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Can nursery schools become academies?

When it was announced that all schools were to become academies by 2020 – minds turned to nurseries which had previously been exempt from the classification under a voluntary basis, and were not mentioned explicitly under the terms of blanket academisation. Although the scheme was ultimately reversed, as many maintained schools felt they were being given no choice or power over the future of their school, where did that leave nurseries?

In April of last year, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) strongly advocated for nurseries to be able to convert to academy status in order to offer more autonomy to those struggling to succeed under the control of their local authority (LA). Becoming an academy also allows schools to benefit from the support and guidance of others when a multi-academy trust (MAT) is joined or established, creating an umbrella partnership between a number of institutions regionally or nationally, pooling resources, knowledge and experience to further the attainment and achievement of each academy and pupil within the trust.

Becoming an academy could also aid local need, argued the APPG, as nursery schools would have the power to expand their placement offering, change their opening hours or age ranges and offer provisions in line with those required by the local community. Government restrictions on maintained schools may prevent them from doing so at present, and more than half of local authorities in England (54%) are concerned that they are not able to meet the demand and standard for free childcare, which nursery academies could be able to help with.

Under the earlier proposed scheme to convert all English schools to academy status, only nurseries would be left under LA control – either resulting in them flourishing due to an increase in funding, resources and priority level, or falling towards the bottom of an increasingly long to-do list, worried education groups and experts.

As it stands, the decision on whether or not nursery schools can become academies is still a work in progress, but with the latest updates that universities will soon begin to partner with academies in a more tailored MAT structure, it can’t be long before nurseries are included too, to create holistic all-through trusts that last from the beginning of a child’s education, to the end.

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