Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

Df E Academies A4 Magazine V3e


Published on

DfE wanted a way to promote Academy status to heads without preaching. I created a talking heads publication in which eight head teachers discuss in their own words how they converted to Academy status, the benefits and obstacles they found and how to overcome them.

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

Df E Academies A4 Magazine V3e

  1. 1. ‘‘ ‘‘Becoming an AcademyHeads of converted schoolstalk about how they madethe change
  2. 2. Becoming an Academy | 2Heads up ContentsChanging the status of your school is a big step, 4 The decision to convertespecially when it involves extra responsibility. Why we applied for Academy statusBut the gains can be great, including control over What it’s done for my schoolyour budget, curriculum and even the school year. What to consider before applyingWe’ve talked to head teachers whose schools have converted to Academy status about what it meant 9 The conversion processfor them. Why did they decide to convert? How did How we consulted staff, parents and governorsthey manage the process and cope with everything How we managed the conversion processfrom legal paperwork to new funding arrangements? How we managed our new funding arrangementsHow did they consult with staff and parents? And what’s their relationship with their local authority 12 Working relationshipslike after the move? Our relationship with the local authority How we support other schools The support we received from DfE
  3. 3. Becoming an Academy | 3Meet the heads Name: Helen Hyde School: Watford Grammar School for Girls Name: Jonathan Bishop Type: Secondary School: Broadclyst Academy Primary School, Previous status: Voluntary-aided near Exeter Size: 1,260 pupils Previous status: Primary community school Size: 420 pupils Name: Mike Sandeman Name: Kevin Eveleigh OBE School: Arthur Mellows Village College, School: Barnby Road School, Newark Peterborough Type: Primary Type: Secondary with sixth form Previous status: Primary community school Previous status: Foundation school Size: 430 pupils Size: 1,555 pupils Name: Paul Gazzard Name: Ian Widdows (deputy head) School: St Buryan Academy Primary School, School: Giles Academy, near Boston, Lincs Cornwall Type: Secondary (11–18) Previous status: Foundation school Previous status: Foundation school Size: 122 pupils (Secondary modern) Size: 1,030 pupils Name: Lesley Grace School: Seaton Academy, Cumbria Name: Alan Yellup Type: Primary (3–7) School: Wakefield City Academy Previous status: Part-maintained Type: Secondary Size: 224 pupils Previous status: Foundation school Size: 720 pupils
  4. 4. Becoming an Academy | 4 The decision to convert Converting to Academy status is improve pay and conditions for our staff without having to answer for why we’ve a big move for any school. Here, done it. heads discuss how they came to Helen Hyde: It’s also about the ability to their decision, the benefits for be able to do things more quickly without waiting for approval – for example, we can their schools and what you should appoint someone and issue contracts on consider before converting. the same day. KE: On a purely practical note, we had Why we applied for to find better value because we had just Academy status paid to have three new classrooms built and couldn’t afford to buy all of the local Kevin Eveleigh: For us, it was about authority services we had used previously. autonomy. We wanted to focus on our We also wanted to protect our staffing, own school initiatives and those didn’t particularly a team of brilliant teaching always marry effectively with local assistants. authority priorities. Mike Sandeman: Schools that do well, Jonathan Bishop: That was our main reason like ours, can get overlooked in funding too. We were developing a personalised discussions. Because we are not problematic curriculum that suited the needs of our and seem to be doing OK, resources pupils, while our local authority had more of are pumped elsewhere. We suffered a one-size-fits-all approach. Academy status underfunding over a long period and allows us to be innovative without having to Academy status allowed us to take control, justify what we’re doing at every stage. and hopefully make the right decisions. Alan Yellup: There’s no one-size-fits- AY: We’re in a challenging area, so every all in education. For us, the freedom to penny of resource is important to us personalise the curriculum around pupils to make a difference for our pupils. to keep them engaged with education was Academy status enables us to put the crucial. We also wanted the freedom to money where it suits our needs. 
  5. 5. Becoming an Academy | 5‘‘ ‘‘ Do schools need to consult before converting? Yes, you are required to carry out a consultation to ask if the school should become an Academy. There are many different ways in which this can be done in order to give interested parties a chance to respond and ask questions. Examples KE: It’s not new or extra money. It’s just our existing allocation but What it’s done for can be found in the conversion guide (available on the DfE website).coming straight to us. I felt if we could my schoolmanage that money and get a better deal JB: We are saving a lot of money – for for our children, we should. We are not a rich example, our new payroll system costs half Can teachers’ pay and conditionsarea or a wealthy catchment, far from it. what the local authority charged. We can be changed?Lesley Grace: We already managed a lot of plough that money back into teaching. When a school converts, staff are entitled our own budget – Cumbria allows all schools KE: That’s right. We have more control over to transfer under the same employment to do this – but we were still spending too the allocation of our resources to meet our terms and conditions. However, once open, much time focused on compliance with local own needs. So, not only do we not have you may consult with staff and their union authority initiatives that weren’t necessary to lay off any teaching assistants, we have representatives on possible changes; for or relevant. employed an extra teacher and I’ve been example, this could be over different term Ian Widdows: We wanted an extension able to promote our secretary to become a times or the length of the school day. to the freedoms we already had as a business manager, freeing up my time from foundation school and we liked the idea office work. of having a direct link to the DfE without Paul Gazzard: We’ve been able to appoint having to first work through the local an extra teacher and set up an extra class. authority. As a result all our classes – which used to MS: Yes. We were also a Foundation school, be about 28 pupils each – are now reduced so we were used to making decisions on to an average of 20. Every class now has outsourcing services. Becoming an Academy a full time teaching assistant, which was was a natural progression. previously not the case. 
  6. 6. Becoming an Academy | 6AY: Pupil welfare is very important in our How will the role of governors changeinner city school. Having control of all our “We are free to innovate if we became an Academy?resources means we can hire a dedicated The principles of governance are the same staff member who will be on site every and develop systems in Academies as in maintained schools but day and go out and meet families and the governing body has greater autonomy. support parents. and procedures that are On converting to an Academy, the KE: We’ve also bought £4,000 of instruments to expand music provision and improved appropriate to the needs current governing body establishes an Academy Trust – a charitable company our CPD programme for staff. As well as that, we have financial certainty. We know our of the school.” limited by guarantee responsible for the strategic oversight of the Academy, with budget well in advance from September to Helen Hyde, Watford Grammar control over the school’s land and other July and it matches our Improvement Plan. School for Girls assets. The responsibilities will be similar LG: School governance has improved – we to those in most maintained schools. have no big committees any more, each of AY: While focusing on the core subjects, we The governing body can continue to our trustees has responsibility for specific can also personalise the curriculum to meet delegate functions to committees, the tasks and areas of work. Decision making the individual needs of pupils. For example, principal or any other holder of an is easier and more accountable. if a pupil wants to do three sciences at GCSE executive office. The governing body HH: It’s put the “fun” back into education instead of one, we can do that. can also buy in additional skills and for us. We are free to innovate and develop services such as HR support or training JB: An important freedom for us is being systems and procedures that are appropriate for governors. able to develop projects in collaboration to the needs of the school without going to with other schools and high profile Governors should not get involved in the the LEA for approval. corporate partners. This includes an ICT day-to-day management of the school.  project that will enable our students to continue their learning at home in new and exciting ways. 
  7. 7. Becoming an Academy | 7 What does the conversion process involve? The conversion process has been made as simple as possible. The key steps are explained in our conversion guide (available on the website). This process differs slightly ‘‘ according to the type of school and who owns the buildings and land. ‘‘ What to consider before applying As a minimum, you must: • create a company by registering your Trust with Companies House; • establish a new bank account for the PG: The biggest thing you need is Trust, so that the Academy can receive confidence. It is imperative that the funding; and governing body has this. There must be • transfer, renew, purchase or procure HH: We value the flexibility to procure locally confidence that the senior management new contracts, service level agreements, and get best value. If we need a building can deliver an improvement to the licences and insurance, as appropriate. repair, it’s done within hours. A tender for present curriculum, and benefit Schools can seek further assistance from bigger jobs can be in place in days. the school financially. their named contact in the Department.We can also choose to join community IW: Yes. You need to be sure of your reasons partnerships that bring real value to our for changing and how that comes out of the students and local schools and not join Are there financial rules that aims of the school – and communicate this talking shops that have no real benefit. academies must adhere to? clearly to all your stakeholders. KE: I agree. I like being able to choose the The Academies Financial Handbook (2006) MS: Academy status does mean more sets out guidelines for Academy financial education initiatives I want to get involved responsibility and accountability falls on arrangements. The current version is in and can ignore those that aren’t relevant. you. You have to be sure this is what you available online from the publications section All my meetings are about the school I work want and make the call with your senior of the Young People’s Learning Agency’s in and the children I know. team and colleagues.  (YPLA’s) website at 
  8. 8. Becoming an Academy | 8JB: I agree. However, I wouldn’t be overawed HH: Communication is vital – you need Do we cover the full cost of theby people telling you what you need to to talk to your staff regularly throughout, conversion to an Academy?convert. They’re probably trying to sell their making sure their questions are answered. DfE will pay a flat-rate grant of £25,000 services. You don’t need a detailed business AY: That’s right. Establish an open and to the school’s bank account. This is a plan or the services of a large accountancy honest process and think about how you will contribution to the cost and you are firm. A good solicitor will guide you through consult your staff, parents and stakeholders, expected to make up any remaining the whole process. You do need to allow including the unions – invite them into the costs, but this can be kept to a minimum time – at least three months – and staff to process rather than trying to block them out. if carefully managed. We have also help you gather the required information produced model legal documentation and process the paperwork. IW: Consider the timing of your conversion (available on the website) which can carefully, so you don’t have too much to do AY: You need to allow enough time and help to reduce legal costs. over any holiday period, when many people resource – there is a lot of documentation are unavailable. In exceptional circumstances – for example, and it’s too much for any one person to deal if you are involved in a PFI contract and need with. My advice to any head would be to AY: Know the facts and be prepared additional legal advice – more support can delegate responsibility. to counter the mythology surrounding be agreed. Academies. There were all sorts of scare KE: Also consider whether you need to stories circulating here – for example, provide office cover if your existing office that teachers would be forced to teach at staff are tied up with the paperwork. How will ownership of the land work other schools and that trustees would be I would recommend visiting a school that if we become an Academy? personally liable for the school’s finances, has converted in your area and seeing none of which had any basis in fact. In most cases Academies will take a long how they managed the process. lease (125 years) on the public land from the JB: And be prepared that the work doesn’t LG: Appoint good solicitors early in the freeholder. In the case of private land, the end when you open as an Academy. You will process – they will guide you through all the owner and the Academy Trust need to reach need to put in a lot of effort once you have technical and contractual work. And make an agreement. This could be via an informal converted in setting up new systems and sure your staff contracts and job descriptions agreement or via a lease arrangement negotiating with suppliers and generally are up to date and complete ready for similar to the one above. A model funding bedding in all the new arrangements.  transfer and that your suppliers are notified agreement and lease documents can be of your change of name. viewed on our website. (Continued on p10) 
  9. 9. Becoming an Academy | 9The conversion processOnce you’ve decided to go for KE: In our case, we talked to the senior leadership team first to test the water and Academy status, what next? talked to staff before we announced any Here, heads share their experiences plans. Then we asked the governors to look at it, inviting each of them to give their of the conversion process, from honest opinion in a special meeting – consulting staff and parents before we put it to a vote. to working out their funding LG: We talked to staff first. They were fully on board in seeing the benefits of greater allocation. financial and operational freedom – we answered all the questions they had about How we consulted staff, TUPE and reassured them that their pay and parents and governors conditions would not be affected. MS: Our staff liked the fact that having full PG: We started off by talking to the senior control of our own budgets would free governors who helped us reassure staff up extra resource and actually protect us that they would be paid according to the against future cuts. national pay scale without any changes to their conditions of service or pensions. HH: We faced strong resistance from the Once staff were reassured about their pay unions, especially over TUPE, but by having and conditions, they were very keen to have open channels of communication we were the extra freedom. We sat down with them able to keep staff on board and gain their in a big meeting where everyone was able to support for change. say their piece. We also spoke to the pupils LG: It’s important to include the unions – for and assured them that the changes would example, GMB asked if they could come in not affect them at all, except in positive ways, to talk to staff, so we made a room available such as more resources and smaller classes. even though we have no GMB members. 
  10. 10. ‘‘ Q ‘‘ Becoming an Academy | 10 (Continued from p8) We expect most schools to convert with MS: In our school, we prepared a briefing as little disturbance as possible. Academies document setting out our proposals and sent How we managed the can transfer land owned by the governing it out to all interested parties and stakeholders, conversion process body to the Academy Trust which is a including the unions, for comment. straightforward process. It is also possible KE: Choosing the right legal firm was our for existing Foundations (such as those at KE: Yes. We did something similar by putting most important decision in the process. many voluntary-aided schools) to continue together a list of “pros and cons” as honestly We chose a firm that had prior experience holding land, providing there are no legal as possible. That same list was available to of conversion and checked out the schools restrictions. parents, staff and governors throughout. they claimed to have converted and looked for primary experience. Be sure to question JB: It’s also important to keep a record them – arrange a meeting and always Will we get more money as an Academy?of discussions and make them available involve your finance officer/bursar/business afterwards. We kept minutes of all the You will receive the same level of per-pupil manager and chair of governors. meetings we held and were very open funding as a maintained school, with and transparent throughout. LG: Our solicitors helped us to handle additional funding to cover services that are most technical aspects of conversion, no longer provided by the local authority. MS: We ran an open forum meeting for including complying with charity law, the The Government is clear that converting parents who were supportive on the should not result in a financial advantage commercial transfer, lease, TUPE and the whole – they just wanted information and or disadvantage to schools, though they funding agreement with the DfE and reassurance. We had 47 parents attend will have greater freedom on how they registration with Companies House. the meeting and 13 written replies, 10 of use their budgets. Our lawyers also advised us on governance which were positive, two lukewarm and and forming a trust. one suggested we were converting because Academy heads get more pay. That hurt! KE: The £25,000 conversion grant we received Can we convert with a budget deficitMost of the concerns we encountered were was vital. We spent it on the solicitors and or surplus?misconceptions. For example, some parents new systems for payroll and finance, to Yes. However, if you have a significant deficit, were concerned because they associated produce the level of accounts required for applications may be postponed until it has previous Academies with failing schools. a company limited by guarantee.  been managed down to a reasonable level. Once we explained that difference between Schools with surplus balances can carry the new and old Academies, parents were these over when they convert. fully supportive.
  11. 11. Becoming an Academy | 11LG: Yes. I found that the grant we got to KE: One thing that has proved easier than cover conversion costs is what it cost. We we expected is buying in our own services. How we manageddidn’t have to spend from our own budget. Once you convert to Academy status, you our new fundingJB: We decided to go through a full due become a customer and you have the power to negotiate deals. We “cherry picked” some arrangementsdiligence exercise. We set up a working of the excellent services still on offer from LG: We used the ready reckoner on the DfE party on the governing body to look at the our local authority and shopped around website to work out what our funding would risks and potential costs of changing status for the others. We even bought some from be. It gave us an accurate estimate of the across everything from funding to ground secondary Academies in our area. money the local authority takes from our maintenance and report back. I wrote a budget to spend on our behalf. Governors paper summarising the results, with lots IW: We are still in the process of buying in and staff found it made a very powerful case of supporting information, after which we services. We have continued to buy some for conversion to Academy status. put it to a vote of the governors. Because from the local authority, such as music we went through such a thorough process, services and FSM assessment. But we are AY: We also used the ready reckoner. It was we had good, robust answers for all the about to switch to a cheaper broadband pretty accurate in predicting how much questions the unions asked us and were provider offering five times the speed. money we would have in our control. able to fully justify what we were doing. JB: I agree. What it said was what we ended MS: My advice would be to start early up getting in funding. Using our existing and allow enough time and resource to “Once you convert to budget information and the figures from complete the process. We were among the the ready reckoner, we modelled a new first to convert in September 2010 and we Academy status, you budget based on buying most of our had to do a lot over the summer holidays. services in ourselves. We used this to prove The process should be much smoother now! become a customer and to our stakeholders that we would be no worse off financially, as well as gaining all IW: I would also advise heads who are converting to look at existing services you you have the power to our extra freedoms. buy from the local authority without a PG: Our local authority gave us an estimate of formal contract/agreement. In particular, negotiate deals.” our funding which was reasonably accurate. check how much notice you need to give Kevin Eveleigh, Barnby Road School We have bought in a financial reporting if you want to cancel. package which fits our needs very well. The whole process went fairly smoothly for us. 
  12. 12. ‘‘ ‘‘ Becoming an Academy | 12KE: Our funding agreement was completed LG: Controlling 100 per cent of How is Academy funding calculated?within the timelines, mainly thanks to the money allocated to us, we The General Annual Grant (GAG) funding the solicitors and the DfE rep continually feel we’re in the best position to will be based on the level of local authority explaining the “legal jargon” in simple terms. face the future, even if there are funding already calculated for the school. budget cuts. The local authority LG: It’s really important to have a clear idea Grant payments to Academies to replace can’t claw back money from us as of your existing finances before you start. local authority services depend on the level it might from maintained schools. Ask your local authority for a full breakdown of central spend in the local authority. This of where the money goes, so you can IW: I agree. I would just caution can vary considerably from area to area. calculate your carry forward and predict that you need to keep an eye on Our website has an “Academies Funding” future spend. This really gave us confidence the money you get to ensure you page explaining this in more detail, that we could do it. are receiving all that you should. alongside a list of central services that you At times, I have found it difficult to AY: We had to push our local authority to may be expected to provide. It also includes identify whether we have received give us a full breakdown of all grant money a ready reckoner which enables schools it or not. and make sure we would get all the funds considering converting to calculate the we were due. But we were always confident LG: As far as capital funding level of funding they should receive as an that we would have more money available goes, conversion has made no Academy. It also allows them to compare to spend on pupils simply because we difference to our entitlement. this with the funding they currently receive. would no longer need to buy services The only difference is a slight gap This will give schools an estimate of we didn’t need. before the new arrangements are in the amount of grant they will receive in place. But we weren’t worried about respect of their additional responsibilities that. We knew that if the roof as Academies.  blew off, we had insurance to cover it. 
  13. 13. Becoming an Academy | 13 Working relationships Heads discuss how converting to PG: Our local authority worked with us constructively and with full cooperation Academy status has affected their and good spirit. There was no visible working relationships with local hostility towards our move. authorities and local schools. KE: Local authorities have become pragmatic, they have little choice. Our relationship with They actually congratulated us on converting, accepting that we had to the local authority make the right choices for our own community. And we have bought back KE: Our authority wanted as much of our the best services they offer. For example, custom as possible and each department we employ a gardener, a member of sent someone out to us to discuss the the kitchen staff and a site manager services or parts of services they could offer. from the centre. If anything we have a closer relationship than ever before, we remain a county state MS: Be careful not to present Academy school if not a local authority one! status as anti-local authority. It’s about a school’s ability to review what we buy in. IW: That’s right. The difference is we are now We still use some of the council’s services customers and we insist on getting high but where the provision is poor or quality service and value for money in our inadequate to meet our needs, we don’t. dealings with the local authority and other external bodies. LG: Our experience was a bit different. We were one of the first to convert and JB: It’s more of a partnership now because we found the local authority very slow to they need us to buy services back from them. engage in the process. Our legal team The level of service has gone up while the had to push to organise the completion costs have gone down. We continue to buy of documents. Having said that, we still services from them in areas where they have use the buying power of the local authority strong credentials such as health and safety for energy.  and internal audit.
  14. 14. Becoming an Academy | 14 What happens if there is a capital emergency at the Academy? Would‘‘ it have to cover costs? ‘‘ You are required to take out insurance, at specified minimum levels of cover, to protect against potential capital emergencies. In exceptional circumstances Academies can seek an Earmarked Annual MS: That’s right. We are simply continuing Grant from the YPLA for emergencies, in the work we already do supporting local the same way the local authority can pay a schools, including help with management maintained school a contingency payment. and leadership. MS: Our relationship with the senior AY: That’s the same for us. We were Will Academies have to take on Localmanagement of the local authority is strong. already supporting several schools in Government Pension Scheme liabilities?They were disappointed about us leaving our area, including primary schools.but they understood. We have had their If a pension fund is managing a deficit then KE: We made an offer to the School this transfers from the local authority to the support and commitment to keep us within Improvement Service and they selected Academy. However, the Charity Commission the fold as much as possible and I have has advised that this liability does not mean our current partner. We worked with the made a similar commitment to them. the Academy is trading while insolvent, school head to decide what priorities we could help with. Some of our work is very because the deficit is being reduced by hands on, using our leading teachers with the contributions made. The commercial How we support their pupils, some of it is sharing practice transfer agreement available on our website other schools and supporting CPD. There is a bit of extra sets out the Department’s position that pension deficits only apply to the Academy’s work involved but staff really enjoy it and eligible employees. However, there is no set LG: There is flexibility in how you do this. hope it will make a difference. precedent in the Local Government Pension In our case, rather than focusing on one school, we help several by sharing good HH: In our case, we are directly supporting Scheme regulations for the treatment of practice through the Assessing Pupils’ a local primary and we are helping more deficits. Schools should contact their local Progress scheme and we operate as a than a dozen schools who are in the process pension authority as soon as they start considering Academy status. centre of excellence for teachers who of converting, speaking to heads, finance want to come and see what we do. directors and governors. 
  15. 15. ‘‘ ‘‘ Becoming an Academy | 15The support we received IW: Working with the named advisor at What support is available to Academies the DfE has been very helpful. We all clearly if they get into financial difficulty?from DfE shared an interest in making this work. Like all schools, Academies are expected KE: The help and advice from the DfE rep Since conversion, our main contact has to maintain strict budgetary controls and was excellent throughout, he was in daily been with the YPLA and this has been are required to balance their budgets. contact with ourselves, the local authority useful in terms of knowing who to go The Academy receives ongoing GAG funding and our solicitors, guiding and advising the to with questions. which covers the running costs of the school. school along the way and helping us keep KE: Yes. The YPLA took over where the DFE The YPLA monitors the Academy’s financial to the extremely tight timelines involved. agent finished and you have immediate position on behalf of the Secretary of State, This was especially important for a primary contact with your YPLA officer.  and will intervene if a deficit occurs or school like ours with a small office staff. appears likely. It will provide a restructuring LG: Our advisor was an excellent support. plan to bring costs and income back into She helped us through each stage of the “Our advisor linked balance and can provide contingency process and always got back to us to answer funding if absolutely necessary.queries. She linked with our solicitors to with our solicitors toform an exceptionally strong team, working with us to ensure the conversion was form an exceptionally Do we have to support another school?successful and our needs were met. Yes, as many schools are already doing. JB: DfE were very supportive. We were early strong team.” For successful schools, an essential part of converters so we needed clarification on Lesley Grace, Seaton Academy converting to Academy status is agreeing issues that were still being decided and had in principle to support another school to to go right up to ministers. But they made raise standards. Schools should include sure we got answers as quickly as possible. their initial plans in their application, and their named contact in the Department will discuss these with them. The process provides head teachers and governors with the flexibility to decide the exact nature of this support as they will know what is best for their school and local area. 
  16. 16. Becoming an Academy | 16Next stepsTo find out more about Becoming an Academy: Conversion processbecoming an Academy, visit, 1. Registration • Register your interest using the online formwhere you can read the latest information • A named contact in DfE will work through the conversion process and download an application form. with youIf you would like to talk to heads whose • Governing body starts the consultation required by legislation with schools have already converted, email us at interested parties (can start later but must be completed before Funding Agreement)Or contact the following organisations, 2. Application • Your governing body and Foundation (if relevant) pass a resolution who can put you in touch. to convert/ in favour of Academy conversion pre-approval • Submit your application via the DfE website checks • Discuss your plans to support another school to raise standards or Independent Academies Association converting within a “chain” with your named DfE contact • Local authority/governing body start the TUPE processemail: • Secretary of State will be asked to approve your proposal • On approval the Secretary of State will issue Academy Orders and release a £25,000 grant to your schoolFoundation, Aided Schools and 3. Achieve • Finalise governance documents based on DfE model Academies National Association Funding documents Agreement • Register the Academy Trust with Companies Houseemail: • Agree leasing arrangements for the school land and buildings • Local authority/governing body complete the TUPE process • Governors complete required consultation with interested partiesSpecialist Schools and Academies Trust • Submit the Funding Agreement to the Secretary of State for approval period is 3–5 4. Pre-opening • Put new financial systems and contracts in place months fromemail: • Complete Academy registrations, e.g. with exam bodies registration to opening