Becoming an academy

(31 Posts)
wineoclocktimeyet Thu 07-Feb-13 16:13:31

Our primary school is looking to become an academy - I'm embarrassed to say I dont really understand what that means.

Does anyone have an idiot's guide to whether its a good idea or not please?

Thanks

LineRunner Thu 07-Feb-13 21:41:08

Has the school suggested a potential spnsor yet? You could look on their websites. (School's and the sponsors.)

It basically means that the school leaves LEA control and is privatised, but is still inspected by Ofsted. The success of the project is dependent on how much money the sponsor creams off, the leadership of the Head Teacher and the governing body, and the way the teachers and staff are supported.

IMHO.

DeepRedBetty Thu 07-Feb-13 21:46:58

Don't have an idiot's guide, but I do know it means (by and large) more money for school. Which is A Good Thing. Basically, all the admin which was done by the LEA is now done by the school's own staff

It also means (by and large) more power to the Head (which might be A Bad Thing).

papooser Thu 07-Feb-13 21:53:42

Not all academies have a sponsor - our school is also considering becoming an academy, but a converter academy, rather than a forced academy (which is when a failing school is made into an academy and sponsored by a company). As far as I understand, a converter academy (which is not sponsored by a company) takes its entire budget from the LEA and can spend it as it wishes. It is also not required to follow the National Curriculum.
So, as others have said, the school has more power over how it spends the budget and what it teaches. This can obviously be a good or a bad thing (in our school's case a good thing as the Head is very good IMO).

Ohhelpohnoitsa Thu 07-Feb-13 21:57:32

you might find the staff go through a period of unrest / demotivation as their terms and conditions might change.

LineRunner Thu 07-Feb-13 21:58:54

Can Heads at converter academies benefit from big salary increases if the governing body approves it?

I think that's where a lot of the 'extra' money will go.

frazzledbutcalm Fri 08-Feb-13 09:40:58

Our school is changing to an academy. Converter. We have a lovely Head, who's sole focus is to benefit the school. The change means he can spend the money where it's needed, don't spend where it's not ... We're also going into a 'group' scheme with 2 other primary schools. This means we share staff - if 1 of our teachers isn't in due to sickness, the other 2 schools will provide 1 of their spare teachers free. Means we don't have to pay for supply staff. Same happens with lunchtime assistants etc.
I'm sure there'll be some decisions that we parents don't agree with, but life's not a bed of roses eh ...
On the whole I think it's a good move.

rabbitstew Sat 09-Feb-13 22:41:36

Good move until lovely, competent head moves on/gets close to retirement and slows down, appalling head takes their place/no replacement can be found for an incredibly long time and the unpaid governors wonder why they increased their potential liability and responsibility - anyone fancy being responsible for dealing with redundancies, etc, rather than passing all that on to the LA?

prh47bridge Sun 10-Feb-13 09:32:28

The governors of an academy do not take on any additional liabilities. They are generally protected from personal liability provided they act honestly, reasonably and in good faith. Any liability will fall on the governing body as a whole, and hence any fines will be paid by the school. Regardless of whether the school is an academy or not the governors are accountable for everything that happens at the school.

The governors have to deal with redundancies in community schools. In general they do not pass it on to the LA - there may be some LAs that will handle this for schools but I am not aware of any. The governors are accountable if it goes wrong. Most redundancy costs come from the school's budget. If the redundant staff go to tribunal they will be taking action against school, not the LA. The official guidance for governors tells them to turn to ACAS if they need advice, not the LA.

rabbitstew Sun 10-Feb-13 13:02:18

Sorry, but if you are doing all your HR in-house, and the LA has no control over your budget, you have more responsibility than you used to and therefore are more likely as a governing body as a whole to end up being deemed responsible for the mess you get into, because there is far less oversight to prevent you getting into a mess. At the moment, the LA is the ultimate employer of the Headteacher etc, not the governing body.

rabbitstew Sun 10-Feb-13 13:14:43

You'd have to be a fool to think your responsibilities as a governing body wouldn't increase hugely if you removed the LA from the equation and had to look around elsewhere for all the services you used to rely on from the LA. YOU would be the one to blame if you chose the "wrong" provider who turned out to be no good and expensive. There's hugely more scope for mismanaging the budget and everything else along with it without LA involvement. With increased "freedom" comes increased responsibility. It is not exactly un-time consuming to look around for the best deal on everything and not exactly cheap if you can't bulk buy, which you can't if you are a go-it-alone concern.

rabbitstew Sun 10-Feb-13 13:16:39

So, in conclusion, it's also rubbish to say you don't increase your potential liability - if you increase the number of things you are responsible for, you increase your chances of being blamed for something - ie liable.

rabbitstew Sun 10-Feb-13 13:20:49

Hello big insurance premiums... I find it little comfort that a governing body gets blamed as a whole, rather than individuals - the result is still that the governing body has to pay out for insurance premiums (out of school funds) and you are still someone who sat on the governing body that got blamed for making a mess of things and cost the school lots of money paying fines. Who wants to do that unpaid??????

DadOnIce Sun 10-Feb-13 13:25:33

It means the school becomes independent from the Local Authority and controls its own budget. It usually means more money. It also means the Head doesn't have to follow Local Authority guidelines on stuff like timing of the day, and that (s)he could even change the term times. Teachers generally don't like schools becoming academies because it gives the Head more power and them less - hiring and firing becomes easier, for example.

rabbitstew Sun 10-Feb-13 13:44:39

I'm not a teacher and I don't like academies. If people think LAs are to blame for all the poor schools then they are deluded - there are plenty of poor headteachers out there, and a shortage of headteachers, which doesn't sound like a good recipe to me when thinking of giving them more control. The good headteachers, after all, have managed to run good and outstanding schools despite/because of their LAs.

rabbitstew Sun 10-Feb-13 13:48:56

Won't it be a lovely day when all schools have different term times and teaching hours and you haven't managed to get all your children into the same school? grin

springrain Sun 10-Feb-13 14:11:07

Questions I would ask include:

1 Do you have experienced governors, with a reasonable number with range of backgrounds and experience of management in large organisations? Are you likely to be able to replace them over time as they leave with similar parent or other governors etc at end of terms? This is hard to answer, but if you have always managed to attract a good range of parents/other governors to this role this is a reasonable guide to continuing to be able to.

2 Do you currently receive good services from the local authority? – some will be less visible to parents (eg payroll and other HR services) but others like school lunches are very visible. If they are good would school continue to use them (most LAs are keen to continue to provide services to academies)? If not so good do they have a plan to move them to a better provider? IME moving to better choice for this provision, or at least it being known that the provision can be moved, is a big driver for moving as it enables the school to get more for their money and hence for the children.

Answers to this may be more guarded as school is likely to want to be diplomatic, but you may be able to read between the lines.

3 Is the school to be part of a chain, or a stand alone academy? If stand alone there would normally need to be some link to other schools – maybe you are part of a confederation or learning partnership, as giving a commitment to help another school improve (unless your school is the one targeted to improve) is normally part of the criteria for conversion. What would this look like?

4. What does the alternative of staying maintained look like? Will you have worse or better chances of getting revenue or capital funding than as an academy? EG academies can bid for capital funding as part of national improvement programs (difficult, but not impossible to obtain), maintained schools have to obtain this funding from the LA which generally has a diminishing budget.

5. Ask about the intention to use other freedoms – eg change curriculum, hours, holidays etc. Again IME schools converting are looking for a better overall deal for children and have no intent to tinker with other factors as converting is a lot of work on its own and things like curriculum, school day, holidays etc are not normally a problem so are not something most schools or parents want to change. You can ask re intent re this in consultation.

6. How will the consultation run? This should run over a reasonable period with transparency around questions asked with the school’s response to these for all. So regular FAQs being published. Parents, teachers, other stakeholders should be able to put up qns that are considered and responded to.

BTW, insurance is a red herring as unless hugely unreasonable cost as it is 100% reimbursed so does not divert money from school budget. Same approach is adopted for VAT.

rabbitstew Sun 10-Feb-13 14:20:11

Also, if in a LA that has confirmed it would ultimately like all schools to convert to academy status, then might be better to go now if ready than wait until pushed by ever diminishing service or change in OFSTED status. It's not as if there is any real choice in the matter in the long term...

JuliaScurr Sun 10-Feb-13 14:23:59

www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Anti-Academies-Alliance/178831804728?fref=ts

potentially disastrous for sen - they're expensive and bring down your league table

prh47bridge Sun 10-Feb-13 19:30:25

rabbitstew - Community schools are responsible for their own HR and the LA has no control over the school's budget beyond telling them how much income they are getting. The governors are already responsible for those things. The only change on those particular items is that it will be someone else telling the school how much income they are going to get.

The governors in a community school are already responsible for everything that happens at the school. Many community schools take out insurance to cover any liabilities the governors may incur. It isn't expensive.

You have an unrealistic view of how much support community schools get from LAs. The additional things an academy has to worry about that were previously the LA's responsibility are:

- SEN support services. For most schools this is not a change as most LAs already delegate that budget to schools
- behaviour support services
- 14-16 practical learning options
- school meals and milk
- assessment of free school meals eligibility
- repair and maintenance of kitchens
- museum and library services
- licenses and subscriptions
- funding maternity pay, long term sickness and trade union duties
- some statutory/regulatory duties
- asset management
- school improvement services. This is another item that is not a change for many schools as many LAs already delegate this budget to schools
- monitoring national curriculum assessments
- education welfare services
- pupils' support, e.g. clothing grants
- music services
- visual and performing arts services
- outdoor education services
- some early retirement and redundancy costs

Everything else either remains the LA's responsibility (e.g. ed psych, SEN assessment and statementing, monitoring of SEN provision, SEN resources for pupils with rare conditions, home to school transport) or is already the school's responsibility. I don't see anything on that list that would give governors sleepless nights. They may even be able to buy the relevant services back from the LA.

rabbitstew Sun 10-Feb-13 20:48:17

And if so little change, then why are academies such a vast improvement???... And why stick "redundancy costs" at the bottom as though unimportant? And not mention the fact that academies don't have any money ring fenced for particular things, whereas LA-controlled schools used to, making looking at the budget and deciding on spends a much bigger responsibility as a result, because of the lack of controls??? Or that LAs used to do one hell of a lot more than they do, now, partly because there is a big push for all schools to academise whether they like it or not, and huge numbers of staff in LAs have been made redundant as a result? Or that payroll, for example, used to be done by the LA? Or that when a lot of the provision was from the LA, governors didn't actually have to consider that aspect of the budget that much??? Or that it is actually very time consuming looking around for the best provider for everything - requiring new people to be employed in schools themselves who never used to be required, because the LA employed people to do that on behalf of all its schools??? It is totally disingenuous to claim governors are not being expected to take on an increasing amount of responsibility or that schools are not having to employ people to manage the extra responsibility who are not teaching staff and know about as much about teaching as NHS managers do about medicine.

prh47bridge Sun 10-Feb-13 23:28:09

I am neutral on academies. However, supporters believe that there is evidence from the academies programme under the last government to show that the additional freedoms enjoyed by academies over curriculum, teachers salaries, etc. lead to improvement. Opponents argue that this only applies to sponsored academies that convert from failing schools or disagree that the evidence shows that academies produce any improvements at all.

Redundancy costs are at the bottom of the list simply because that is where they are on the official list. Note that it says "some redundancy costs". For community schools LAs are responsible for redundancy costs where they relate to LA restructuring of schools. The school is responsible for the costs if it needs to make staff redundant even if it is a community school.

The vast bulk of the budget for any community school is not ring fenced. It comes from the DSG provided by the government to the LA and the school is free to spend it however it wishes.

Looking around for providers is another area where you clearly don't understand how things work. All schools have to do this for themselves. This is not a new responsibility for academies.

When the provision was from the LA the governors didn't receive that part of the budget. The LA simply took it off the DSG before passing it on. Some LAs take a lot more than others for the same level of services.

LineRunner Sun 10-Feb-13 23:56:20

...And most Schools' Forums were glad to pass on the responsibilities to the LAs while having a good old moan.

rabbitstew Mon 11-Feb-13 07:55:03

Well, put it this way: schools, both community and academy are feeling they now have to employ business managers, etc, where in the past they did not, and very small primary schools are feeling utterly unsupported by their LAs where in the past they did not. In the past, it was expected that if your school didn't have the expertise to do something, or needed advice on something, it could contact the LA and other locality schools for help. Now the answer in general from the LA is that it no longer does that and schools should club together more and rely on the LA, less, and academise - effectively, whether academised or not, groups of schools should set up structures which employ people, for which every school taking part in that structure is responsible in terms of employment and redundancy costs, so that local schools can do together what they used to rely on the LA for and local schools share some of their budgets to do this - which as you can imagine, given local competition between schools, is not always done trustingly, but it cannot be done affordably in primary schools without grouping together. Schools are being set against each other and told they have to work together at the same time and the increase in workload on governors expected to get more and more involved in structures beyond their own school and budget issues WAY beyond what was expected of them in the past, and keep up to date with government changes, is increasing exponentially. All this is just forcing all schools to become academies, not because they are any better but because that is the way things are going whether anyone likes it or not.
And I don't think there is any real evidence of improvement as a result of all this - here or anywhere in the world where similar has happened. It's just a way of passing on responsibility, not improving anything.

rabbitstew Mon 11-Feb-13 07:58:02

It was better when locality agreements still had the backup of the LA and shared money was held by the LA, not by some other organisation, imo.

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