Academy warning notices: What are they? And how do they work?

Academy warning notices: What are they? And how do they work?

The first termination notice issued to an academy in October has raised the question: just how many different types of “notice” are there?

What are warning letters and notices?

Sent to academies by regional schools commissioners, these letters and notices outline why the school has displeased the commissioner or is flouting its funding agreement. If things don’t improve the government can close the school or appoint additional directors.

So how many notice types are there?

Schools Week has identified at least six types of notice issued in the past three years (see table).

What do the notices say?

The least severe are pre-warning and pre-termination warning notices. These require a response within 15 days and are sent to schools before a warning or termination warning notice is issued. The required response must detail how a trust will make necessary changes.

Warning and termination warning notices come next.

They differ in terminology relative to when an academy was created. With newer academies, the department can terminate its funding agreement — hence “termination warning”. With older academies, the department only has the power to appoint new directors, hence “warning”.

Although differing in name they require the same actions. Each notice requires trusts to implement improvement strategies — and demonstrate they are in place — within 15 days.

A notice of intention to terminate is more severe. Only one has been issued, in February this year to Durham Free School. It closed three months later.

This notice is similar in wording to the handful of termination warning notices issued by the government. Both inform trusts that their funding agreement will to be terminated and give one last chance to make representations, again within 15 days. If these are not satisfactory the school closes.

Can you appeal a warning notice?

There is no formal process to appeal, nor is there a process for lifting a notice. Schools that have improved since receiving a notice in 2013 are still listed on government’s website as being under a warning notice.

So are they still in trouble?

Not really. The government can simply decide not to pursue a notice any further
if it has “sufficient evidence” that issues at
the academy have been satisfactorily addressed. There is no clear guidance on what counts as sufficient.

Are there any plans to change this confusion?

Not as far as we know. But we will keep asking.