Proposed Conversion to Academy Status
As you may already be aware the previous Governing Body of Birchfield Community School were issued with a Directive Academy Order by the Secretary of State requiring it to become an Academy and is proposing to join The Prince Albert Community Trust. Further information about what becoming an academy means is set out below.
Will Birchfield Community School definitely become an Academy?
The previous Governing Body received a Directive Academy Order from the Secretary of State requiring it to become an Academy. The current Interim Executive Board along with PACT are working towards a conversion in July 2018.
The academy trust will not sign the Funding Agreement unless they are content that conversion would be in the best interests of the school taking account of all the legal and practical ramifications.
What is an Academy?
An academy is essentially an independent school which is funded by the state. It is independent of the local authority and receives its funding direct from central government.
It is proposed that Birchfield Community School will become an Academy as part of The Prince Albert Community Trust. This means that the school will be part of an academy group comprising of Prince Albert Primary School, Heathfield Primary School and Highfield Junior and Infant School.
What are the benefits of being an Academy?
In the school’s opinion the benefits are numerous:
- Academies are independent of local authority control – this means that academies have more freedom about how they conduct themselves.
- Academies receive their funding direct from central government – this means that academies receive more funding because none is retained local authority for the provision of central services
- PACT comprises of Prince Albert Primary School, Heathfield Primary School and Highfield J&I school, there is also an academy order in place for Birchfield Community School to join PACT. PACT also have a successful application for a six form entry Secondary Free School which will open in 2020.
- Academies can set their own pay and conditions of service for their staff – academies have the freedom to alter the pay and conditions of their staff (subject to normal employment law protections for staff) and so can provide staff with better pay and conditions than previously.
- Academies have more freedom to undertake innovative projects – academies are companies and so have more freedom to undertake innovative projects, such as setting up and utilising trading subsidiaries.
Are there any disadvantages to becoming an Academy?
The Prince Albert Community Trust will be directly liable for matters such as insurance, employment liabilities, pensions, health and safety and property maintenance. However, as mentioned above, academies receive more funding from central government to help them meet these additional costs, and in any event, the Prince Albert Community Trust already deals with these matters for Prince Albert Primary School, Heathfield Primary School and Highfield J&I School.
Will the admissions arrangements change?
As a Community school, Birchfield school’s admissions arrangements are set by the local authority, and the local authority also decides which pupils should be offered places at the school. As an academy, the Prince Albert Community Trust, will put in place admission arrangements, and decide which pupils should be offered places in accordance with those arrangements. The academy will still be bound by the National Admissions Code and Admissions Appeal Code.
The current admissions arrangements will remain in place for the time being. If the academy wanted to change the schools admission arrangements consultation would be required.
Will staff leave?
When Birchfield School converts to an academy, all staff currently employed by the local authority will automatically transfer to the new academy on their current pay and conditions. Although the academy will have more freedom to amend those pay and conditions in the future any change would need to be consulted upon with staff representatives.
Will Birchfield Community School change?
We do not intend to change Birchfield School except in ways which we think will improve the school even more. For students, it is unlikely that they will see much, if any, change in their day to day school lives. Academies do have the power to vary their curriculums and vary the length of the school day, however, it is not intended that any such steps will be taken at this stage and the Academy Trust would engage with parents/carers, staff and students if such changes were intended in the future.
How can I find out more?
There is more information about academies on the DfE website: http://www.education.gov.uk/academies.
Mr S Gulzar
Executive Head teacher and CEO to PACT