Can the Secretary of State or a local authority force a maintained school to become an academy?

The short answer is that neither the Secretary of State nor a local authority has direct power to force a maintained school to become an academy.

They are doing it in practice either by (a) replacing the school’s governing body with an Interim Executive Board comprising people he has chosen who then act on their behalf in ‘applying’ to become an academy; or (b) by pressuring the existing governing body into applying themselves (i.e. jumping before they are pushed).

If a maintained school is eligible for intervention then the local authority and the Secretary of State both have powers of intervention.

But neither can directly force a maintained school to become an academy.

In my experience, when governing bodies are approached (generally by private consultants employed by the Department rather than by civil servants) and told that the Secretary of State wants to turn their school into an academy, but they are not given any details about the legal processes involved. There is a strong sense of “jump or you’ll be pushed” which encourages many to jump.

Where they don’t jump, the local authority or Secretary of State imposes an Interim Executive Board which then acts on their behalf in going through the motions of a consultation etc with a view to initiating the academy conversion process as if they were a normal governing body (except that, instead of the process being initiated by a governing body which comprises parents, staff, community governors, etc, it is then initiated by a body of people put in place to bring about the forced change to being an academy).

  4 comments for “Can the Secretary of State or a local authority force a maintained school to become an academy?

  1. Philip Wood
    November 15, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Presumably if for some reason the SS or the LA did not want to impose a IEB then the SS could just make an academy order under s.4(1)(b) of the Academy Act 2010. Although in practice either the governing body or the IEB will make an application, there is still a power there for the SS to make an order should s/he need to. Or am I reading the statute wrongly? If s/he were to do this then after the modifications made by the Education Act 2011, the sponsor could carry out the consultation.

  2. DW
    November 18, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Yes. The SofS could make an academy order then get the would-be ‘sponsor’ to carry out the consultation (for which read: act as the organisation collecting consultee views and passing them back to the SofS).

  3. brown bear
    December 2, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Do you know what requirements there are on the SofS in choosing a sponsor?

  4. DW
    December 14, 2012 at 10:10 am

    There are no specific requirements. But there are more general legal obligations (like equality legislation) which would apply.

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