The Department for Education (DfE) requires governing bodies to carry out a consultation exercise prior to conversion on whether or not to convert to academy status. The Academies Act 2010 states that “the school’s governing body must consult such persons as they think appropriate”.
Who to consult?
Schools must consult any individual or organisation that will be affected by the proposal to convert to academy status including:
- parents of pupils at the school/offered a place at the school/in feeder schools
- local schools
- local authority
- community groups that use the school facilities
- religious authority if appropriate
How long should the consultation be for?
The consultation period usually lasts 6-8 weeks. It must be completed before the Funding Agreement is signed.
How to Consult?
Schools have flexibility over how the consultation process is conducted. Information about the proposed academy conversion should be placed on the school’s website with contact details given for any enquiries.
It is recommended that meetings are held with staff and that schools should explain the proposed change to their pupils in assemblies and send letters to the parents setting out the proposed changes. Some schools also hold a meeting at the school for parents and/or interested members of the local community to ask questions.
What should be included in the consultation process?
The consultation process must be undertaken when proposals are at a formative stage and must provide enough information to those consulted to enable them to respond to the proposals.
Schools may set out what they consider to be the advantages of academy conversion. The consultation document should set out factually accurate information about what conversion means. Schools may wish to indicate how the governors will manage the academy following conversion.
The consultation document may set out the preference of the governing body to convert to academy status. If a school is aware that the consultation is likely to be controversial, it may choose to retain a neutral stance throughout the consultation process on the question of whether or not conversion is the right decision for the school. It is important that if a position on conversion is not taken, a school does not appear to have pre-determined the question of whether or not conversion should take place.
Decision to convert
Schools must consider all the responses from the consultation before deciding whether or not to convert to academy status. The fact that the responses were considered and the decision reached by the governing body on conversion must be recorded by the Clerk in the minutes of the relevant meeting. This decision must be taken by the governing body before the Funding Agreement is signed.
The DfE requires a report on consultation prior to the signing of the Funding Agreement by the Secretary of State. This should be an account of what consultation took place and when. The report should record the fact that the governing body considered in full the responses to the consultation before taking the decision to convert to academy status.