As a result of these conversations, the government has decided, while reaffirming our continued determination to see all schools to become academies in the next 6 years, that it is not necessary to bring legislation to bring about blanket conversion of all schools to achieve this goal.
The government will continue to require underperforming schools to convert to academy status where they can benefit from the support of a strong sponsor. One hundred and four directive academy orders have already been issued to underperforming schools in the last month since the new legislation came into force. We will also continue to support ‘good’ schools to convert and to take the lead in supporting other schools as part of multi-academy trusts. In the last monthly figures 227 schools put in applications to convert, the highest monthly figure since the programme began, and we expect this rate to increase.
In addition, the government will bring forward legislation which will trigger conversion of all schools within a local authority in 2 specific circumstances:
• firstly, where it is clear that the local authority can no longer viably support its remaining schools because a critical mass of schools in that area has converted. Under this mechanism a local authority will also be able to request the Department for Education converts all of its remaining schools
• secondly, where the local authority consistently fails to meet a minimum performance threshold across its schools, demonstrating an inability to bring about meaningful school improvement
These measures will target those schools where the need to move to academy status is most pressing. For other high-performing schools in strong local authorities the choice of whether to convert will remain the decision of the individual schools and governing bodies in question.
The government has allocated £300 million that will be available to support schools to convert and, in particular, support sponsors to turn around failing schools. A further £300 million will support strong and effective multi-academy trusts to grow and improve. And, in recognition of the costs that local authorities and church dioceses face, funding will also be provided to them.
This funding comes on top of the government’s protection to the core schools budget which will be over £40 billion next year, including the pupil premium – funding worth £2.5 billion a year targeted at the most disadvantaged pupils. This is the highest-ever level of funding for schools of any government.
For more detail see:
New measures to support small rural schools – The government is also announcing a package of measures to guarantee the continued success of small rural schools.
Hundreds of small rural schools that currently receive no top-up funding to address the unique pressures they face will benefit from landmark changes made to school ‘sparsity funding’. This means over 1,200 small rural schools will receive specific targeted support. For more than 700 of those schools, their local authority currently chooses not to provide the top up, but the new national funding formula will provide sparsity funding for every single one.
Alongside the existing statutory presumption against closure of rural schools, the government will go further, introducing a new ‘double lock’ so that when small rural schools convert to academy status both local and national government have to agree to a school closing before a decision can be made.
No small successful schools will be forced to join a national academy chain – most small schools will choose to join multi-academy trusts made up of other local schools, though small sustainable schools will be able to convert alone if they wish. To support them there will be dedicated support from experts in the Department for Education to help primary schools through the process of conversion and a £10 million fund for small schools to secure expert support and advice.