Skip to main content

FAQs - becoming an academy sponsor

13 January 2023

These are the frequently asked questions (FAQs) we get asked by organisations considering becoming an academy sponsor.

A variety of organisations have become approved academy sponsors. These include existing academy trusts, universities, businesses, independent schools, diocesan bodies and charities. Some individuals have also become academy sponsors. A list of approved sponsors is maintained by the DfE.

There are many reasons why organisations chose to become academy sponsors. Successful academy schools may wish to formally support one or more of their local schools. Other organisations may have a commitment or interest in school improvement and/or pupil outcomes.

The sponsor will appoint all or the majority of the members and trustees of the academy trust which will run the academy school(s). This gives the sponsor a large degree of control in setting and implementing the strategic vision and school improvement plan for the academy school(s).

Some sponsors choose to support academies financially in order to provide additional opportunities for pupils but sponsors are not required to make a financial contribution to their academy school(s).

The academy trust of a sponsored school will receive a ‘pre-opening grant’ of between £70,000 and £150,000 for pre-opening costs, including legal advice, project management, curriculum development, school improvement services and the early appointment of key staff. The amount received depends on whether the school is a primary or secondary school or whether it is categorised by the Department for Education (DfE) as a ‘fast track’, ‘intermediate’ or ‘full’ sponsored academy. The categorisation of the school is determined by how much support the DfE believes the school needs to secure improvement.

In addition, for full sponsored academies, academy trusts may be eligible for a ‘start-up grant’ in order to assist them to raise standards and transform educational attainment of the sponsored school. The amount is determined by whether the school is a primary or secondary school and the numbers on role, but can be as much as £50,000 for a primary school and £80,200 for a large secondary school. Finally, an ‘environmental improvement grant’ of £40,000 for primary schools and £80,000 for secondary and all-through schools may be available for full sponsored academies. This is intended to be used for light capital works on pupil learning spaces and to make a visual statement that the ‘old school’ has become an academy.

The first ‘pre-opening grant’ payment is usually made once the academy trust has been incorporated and the academy order granted. The remaining payments will be set out in a payment plan agreed with the sponsor’s allocated DfE project lead.

An organisation that wishes to apply to become an academy sponsor should complete the sponsor application form on the DfE website here.

Once the academy sponsor’s application has been approved by the regional director will identify appropriate schools requiring sponsorship. You will be required to outline the support you could offer these schools and, if your bid is successful, the regional director will recommend you formally to the school as their sponsor.

The school’s governing body will still have to pass a resolution to approve you as their sponsor, unless the school has been judged to be ‘eligible for intervention’ and an academy order has been made by the Secretary of State without the governing body having made an application.


Unless the sponsor is already an academy trust, a charitable company known as the academy trust will need to be set up with Companies House with a memorandum of association and articles of association. Where the sponsor is a single academy trust but wants to be a sponsor, it will need to convert the academy trust into a multi academy trust before it can take on more schools.

The legal process to convert a maintained school to an academy is the same whether the school will be a converter academy or a sponsored academy. The sponsor is likely to take the primary lead in agreeing the draft documentation for the setting up of the academy school.


Where the regional director determines that an existing academy school should no longer be run by its academy trust (whether this is a single academy trust or a multi academy trust) then the Secretary of State has the power to terminate the funding agreement and direct that the academy school is transferred (or ‘re-brokered’) to a different academy trust. It is possible, therefore, to be asked to sponsor an existing academy.

The legal process to transfer an existing academy school to another multi academy trust is the same whether or not the school will be sponsored.


Where the school’s governing body has made an application for an academy order, the Academies Act 2010 requires the school to consult 'such persons as they think appropriate' on whether the school should be converted into an academy. The statutory requirement does not prescribe who should be consulted or the length of the consultation required, so the general law on consultation applies. Generally, we would recommend consulting with all key stakeholders, including parents, staff, pupils, other schools, the local authority and the wider community, over a consultation period of about six weeks.

Where the sponsor will be sponsoring a maintained school which has had an academy order made by the Secretary of State without the governing body having made an application, then there is no longer any legal requirement to undertake a consultation. Similarly, where the school is already an academy, there is no requirement to consult generally with stakeholders. However, in both cases, it is considered good practice for academy trusts to inform parents, staff and other key stakeholders about the proposals and give them the opportunity to respond.

Staff will also need to be formally informed/consulted about the transfer of their employment under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (‘TUPE’).

Our expertise

You may be interested in...