What happens when an academy or free school breaks the law?

The new UTC/studio model funding agreement includes a new provision, not (as far as I have spotted) previously seen in any of the model agreements:

The Academy Trust shall use its best endeavours to ensure that it complies with, and is not in breach of, its obligations arising under any legislation or law, failing which the Secretary of State may:

(a) by notice terminate this Agreement forthwith or provide such notice as he deems appropriate in the circumstances to terminate this Agreement; or

 (b) appoint such Further Governors as he thinks fit and/or provide such notice as he deems appropriate in the circumstances to terminate this Agreement.

That is notable in imposing on new UTCs/studio schools an obligation to comply with the law. But that is something they should surely be doing anyway?

And this is only a “best endeavours” obligation – when compliance with the law is an absolute requirement, not simply a matter of best endeavours.

And why, suddenly, has the Secretary of State decided he needs a contractual power to act when a studio school/UTC breaks the law?

And why not the same for other types of academy? or free schools?

Interestingly, the introduction of this new provision for new studio schools/UTCs draws attention to the fact that it would be hard (if not impossible) for the Secretary of State to take action against an academy or free school which broke the law.

Perhaps we will see a similar provision creeping into the model for other academies/free schools in due course? But, of course, that would only affect new academies/free schools, and not the existing ones created using previous models.

  2 comments for “What happens when an academy or free school breaks the law?

  1. Mandy
    March 7, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    According to a book – The 2012 School Appeals Code Explained – it is unclear how appeal panels fit into the obligations imposed by funding agreements: an appeal panel (in an academy appeal) is not a party to the academy’s funding agreement, even though the funding agreement is the only source of the obligation to conduct appeals following the Appeals Code etc.

    If an IAP didn’t follow eg the Appeals Code, would this breach the Academy’s funding agreement? When looking at this, another factor is that some funding agreements differ – according to the book, some funding agreements only require the Academy Trust to ensure that IAPs are “trained properly” to follow school appeals law etc.

    I suppose this is mostly relevant if, after an appeal, a parent makes a complaint to (a) the YPLA or (b) to the academy itself as an Own Admission Authority.

    If (a), is there any legal basis for the YPLA to insist that academy IAPs follow the appeals code? If (b), could the academy simply say that actions of the IAP are not its concern, and that its only job is to follow the strict terms of the funding agreement?

    Sorry for so many questions! Great site by the way – I say this on behalf of all academy watchers!!

    Mandy

  2. DW
    March 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    If the academy’s funding agreement requires that it and its IAP give effect to the Appeals Code then that is what it should do. As explained elsewhere on this blog, parents/pupils could potentially challenge non-compliance by ‘judicial review’. Older funding agreements did not include that requirement. In those cases, the academy/IAP is not required to comply with the Code.

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