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Voluntary-aided (VA) schools operate under foundations (usually trusts, which are often the Church Diocesan Boards). Most are designated with a religious character. There were 4221 VA schools on 1 January 2011.
Employer - governing body. All teaching staff must be employed on statutory terms and conditions. Where the school is designated with a religious character, the governing body may discriminate in employment of all teaching staff on grounds of faith. They may also discriminate, by applying a faith test, in the appointment of non-teaching staff where there is a genuine occupational requirement.
Admissions authority – governing body. They must adhere to the Admissions Code and School Admission Appeals Code and the law relating to admissions. Where a VA school is designated with a religious character, the governing body may give priority to pupils of the faith, although not all do.
VA faith schools are able to prioritise up to 100 per cent of their places on faith-based admissions criteria when they are oversubscribed. If undersubscribed, they must admit all applicants. The admission authorities for all faith schools must consult the body or person representing their religion or religious denomination, as prescribed in the admission arrangements regulations or their funding agreements, about their admission arrangements.
Owner of land and buildings – in most cases, a charitable foundation (apart from the playing fields, which are normally vested in the LA). The foundation must be consulted before any changes can be made to the land or assets. Trustees must give the LA notice of intention to dispose of non-playing field land, and reinvestment proposals. The LA can object to such proposals and claim a share of proceeds attributable to public investment. The schools adjudicator determines such proposals where there is not local agreement. Playing fields may only be disposed of with the Secretary of State’s consent.
Capital funding – LA 90 per cent, governors 10 per cent, including for delegated capital, although the LA has discretion to fund 100 per cent.
Power to propose significant changes – the governing body may publish any prescribed alteration or closure proposals for the school, subject to seeking relevant permissions from trustees or religious authorities. For example, under the Diocesan Board of Education Measures governing bodies of Church of England schools must first seek the consent of the trustees before consulting on or publishing prescribed alteration and closure proposals. The LA may only propose enlargement, addition of special educational needs provision, sixth form provision, or closure.
Religious character – most VA schools are designated with a religious character. Religious education must be provided in accordance with the school’s trust deeds unless parents request the agreed syllabus. Ofsted does not inspect RE; faith schools must arrange their own ‘section 48’ inspection.
Governing body – has general responsibility for the conduct of the school with a view to promoting high standards of educational achievement. It is a corporate body, registered as a charity and receives the school’s delegated budget. The governing body is composed according to the VA stakeholder model, with representatives of the foundation and other categories of governor. Foundation governors are appointed by the school’s founding body, church or other organisation named in the school’s instrument of government. The foundation appoints a majority of governors and holds the land and assets on trust for the purposes of the school. The trustees also have to ensure that the objects of the trust (e.g. to provide faith education) are upheld.
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Guide to the law for school governors
Access to the login page of the Edubase system, which contains details of all educational establishments in England and Wales.