Annal Nayyar blogs what models are available? Academies are publicly funded independent schools that are not managed by a local authority. They can set pay and conditions for their staff and also change the length of their terms. Academies don’t have to follow the national curriculum

Maintained primary and secondary schools, special schools, alternative provision schools and 16 to 19 providers can all apply to become an academy. A school can convert on its own if it is performing well, with the support of a sponsor, or as part of a group of schools (an academy chain).

Schools can’t acquire or remove their faith character, expand, become mixed or single sex, or introduce selection as part of the conversion process.

Once converted, academies are run by an academy trust, which is a charitable company limited by guarantee.

Conversion usually takes around 5 months, but the process could move more quickly, or take longer depending on your school’s circumstances. Schools convert on the first day of the month.

All the documents you need to convert to an academy are available online.

Converting as a single school

Schools that want to convert as a stand-alone academy need to demonstrate that they are in a strong enough position to do so. We will look at the following criteria to decide if you are performing well enough to convert:

  • the last 3 years’ exam results, which must be above floor standards, and whether they are above, or moving towards national averages
  • comparisons with exam performance in similar schools and those in the local area
  • the most recent Ofsted inspection, which must show that you are an outstanding school or that you are good with outstanding features – we will look in particular at what Ofsted says about the school’s capacity to improve and the effectiveness of the leadership team
  • assurance that the school is in good financial health
  • any other information the school thinks would help their application and any exceptional circumstances that we should be aware of

If you’re converting as a stand-alone school you will be expected to support another local school when you become an academy.

Converting as part of a chain

Schools can convert together as part of a multi-academy trust or an umbrella trust. Converting as part of a chain means you can share staff and expertise, and make savings when buying goods and services. Additional funding is available for multi-academy trusts where most of the schools are primary.

You can convert with schools you already work with, or begin a new relationship with a school before starting the conversion process. Each school in your chain needs to submit a separate application and each governing body must pass a resolution to convert to become an academy.

If a school is already in a ‘hard federation’, where 2 or more schools are working together under 1 governing body, the governing body should submit an application covering all the member schools.

Although there aren’t conversion criteria for chains of schools, as part of your application you will need to provide evidence of how the stronger schools in the chain will help the weaker schools to improve.

If you are a faith school, some dioceses find it useful for their primary and secondary schools, whether they are voluntary aided or voluntary controlled, to convert in chains. This way they can support each other and be supported by their diocese. It is also possible for non-faith schools to join multi-academy trusts with Church of England academies while retaining their non-faith status.

Multi-academy trust (MAT)

All academies in a MAT are governed by one trust and a single board of directors.

The board of directors is responsible for decisions relating to how each academy is run, from the curriculum to staffing. The MAT can establish a local governing body for each of its academies, to which it can delegate some of its functions. The MAT remains accountable for these functions.

Umbrella trust (UT)

Each academy has its own trust, but all the schools in the UT can share governance and procurement of services.

If a group of schools wants to convert as part of a UT, each school converts separately, but will set up an umbrella trust to join together. The schools can agree that the UT will appoint governors or members of the trusts in each of the schools, and set a joint vision.


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