Initial work together
We have the privilege of meeting many school leaders who are considering their next steps. Our initial time together is usually spent sharing respective visions and values and checking that they are compatible. We are a Church Trust and embracing and supporting this, is one of our non-negotiables
Initial work together will also be spent listening to the school and hearing about their own unique identity as a school, what’s working well and what could be improved. This is often done through a tour of the school with the Headteacher.
Early conversations also include meetings with the governing body and spending valuable time together asking and answering a range of questions. This is often followed by a more detailed presentation by our CEO.
During this early time together, we will set out the timeline for any potential conversion. This is indicative and used to help all parties see what is ahead.
Passing a resolution to join
If, and when, a school decides to formally explore joining DCAT, then the Local Governing Body must vote and pass a resolution to join DCAT. This should be formally minuted. This resolution should be by majority and does not need to be unanimous. It is important for schools to recognise that passing a resolution does not commit the school to academy status; it simply provides a vehicle for more formalised discussions and due diligence.
The CEO will share this with the Trust Board with a brief snapshot of the school and will seek approval to proceed.
Following this step, the school will be asked to complete a brief form which is designed to give some initial information for the Diocesan Board of Education (DBE) around motivation to join, known strengths and weaknesses and financial position. In most cases the DBE will give consent and, if not, may ask for some further information.
During this period, our team will be in regular contact with the school. The Trust will be working with the school on arranging our due diligence processes. This is typically produced through a one-day visit from our Head of Improvement and a separate time for others to review the financial position of the school. The areas covered are summarised below:
- Education outcomes, teaching and learning and leadership and management.
- Financial viability
- Property condition survey
- Human Resources
It is recommended that the school use this time to conduct any due diligence they wish to complete on DCAT. This could be both financial as well as seeking feedback from academies already within the Trust.
Providing the initial due diligence does not raise any significant concerns, a report is drafted and provided to the Board of Trustees who will consider the findings and make a provisional decision on whether to accept the school into the Trust.
Following this, The Trust will appoint a project manager to support all parties during the consultation and potential conversion process. This is funded from a DfE grant all schools receive when converting to academy status. This will also fund the bill charged by the local authority. Converting to academy status does not incur any cost for the school.
The project manager will work with the school to help run the consultation period. This includes: an opportunity for stakeholders to submit questions online which are addressed by the school; Trust and staff meetings (union representatives are always invited); and parent/carer meetings with the Headteacher, governing body representation and DCAT’s Executive Leadership Team.
Our Trust believes that this is important and will insist that the consultation process is meaningful and that points are heard and answered. We recommend that the school’s governing body meets to review these and then make a final decision to convert or not. It is worth noting that the school does not convert to academy status until the agreed conversion date which is set out in the Academy Order issued by the DfE.
The Trust will provide the school with detailed guidance and the local authority, as the employer, will lead the TUPE process.
During the consultation processes, further work takes place on back office systems and structures; a budget is generated by the Trust working closely with the school, an analysis will take place of the school’s supplier relationships and any services it receives from the local authority, many of which will cease on conversion and be replaced by the Trust’s own centrally provided services. Additionally, further due diligence takes place and a final report is prepared for Trustees who will formally vote to accept the school into the Trust.
After due diligence has been considered by the Trust and post consultation, the school and Trust are happy to proceed, the school, with support from the project manager, will complete an application to the DfE to covert to academy status with DCAT. The paperwork is straight forward and it is not a lengthy process. The application will be considered at the Regional School Commissioner (DfE) Headteacher’s Board meetings which review each application and consider the suitability of conversion to our Trust. If agreed then an Academy Order will follow with a date of conversion.
Once the Academy Order is granted, funding is released by the Department for Education and paid to the Trust. This funding allows the Trust to instruct lawyers who primarily deal with the land issues that arise from a conversion to academy status.
As our Trust has no expectations of name or uniform changes, the conversion day itself is unremarkable. Prior to conversion the following key documents will have been shared with the school:
- DCAT’s vision and values
- DCAT’s non-negotiables
- The Trust Scheme of Delegation and Articles of Association
- The Trust handbook
In terms of the DfE and legally, the school will effectively close at 11.59pm on the night before conversion and then reopen as an academy at 12.01am. Legacy inspections and data will stay with the school prior but the inspection clock changes and the school will be inspected as an academy using in the third-year post-conversion.
The financial year will now align to the academic year and our finance team will provide support before and after conversion.
DCAT honours teachers’ terms and conditions so all staff will move from their previous employer to DCAT with the same terms and conditions.
These are set out in our Trust Handbook
It is expected that the process to convert a school to academy status takes between 9 and 18 months, and depends significantly on many factors at school, Trust and Department for Education levels. The Trust will provide detailed guidance to schools wishing to consider conversion about timescales and will agree in advance a provisional realistic timescale. The diagram below is designed to give an indication of the process.