Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Department for Education to the Public Bill Committee on Clause 55 – Academy conversions: federated schools (E 97)

Reference: EBCC/2011/Note

To aid the Committee’s consideration of the Education Bill, this note provides further information on the delegated powers in clause 55.

Policy Background

1. This clause amends the Academies Act 2010 to enable a federated school to convert to Academy status without requiring the agreement of the whole federated governing body.

2. Maintained school federations were introduced in the Education Act 2002 as new flexible governance structures to encourage schools to work together - sharing best practice, pooling resources and offering wider opportunities to both children and staff. Federations are groups of two or more maintained schools that share a single governing body.

3. The Government wants to give all schools the opportunity to enjoy the greater autonomy and proven educational benefits that Academy status brings. Schools in a federation are already able to convert jointly, provided that one of the schools is outstanding or has outstanding features. Currently, if one or more but not all of the schools in a federation wish to convert to Academy status, this cannot happen unless a majority of the entire federated governing body agree to it, and the converting school or schools first go through an additional statutory process to leave the federation.

What this clause does

4. Clause 55 makes amendments to t he Academies Act 2010 , including enabl ing a federated school to apply for an Academy order without requiring the agreement of the whole federated governing body.

5. Subsection (2) inserts a new subsection (6) into section 3 of t he Academies Act 2010 to allow regulations to prescribe the proportion of the total number of members of a federated governing body, and members of a particular description, that can apply for an Academy order on behalf of a particular school in the federation. Subsection (3) amends subsection (1)(a) of section 4 of the Academies Act 2010 so that an application for an A cademy order can be made in respect of the school wishing to convert by the persons specified above without the consent of the federated governing body .

6. The relevant regulations are the School Governance (Federations) England Regulations 2007 [1] .

7. Subsection (4) amends section 7 of the Academies Act to provide that, where a school which is converted into an Academy is a federated school, whether that school has a surplus and, if so, the amount of that surplus is to be determined in accordance with regulations.

What we are proposing

8. We wish to ensure that every eligible school has the opportunity to convert to become an Academy. The provisions enable regulations to set a lower threshold for federated governing body decisions on applications for Academy orders in respect of federated schools, as opposed to the majority that is normally required for any governing body decision.

9. We propose to amend the School Governance (Federations) England Regulations 2007 to add a new provision in Part 7 whereby a decision on a request for a federated school to convert to Academy status can be determined by less than a majority of the federated governing body. The minority group would need to meet all of three requirements:

· For a federation of two schools, it would need to be at least half the federated governing body, for a federation of three at least a third, for a federation of four at least a quarter, and so on;

· It would need to include half or more of the governor s that particularly relate to the school whose c onversion is being propose d , (as defined in paragraph 10);

· It would need to consist of at least 3 governors.

10. The governors that particularly relate to the school would be defined in the regulations as those in the following prescribed categories:

· (in the case of a foundation or voluntary school) foundation governors appointed in respect of the school wishing to convert;

· the head teacher of the school wishing to convert;

· parent governors elected /appointed to represent the parents of registered pupils at the school wishing to convert; 

· staff governor (s) employed to work at the school wishing to convert.

11. By way of example, a federation might contain four schools with a governing body comprising twenty members. In that case, at least five governors would need to support the decision for one of its schools to convert to Academy status, including half or more of the prescribed governors. As another example, if there were five schools in a federation, with a total of ten governors on the federated governing body, then the prescribed proportion would be two, but we would require a minimum of three governors to support the decision for one federated school to convert, including half or more governors of a prescribed category.

12. The revised regulations will be made under the negative resolution procedure.

13. Where a school is converted into an Academy under the Academies Act, local authorities must determine whether the predecessor school had a surplus at the date of conversion and pay that surplus to the Academy in accordance with regulations. The Academy Conversions (Transfer of School Surpluses) Regulations 2010 [2] (‘TSSR 2010’) specify the timescale within which the process must be completed, including the right of an Academy to request the Secretary of State to review the amount of the surplus that the local authority has determined.

14. From April 2011, local authorities will be able to allocate a single budget share to the governing body of a federation instead of a budget share to each school within the federation. This will enable such federations to maintain a single set of accounts rather than a separate set for each school. This also means that any surplus or deficit will be for the federation as a whole and not for each individual school within the federation.

15. Where a federated school is converted into an Academy, but at least one other school in the federation is not converted, provision must be made for any federation surplus to be disaggregated so that an appropriate amount of that surplus can be transferred to the Academy. Subsection (4) of this clause provides the Secretary of State with the power to make regulations to specify how this must be done.

16. The Secretary of State proposes to use this power to amend the ‘TSSR 2010’ to specify that any federation surplus must be disaggregated and notionally apportioned between the schools on the basis of the pupil numbers in each school on a specified date in January immediately preceding the date of conversion. This will enable the local authority to determine in a transparent manner how much of the federation surplus must be transferred to the Academy and avoid the need for what could be time-consuming local negotiation.

17. These Regulations will be made under the negative resolution procedure.

March 2011

[1] S I No 2007/9 60 as amended

[2] S.I. 2010/1938.