The academy agenda has evolved since its inception in 2010, when schools voted to be stand-alone academies, to now, when groups of schools are working together in strong Multi Academy Trusts (MATs). As a diocese, nearly 70% of our schools are now academies, with the majority of schools being in a trust.
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.
Through regular and ongoing conversations with the Regional (Schools) Director (RD) and her officers, we are able to ensure we keep up to date and can support our schools in considering the best decisions for their settings. When considering your academy options we strongly recommend you have an early conversation with the diocese so that you are aware of which Mixed Multi Academy Trusts are currently operating in your geographical area. Church schools are not able to join all MATs; it is a requirement that the MAT your church school joins has the appropriate legal articles, which ensures that your status as a Church school continues in perpetuity. We offer training to explain this in more detail.
All schools who wish to academise will need to apply for Conditional Consent from the diocese. The Board of Education will take into consideration if the trust is a good geographaical and educational fit for your setting and will also discuss this with the RD..
When a school has taken a minuted decision to join a Multi Academy Trust, 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 RD office and the LA to complete the legal works involved; and timings for the school to be discussed by the RD Advisory Board (AB). 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. It is imperative to have good communication with all stakeholders during this process, particularly with your local church community and parents/carers.
If your school is currently looking at the academy agenda, please contact Tina Wilkes for further information. This is particularly important if you are a 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 that wishes a church school to join their Trust. Please see the documents below.
The Department for Education has a wealth of information on its website, including information on its academy conversion process. It also provides support for schools and trusts. This page outlines some of the due diligence questions asked by the Regional Director team's officers to ensure your school will be well-supported once it becomes an academy.
Many schools work together in clusters or community learning partnerships (CLPs). Groups of schools may wish to consider their academisation options together for the benefit of the wider community. Trusts and the RD team are keen for schools to consider this option as supporting schools in a geographical area has many collaborative benefits.
New federations are no longer supported by the Diocesan Board of Education (DBE). The DBE is encouraging all schools to work towards being part of a strong Multi Academy Trust.
Another school organisational change a school may consider is changing from VC to VA designation. Both are Church schools, but the latter has a greater degree of ownership of capital funding, admissions and employees.
If you are considering any change to your school organisation, including change of age range or adding a pre-school to your site, please do contact the diocese for advice and support. We are often also a statutory consultee or the site owner and permission is required for these changes.
Who to contact
Suzanne McDonald, Assistant Director School Organisation