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«The conversion journey A step-by-step guide for schools converting to academy status Resource National College for School Leadership Contents ...»

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Inspiring leaders to

improve children’s lives

Schools and academies

The conversion journey

A step-by-step guide for schools

converting to academy status


National College for School Leadership


Foreword 1

How to use this resource 2

Stages of conversion 2 Step-by-step guide 3 Pre-registration 4 Step 1: Registration 7 Step 2: Application to convert and pre-approval eligibility checks 12 Step 3: Obtaining funding agreement 18 Step 4: Pre-opening 26 Opening 29 Appendices 32 Appendix A: Case study 1 32 Appendix B: Case study 2 33 Appendix C: Case study 3 34 Appendix D: Case study 4 35 References 36 © National College for School Leadership A step-by-step guide I Academies National College for School Leadership Foreword 1 Becoming an academy can be a momentous decision for your school. The process involves legal, financial and structural changes and most leaders will have little or no experience of it. If you don’t know the steps to follow and stages to go through, it can be time-consuming.

To help you navigate the process, get to grips with the legal, financial and operational implications and avoid some of the common pitfalls, the National College has produced this guide. It draws on the examples and experiences of academy principals, heads and governors who have successfully completed the conversion process and sets out clearly each stage of the journey, the key milestones to tick off en route and the deadlines to meet to give a clear picture of what the conversion journey looks like.

It also specifies the roles and requirements of school leaders, governors and other key stakeholders at each stage and pinpoints the key tasks that they will typically need to fulfil, as well as the interactions between the school and other parties.

The guide comes with a step-by-step poster, which enables you to track your progress and tick off each activity as you complete it.

Throughout, reference will be made to the guidance document A guide to becoming an academy, produced by the Department for Education (DfE). Remember also that those converting should ensure that they obtain the relevant legal advice, particularly in relation to the implications for the governing body in terms of trust status.

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How to use this resource The step-by-step poster sets out each stage of the conversion process with the main areas and tasks for each so that you can easily track each activity as you complete it. This booklet provides you with more in-depth information on each area and task and gives you practical advice from heads and academy principals who have been through the process themselves.

Stages of conversion Figure 1 illustrates the steps of the conversion journey that all prospective academies will typically go through.

For non-sponsored academies, the conversion process will take three months from registering interest to the opening of the new academy, according to the Department for Education. For sponsored academies, the lead-in time is typically much shorter as a sponsored academy is joining an existing trust and therefore does not need to go through the set-up process.

These timelines are challenging so we have included here a pre-registration stage to enable those leading the conversion to academy status to be as well informed and prepared at the start of each stage of the process as possible.

The challenge for schools in this section is to ensure they are fully aware of the stages to conversion and have the skills, capacity and knowledge to complete each one in the time available, including enough time to consider and consult their stakeholders.

This is also the time needed to consider the freedoms of academy status and how these might be used. Once the conversion process is under way, you may not have the time to think about it.

We have also included a post-opening stage. It provides ideas for schools on how to implement their plans for using their new freedoms, and to consider innovative approaches that other academies have taken. This section lists useful sources of information and suggested actions, with links to case studies and further guidance.

There is flexibility in how you do this. In our case, rather than focusing on one school, we help several by sharing good practice through the assessing pupil progress scheme, and we operate as a centre of excellence for teachers who want to come and see what we do.

School leader, primary academy, Cumbria

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Figure 1: Stages of conversion to academy status Overall process can typically take between 3 and 4 months Registration − Schools Register interest using the on-line form.

− A named contact in Department for Education (DfE) contacts the school and supports them through the conversion process.

− School governing body starts the consultation required by legislation with interested parties (can start later but must be completed before Funding Agreement).

Application to convert/pre-approval checks − School governing body and Foundation (where relevant) pass a resolution in favour of academy conversion − School submits application to convert form to DfE − Schools develop plans to support another school to raise standards and discuss with named DfE contact − Local Authority/ governing body start the TUPE process − Secretary of state approves school proposal and issues Academy Order Achieve Funding Agreement − School submits grant claim to DfE and receives £25,000 grant to cover costs associated with the conversion process − School finalises governance documents based on DfE model documents provided − School registers the Academy Trust with Companies House − School agrees leasing arrangements for the school land and buildings − Local Authority/governing body complete the TUPE process − School completes required consultation with interested parties − School submits the Funding Agreement to the secretary of state for approval Pre-opening – Opening − EFA provide school with indicative funding letter − DfE sign and seal Academy funding agreement − School undertakes CRB checks as necessary − School puts new financial systems and contracts in place − School completes academy registrations eg with exam bodies − School opens officially as an Academy Source: The Department for Education www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/typesofschools/academies/ primary/steps/b00204843/become-an-academy

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Becoming an academy is a joint decision so it is important that all stakeholders are consulted. If you act as a group, it reduces the risk of disagreement and increases the degree of shared commitment.

Read everything available and consult informally and openly at an early stage. Ensure that the debate has been explored from every angle before you go ahead.

Gathering information A.1: School leaders and C.1: School governing body Study the different models of academy conversion.

1. Think about whether to apply as an individual school or to join with other schools in a new or existing chain.

2. Talk to academy principals whose schools have recently converted and get their advice. What key aspects of the process do they recommend you should focus on? What lessons have they learned? What would they have done differently?

3. Download the Department’s guidance document A guide to becoming an academy.

4. Consider the new freedoms and what they mean for your school. What will the benefits be?

What new skills will you and your staff and governors need to manage these new freedoms?

5. Familiarise yourself with the different stages of the conversion process.

6. Think about how the process will be structured and organised. What are the leadership implications and how can they be turned into an action plan?

7. Familiarise yourself with agencies and the support they can provide for converting academies A.11: School leaders Consider whether you will apply as an individual school or as part of a chain. This may be an existing chain your school is already a member of, or one that you and your colleagues create.

C.11: School governing body Consider the advantages and disadvantages of applying as an individual school or as part of an existing or newly created chain of schools.

Using the knowledge and experience of academy heads you have spoken to or researched, consider how the process will be structured and organised. Consider how the leadership implications can be identified, recorded and turned into an action plan.

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Skills audit and planning for capacity A.12: School leaders Working with the governing body, carry out a skills audit and identify any skills that need to be procured. Think about how to procure the specific skills you need once funding is made available.

C.12: School governing body Hold a minuted discussion about the governing body’s decision to convert to academy status. Carry out a skills audit of the governing body to identify the areas where you might need to seek support or legal and financial guidance.

Identifying the skills gaps is important because the academy will have greater autonomy and accountability than the school presently has. You will also need to look at whether you need to add new people to the governing body in light of the new roles and responsibilities.

− Minute all discussions with the governing body about the academy conversion.

− Refer to your existing skills audit or undertake a new one early in the conversion process and identify areas for procurement.

− Identify which skills are needed that do not currently exist.

− Consider the capacity of the current leadership team and governing body to manage the process.

− It is important to do this so that once funding becomes available, the school will be able to seek ways and quickly procure the skills identified.

C.13: School governing body Set out a timetable for the process of converting to academy status. Identify the initial actions you need to undertake if there is a consensus in favour of the proposed conversion.

A.14: School leaders Ensure that you are fully supported by the governing body and that your time commitment is not too onerous.

C.14: School governing body Allocate roles and responsibilities, making sure that the headteacher is fully supported throughout the process, and is not taking on every responsibility. Be clear about where decision-making responsibilities lie, and have clear lines of communication.

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A.15: School leaders Ask school leaders of recent converters for any documentation that might support you in the consultation stage.

It might be letters to parents, timetables for consultation or agendas for consulting staff and students.

C.15: School governing body The consultation process takes the most time so start now to identify the stakeholders who will need to be consulted and whose agreement you need for the change of status. See section C.21 for further information on who should be consulted.

A.16: School leaders Carry out an initial risk analysis.

Apart from getting your head around what the change might mean or bring to the school, there were two aspects that were particularly challenging.

The first was the deadlines. There always seemed to be a deadline you were rushing toward with delays threatening to derail the entire process and you were not actually in charge of why the delay was happening. With all the last-minute panics and delays, the final few days felt as close to the process of buying a house as you could get, without actually doing so.

The second related to some of the terminology used, which was unfamiliar and specific to the process, from the legalese of the documents to the acronyms any specialist field soon prides itself upon. In this case, you are not really in the club until you know your LACSEG from your GAG2. The fact that, as I write, my computer no longer throws them up as spelling aberrations means we must have pretty much joined the club.

School leader, primary academy, Lincolnshire

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Becoming an academy is a joint decision so it is important that all stakeholders are consulted. If you act as a group, it reduces the risk of disagreement and increases the degree of shared commitment.

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