Becoming an academy is a consequential decision for any school leader. Once the academisation process begins, staff members will be faced with legal, financial and structural changes different to anything they have dealt with before. This can have an impact on staff, parents and pupils.
As a school leader, you know the benefits of academisation and how these benefits will help to improve your school. From delivering your own curriculum, setting pay and working conditions for staff members and enjoying independence from the Local Authority (LA), the academisation process provides your school with a fresh start and more opportunity for school leaders, staff and pupils to shape their own future.
Here’s how to ensure the impact of academisation is kept to a minimum when it comes to pupils and parents.
Once a school becomes an academy, school leaders have the power to make their own decisions in regards to services provided by the LA – personalising and developing the curriculum and changing the school’s holidays and opening hours.
The process of making these changes may cause disruption for pupils. Having a set school routine is paramount for young people, especially if they are facing important exams. The addition of new lessons, adjustments to holidays and opening times, new teachers arriving, current teachers leaving and rule changes can be overwhelming for some pupils.
You should aim to keep these disruptions to a minimum. You can do this by:
Keeping the LA on your side – the LA will still have some influence on your activities even after academisation, including the placement of pupils in schools, assessing and making provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities, and acting as champions for all parents and families.
By keeping a good relationship with the LA you will ensure that they can support you throughout the academisation process, helping to bridge the connection between families and school leaders and providing support.
Ensuring all deadlines are kept – When staff members in a school are under pressure, the effects can be detrimental to pupils. If staff members are stressed about the academisation process, this will have a big impact on the whole school.
Ensure that you provide staff members with an exact timetable that details every decision that needs to be made or piece of paperwork that needs to be submitted. When you pre-plan and lay out exactly what’s needed, everyone working on the academisation process will be much more relaxed, minimising the effect on the pupils.
Values – When looking to form or join a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), ensure that you look for partner schools that share your ethos and values expected of your current pupils.
Keep them informed – Keeping your pupils up to date with changes that affect them is the best way to minimise the disruption and keep them part of the process. If they have the chance to prepare for change, they are less likely to struggle with it. Providing a forum which allows pupils to raise concerns and discuss ideas provides them with a voice for change.
Some parents will not understand the reasons behind academy conversion and will worry about the impact it will have. They may voice this, and as a school leader, it’s your job to make it clear that you’re making this change for the benefit of the pupils.
The consultation process
There is a requirement under the Academies Act 2010 that insists that schools considering academy conversion must go through a consultation process (unless a school is being sponsored, in which case consultation is not required).
This requirement does not dictate who needs to be consulted, or the length and timing of the consultation. However, the DfE recommends that the following groups are included:
● Parents/carers of pupils at the school
● Parents/carers of pupils offered a place at the school for the next academic year
● For secondary, pupils at the school
● The wider local community
The consultation may include sending letters to parents, providing information on the school’s website and a meeting for parents and members of the local community in which a platform to ask questions on the information given is provided.
During this consultation, you should be able to explain the reasoning behind converting to an academy and be prepared to answer questions. Best practice is to emphasise the benefits of academisation, and if you have decided to join or form a MAT, discuss the community benefits of bringing schools together.
You should also explain any disadvantages in converting and how the school plans to address these concerns. It’s also worth explaining how the academy will still be working alongside the LA and will continue to be part of the wider community.
The right decision
No school leader makes the decision to convert to an academy without careful consideration, and if you’ve decided to convert your school into an academy, you know it’s the right path to take.
Make clear your decision process to parents, pre-plan everything and stick to deadlines to ensure that disruption for pupils and animosity from parents is kept to a minimum.
This post has been written by berg, a law firm that works closely with the education sector and assists schools looking to convert to academies.
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