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The Academies Act 2010

11 August 2010

The Academies Act has now been passed. Some of its provisions have come into force immediately whilst others will require commencement orders. During the Bills progression, there were a number of significant amendments made which schools considering conversion to Academy status will find useful to know.

Requirement to consult

Whilst the original position in the Academies Bill was that governing bodies of outstanding schools considering becoming an Academy were not required to consult stakeholders on the proposed conversion, the Act was amended to place a duty to consult on governing bodies. However, it is clear from the proposed amendment that the consultation required on conversion to Academy is not intended to be as wide or as far reaching as is required when an under-performing school is closed and is replaced by an Academy. The only requirement will be that the governing body consults with "persons who they think appropriate" and that this takes place before signing the funding agreement. The Department for Education (DfE) has promised to provide further guidance on the consultation requirements in due course.

SEN admissions

Under the terms of their funding agreements, existing Academies do not have to admit students with SEN where the Academy is named in the Statement of SEN. This is because normal parental preference regarding statemented children under the Education Act 1996 does not fully apply to old-style Academies. Parents have been able to make representations to the local authority (LA) for the Academy to be named in the Statement, but the decision on whether to admit the child has rested with the Academy, subject to successful appeal to the Secretary of State by the LA. However, new and converting Academies will now be required to admit pupils who are named in a Statement. This brings Academies into line with maintained schools.

Governance

The DfE has now published the model Articles of Association for Academy Trusts. The Academy Trust is the body which will run the Academy. The Articles of Association set down the governance model for the Academy Trust and, in turn, the Academy itself. As the Academy Trust is a company limited by guarantee, the governance of the Academy Trust is divided into two levels - members and governors.

The members together form the Academy Trust - they are the equivalent of shareholders in a company limited by shares. Every Academy Trust must have at least three members. The members retain the power to make a limited number of decisions and may have the power to elect some governors. However, once they form the Academy Trust, the members will meet rarely as the Academy Trust will be run on a day-to-day basis by the Governors who are the equivalent of the governing body of a maintained school. Governors may be appointed by staff, parents, the local authority, by a foundation, sponsor (if the Academy has one) and on behalf of the community. The governors may also be correctly referred to as "directors" in company law and "trustees" in charity law. Every Academy Trust must have a minimum of three governors: two parents and the principal/head teacher. However, there will no longer be a requirement to have a local authority governor.

Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA 2000) does not currently apply to Academies. However, the Government has announced that it will amend the FOIA 2000 so that its application extends to Academies, including outstanding schools converting to Academies from this autumn. Academies will be required to provide information they hold in response to requests made under the FOIA 2000. However, they will have up to 60 days to respond to a request that is received in non-term time (rather than the usual 20 days for other public bodies). This brings Academies into line with maintained schools.

Conversion of non-outstanding schools

The Government announced in its recently published Draft Structural Reform Plan for the schools system that non-outstanding schools will be able to apply to convert to Academies from November 2010.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

Mark Blois

Mark Blois

Partner and Head of Education

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