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Converting to academy status

Our team of experienced lawyers can help you become an academy with a smooth, stress-free transition. By combining the best lawyers specialising in education law with an affordable fixed fee, we ensure the process is straightforward.

If you’re considering converting to academy status, there are many things to think about. By applying to convert, you’ll turn your school into an independently managed, publicly funded academy. 

We’ve been instructed on over 2,000 conversions, so you can have confidence in our extensive experience, while also benefitting from our pragmatic approach, making the complex simple.

What are the benefits of academy conversion?

Converting from a school to an academy can give you better control over your admissions process, budgets and staffing, as well as more freedom to innovate and more tools to create a nurturing environment for pupils.

Stuart Ayres CEO, Future Generation Trust
Browne Jacobson offers our trustees great reassurance. Their considerable experience and expertise ensure that the conversion process is completed professionally, diligently and within the agreed time frame. The team they assemble are skillfully led and extremely meticulous in their approach.

The academy conversion process

As with any legal changeover, there are complexities that could arise. Careful planning is required for every step of the process, and this is where we come in. From establishing a timeline to support your planning, to dealing with the transfer of land and school buildings, TUPE and commercial arrangements, we can provide advice and practical support each step of the way.

  1. Preparation and planning
  2. Governance arrangements
  3. Application
  4. Legal documents
  5. A successful trust
  6. Top tips
  7. Frequently asked questions

1. Preparation and planning

We can’t stress enough how crucial it is to get this first step right. We cover:

  • Who needs to be involved?
  • Consultation requirements
  • What options are available to you and how to make an informed decision
  • Timescales – how long does the process take?
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Preparation and planning resources

Understanding academy trusts

Faith schools forming or joining an academy trust

Forming or joining a MAT

DfE important dates

2. Governance arrangements

We set out a typical trust governance structure and consider what that could mean for your autonomy. We explain the importance of a Scheme of Delegation and how understanding governance arrangements early on will help you to make an informed decision.

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Governance structure

Members are the custodians of the trust and they appoint trustees

Trustees (commonly known as directors) are responsible for the strategic direction of the trust. They determine the vision, values and ethos.

The Local Governing Body (LGB) or Advisory Board are responsible for local governance at school level. Responsibility is delegated from the trustees through the Scheme of Delegation.

The Scheme of Delegation is different for all trusts and sets out the responsibilities of the LGB. The contents are not prescribed by the DfE, so the Scheme of Delegation varies across the sector dependent on the MAT. This is key to determining how much autonomy is delegated to school level.

Governance resources

Academy sponsorships and MATs

Academy Trust Handbook

3. Application

We look at the DfE process, the benefits of liaising with the regional director before starting the online application and explain the role of the advisory board. We also address what consent is required and how you can unlock funding.

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Application resources

DfE Apply to become an Academy service (for mainstream schools)

Apply to become an academy (for special schools)

Pupil referral units: converting to alternative provision academies

We run through the legal process and the documents you’ll need, flagging pitfalls to avoid and advising on each stage including:

  • Commercial Transfer Agreement (CTA)
  • TUPE regulations and the transfer of staff
  • Land Questionnaire
  • Supplementary funding agreement.
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Legal document resources

Glossary

DfE important dates

DfE model documents for conversions

5. A successful trust

Once you’ve converted to academy status and as your trust develops you’ll need to ensure you’re equipped to handle this growth and the increased complexity it brings. We consider key areas such as HR issues, staff training requirement, company secretary and legal advice and what support and resources are available to you.

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Post-conversion support

Governance resources

HR Services for academy trusts

HR and education policies

Quickcall

6. Top tips

We draw from our range of experience to share our top tips which include:

  • Engage early with a law firm offering a breadth of expertise
  • Build in as much time as you can for the process
  • Research to fully understand the MAT you intend to join
  • Talk to the regional director to understand trust capacity.

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Frequently asked questions

We address some of the most common questions we get asked, which include:

Yes - if a school is graded 'inadequate' by Ofsted then the Secretary of State is required to put in place a directive academy order and that school MUST convert to academy status. The regional director will then select a suitable MAT sponsor. No consultation is required but parents and other stakeholders should be informed. We have successfully supported schools to appeal Ofsted judgements which - following a re-inspection achieving a higher grade - managed to overturn these orders, so we can advise you on your options.

If your application is successful then you'll receive £25,000 funding from the DfE, which is usually enough to cover the essentials. Further funding streams may also be available to you, if you're a PFI school, have a MAT sponsor or qualify for TCAF funding.

The £25,000 funding you receive from the DfE will usually enough to cover the essentials including legal costs, for which we offer a fixed fee, so you'll know exactly where you stand. You should check with your local authority as they often charge for academy conversion services. Other costs to consider include rebranding, updating pension schemes and ensuring you have the team resource to handle the conversion process.

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