Who can apply to become a special academy?

All maintained special schools that are performing well.  Also, maintained special schools working in partnership with schools that are performing well. 

 What do you mean by 'performing well' for special schools?

Each application received will be considered on its merits. The criteria that will be taken into account when considering an application to convert will include, for example:

  • the current and most recent Ofsted inspection judgements, with a specific focus on capacity to improve outcomes, and leadership and management
  • evidence of strong and improving pupil attainment and progress
  • evidence of other achievements that support the learning of pupils with special educational needs, such as behaviour, attendance and exclusions
  • any other evidence which the school may put forward in order to demonstrate that it is performing well.
 When can we open as an academy?

The Department began considering applications to convert to academy status from outstanding maintained special schools from January 2011. We expect the first special academies to open from September 2011.

 How can we apply?

Special schools interested in converting to academies should complete the online registration form. Further details of the conversion process, including an 'application to convert' form for special schools, can be found on the 'How to become an academy' page.

 What does the conversion process involve?

The conversion process has been made as simple as possible for all schools. The key steps the school must take are all explained in the Department’s conversion guide and may differ according to the type of school and who owns the buildings and land.

As a minimum, all schools converting must

  • establish their trust as a company by registering with Companies House
  • establish a new bank account for the trust to ensure that the academy will be able to receive funding
  • transfer, renew or procure new contacts, service level agreements and licences and purchase insurance as appropriate.

Schools can seek further assistance from their named contact in the Department.

 Will there be some form of central support to advise and assist new academies in their start-up beyond that already available?

The conversion process has been made as simple as possible for all schools, with only legal requirements/statutory measures needing to be undertaken through the conversion process. We therefore intend this to be a light-touch process with minimal support required. However, if you need help, please do let your named contact know so we can see if any further assistance or guidance can be given. Once open, responsibility for the academy will pass to the YPLA where, again, each academy will have a named contact.

 Do converting special schools need to have a sponsor?

Special schools converting to academy status are not required to have a sponsor, although they are free to work with any external organisation.

 Do special schools need to consult before converting?

Yes. All schools are required to carry out a consultation but it is up to them to decide whom and how to consult. There is no specified length of time for the consultation and schools have flexibility in how it is conducted. None of the schools which have already converted has had any problems with the process of consultation, which is very straightforward. Examples are available in the conversion guide on the website.

 How will special academies be funded?

The principle of academy funding is that academies should receive the same level of funding as they would receive from the local authority as a maintained school. In addition, academies receive funding to cover the costs of the additional responsibilities they acquire as independent schools, for providing services that are no longer provided for them, by the LA.
We are clear that conversion to academy status should not bring about a financial advantage or disadvantage to a school. Academies will however, have greater freedom over how they use their budgets, alongside other freedoms they enjoy.

For special schools converting during 2011-12, the funding they receive for the academic year 2011/12 will comprise two components:

  • First, the special academy will be funded on a basis that is equivalent to the local funding formula of the local authority that previously maintained the school. Special schools converting to academy status will have already received their budget for 2011-12 from their local authority. On conversion, funding equivalent to this, covering the remainder of the academic year 2011/12, will be recouped from the local authority that previously maintained the school and will be paid to the special academy by the Young People’s Learning Agency.
  • Second, the special academy will receive the local authority central spend equivalent grant (LACSEG), in order to cover the costs of services that previously, would have been provided by the local authority. LACSEG for special academies, will be calculated in such a way to ensure that special academies receive funding that reflects fairly the responsibilities they acquire as publicly-funded independent schools, and the services that previously would have been provided by the local authority.

A ready reckoner for special schools can be found in the academies funding section of this website. The ready reckoner provides an estimate of the funding for the academic year 2011/12  which special schools converting to academy status, would receive upon conversion. 

Please note: The ready reckoner is for illustrative purposes only. The amount of funding calculated by the ready reckoner will be an indicative amount, and not a guarantee of the funding that a special school would receive on conversion.

 How will special academies receive capital funding?

A review of capital is underway which will report later this year. Decisions on capital programmes from 2011-12 will be made in the light of the capital review and the spending review settlement.

 What will be contained in a special academy funding agreement?

All academies established by the Secretary of State enter into a contract – the funding agreement – with a charitable company, which is often referred to as the academy trust. The funding agreement provides the framework within which the academy must operate. A draft model funding agreement for special schools can be found on the 'Supporting documents' page.

 

 How will the characteristics of the special academy, including pupil numbers and types of needs the academy will provide for, be agreed?

Maintained special schools wishing to convert to academy status will not be able to change their characteristics, including the number of places for which they are funded and the types of special educational needs they provide for, as part of the conversion process. The number of pupil places for which the academy will be funded will be based on the number of places for which the special school is funded currently. Likewise, the types of special educational needs the special academy will provide for will be based on the types of needs provided for currently by the special school.

There will be scope to change the characteristics of the special academy in the future, so as to ensure that provision for children with special educational needs or disabilities remains flexible and responsive to local need and parent choice. In such instances, the Young People’s Learning Agency would consider the case for the change(s), with the final decision resting with the Secretary of State.
 

 How will inter-authority recoupment work for special schools converting in 2011-12?

Many special schools admit pupils from a number of different local authorities. Currently, maintained special schools receive budgets from the maintaining local authority, and where another local authority places a child at the school the maintaining local authority recoups funding in arrears to cover the costs of a place at the special school from the placing local authority. This process is set out in the Education (Recoupment) (England) Regulations.

For special schools that convert to academy status during 2011-12, the current process will continue to operate. On conversion, funding equivalent to the school’s budget covering the remainder of the academic year 2011/12 will be recouped from the local authority that previously maintained the school and paid to the special academy by the Young People’s Learning Agency. The local authority that previously maintained the school will be responsible for recouping funding for places in the special academy from other local authorities which placed children at the academy.

We will consider further how special academies will be funded and how the recoupment process will work as part of the review of school funding. A consultation will be published in the Spring of 2011.

 How will we be funded after 2011-12?

We have provided special schools interested in academy status with information as to the way in which special schools converting to academy status during 2011-12 will be funded. In The Importance of Teaching, we announced that we would publish a consultation on the school funding system in the Spring of 2011, which will consider how all schools, including special academies, will be funded from 2012-13.

 Does my special school need agreement from the local authority?

Your school will be free to discuss its plans with any local partners, including the local authority. The Academies Act 2010 has removed the need for the local authority to approve your plans. All that will be required is a resolution passed by the governing body. Once the Secretary of State has confirmed that your school will become an academy, the Secretary of State will direct the local authority to cease to maintain it.

 Will an academy be under constraints or new expectations that the local authority would previously have exercised?

Academies have freedom from local authority control, which means that they have autonomy over the decisions they make and the education they deliver to their pupils. They also have the freedom to change the length of terms and school days, set their own pay and conditions for staff, and freedoms around the delivery of the curriculum. There is a range of services that were previously provided by the local authority that academies will now need to provide. A list of these can be found in the 'Academies funding' section of this website.

  As an academy, will I still work with the local authority?

Academies are independent schools and are not maintained by a local authority. Being at the centre of your community, you will want to work with other schools and local partners. Special academies will wish to maintain close and collaborative relationships with local authorities, who are in effect commissioning their services on behalf of the children and young people for whom those local authorities hold a statutory responsibility. Conversion to academy status provides an opportunity to redefine the terms of the relationship between special schools and local authorities, with the special academy being more autonomous whilst operating in a culture of collaboration with local authorities.

 Will a special academy have control over admissions?

Admission to a special academy will be by way of a statement of special educational needs.

Parents may make representations for a placement at a special academy.

The local authority responsible for making the statement retains responsibility for deciding whether to name the special academy in the statement, based on the individual needs of the child and any representations made by parents. A local authority is required to consult with the special academy before naming it in a child's statement. Once the special academy is named in a child's statement, the academy is under a statutory duty to admit the child.

 Do local authorities retain responsibility for identifying and assessing special needs in special academies?

Local authorities will retain responsibility for pupils with statements in academies on the same basis as for statemented pupils in maintained schools. They must

  • ensure that academy pupils are appropriately assessed and statemented where necessary
  • consider parents' representations for an academy to be named on a statement and act reasonably in considering those representations
  • fund any individually assigned SEN resources
  • monitor arrangements for SEN pupils in academies
  • conduct reviews of the statements of children in academies at least annually.
 Do you expect my school to support another school?

Special schools which convert to academy status will be expected to set out how they plan to work with and support another school or schools. Plans should include how they plan to use their expertise to improve the quality of provision for pupils with special educational needs or disabilities.

 Can a hospital school apply to become an academy?

Hospital schools that are designated as maintained special schools and which are performing well are eligible to apply to convert to academy status. Any hospital school that meets these criteria and is interested in academy status should follow the same process as other special schools and register an interest using the online registration form. Your school’s named contact in the Department will be able to discuss with you some of the differences in the conversion policy and process for hospital schools, for example those relating to admissions and funding.