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What structure would suit us best as we convert to academy status?

Posted by Paul Bury on 27th February 2017

As the move towards being an academy becomes reality for many schools, they start to consider what structure might suit them best.

There are a few options and it is best to explore each in a little detail to see what might work best for the school, the pupils, the teaching staff and the parents.

Being an academy school isn’t simply a case of closing the doors one day as a state school and opening the next as an academy. There are a number of structural issues to consider.

Single Academy

A single academy is probably the easiest structure to understand. This is a stand-alone charitable company that runs its own academy school. It will have its own constitution, its own members, its own governors and sets its own agenda.

But in order to qualify as a single academy, the school must meet certain criteria-

  • The latest Ofsted report for the school must be outstanding or good with outstanding features
  • The attainment and progress of the pupils must be above the national average
  • The school must have healthy finances

This means that not all schools can automatically convert to single academy status.

There is also the expectation that a single academy will support at least one other school.

Becoming a single academy will work for some schools. It gives a degree of autonomy to deliver the goals of the school on an independent basis, without the influence of other parties. But there are other options that need to be considered particularly as the government has made clear that it favours the multi-academy trust option.

Multi-Academy Trust

In this structure there will be a single legal charitable company that is responsible for running a number of academy schools. This means that all academy school share a common board of governors, members and a constitution.

There are two ways of becoming part of a multi-academy trust-

  • Join an existing multi-academy trust or,
  • Set up a trust with other like-minded schools

There are some challenges and opportunities to being part of a multi-academy trust that do not exist with a single academy status as each academy is part of a wider group with shared aspirations and resources. This has both positive and negative aspects and where the balance lies this often depends on a number of factors which need to be considered-

  • Whether the vision of the trust is aligned and in the interests of all member schools
  • How the resources will be allocated between the schools
  • Whether the curriculum can be delivered to all pupils of all schools in the trust
  • The teaching staff will all be employed by the same trust, so their expertise can be shared across the different schools

Ultimately this is a judgment call that should be based on what is judged to be in the best interests of the pupils.

However, if you are considering working with others but don’t think that a multi-academy trust is right for you then there are other options.

Umbrella Trust

An umbrella trust is a separate charitable organisation that is formed for the purpose of improving the educational outcomes of the academies and, in some cases, the non-academy schools that it supports.

An umbrella trust will facilitate the sharing of best practice and the use of collective buying power of the combined academies and non-academy schools to buy in shared services at a lower cost.

Collaborative Partnership

Academies have the option of collaborating with each other while still maintaining their independent status either on a formal or informal basis, working together to share expertise and develop strategic ties but not to go as far as having a formal trust arrangement.

This means that, as with an umbrella trust, the schools can combine buying power and share best practice.

Endeavour’s support for your school

Members of our Education Team have helped many schools go through the process of converting to an academy and we are happy to share our knowledge and expertise with you can make an informed decision about that structure is best for your school.

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