Although there is still much discussion over the academy conversion model and the impact it has on schools, there are many schools that have seen a positive influence from successfully completing the process.
In the midst of the government’s ‘climbdown’, there are many figures in education who claim that academisation is no longer necessary, but the fact remains that the goal of more converted academies by 2020 is still very much on the political agenda. The forced academisation plan is still being met with fierce cross-party opposition, yet for some schools it’s a welcome chance to take control of their curricula and their decisions.
The benefits of academisation
Various schools have embraced the academy model. The below are some of the benefits newly formed academies have praised:
Control of finances is often the reason many schools consider academy conversion, as they are no longer controlled by the LA (local authority) and can choose to operate the school as a business, instead of being limited by restrictions from the LA.
Extra revenue received via the ESG (Education Support Grant) can be spent on much-needed resources, which an LA-run school would not have previously been able to afford.
An academy has further control over its infrastructure, its term times and also its salary policies – which can allow it to teach in a way that suits its staff and students better.
- Relationship with the LA
Many would predict an academy’s relationship with its LA to be strained after the conversion process, but numerous schools have found it to be a more productive and stronger relationship as a result.
Another advantage of converting to an academy is the freedom for admissions. The admissions process often poses problems for many schools, and whilst converting to an academy does allow more choice, many believe it could cause further issues.
However, plenty of schools that have successfully converted have improved their admissions policies and feel more stable as a result of the academy conversion model. For example, schools have widened their catchment areas to accommodate more pupils and in turn, enhancing staff payment terms to recruit and retain excellent teachers and non-teaching staff.
Issues an academy can face – and how to handle them
The academisation process is not smooth sailing for every school, and often there can be issues that need to be handled by a legal professional or with an informed decision by your governing board.
Many academies choose to join an MAT (multi-academy trust), as it allows them to access support and pool resources, which can be cost effective.
Some of the issues highlighted by academies, throughout the process, include:
- Obtaining consent
The initial step for any school or college looking to convert into an academy is to obtain consent from the governing body. This includes letters of resolution and approval for the conversion to go ahead, which will be required by the DfE (Department of Education) at a later stage.
- Opposition from parents and the local community
It has been widely reported in the news that many parents worry that the standard of teaching and education would fall if their children’s’ school were to convert and thus be able to decide their own curricula. As a result, there can often be opposition from parents of pupils- it is therefore important to listen to concerns and answer them sensitively.
- Dealing with a project lead
Once a school has registered to begin the conversion process they will be assigned a project lead, via the DfE, to aid them through the journey. As this point of contact will oversee the process from start to finish it’s important to establish a productive and strong working relationship from the outset, as this can aid a smooth conversion.
Whilst these are just a few examples of problems you may face during conversion, they can be overcome. Seeking support and legal advice is an expected part of the academy conversion process, and they will be able to answer any queries you have and help you address any issues you face.
How can berg help?
Whether you’re considering the conversion model or have recently converted, you will still need the support of external professionals. The education law experts at berg are well placed to guide you through the process. We can help schools navigate the academisation process from start to finish, identifying any potential pitfalls before they happen and ensuring a smooth transition for you and your school. For insight in to our expertise, download our Academy Conversion Checklist infographic, and Step by Step Academy Conversion Handbook here.
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