Q. What will happen to my pay and conditions if my school becomes an academy?
A. In the first instance, your pay and conditions would remain the same because of the protections of TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006). However, new employees can be employed on different pay and conditions because academy schools are not in any way bound by the national pay and conditions framework nor any agreements negotiated locally with your local authority.
Many academies have tried a variety of ways to get existing staff to change their pay and conditions.
Q. Will academy schools be bound by the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document?
A. No. Academy schools would be free to invent new terms and conditions for new staff. Existing staff who agree to a change of contract following conversion to academy status would be bound by any new contract devised by the academy, which may not include provisions for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA)
time, rarely cover and leadership and management time, and could result in teachers being required to undertake a range of administrative tasks that do not require their qualifications or skills.
Q. What sort of changes to pay and conditions might be proposed?
A. All sorts of changes can be proposed. For example, in some existing academies there is Saturday working, others have longer schools days and longer school years. In some, there is slightly more pay for these extensions to working hours, in others, there is not.
Some academies pay less maternity pay than their neighbouring schools. In some cases, staff who have moved to an academy have not had their previous service recognised for maternity purposes and have lost all built-up entitlement to maternity pay. No academy schools have committed to implement the national pay and conditions framework indefinitely.
Q. How short a time could it be before my school becomes an academy?
A. The government says this can be as little as three months – including the Summer holiday – see www.education.gov.uk/academies/becomeanacademy (new window).
You may know nothing about this process until the Governing Body has taken the step of voting to become an academy. It is important to seek confirmation from the headteacher and Governing Body on whether the school is considering conversion to academy status.
Q. Is there a requirement for staff to be consulted?
A. The Government is setting no requirement at all for consultation with either parents or staff before this step is taken. However, there is nothing to preclude staff being consulted prior to an application being made for academy school conversion.
To stop your school becoming an academy you should approach your headteacher and/or teacher and staff governors immediately for clarification on whether an application to become an academy is being considered or pursued.
If your school is converting to become an academy, as an employee, you have a separate right to be consulted on the impact of any change in the status of your school under the TUPE Regulations. This cannot happen effectively during a school closure.
Q. My school isn’t called ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted – is becoming an academy still a threat?
A. The Government is concentrating on ‘outstanding’ schools in the first instance and says they are preapproved to become academies. However, any headteacher can register an interest – see the DfE link above. The Secretary of State also intends to take a power to direct ‘underperforming’ schools to become academies and has indicated an intention to do so from September 2011.
Q. Which types of school are under threat of becoming an academy?
A. All of them – the Government is concentrating in the first instance on ‘outstanding’ primary and secondary schools. The Government has also confirmed that special schools can become academies.
Q. Will my school need to have a sponsor to become an academy?
A. Schools with an Ofsted judgement that is less than ‘outstanding’ need to have an external sponsor – e.g. a private company, charity or university, etc. Outstanding schools do not require an external sponsor but instead establish a trust made up of members of the governing body who will become the proprietors of the academy.
Q. What happens to support from the local authority?
A. Becoming an academy would remove the provision of support from the local authority, such as their advisory services, special educational needs (SEN) and disability support, behaviour support, child and adolescent health and social care services, emergency contingencies, advisory services, training and
professional development, payroll support, and facilitation of school networks. Any school that becomes an academy would need to fund such provision from within its own budget. If a school does not purchase services from the local authority, these may well become more expensive for schools to procure since individual academies would not benefit from the same economies of scale as the local authority. Provision in the academy is likely to cost more rather than less.
Q. Do local authorities matter to schools and staff?
A. Yes they do. The local authority provides an important safety net for schools, supporting them particularly when schools encounter deficit problems with their budgets, financial management problems, and support for schools and the workforce in terms of responding to such matters as staff health and welfare, maternity
provision, reasonable adjustments for disabled staff, statutory induction provision, staff training and development, safety and security, challenging parents and pupils and so on. Local authorities also facilitate effective working relationships within schools and, as a result of mechanisms such as the Joint Negotiating
Committees, provide better industrial relations.
Q. Does the local authority have to be consulted on an application by a school for conversion to become an academy?
A. The Government is proposing that governing bodies will not have to consult with the local authority on applying for conversion to academy status. Given that the local authority may be the employer of staff at the existing school, this will have very serious implications. The reality of these changes could allow an unrepresentative group of governors to force through a change of status to become an academy without any mandate from the local authority, staff at the school or parents and the local community.
Q. Will my school get more freedom?
A. There is a general myth that local authorities exert operational control over the day-to-day running of schools. Non-academy schools already enjoy considerable autonomy over their affairs, but nevertheless are accountable for their use of public money. There is no indication that academy schools would not be subject to inspection and their test/examination performance would continue to be included in the league tables.
The Government argues that academies would have greater freedom from the local authority and on staff pay and conditions of service. However, the academy would be held to account by the Secretary of State and officials in Whitehall rather than an official in the local authority who is likely to know the school and its
local context. Furthermore, academy schools remain subject to primary legislation, including employment law, health and safety, and equalities legislation.
Q. Will standards rise?
A. Independent research and evaluation provides no evidence that academies are better than other schools
in raising educational standards.In fact, the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that non-academy schools are more likely to be identified by Ofsted as ‘outstanding’ schools.
Q. Will academies be freed from Ofsted inspection?
A. Academies will be subject to the same inspection regime as maintained schools. There is no guarantee that when a school converts to academy status that it would be exempt from Ofsted inspection.
Q. Will my school get more money?
A. The DfE will provide a grant to schools to assist with the costs associated with the academy conversion process (around £25,000), but this grant is only payable on completion of academy conversion and is unlikely to meet the full costs of conversion. Schools that incur costs but do not complete academy conversion would have to meet these costs from within their core budget. The Government claims that schools will be better off because they would be able to spend money currently with the local authority on support services, etc. However, the academy school will still have to procure services to ensure that they continue to deliver their statutory functions. Given that local authorities have delegated a significant proportion of their budgets to schools, schools will be able to save very little, if any, money. In fact, academy schools could well have higher costs.
Q. Will schools that convert to academy status get a new building?
A. There is no additional money to support new buildings or refurbishment to existing buildings for schools that become an academy.
Q. Will my school get curriculum freedom?
A. Every school currently has the freedom to implement the curriculum already. Schools will continue to be accountable for how they deploy their financial resources and the standards they achieve.
Q. Can we do anything about this?
A. All the main teacher unions (ATL, NASUWT, NUT) and support staff unions (GMB, UNISON, UNITE) are opposed to the academy schools policy and are working together to oppose it.
By working together, you can help to persuade governors at your school not to go down this route. You can also talk to other staff colleagues in your school about the threat that academies propose and discuss your views with the headteacher. You can also get further information from your union.
Q. What is an academy?
A. An academy is an independent school funded by the state.
Q. The headteacher at my child’s school has said s/he wants the school to become anacademy. Can the headteacher make that decision?
A. No. A headteacher has no power to determine whether a school becomes an academy. The decision rests with the governing body and if the school is a voluntary aided or controlled school, with the relevant religious authorities.
Q. Is the school required to consult parents about becoming an academy?
A. The governing body of the school makes the decision about the school applying to become an academy. The Government is not requiring the governing body to consult parents or the community about this decision. However, there is nothing to prevent parents at the school seeking to influence the decision of the
governing body and given the importance of the issue, they should do!
Q. How can parents make their views known about the school becoming an academy?
A. Parents who wish to make their views known should contact the parent governors and the chair of governors requesting that a full consultation with all parents takes place. The governing body should be asked to give details of the pros and cons of converting the school to academy status. A public meeting
should be sought to enable everyone with an interest in the future of the school to discuss the proposals.
The local community may wish to call for a ballot on whether the school should apply for academy status. If the governors refuse to engage in consultation with parents or the local community, then you should protest to your local council, your local councillor and your local MP.
Q. Will becoming an academy mean that educational standards will be raised?
A. There is no evidence that being an academy school raises standards. Academy schools have no better record of educational achievement than any other type of school. Some have a far worse record.
Q. Will there be more money for my child’s education if the school becomes an academy?
A. The school will have no additional money. It will be allocated its share of the money that is currently held by the local authority to make provision across all schools for pupils with a whole range of special needs, pupil support, education welfare and school transport.Once the money is allocated to the school, it will have to make provision to replicate those important services previously provided by the local authority. It may find, if, for example, it has a significant number of pupils with special needs, that it has insufficient funds to match the provision previously provided by the local authority.
Q. Does becoming an academy mean that the school will get new buildings and facilities?
A. The Government is making no provision for new academies to have new buildings or facilities.
Q. Will there be additional costs for parents?
A. Academies are not allowed to charge fees for pupils to attend the school. However, there may be hidden costs by academies introducing, for example, new school uniforms or charging for certain activities and use of resources.
Q. Will there be any changes to the catchment areas or admissions?
A. Academies are their own admissions authority and, therefore, set their own admission policies. They are at present required to abide by the admissions code. Whilst academies cannot choose their intake, there is some evidence that academiesʼ intakes are notrepresentative of their local community. Academies also have a higher exclusion rate than other types of schools.
Q. Will parents have more influence with academy schools?
A. All available evidence shows that in existing academies the governing body becomes smaller as a result of either reducing or removing entirely parent governors and staff representatives.
Q. Once a school becomes an academy what can parents do if they are not happy with any
A. In the first instance, as now, parents can complain to the school. However, academies are not part of the local authority family of schools and, therefore, if you are not satisfied or are unhappy with the outcome, parents cannot complain, as they can now, to the local authority or their local councillor to ask them to
intervene on your behalf. Any complaints about the academy would have to be raised with the Secretary of State for Education in London.
Q. If a school becomes an academy and wants to change back, is that possible?
A. No. A decision to become an academy is irreversible.
Q. Will the academy still work with the local council?
A. Academies are independent schools and not maintained by the local authority. The whole basis of application for academy status is to encourage schools to break the link with the local council.
Briefing on University Technology Colleges (UTU) and Studio Schools
University Technical Colleges (UTCs) have been developed by Lord Kenneth Baker who heads the Edge foundation – they are a model of ‘technical academies’. They specialise in subjects that need modern, technical, industry-standard equipment - such as engineering and construction - and teach these disciplines alongside business skills and the use of ICT.
Each UTC is sponsored by a university and industry partner and is supposed to respond to local skills needs.
In all key respects, however, a UTC is an academy and operates through a comparable funding agreement with the DfE.
Studio schools are a new model of 14-19 year-old educational provision. They are small schools - typically with around 300 pupils - delivering mainstream qualifications through project based learning. Students ‘work with local employers and a personal coach, and follow a curriculum designed to give them the employability skills and qualifications they need in work, or to take up further education.’
Studio schools are comparable to free schools and are also regulated through funding agreements with the DfE. However, there are criteria in the application process that purport to ensure that they limit their intake to 14-19 pupils and put in place a curricular offer that meets the criteria described above.
UTCs are intended to be additional to existing provision – they cannot be used to replace existing schools.
The DfE are pointing potential sponsors of UTCs and studio schools to ‘external sources of advice’, similar to New Schools Network for free schools. For UTCs, this is the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, with the Studio Schools Trust providing a similar function for studio schools. The precise nature of the relationship between these organisations and the DfE is by no means clear.
There is a target of 24 UTCs to be opened by 2014. The first UTC - the JCB Academy in Staffordshire - opened in 2010 and the second, The Black Country UTC opened this September. A further one is due to open in Hackney in the near future, sponsored by BT.
The first studio schools opened up in 2010, with four more launched in September this year and a plan to open a further 26 by September 2012.
In November, the DfE published guidance on the application process for groups interested in opening a UTC or a studio school. For studio schools, the process is very similar to that established for free schools although there are clear criteria that have to be met in order to ensure that providers are able to meet the DfE’s expectations in relation to the vocational education.
For UTCs, the process is very similar to that for other academies although a key difference is that UTCs will represent new provision – a school cannot become a UTC just be converting to academy status. Applications for sponsorship of UTCs must come from universities working in partnerships with employer groups.
UTC applications must be submitted by 17 January 2012, while those for Studio Schools must be received by the DfE by 24 February. The differences in timescale reflect, according to the DfE, the longer period of time it will take for UTCs to establish the basis upon which their provision will be established.
Key issues for the NASUWT
Notwithstanding its concerns about the Coalition Government’s academies and free school programmes, all of which apply in this case, the Union has additional issues in relation to studio schools and UTCs in that:
- they pose a new, direct threat to established provision in the secondary sector as they are additional to existing provision and are not designed to replace schools and colleges already in place;
- the nature of their curriculum and the way in which this will be monitored by the DfE is by no means clear;
- they risk a return to a ‘tripartite’ system of education – in many respects, both reflect the technical schools that were intended to sit alongside grammar schools and secondary modern schools following the 1944 Education Act and as such they are potentially highly divisive and will look to draw away able pupils from other schools in the communities within which they are located; and
- the degree of influence that universities, employers and other sponsors will have over the nature of provision in these schools is by no means clear – there is real risk that the curriculum they offer will be narrow and limited to meeting the needs of sponsoring employers.
Members should monitor any moves to establish a UTC and forward to the NASUWT any information they may have about plans to open UTCs and studio schools in their area.