THE NATIONAL SOCIETY AND THE DIOCESE OF EXETER (DBE)
INTERIM GUIDANCE ON THE ACADEMIES BILL 2010
FOR VA AND VC CHURCH SCHOOLS IN THE DIOCESE OF EXETER.
1. This guidance follows discussion at the National DDE’s conference, a National
Society (NS) meeting with the DFE Bill Managers on Friday 11th June and advice on
the proposed legislation from the National Society’s legal advisers. The guidance
has been written by the Director of Education, Youth and Children's Work on
behalf of the DBE, using the NS guidance and advice from other Dioceses.
2. All guidance is still interim. There is insufficient information on many aspects of
the new Academies Bill to provide firm advice at this stage. Substantive guidance
will be issued as more information becomes available. Schools are advised to keep
in contact with the DBE and are requested to contact the DBE for more advice and
support; and also to advise the DBE of any intention to register their interest in
this programme and before applying to become an academy.
The new Academies Bill
3. The new Academies Bill (2010) will enable all maintained schools to apply to the
Secretary of State to become an academy. All schools that have been judged as
‘outstanding’ by Ofsted are likely to be approved for academy status, should they
wish to convert. The governing body of ‘outstanding’ schools will be able to
convert to an academy from September 2010; however, if a school has a deficit
budget (more then £100,000) the Secretary of State is unlikely to agree the
academy order. Schools in special measures or are eligible for intervention may be
required to convert to an academy from September 2011.
The current proposals significantly change the rationale for academies and hence
raise questions for the Church. The Secretary of State’s clear aim is to encourage
greater ‘freedom’ for schools with a good track record instead of using academies
as a primary vehicle to instigate school improvement. There will be an expectation
that academies will incorporate the following characteristics: have a broad and
balanced curriculum; provide education for mainly local pupils, of all abilities and
partner a low-achieving school and help it improve.
An academy cannot charge for admissions or attendance or for education provided
by the institution. If a school converts to an academy, it will automatically be
treated as having met the independent school standards. This means that the
academy will not need to be inspected before being registered as an independent
school or prior to opening.
What is the political process from now on?
4. The Bill will most likely become law by the end of July. The House of Lords will
discuss the Bill in Committee for two days in late June. The Bill will be discussed
at length on these days and amendments may be agreed. The NS will engage
with this process as required.
What are the administrative processes?
5. The DFE web site now contains the application form and further details of how to
apply. In the next two weeks, model documentation and exemplar funding
agreements will be posted. The government hopes to announce the first tranche
of new academies in September, but legal and technical complications with land
transfers and trust arrangements may slow the process. Whereas all schools can
apply now, ‘outstanding’ (Ofsted) school applications will be fast tracked.
Timescales for other schools are not clear yet. Schools deemed to be failing will
be subject to direction to become academies. The criteria to determine how this
will work will be published before the end of July.
What powers will schools have?
6. School heads and governors can make the decision to apply to become an
academy. The NS and DBE strongly advise that all stakeholders, including parents
and staff, should be involved in open consultation on a proposal. Heads,
governors and other stakeholders should ensure that they are fully familiar with
the implications, accountabilities and full impact of academy status, before
agreeing to a proposal.
What powers does the Diocesan Board of Education have?
7. The ‘foundation’ (i.e. the foundation governors) must agree with a decision to
apply for academy status. The precise definition of the ‘foundation’ is not clear yet,
but it is anticipated that the agreement of the Diocesan Board of
Education (DBE) will be required before an application can be made.
8. It is highly likely that the DBE, as the ‘religious authority’, will become the sponsors
and will therefore have considerable powers and responsibilities as defined in
current academy legislation. In this event, the DBE will need to be fully assured
that the proposed academy has the capacity to succeed. This applies to issues
such as governance, leadership, management, school improvement, finance and
9. Thus, the DBE will not wish to enter lightly into agreement. The responsibility for
the academy still sits with the Church and all parties will need reassurance that
academy status is an appropriate way forward. See below under ‘conditional
What are the ‘headline’ issues which schools and the DBE should consider?
10. The religious designation of the church school is not affected, and cannot be
changed without re-designation, involving complex consultation, closure and re-
opening and the approval of the DBE. Therefore becoming an academy does not
alter your church school VA / VC status.
11. Church schools are a key part of national provision and are bound together by
many aspects of Christian principle and foundation. The Church does not wish to
see this undermined by fragmentation or loss of a sense of ‘family’. Diocesan
structures and ways of working have, over many years, developed collegially and
collaboratively and this has brought great strength to the reputation and
achievements of Church schools. It is important that this is maintained and
developed, not negated by the creation of a new wave of academies.
12. The Church academies established so far all serve deprived areas. This is a key
part of the church’s mission. This raises questions:
• Will the new wave of academies, especially those already judged outstanding,
compromise this aspect of mission?
• Will giving academy status to a school undermine equitable distribution of
resources to the remaining schools?
• Will small rural schools be able to cope with the additional burdens?
• Will academy status directly benefit students?
• How will the family of Church schools work together in the future?
In relation to these and related questions schools are urged to think beyond the
implications for just one school. It is essential to consider the role and function of
the school in both its local and wider community and the creation of an academy
would be unacceptable if the key principles are compromised.
13. The DBE will wish to consider a possible ‘backlash’ effect of (say) several C of E
schools becoming academies. If this leads to other schools loosing resource,
through reduced LA capacity, it could be seen as working against the Church
mission for equity of provision.
14. The snapshot Ofsted judgement of ‘outstanding’ will be the only criteria for fast
tracking. It cannot be presumed that this judgement still holds good if the
inspection was a while ago. Circumstances can change rapidly and heads and
governors must be aware of the arising implications. It is therefore essential to
thoroughly check the school’s current and future capacity to benefit from academy
Questions to consider:
There are a number of key questions that emerge at this stage which should be
considered, and many more will be raised in the weeks ahead.
• What are the benefits for the school and community of becoming an academy?
• What are the ‘downsides’ of becoming an academy – how will you manage
payroll, personnel and other services provided now by the LA?
• Is the change in the best interest of the children, their families and the
• How will the change of status impact on the school’s mission and purpose?
• Will inclusive Christian distinctiveness be enhanced or reduced by the change?
• How will the change affect relationships with other local schools?
• Where will the school get the support it needs?
• How will the family of Church schools, both nationally and locally, be affected
by the change?
• What are the long term considerations for:
b. The land and the trust
c. Staff employment and conditions
d. The Christian ethos?
(Taken from the Diocese of Chester web-site)
Differences between categories of schools:
Many of the “freedoms” of academy status already exist in voluntary aided schools,
though clearly there are some fundamental differences; there are also differences in
the way the new academies will be set up compared with the current academies. The
table below attempts to highlight the differences.
Abbreviations: GB = governing body; LA = Local Authority; Secretary of State = Secretary of
State; TUPE = Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations.
VA School VC school Foundation Current academy New academy
Governing Foundation Foundation Foundation Sponsor majority of 1 Academy Trust
Body majority of 2 minority minority determines, to be
agreed by SOS
Employer of GB LA GB Academy Trust Academy Trust
Staff pay & National National National GB determines, GB determines (subject
conditions (subject to TUPE) to TUPE)
Charitable Exempt Exempt Exempt Exempt charity Exempt charity
status charity charity charity
Sponsors None None None Yes required None required for
required required required outstanding schools
Admission GB LA GB GB, but agreed by SOS GB but agreed by SOS
Curriculum National National National GB determines, GB determines subject
Curriculum Curriculum Curriculum subject to Funding to Funding Agreement
Funding LA LA LA DfE via funding DfE via funding
Buildings 10% capital/ 100% LA 100% LA 100% DfE 100% DfE
Lines of OFSTED/LA OFSTED/LA OFSTED/LA OFSTED/DBE/ OFSTED/DBE/
accountab- DBE DBE DBE Secretary of State Secretary of State
Closure May be May be May be Agreement is Agreement is
proposed by proposed by proposed by terminable by the SOS terminable by the SOS
GB; needs LA or GB LA or GB with 7 years’ notice. with 7 years’ notice.
DBE The SOS may The SOS may
agreement. terminate the terminate the
LA may cease Agreement with 12 Agreement with 12
to maintain months notice if the months notice if the
conditions of the conditions of the
Agreement are not Agreement are not
being met. being met.
With thanks to the Diocese of Southwark for the above table.
Next Steps and Further Guidance:
The many complex issues involved suggest the need for a nationally agreed protocol
and checklist for DBEs to work through with schools considering applying for academy
status. The NS will begin work on this immediately and hope to have it available by
the end of June.
Further guidance from the NS on a range of issues is also enclosed at the end of this
While the religious character of our schools is preserved in regulations through the
process of becoming an academy, the DBE is concerned to ensure that the role and
purpose of church schools and the collegiality of the Diocesan family of Church Schools
is secured. The DBE is also concerned, as governors and Headteachers will be, to
ensure that the education and well-being of children is at the forefront of our decision-
We would ask all schools considering academy status to contact the Diocese through
the main office:
email@example.com 01392 294950
or by contacting your Diocesan Education Officer.
Letters sent to Schools by the DFE:
Link to DFE web site:
Diocese of Exeter web-site:
What National Society advice is offered on other key issues?
15. The Legal Basis. New Academies, created under the 2010 legislation, will have
the same legal basis as existing academies.
16. Conditional Agreement. Resulting from the NS protocol and checklist, it will be
possible for a diocese to give conditional agreement to an academy proposal. This
may be necessary to ensure that risks and accountability are appropriately covered.
17. Accountability and sponsorship. The DBE will most likely be the sponsoring
and accountable body. It is therefore essential that the DBE is satisfied that all
requirements are met either absolutely or conditionally. The ‘foundation’ can, of
course, exercise its power of veto should they not be satisfied about the proposal.
The government also intend to ensure that the diocese must be consulted on all
relevant issues both before and after the funding agreement. Guidance on this is
18. Admissions. Existing admissions arrangements will be retained once the school
becomes an academy. The academy will become its own admissions authority and,
as a Church school, still subject to the requirements of the religious authority as
set out in the Admissions Code. The academy will have to comply with all aspects
of the Admissions code.
19. Governance. Existing academy legislation will be used to determine governance
structures. In brief, this means that the sponsors will shape the governing body.
20. Land Transfer and Trusts. The DFE acknowledge that a lot more work is
needed in this area and that it will be a while before full details become clear. The
NS has offered to work closely with the DFE on this complex area as it affects
Church schools. No further guidance can be offered at present.
21. Religious Designation. This will automatically be transferred to the new
academy. The NS will wish to support DBEs in ensuring that all new academies
continue to be full members of the Church family and will make this should be a
condition for support. The DFE is currently considering the mechanism by which a
school could change designation and further advice will be provided, but the
interim guidance is that an academy can only be de-designated by complex
consultation, closure and re-opening.
22. Funding Agreement and Memorandum and Articles. These will be the key
legal documents. The funding agreement is the five year contract between DFE
and the sponsors and the memorandum and articles is the constitutional device.
These two documents establish the basis of and the accountabilities for the
academy. Specimen documents will be available shortly. They will most likely
include key expectations related to both standards and religious designation. DBEs
must be fully involved in the drafting of these documents and may require legal
advice. It is understood that a set up grant will be available to schools and this
should be used, in part, to pay for legal support.
23. The involvement of the Diocesan Board of Education. As stated earlier, the
DBE will have the right to be consulted on all major issues even after the school
becomes an academy.
24. RE and Collective Worship. The funding agreement will make expectations
clear on these matters. There is a potential loophole in the proposed legislation
which will be dealt with during the final drafting, but it is expected that all
academies will teach RE and engage in collective worship.
25. Inspections. The arrangement will be as for existing academies and section 48
inspections for C of E academies will be required.
26. TUPE and Pensions. Transfer of employment and pension arrangements are
covered by existing academy legislation. NS guidance is that all employees should
transfer and that existing pension arrangements should continue.
27. Capital and Funding. Schools need to be advised that academy status is most
unlikely to produce new capital for buildings. Also, taking into account the extra
duties in relation to extra income (deriving from the academies share of LA central
costs) the school is unlikely to be better off. VA schools becoming academies will
not have to pay the 10% towards capital projects and LCVAP and DFC will be
subsumed into the annual revenue budget.
28. Charity Status. There are some unresolved aspects of accountabilities arising
from academy charity status. Further advice will be given when more detail
29. VAT. The DFE intends to create special grants to academies in order to refund the
extra VAT incurred on goods and services compared to ordinary schools.
30. Federations. A federation of schools can apply together for each school to
become an academy. Further guidance on the position of one school becoming an
academy is awaited, as current arrangements do not allow academies to formally
federate with other schools.
31. Failing Schools. There will be a lot of new guidance on this. From the Church
perspective, it will be critical that failing schools are not passed to other providers.
This will be dealt with via the accreditation process which is currently on hold
pending ministerial decisions on the way forward. It is understood that future
accreditation arrangements will be simplified to enable more organisations to
become accredited. The NS will continue to strive for system-wide accreditation
covering all dioceses.
32. Extra Portfolio of duties and work. Schools and DBEs must be mindful of the
many extra tasks and responsibilities which academies carry. This could make it
impossible for small schools to cope and a careful risk analysis must be undertaken.
Arrangements for local trusts, embracing several schools, are under consideration.
Dr Rob Gwynne
Deputy General Secretary, National Society
Head of School Development, Church of England
14th June 2010