0370 270 6000

Local authority academy conversion powers

31 May 2022

A question we often get asked by schools is “can I be forced to become an academy?”

The answer to that question to date has centred around whether a school is eligible for intervention and, primarily, its Ofsted’s grade. However, under provisions within Part 1 of the Schools Bill, it could be the local authority that pushes academy status onto a maintained school.

The proposed new legislation states that a local authority can make an application to the Secretary of State for any of its schools to become an academy. Before doing so, it is required to consult with the governing body of the school before making that application, as well as securing the consent of relevant trustees in respect of foundation and voluntary schools.

If the Secretary of State approves the application and decides to issue the Academy Order, the school’s governing body will have a statutory duty to take reasonable steps to facilitate the conversion process.

The Government is keen to allow local authorities to shed schools where they need the extra capacity, or where they are maintaining an unviable number. It envisages conversations and engagement at local level to ensure that conversion works for everyone. However, if the school was truly on board with the process, in most cases, it could just make the application itself, so it is difficult to deny that the legislation is intended to compel. Of course, the issue of conversion itself is one thing, but there is also the matter of which multi-academy trust such schools would join. Whilst local authorities will be expected to take account of a school’s preferred trust, where that choice does not align with the local authority’s plans or the Regional Director’s wishes, technically the school could be forced to join a different trust.

The exercise of these powers is presumably intended as a last resort but it will be interesting to see how frequently local authorities actually rely on the new application route from September 2023 (when it is due to take effect). It is likely that there will be contrasting approaches across the country. Clearly, it will be more important than ever for schools to understand their local climate and options.

Training and events


New guidance on exclusions - what you need to know ON24 webinar platform

The department for Education is releasing new guidance on exclusions and suspensions, making changes to the behaviour, suspension and exclusion framework and guidance. Join us on 6 July as we explain the proposed changes and help you understand how they will affect you and your school.

View event

Focus on...


Developing a whole school approach to flexible working

Timewise recently conducted a Teaching Pioneers Programme in eight secondary schools across three multi-academy trusts which Browne Jacobson was able to support, along with others.


Published articles

What changing government policy means for faith academies

The much-anticipated Schools Bill has finally been published and a significant section of it deals specifically with putting into legislation certain protections and guarantees historically granted to the faith academies sector.


Understanding the three major changes to Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022

This webinar is suitable for senior leaders in education settings, including CEOs, COOs and CFOs, head teachers and principals, directors and heads of HR, designated safeguarding leads, governors and Trustees.


Legal updates

Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022: Online searches for shortlisted candidates

The two biggest changes in the new safeguarding guidance revolve around sourcing high quality governor and trustee training and the new requirement to carry out online searches for shortlisted candidates. This article focuses on how and when to carry out online searches. In the coming week we will follow up with everything you need to consider when sourcing high quality governor or trustee training.


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

View profile

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up