How do schools convert to academies? What’s an academy trust?

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Academy conversion is complex Full details are available on the Department for Education (DfE) website.  In brief:

1         Academies are run by an academy trust, which is a charitable company limited by guarantee.

2         Schools can convert singly or as part of a chain.

3         A school applies to convert after its Governing Body has passed a resolution to convert.

4         Schools in a ‘hard’ Federation will already have a single Governing Body.  This Body will apply on behalf of all Federation schools.

5         Chains are called Multi-academy trusts: MATs. 

6         Academy trustees take responsibility for the way academies are run including staffing and curriculum.

7         Academies that don’t want to join a chain can still share governance and the procurement of  services with other academies.  These academies set up an Umbrella Trust: UT.

8         Schools register an interest with the DfE once they’ve made the decision to convert.

9         Schools should have started informal discussions with staff, parents and pupils before Governing Bodies pass a resolution to convert.

10     If the DfE approves the school’s application then the school must set up an Academy Trust.  The school should complete legal documents called Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association.

11     The Secretary of State must agree the Memorandum and Articles of Association.

12     The Academy Trust registers its Trust with Companies House as ‘Private limited by guarantee without share capital, exempt from using "Limited"’  (This ‘limited’ status limits the liability of the Trustees to a nominal sum, say £10, if the Trust collapses financially).  There is no share capital so there are no share holders who would expect a return on their investment.  (However, for-profit firms could set up an Academy Trust as a "vehicle" by which to make a return to shareholders.  See here)

13     The Academy Trust would be listed at Companies House. 

14     (The Academy Trust will not be registered with the Charities Commission because the Secretary of State for Education (SoS) is the Principal Regulator.  The name of the Trust will not be found on the Charities Commission website even though the Trusts are charities.)

15     Schools should consult about whether to become an academy.  Governing Bodies decide who to consult, how they’re going to run the consultation and the timescale. Faith schools need to consult their diocesan board or relevant religious authority.  This must be done before the SoS will sign the Funding Agreement.

Information retrieved from DfE website on 6 December 2013.  The words in brackets are the author's own.