The ‘technicality’ that stopped a school from becoming an academy

The opposition of a single staff member to an academy conversion has halted the entire process – with the Government set to rewrite legislation after the loophole was exposed.

Schools Week revealed academy conversion plans at Prendergast School, in Lewisham, London, were halted after parents threatened a judicial review over a breach of regulations.

The Department for Education called it a “technicality” and is due to set about rewriting regulations. But what is the technicality?

It relates to rules set out in The School Governance Regulations 2012 for federation schools (which make up around five per cent of schools in the country).

The regulations state a staff governor must be in support of an academy conversion for an order to be granted.

Schools Week understands the inclusion of this phrase in the regulations was a technical error when the rules were first drafted, and the power on one governor was an unintended consequence.

A DfE spokesperon said the technicality allowed “certain governors to override the majority decision of the board”.

As seen in the Prendergast School case, while 12 out of 14 governors voted for the academy conversion, the sole staff governor voted against.

While the DfE went ahead and granted an academy conversion order, eagle-eyed parents spotted the breach and duly got the order rescinded by threatening a judicial review.

The Government is now planning to change the legislation in due course. It is confident Prendergast School will reapply to become an academy once the hitch has been ironed out.