The academy agenda continues to challenge all of us involved with its changing arena. However, ongoing conversations with the Regional School Commissioner (RSC) and her officers ensure we keep up to date and are able to help our schools in making the best decision for their setting. We now work in a dual system with both Academy and Maintained schools; this is likely to continue so our relationship is between the RSC and the relevant Local Authorities.
When a school has taken a minuted decision to join a Multi-academy Trust (MAT) it is no longer a simple route to a timely conversion. Other factors which may have some influence include: any growth plan of the MAT; the performance of schools already in the MAT; the capacity of the RSC office and the LA to complete the legal works involved and timings for the school to be discussed by the RSC Headteacher Board (HtB). This perceived delay needs to be managed to ensure the school can access all the goods and services it requires whilst the conversion is taking place and good communication is appreciated by all stakeholders
Since 2010 the diocese has offered training on this increasingly complex area to ensure heads, chairs and governors are aware of the latest information and requirements. It is different being a Church school! For this reason, we ask all of our Church schools who are looking at their options to consult with us at the earliest opportunity. We are served well by our diocesan solicitors Taylor Culshaw who are national experts in Church school conversions.
If your school is currently looking at the Academy agenda please contact Tina Wilkes, Academies Adviser, for further information. This is particularly important if you are Voluntary Aided (VA) school.
To help schools understand the process of applying to become an Academy the diocese has developed an Academies Toolkit. This applies to all conversions and is also a useful document for any MAT who wishes a church school to join their Trust.
The DfE also has a wealth of information on its website, including information on the DfE Academy Conversion Process. There is also guidance for trusts who are looking to develop, expand or form on the DfE website, this document outlines some of the due diligence questions asked by the RSC officers to ensure your school will be well supported once it becomes an academy.
Aside for academies, there are many other models of school organisation to consider. The whole process of working with others may not be one step for your school and often taken a series of steps for trust and transparency to be established. In order of strength these include:
- Cluster or group working usually within local authority led groups
- Informal or formal collaboration
- Local Collaborative Trust (LCT)
Other school organisational changes a school may consider is changing from VC to VA designation; both church schools but the later with a greater degree of ownership of capital funding, admissions and employees.
If you are considering a change to your school organisation do please contact the diocese for advice and support.
Some useful information is also available in The School Governance Regulations 2012 .