|Changes to the education landscape continue to challenge school leaders and governors. Every school wants to ensure that the welfare of pupils continues to be at the heart of every decision they make. In this ever-changing world, clear information and school specific advice from Flint Bishop can help you to make informed choices.
In March 2016, the Government announced its intention to convert every school in England and Wales into an Academy – a decision affecting almost 20,000 schools across the UK.
Responding to this will be a challenge for every maintained school and academy trust. In this section, we have tried to address as much as possible regarding academy conversions and forming a multi-academic trust (MAT).
Academy Conversions and Trusts
We have a team of specialist education solicitors who understand the challenges facing schools who are looking at academisation and trusts, or stand-alone academies who are looking to expand.
We offer a fixed fee service, managed by a single solicitor with over 15 years of education and governance experience. Not only can we advise and assist on the conversion process itself but we can help with the initial setup of a trust from scratch.
Our team understands the challenges that you may face when converting to an academy, forming a MAT or two trusts coming together. We offer a transparent, fixed fee package with expert advice from the day you think of the idea, to the day you open as an academy.
We appreciate that running a school can be a challenge, but dealing with an academy conversion and solicitors (as well as other stakeholders) is likely to be new territory for you. There may be many legal hurdles that require negotiation and this is why the entire project will be managed by leading solicitor, who will be on-hand to guide you through the many decision-making stages and will ensure that as a conversion team, we meet the crucial deadlines and everything is finalised exactly how you had hoped.
In our experience, the conversion process runs better when a school (or schools) work closely with one dedicated project lead, with the support of our team of experts.
If you are looking to convert to an academy or form a trust, we will meet with you to discuss all the options available. We will tell you what needs to be done, but we will then provide you with ideas on the number of different models that you could adapt with all of the pros and cons set out, allowing you to make an informed decision that works best for you.
Help when you need it
We know that the conversion process may consume a lot of your time. By working closely as a team we can liaise with the DfE and EFA about deadlines and compliance. We can negotiate with the LA and other third parties as necessary.
We can manage much of the process, whilst keeping you informed to ease pressure on your time – when you still have to run a busy school.
We will aim to ensure that the process is as straightforward as possible. From the outset, we will draw out a roadmap so that all parties know and understand what needs to happen, when and why.
We will we go through your questions about each part of the process and we will work through issues such as:
- Who can join a MAT?
- Geographical Proximity
- Vision and Ethos and Identity
- Being ‘led’ by a secondary school?
Any member of the team will be available to talk to you whenever you need to, either on the phone, by email or by webinar for meetings, briefings, consultation or training or face to face.
How we help
For every new client, we start with project planning and support: we will create a ‘roadmap’ plan of the conversion project, ensuring that everyone understands their role, what the key dates are and the deadlines for each stage.
For every academy conversion or changes to an academy trust, certain elements must be considered, and we will go through every element of the process, every step of the way.
Governance and Leadership
What do you want to achieve?
What are your legal obligations?
What needs to be done and what are the timelines?
How do we comply with charity and company law obligations?
The contract with the Secretary of State for Education
What goes into the Master Funding Agreement?
Is the individual school’s funding agreement ‘fit for purpose’?
What are the obligations on the trust?
Does the EFA require any updates?
Are there any specific funding needs or issues?
Do we need to establish an academy trust with Companies House?
Do we need to amend the current company Articles?
What are individuals’ functions in the Trust?
How are people selected for specific roles?
What contracts exist?
Are there any grants or other arrangements with the LA or others?
What contracts need to transfer?
Are there any guarantees or warranties to pass over?
What about liabilities?
What will happen to employees following the proposed changes?
When does there need to be consultation?
How can we involve the unions and staff representation in the process?
What happens to current Codes and Conditions?
What happens to pensions?
Land and Premises
Who owns the land after the process?
Who is responsible for the buildings?
What about capital development in the future?
Does PFI make a difference?
What does having a ‘long lease’ mean?
As a church school, what is the licence to occupy?
Finance and School Business Management
Who sets the budget?
What about bank accounts?
How does the funding cycle work?
What about Payroll and PAYE?
VAT and HMRC changes?
Internal and external audit
What is the role of the Trustees?
Who makes financial decisions?
What is a local governing body?
Who is responsible for the curriculum?
Who appoints staff?
What is the role of the Executive Head/CEO?
Will there be a head teacher in each school?
By working through all of these areas with you, you can be rest assured that each step of the process is considered, dealt with and efficiently managed.