Do funding agreements make Academies like maintained schools?

The short answer is no. Academies created more recently have funding agreements which make them more like maintained schools than did older ones, but even then there are fundamental differences.

Firstly, there a debate about whether parents/pupils can enforce a funding agreement at all.

Secondly, funding agreements vary, albeit that the latest model agreement (used as the basis for new academies) goes the furthest yet in requiring new (but not pre-existing) academies to behave like maintained schools.

But even then there are lots of differences.

Here are some examples:

Admissions

A maintained school can refuse to admit a pupil who has been permanently excluded from two schools. But paragraph 37 of Annex B of even the latest model Funding Agreement says this:

“The Academy Trust will consider all applications for places at the [ ] Academy. Where fewer than the published admission number(s) for the relevant year groups are received, the Academy Trust will offer places at the [ ] Academy to all those who have applied.”

In other words, an Academy with a Funding Agreement using those provisions would be required by that Agreement to admit all applicants if it was undersubscribed. Its Funding Agreement would not allow it to refuse entry to a pupil who had been permanently excluded from two schools in the previous two years.

Discipline

The governing body of a maintained school is required to consult parents and pupils and produce a written statement of general principles to promote good behaviour and discipline at the school: Education and Inspections Act 2006 section 88. The head teacher must produce a behaviour policy (including specifying disciplinary penalties) taking into account those principles: Education and Inspections Act 2006 section 89. The result is that parents and pupils in such a school at least know where they stand when it comes to discipline and behaviour.

But that does not apply to in Academies. I have seen lawyers acting for Academies argue that they are not required even to provide copies of their discipline policies to parents/pupils.

Complaints

Parents of pupils in maintained schools can complain about the actions of the school’s governing body to the local authority: Education Act 1996 section 409. There is no equivalent for Academies.

The curriculum

Maintained schools are required to provide the National Curriculum: Education Act 2002 Part 6. The head teacher of a maintained school can temporarily exempt an individual pupil but must notify parents if they do so, and parents can appeal against “disapplication”: School Standards and Framework Act 1998 section 48

None of that applies in an Academy. The curriculum obligations on an Academy were, in the early days, almost non-existent. Later Funding Agreements impose more detailed obligations, coming closer to the requirements of the National Curriculum. But, even where the latest “model” provisions have been adopted, pupils or groups of pupils can be exempted from the curriculum at the school on a wider basis than would be the case in a maintained school, and without any right of appeal by parents against that decision. For more on that point see this post.

Healthy food

And finally, here’s Jamie Oliver pointing out another way in which pupil’s have reduced rights in academies and free schools compared to their maintained school counterparts (or the position they were in before the school converted to being an academy).

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