As of January 2018, the Department for Education (the Department) had converted around 7,000 maintained schools to academies; 72% of secondary schools are now academies and 27% of primary schools. Academies are publicly funded but, unlike maintained schools, they are independent of local authorities. They have more freedoms, for example in setting staff pay and conditions and determining their own curriculum. Academy schools are part of academy trusts, which are charitable companies directly funded by, and accountable to, the Department. The Department’s underlying objective for academies is that they should improve educational standards in schools. Any school is able to apply for academy status, but the Department has a statutory duty to direct schools that Ofsted has rated as inadequate to become academies with the support of a sponsor. A sponsor is an organisation the Department has approved to support an academy. Most sponsors are groups of schools that have formed multi-academy trusts.
The Department is accountable for securing value for money from spending on the conversion process and the academies programme in general. In 2016–17, it spent £81 million on converting schools to academies, and has spent £745 million in total since 2010–11. The Department works through eight regional teams, each led by a regional schools commissioner, which coordinate the process of approving applications from maintained schools to become academies.
Published: 11 July 2018