Legal advice in Kent - Academies
PUBLISHED: 09:38 26 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:13 20 February 2013
Once children either went to a public school or a state school, which was usually funded and run by the LEA, who received their monies from central government. Now there's a new kid on the block - the academy
Once children either went to a public school or a state school, which was usually funded and run by the LEA, who received their monies from central government. Now theres a new kid on the block the academy
What is an academy?
An academy is an independent, state-funded school, created by an existing school converting. The new school enters into a contract with the Department of Education and receives its funding directly from them rather than through the Local Education Authority.
How did they come about?
The original versions were called city technology colleges, until Tony Blair set up academies under the Education Act 1996. They were first meant to deal with failing schools, but since the coalition passed the Academies Act in 2010, Education Secretary Michael Gove has been strongly promoting the new academy school.
Initially, only schools that had achieved outstanding under their OFSTED inspections were invited to apply. This has now been relaxed to allow schools that are good, or satisfactory with good elements, to make an application to the Secretary of State to convert.
Why become an academy?
In theory, it brings with it a number of benefits from remaining an LEA-run school:
Obtaining funding directly from central Government, giving more control over the budget
Freedom from the Local Authority, allowing academies to employ staff on their own terms and set pay
Better management of finances
Exemption from the national curriculum, allowing academies to teach a broad and balanced curriculum
Further powers, such as being able to adjust the length of the school day and term dates, also make it look attractive and initially, the first academies did benefit from much higher funding from central Government than LEA schools were getting from their Local Authorities. However, the funding purse is not bottomless and the gap between LEA and academy funding is diminishing.
Is an academy automatically a better school?
OFSTED determines how good a school is and initially all academies were the schools that had been assessed as outstanding. The quality of a school is the outcome of the performance of its head teacher, staff and children. Those with vision and ability will make a school successful; becoming an academy alone will not necessarily achieve that.
How do schools become academies?
An application has to be made to the Department of Education to undergo the conversion process. Schools should only apply having discussed it among their governing body and having undertaken a full consultation with parents and interested parties.
The conversion process can take up to six months and if it is approved, the old school will close on changeover day and the new academy will open as an independent, state-funded school.
Are academies working?
Academies appear to be performing well and their OFSTED inspections reflect this, but then again it is mostly good schools that are converting. As at 1 February 2012 there had been 1,861 applications from schools, of which 1,629 have been approved and of that 1,243 are now open.
Giving a greater degree of autonomy to a state school to run itself should be a good thing, however, as political will and parties change, so can the education system.
Graham Jones is a partner in Whitehead Moncktons family department, specialising in divorce, child law, education law and academy conversions. Graham is an accredited mediator, a member of Resolution and is Secretary of the Kent Branch. He is also a Trustee of Kent Family Mediation Service. For further information, call 01622 698000.