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What are the challenges of converting to an academy school?

Posted by Paul Bury on 16th February 2017

We’ve all seen it in the news. It has been writ large across the face of the secondary education sector for some time now. The ‘academisation’ of schools (the most inelegant of terms) is fast approaching and although there has been some change of heart in the government ranks it still looks likely that the academy status is the route that the current government wants schools to go down.

But changing the way a school is structured and managed poses operational challenges for everyone involved including the board of governors, the head and other teachers to the parents and pupils. Getting a grip on what needs to change and what stays the same is a minefield, so it is really important to understand the challenges that may lie ahead in order to avoid ‘stepping on a mine’.


The structure

The legal structure and status of the school will change on conversion to an academy when the ownership and operation to the school will transfer to an independent charitable company known as an academy trust.

There are different models that can be adopted depending on whether the school operates as a single academy (MAT) or part of a Multi-Academy Trust, but whatever your choice you need to understand what each means for you.



The way that the school is run and the role of the board of governors fundamentally changes when a school converts to an academy.

An academy trust’s governance is laid down in its articles of association that regulates the relationship and sets out the powers of the academy trust’s governors and members.

The role of governors of an academy is an interesting one as they also carry out the role of company directors and charity trustees at the same time as acting as governors of the academy. It is only by understanding the distinction in these roles that your board of governors will understand what is expected of them in the new academy structure and be able to make informed decisions both on the future of the school and their continuing role in it.



Although an important role of the head teacher currently consists of managing the school budgets, it becomes even more important after conversion. 



The teaching (and other) staff will transfer from the employment of the local education authority to the academy trust under the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment Regulations, commonly referred to as ‘TUPE’. It is important to bear in mind that the provisions of TUPE supersede any agreement that the parties may enter into.

Relevant trade unions must be informed of the proposed transfer. It is only to be expected that your teaching staff will have concerns at this time, so it pays to be prepared and be able to answer all of the questions that they might have.


The land and buildings

In all likelihood the academy school will lease the land and buildings from the local authority, but you need to understand all that this entails, including-

  • Who is responsibility for maintenance, repairs and insurance
  • What liability there is for rent and any other payments
  • The extend to the right to occupy the school site


Endeavour’s support for schools

The decision to convert to an academy is a decision that affects all of the stakeholders of a school. It is important therefore that all voices are heard and legal advice obtained at the start of the process in order to make an informed decision as to whether conversion will be the right thing for your school and its pupils.

Members of our Education Team have helped many schools go through this process and will be happy to come to your school and speak to all the major stakeholders and answer their questions free of charge.

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