Frequently Asked Questions
A copy of the original Academy Letter sent to parents can be downloaded HERE
Aren’t academies run by private companies? Is this just privatisation of schools?
Not quite. We have to be careful with language here.
Academies are schools run by charitable trusts via a contract with the government. We call these charities ‘academy trusts’. The trusts are private, in that the state does not own them, but they cannot run schools for profit. And if the trust does a bad job of running the school it will have to give it back (the buildings, the land, everything). So this is not a school sell-off. It’s more like lending schools to charities to run on our behalf for as long as the charity is capable of doing so.
Can academy trusts sell off school land and stick the cash in their coffers?
No. Academy trusts are given school buildings, and the land they sit on, purely so they can operate the school. As with any school, they can apply to make adaptations, or to give the site over to something else. For example, an academy in Oxfordshire with a large site allowed another school to be built on part of its land. But it can only do this sort of thing in liaison with central government.
If academies are ‘free’ from the national curriculum, does that mean the curriculum no longer exists?
In essence: yes. Academies are not “bound” by the national curriculum. But that doesn’t mean they won’t follow it. Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, requires all schools to follow a “broad and balanced” curriculum. Just because a school is an academy doesn’t mean they can teach English, maths and knitting, and all will be well. GCSE exams will also still be based on the national curriculum, so key stage 4 teachers will largely still focus on the same content.
This doesn’t mean all is well. At primary, tests are only in a few narrow subjects, and some subjects may get lopped off the end – for example, there is no real incentive for teaching art and drama in this system. But we need not get het up about the idea that suddenly everyone will teach wildly different things.
What will happen to local authorities?
It’s important to remember that local authorities haven’t “run” schools for a long time. Their role has been one of oversight and statutory responsibilities, such as organizing transport and special needs. Over the past six years, local authorities have had less and less money available for supporting schools and in several places, all schools have already converted to being academies.
Special needs is likely to stay with local authorities, and it seems as if they may get souped-up powers in other places. For example, they don’t currently have power over admissions of academies, but there are plans afoot to give them a role in this again. Hence, while authorities will lose some aspects of what they do, especially school improvement, they will gain others.
Does becoming an academy automatically improve standards in a school?
The answer every serious academic will give you is: we just don’t know. Evidence so far has been inconclusive, but the data we do have largely suggests can make a difference to some schools. Some academies do well, others do badly. We expect FBEC to do just as well or better. As with local councils, some academy trusts are very good at running their schools, others are quite poor.
Basically, academies are not magical.
Who is in charge of checking these charitable trusts aren’t cooking the books and doing badly by their pupils?
A raft of education people check on academies, as well as the Charities Commission. Eight regional schools commissioners – who are senior civil servants – can check on academies at any time. They decide if trusts should be allowed to take-over new schools, or shed ones no longer working. Commissioners can also give out warning notices, and can close an academy trust if it is performing badly. (This hasn’t happened so far).
The Education Funding Agency – run by more civil servants – checks the accounts of academies each year, and keeps an eye on businesses.
Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, visits academies and writes reports about them the same as it does about other schools. If it notices patterns in one academy trust, it will run a ‘focused inspection’, where it writes to the academy trust about these patterns and says what it needs to do to improve.
As charities, all academy trusts also depend on the Charities Commission granting their charitable status. Should the trust behave in an uncharitable way, the commission could theoretically strip them of their status, which would mean losing the schools they operate.
Academies are therefore theoretically well-scrutinised.
Will uniforms be more expensive?
In a word, NO. We take time and effort to ensure our uniforms are good quality and good value.
What does it mean for pupils?
Academies are just schools, with a slightly different management structure, but if we get it right we can provide additional opportunities for pupils and staff, which may help students to perform better or enjoy school more.
Does the school have to change its name?
No, there is no requirement to change the schools name
Does becoming an academy increase the risk of closure?
No. Academy status does not increase the risk of closure. Academies in the past were often schools which were struggling, but now most schools which decide to convert to an academy are good or outstanding. For FBEC forming an academy will probably expand the school slightly.
Do we have to cover the full cost to convert to an academy?
No, the DfE will pay a flat rate grant of £25,000 to the school.
Who will take responsibility for teachers and support staff pensions?
Once the Academy Trust is established, it will be registered with the
Teachers’ Pension Agency and the Local Government pension scheme
Will academies be forced to buy in expensive services?
No. Academies are not forced to buy in any type of service by particular providers. The experience of academies to date is that they can buy in services more effectively for themselves which leads either to better quality or lower prices meaning they can make savings and re-invest money back into pupils and staffing. They are free to buy back the services from the LA or find them elsewhere.
Can FBEC “sponsor” another school?
FBEC will have the option to support (sponsor) other schools to help them to improve. This would bring extra finances into both schools - and schools working together typically has benefits for both institutions as resources and ideas are shared. It’s a win, win!
What will happen staffs contact of employment?
Staff have very significant rights under the “TUPE” rules. This stands for stands for Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006.
TUPE protects employees' terms and conditions of employment when a business is
transferred from one owner to another. Employees of FBEC automatically become employees of the academy trust on the same terms and conditions. It will be as if their employment contracts had originally been made with the new employer. Their continuity of service and any other rights are all preserved.