted by Stewart Wilkinson, Partner
‘State schools converting to academies’
Most people in the education sector – whether private, charitable or state funded – will be aware of the Government’s changes with regards to academies. Though we are awaiting further details, it is likely that a significant number of state secondary schools will convert to academies.
All academies are bound by the same School Admissions Code, SEN (Special Educational Need) Code of Practice and exclusions guidance as all other state-funded schools. There are currently 203 academies open in 83 local authorities and a further 100 are expected to open in 2010 – the Government is committed to establishing at least 400.
All new academies are also required to follow the National Curriculum programmes of study in English, maths, science and ICT. All academies – like the large majority of secondary schools – have specialist school status, and have a specialism in one or more subjects. Each academy is unique because the programme’s focus is on fitting each academy to its community and circumstances. The Government sees academies as engines of social mobility and social justice, and there is a growing body of evidence that they are working – NFER research, independent reports from Ofsted, the NAO and PricewaterhouseCoopers – as well as GCSE and Key Stage 3 results.
The National Curriculum has now been made more flexible to accommodate the kind of innovation that academies have enjoyed. Since the summer of 2007, all newly signed academy funding agreements require academies to follow the National Curriculum programmes of study in the core subjects of English, maths, science and ICT. They will retain flexibility beyond this, for example, to address the needs of particularly low achieving pupils.
Academy status effectively releases a state school from local authority control – providing the potential for some flexibility on the curriculum and local authority services such as admissions. Furthermore, staff are released from national pay structures. A contract (funding agreement) is developed between the school and the State and the lands and buildings are transferred to a trust which is run by the members and governors. Teaching and other staff also transfer to the trust under TUPE terms. The Government has since widened the net – a sponsor will no longer be needed and whilst State schools with an “outstanding” Ofsted inspection status can start the conversion process now (which is anticipated to take about three months) those who have “good” or “satisfactory” will need to hear further news from the legislators. The Government provides a grant to cover the legal costs of transferring to academy status.
Further information is available here.
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