Consultation closed on 8th June 2016
On 4th May the Governing Body of St. Catherine’s CE Primary School passed a motion in favour of pursuing academy conversion in 2016. Our Governing Body has sought permission from the Parochial Church Council and the Diocesan Board of Education who have also voted in favour of us applying for an Academy Order.
This decision has been taken after a considerable degree of research and discussion and with the firm belief that this is in the best interest of the children and the community. The proposal is for the school to become an ‘Empty Multi Academy Trust’. Current government policy focuses on joining schools together in Multi Academy Trusts to create supportive links and partnerships between schools. Our school already works very closely with a number of other primary schools and we anticipate that others will join our trust in the future.
St. Catherine’s firmly intends to continue to enjoy a positive working relationship and collaboration with the Horwich and Blackrod Learning Community and the Local Authority.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who can become an academy?
Primary and secondary schools that have been rated outstanding or good with outstanding features by Ofsted can submit their individual applications to convert.
In addition, any school – primary or secondary – can apply with other schools as part of a formal partnership, providing at least one is rated outstanding or good with outstanding features, or they join an existing academy trust with a proven track record of school improvement.
Does my school need agreement from the local authority?
Your school will be free to discuss its plans with any local partners, including the local authority; however, the Academies Act 2010 has removed the need for the LA to approve your plans. All that will be required is a resolution passed by the governing body. For Church of England schools permission is also needed from the PCC and Diocesan Board of Education. Once the Secretary of State has confirmed that your school will become an academy, subject to the successful passage of the Academies Bill, he will direct the local authority to cease to maintain it.
Do schools need to consult before converting?
Yes. All schools are required to carry out a consultation but it is up to them to decide whom and how to consult. There is no specified length of time for the consultation and schools have flexibility in how it is conducted. None of the schools which have already converted has had any problems with the process of consultation, which is very straightforward.
Does my school have to hold a consultation with staff?
The current employer of school staff (the governing bod) will need to conduct a TUPE consultation with all staff (teaching and non teaching) and the unions as part of the staff transfer process.
What will the responsibilities of the governing body be?
The governing body will be responsible for establishing the academy trust. The academy trust (a charitable company limited by guarantee) will then enter into a funding agreement with the Secretary of State for the running of the academy. The academy trust (made up of members) has a strategic role in running the academy and will be responsible for appointing the governors (also known as directors or trustees) to the governing body of the academy. It is the governing body that manages the academy on behalf of the members of the academy trust. The key responsibilities are to
· ensure the quality of educational provision
· challenge and monitor the performance of the academy
· manage the academy trust’s finances and property
· employ staff.
It will be for the members of the governing body of the school to decide and agree, in discussion with the Secretary of State, who among them would wish to be members of the academy trust and which of them would wish to be governors of the academy trust (note that it is possible to be both a member and governor).
Do we have to cover the full cost to convert to an academy?
No. Total costs will vary from schools to school but the DfE will pay a flat-rate grant of £25,000 to the school's bank account. To reduce potential legal costs the Department has produced model legal documentation which is available to download from the website.
What does the conversion process involve?
The conversion process has been made as simple as possible for all schools. The key steps the school must take are all explained in the Department’s conversion guide and may differ according to the type of school and who owns the buildings and land.
As a minimum, all schools converting must:
· establish their trust as a company by registering with Companies House;
· establish a new bank account for the trust to ensure that the academy will be able to receive funding;
· transfer, renew or procure new contacts, service level agreements and licences and purchase insurance as appropriate.
Schools can seek further assistance from their named contact in the Department.
How long will it take?
We expect most schools to be able to convert in around five months
Can we withdraw from the conversion process?
Schools are able to withdraw right up until the point that they sign the funding agreement. Once this is signed there is a legally binding agreement between the Secretary of State and the academy, and the termination would require a long notice period (seven years).
What other processes might a new academy be expected to follow during the transition period, and what support would be given to it?
Key steps the schools must take are all explained in the guidance, and may differ according to the type of school and who owns the buildings and land. As a minimum, all schools converting must
· establish their trust as a company - registering with Companies House
· establish a new bank account for the trust to ensure that the academy will be able to receive funding
· transfer, renew or procure new contracts, SLAs and licences and purchase insurance as appropriate.
Schools can discuss the details of these and other steps with their named contact.
What are the admission requirements for schools converting to become academies?
When a school becomes an academy, the academy trust will become the admission authority. For St. Catherine's this will mean little change, but for community schools and voluntary controlled schools the academy will need to manage its own admissions process. This will involve periodic consultation, and regularly publishing the academy's admission arrangements.
Will existing all-ability academies be able to bring in academic selection?
No. The Bill will allow schools that already select all or some of their pupils on the basis of ability to continue to do so. It does not provide for existing academies to become selective.
Would academies be part of coordinated admissions with the LA?
Yes, all academies continue to be within coordination i.e. the process for allocating school places to children. This means that parents/carers only need to complete one application form (but they can name several schools on it). Parents/carers will be given an offer of a single school place. Using secondary coordination as an example, parents will apply to the LA on 31 October. The LA will send a list of applicants to the schools by a date agreed in the locally agreed coordination scheme (this is owned by the LA who agrees it with all its schools). The schools then rank the applicants against their oversubscription criteria, and send a ranked list back to the LA. The LA then coordinates admissions across its schools and with neighbouring authorities and offers parents their highest available preference on 1 March.
Will academies have to be a part of the in-year coordinated admissions scheme? e.g. when the LA needs to find places for families that have relocated to the area, etc.
Academy funding agreements require them to be within local coordination. That means that although the school will apply its admission arrangements, the LA will send out offers. From 2010/2011 local authorities will also coordinate admissions for in-year applications and from 2011/2012 for applications for year groups other than the normal point(s) of entry. This will not affect the academy’s right to determine which applicants have priority for admission. Academies are also required through their funding agreements to participate in in-year fair access protocols.
Will LAs still have the responsibility for planning for additional places when there is a growth in student numbers within an area?
Local authorities will still have overall responsibility for ensuring that there are sufficient places to meet demand locally. Where individual academies make a request to the Secretary of State to expand their pupil numbers and/or age range, this will only be done following local consultation. The decision taken will be informed by the views of the LA, as the commissioner of pupil places.
Can schools convert with a budget deficit or surplus convert?
Yes. However, if schools have a significant deficit, applications may be postponed until it has been managed down to a reasonable level. Schools with surplus balances can carry these over when they become an academy.
What support is available to academies if they get into financial difficulty?
Academies, like all schools, are expected to maintain strict budgetary controls and are required by their funding agreement to balance their budgets.
The academy receives ongoing Grant (‘General Annual Grant’) which covers the running costs of the school. The YPLA monitors academies’ financial position on behalf of the Secretary of State, and if a deficit occurs or appears likely, will intervene. It will provide advice and support to the academy to find an appropriate solution to bring costs and income back into balance, usually in the form of a restructuring plan, and will give additional contingency funding if absolutely necessary.
Will academies be forced to buy in expensive services?
No. Academies are not forced to buy in any type of service by particular providers. The experience of academies to date is that they can buy in services more effectively for themselves which leads either to better quality or lower prices meaning they can make savings and re-invest money elsewhere. They are free to buy back the services from the LA or find them elsewhere.
All academies are required to take out insurance and the Department has arrangements in place to help academies secure best value for money which are explained in the guidance note available on the Department’s website.
Will we get more money as an academy?
Academies receive the same level of per-pupil funding as they would receive from the LA as a maintained school plus additions to cover the services that are no longer provided for them by the LA.
The Government is clear that becoming an academy should not bring about a financial advantage or disadvantage to a school. However, academies have greater freedom on how they use their budgets, alongside the other freedoms that they enjoy and will receive a full budget which is not top sliced.