All primary and secondary schools have been invited to convert to an Academy under the new Academies Bill published on 27 May 2010. Tony Hyams-Parish, Head of the Education Sector at law firm Rawlison Butler LLP, considers this initiative introduced by the new coalition government.
The Academies Bill was published on 27th May 2010. Assuming the Bill becomes law, all maintained schools, whether providing primary and/or secondary education, will be able to apply to the Department for Education (DfE) to be converted into an Academy.
Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, pledged to make the process of becoming an Academy quicker and less bureaucratic, removing local authority powers to block schools that want to become Academies. Schools that are rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted will also be fast tracked through the process.
The new law will allow Schools that become Academies to benefit from:
- freedom from local authority control
- the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff
- freedom from following the National Curriculum
- greater control of their budget
- greater opportunities for formal collaboration with other public and private organisations
- freedom to change the length of terms and school days
- freedom to spend the money the local authority currently spends on their behalf.
These freedoms will be in addition to system-wide reductions in bureaucracy due to be announced in due course. This will shift power from central and local government back to heads and schools.
Schools who wish to apply for academy status can now register their interest online and will receive further guidance on how the process works.
The School will become its own admission authority with control over setting its own admission arrangements, deciding individual admission applications and organising its own appeals.
Commenting on the new initiative, Tony Hyams-Parish, Partner and Head of the Education Sector Group, says “This is a radical new development giving schools the autonomy that many of them want, including the proportion of funding that would otherwise have gone to their local authority. We believe many secondary and primary schools will want to convert to an Academy and hope that the process will be made as straightforward as the Secretary of State has promised.”