Education & Family

Governors warn against academies rush

Image caption Applications for an autumn switch to academy status close in a few days time

Governors say schools in England are not being given the information they need to make a decision about whether to become academies this autumn.

The National Governors Association is telling its members to be cautious about opting out of local government control by becoming an academy.

Ministers want to to fast track schools rated outstanding.

Officials say schools do not need to feel pressured to make a decision.

Applications to leave local authority control by the autumn need to be submitted by the end of June.

The legislation to enable schools to become academies is making its way through Parliament at the moment and should become law before the end of July.

There are only four working days left for governors and head teachers of outstanding schools to decide whether they want to become academies by the autumn term.

According to the government there have been expressions of interest from 870 secondary and primary schools.

Schools which opt to become academies would be centrally funded by the government and would have to "buy in" services currently provided by local authorities.

The National Governors' Association says it is urging members to proceed with caution because the government has not yet published its funding template and governors cannot see what they would be signing up to.

The NGA points out if governors decide to change their mind at a later date they will not be able to opt back into local authority control.

Chief Executive of NGA, Emma Knights, says the government appears overwhelmed by the demand for information.

"A large number of schools have expressed an interest but are not getting enough information specific to their school," she said.

"Until now they have not had the key information - that is how much they would get."

Ready reckoner

Schools stand to get extra funding by becoming academies which would have otherwise gone to the local authority to provide services such as support for children with special educational needs or the organisation of school places.

The Department for Education says schools should not feel pressurised into making an early decision and that the transition to academy status is ongoing.

Every outstanding school that has applied for academy status would have advice from a civil servant within days of the initial inquiry and there would also be more advice about the funding mechanism, officials said.

And what is described as a "ready reckoner" would be available to applicants via the department website in the next few days.

A spokesman said: "We are delighted that so many outstanding schools are interested in becoming academies.

"Every school expressing an interest will get a named contact in the department, who can answer their questions and guide them through the process. At the same time, we expect schools to keep their governors, staff and parents updated on progress.

"However, this is a genuinely permissive policy, there is no pressure for any school to convert by September, and they can do so at any time, when they feel they are ready. We want schools to decide what's best for them, not politicians or bureaucrats."

On Friday, the government will submit to a Freedom of Information request and publish details of which schools have applied for academy status.

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