One of the current government's policies is to increase the number of academies and free schools, in order to create a better and more diverse school system.
The Department for Education (DfE) has produced information for how schools can convert to become academies. The DfE also has a collection of guidance for schools about the process involved in converting to an academy. The DfE has a separate collection of guidance for groups interested in opening a free school.
The decision to apply for academy status is taken by the governors. In the case of foundation schools with a foundation, and voluntary schools, the governing body may only apply for academy status with the agreement of any existing trust and those entitled to appoint any foundation governors.
Having registered their interest in academy status with the DfE, the governors simply have to vote in favour of a resolution to convert to academy status. The decision can be made by a simple majority of those present at the meeting.
Deciding whether or not to convert
There are both benefits and challenges of academy status. The following section points users to information that may be useful for governors to consider before deciding to apply for academy status.
The Key for School Governors is one resource that governors in Waltham Forest can use, though governors should check whether their school has a subscription to this website in order to access the information. There is an entire section on becoming an academy, including what questions governors should ask before coming to a decision.
David Marriott is the author of Being Strategic, Monitoring and Evaluation and The Effective School Governor and runs a website called http://www.thegovernor.org.uk. He gave a presentation to the Poole Governors Forum on 23 June 2011 regarding the pros and cons of various types of school governance arrangements e.g. maintained, soft federation/collaboration, hard federation and academy conversion. The presentation slides are available for logged-in users to download below.
The National Co-ordinators of Governor Services (NCOGS) is a committee representing local authority providers of services to school governors. They have produced a useful decision making flowchart as part of an academy conversion toolkit. It is available for logged-in users to download below.
Finally, the National Governors' Association (NGA) website gives an excellent list of questions and answers on the pros and cons of conversion. This is only open to NGA members, but membership is not expensive. Regular updated advice for schools on conversion is also available from the NGA website.
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