«The conversion journey A step-by-step guide for schools converting to academy status Resource National College for School Leadership Contents ...»
E.5: Other stakeholders Once your school’s funding agreement has been signed, EduBase will allocate a new unique reference number (URN) to your school.
Exam bodies C.51: School governing body (secondary schools only) Secondary academies will need to contact the National Centre Number (NCN) register to record the school’s change of status and any change of name. The register is run by Oxford, Cambridge and RSA examinations (OCR) on behalf of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ). Giving the NCN register details of the change of status will mean that all awarding bodies are aware of the change so there is no need to contact them separately.
Transfer of contracts and licences A.52: School leaders and C.52: School governing body Consider your position regarding contracts held with external suppliers for services such as catering, cleaning, security and ICT. Discuss with the supplier how the contacts can be transferred to the academy trust. Contractors are unlikely to object to the transfer since this means they keep the business and most contracts contain an assignment clause permitting a transfer.
Some software suppliers may require academies to purchase a new licence for management information systems (MIS), with a further charge to transfer data from the school’s old database to the academy’s new database.
Schools can use the academy conversion expenses grant towards these costs.
B.52: Local authority/diocese Any contracts between the local authority and external suppliers which the academy trust wishes to be transferred by the local authority to the trust will have been agreed at the commercial agreement transfer meeting.
Support grant certificate C.53: School governing body The chair of the governing body will need to send a completed support grant certificate to the named DfE contact before the conversion (ie opening date) takes place. This confirms how much of the conversion grant has been spent and whether any is being carried forward into the bank account of the academy trust.
School budgets at conversion date (academy opening date) B.54: Local authority/diocese The local authority will notify the secretary of state of any budget deficit at the point of conversion. The authority will be paid a sum equivalent to this by the secretary of state, so that the authority can write off the deficit in its own accounts. When the academy opens an equivalent amount will be deducted over time, as agreed by the school, from its general annual grant.
School balances The academy inherits the closing financial balance of the predecessor school on the day the school ceases to be maintained by the local authority. This applies whether the balance is a surplus or a deficit.
Surpluses The local authority calculates the surplus at the date the school closes and pays an amount equal to that to the academy trust.
Regulations set out the detailed requirements for this process, including an opportunity for the trust to seek a review by the secretary of state of the amount of the surplus the local authority has calculated. The time it takes to close the original school’s accounts means it could be up to four months before the trust receives payment.
More information on surpluses is available on the Department’s academies web pages.
If the school has a deficit, the local authority will be asked to notify the secretary of state of the amount. When the amount is agreed, the local authority will be paid an equivalent sum by the secretary of state so that the deficit has no impact on other schools. An equivalent amount will be abated from the academy’s GAG.
Supporting other schools A.6: School leaders Draw up and agree plans for supporting another school, ensuring that there are clear targets for raising achievement.
Be ready to begin the support programme at the start of the term following conversion to academy status.
C.6: School governing body Understand the ways in which your school intends to support another school and what targets have been set for raising achievement in that school. Agree ways of monitoring the progress made by the school in reaching its targets. Ensure plans are in place to begin the support programme at the start of the term following academy conversion.
− Develop system leadership across the trust’s schools. For example, if there is an excellent numeracy leader within the trust, explore how you might maximise their skills across all the trust schools.
− How might you work effectively as a chain or multi-academy trust? Explore ways in which schools can work together to, for example, share staff and services.
− Explore ways of supporting schools outside your trust, which might lead to future sponsorship or others joining the trust.
Once the academy opens, you need to be sure that you understand the new freedoms academy status brings and how to use them, as well as the new financial landscape and your role in working with other schools. It is time to start thinking in more detail about your plans for the longer term.
New freedoms and autonomy A.61: School leaders Consult other headteachers of more established academies to explore what the new freedoms mean in terms of the educational provision your school will provide for its pupils in the future.
C.61: School governing body Invite a headteacher from a more established academy to talk about what the new freedoms are and what the possibilities are for future approaches to learning. Ensure you are clear about the new freedoms of an academy (curriculum, length of term-time and school day, control of finances and so on) and how your school intends to exploit them to benefit pupils.
− A major challenge for all schools will be in employing and retaining a leader who can drive things forward.
− Academies enjoy many freedoms. For underperforming schools, these freedoms are accompanied by the guidance and expertise of a strong and proven sponsor to offer help, boost performance and strengthen lines of accountability.
• Questions you could ask of the headteacher of an established academy include:
• As a result of gaining academy status, what are you now doing differently over time?
• Where are you now buying your services from?
• How are you benefiting from being able to plan your curriculum more flexibly?
• What is your long-term plan?
• What do you envisage will be the impact on children and young people?
Funding arrangements A.62: School leaders Have full knowledge of the funding arrangements for academies and how you will ensure value for money over time.
C.62: School governing body Each member of the governing body should have an overview of the funding arrangements for academies.
The finance officer and chair of the governing body should have an in-depth knowledge and understanding.
The additional funding arrangements bring responsibilities for ensuring value for money over time.
Financial management and governance evaluation C.63: School governing body Complete a financial management and governance evaluation (FMGE) return for submission to the EFA within four months of conversion/opening and annually thereafter.
Support of independent organisations A.64: School leaders Consider the benefits of joining independent organisations where you can share and learn from fellow academy principals.
− Find out about organisations that can provide support and offer opportunities to learn from others about how they have maximised the potential that academy status provides to provide improved learning opportunities for children and young people.
− Check the National College website regularly for further guidance and support and use the forums where you can share ideas with school leaders in similar circumstances.
− Find out more about the Independent Academies Association (IAA) and the support it can offer academies.
Teaching schools A.65: School leaders Consider how you will work with teaching schools and what you might contribute to the school as well as how the school might support your academy. Teaching schools and teaching school alliances will be a key source of support for schools in the future.
C.65: School governing body Be aware of how a teaching school can support your new academy and of the plans in place for your school to support the teaching school.
Vision for the future A.66: School leaders Explore alternative approaches to learning adopted by other academies, for example, through teaching schools or by establishing a studio school or university technical college (UTC).
C.66: School governing body Explore other approaches to teaching and learning at academies and compare them with your own. Establish procedures for evaluating the effectiveness of your trust’s model and think about how it might be expanded so that other schools can benefit from your success and experience.
Gaining academy status is only the start of the challenge facing all academy schools. There needs to be a vision for the future that fully exploits the new freedoms and autonomy; not only a future vision for learning but of the trust itself.
Academy status is viewed positively here and that rubs off, I am sure, on the children. On a practical level, the ability to target resources and actually have those resources to target is making inroads into the educational provision, as is the ability to improve the structure and facilities within the academy. Overall it has given governors and senior staff the confidence to make the decisions that will now, and in the future, have a positive impact on the quality of the educational provision available.
Furthermore, a successful capital grant application has allowed for key building works to be undertaken, enhancing the quality of overall provision in a significant way, something that was unlikely to have happened if the status quo had been maintained.
Like any journey, the hardest step is the first one. Once that was actually made, you followed the road and tried to make sensible decisions at each junction based on as much knowledge as you could muster.
School leader, primary academy, Lincolnshire
Background The academy is a primary school and serves pupils from a mixed socio-economic area. The proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) is approximately 8 per cent, which is below the national average. The school has a total enrolment of approximately 300 pupils and has 40 staff, 12 of whom are class-based teachers.
Factors that motivated the school to become an academy included:
− freedom from local authority control − freedom to control its own finances and prioritise spending as it considers appropriate − freedom to expand collaboration and become trailblazers for innovation in the local area What was the conversion process like?
The headteacher and deputy head discussed the advantages and disadvantages of academy status with the governing body. Governors then delegated responsibility to the headteacher to continue the process. Consultation was then extended to teaching staff and parents and carers were sent a question-and-answer document.
Three parent forums were held, but attendance was very low with only 10 families attending. A number of parents indicated that they trusted the school to do the right thing. Teacher unions initially appeared to oppose conversion, but after a closed staff ballot, teachers voted in favour of conversion.
The headteacher and deputy headteacher began the conversion process on the day that extensions of academy freedoms for primaries were announced by government. They both worked full time through the summer holiday in order to progress conversion. The school employed a project management company, which had successfully completed other academy start-ups, and took on a solicitor.
The total cost of conversion was in the region of £15,000, not including headteacher, deputy headteacher and governor time.
Background The school is a co-educational grammar school that serves a wide geographical area with admissions from more than 50 primary schools. A significant majority of students come from more advantaged social backgrounds.