Academies

Academy converters can’t get £25k grant if they become a SAT

But trust body flags concern over capacity to manage 'spike' in applications before change comes into force

But trust body flags concern over capacity to manage 'spike' in applications before change comes into force

21 Mar 2024, 17:58

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Local-authority schools choosing to academise will no longer be able to access a £25,000 grant unless they make the switch with at least two others.

Schools choosing to convert have been able to get the government money to help pay for associated costs like legal advice and re-branding.

However, in an update released this afternoon, officials said that from September the grant will continue to be paid only to those leaving council control in groups of three or more.

Despite this, special and AP schools “will continue to be eligible to receive it as part of a single-school conversion process”.

Concern over spike in academy conversions before change

The cash is handed to schools shortly after their conversion bids are given the go-ahead by regional directors.

But in an email to members on Friday, the Confederation of School Trusts said it had “sought assurance that there will be enough operational capacity within regions group to manage the potential spike in conversions during the summer term”.

“We believe that this policy change may result in more maintained schools seeking to expedite the decision to join a trust before the policy change takes effect.”

The body also thinks that small schools joining trusts should be “treated in the same way that special and AP schools are being treated under this policy change”.

It appears to be the latest move by the Department for Education to pull the few levers it has to limit the number of SATs.

Last March, ministers published plans – dubbed “trust development statements” – to expand or launch new MATs in 55 “education investment areas”, which have the nation’s weakest results.

At the time, the government said the documents “clearly signpost” the types of “growth project we want to encourage” to improve outcomes in each EIA.

Schools Week analysis of government data earlier this month showed the number of SATs in the EIAs has dropped by 13 per cent between March 2023 and January 2024 .

National falls stood at eight per cent over the same period, dropping from 1241 to 1136.

A DfE spokesperson stated “strong academy trusts can transform schools that are underperforming”, and that ministers want all primaries and secondaries “to be part of one”.

“We believe that the academies sector is now well-established to the extent we can take a more strategic approach to growing trusts,” they added.

“We welcome that the average size of a trust is growing, as larger trusts are better placed to deliver sustained school improvement.”

They also stressed that the department “will continue to provide financial support for conversion to special and alternative provision schools which we know face greater barriers”.

Those wanting to academise under the current eligibility criteria for the grant should register their interest by April 26 and apply by June 7.

Regional directors must have greenlit it before the changes come into place on September 1.

Correction: The original update on the government’s website stated that, from September 1, the grant will “continue to be paid only to schools approved to join or form a trust as part of a group of three or more schools”. The DfE has since clarified it is the number of schools approved to convert that must be three or more, not the size of the destination trust.

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