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FAQ Academies/Free schools

schoolWhat is an Academy?

An Academy is an independent school which is not funded by or under the control of the Local Authority. They are typically companies and/or charitable trusts. There are also special academies which are special schools, where pupils usually have a Statement or an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Who are they responsible to?

Academies and Free schools will have a Funding Agreement, a contract with the Secretary of State for Education, currently Justine Greening. The agreement includes the rules for running the school and will differ between academies. Academies can operate independently but often they are run by Multi Academy Trusts, a group of academies working together. The Regional Schools Commissioner oversees the application process and the performance of academies.

What is the structure of oversight and decision making within the school?

This is typically a two tier system. Members, who make sure the charitable objectives are being upheld and below them Trustees, who carry out a role similar to Governors. Academies have more freedom to decide term dates, curriculum content and to manage their own finances.

Who funds them?

The Department of Education (DfE) through the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

What has to happen for a maintained primary or secondary school to change to an Academy?

To become an Academy/Free School the governing body has to agree to the conversion. A consultation must be held about whether the school should be converted to an Academy/Free school. Those being consulted must be given sufficient time to respond and the responses must be conscientiously considered.

The final decision is made by the schools governors.

Can the Funding Agreement be changed?

Yes, with agreement, also they can be overwritten (changed) by Acts of Parliament such as the Children and Families Act 2014 Part 3. This Act brought together mainstream schools, nurseries, academies and free schools in terms of how they have to support children and young people with SEND.

How are Academies monitored?

They are inspected by OFSTED and exam results are published by the Department for Education.

Can Academies select the pupils they take?

Academies must follow the same Code of Admissions as state-maintained schools, although the academy trust will manage the process. However, it is always a good starting point to check the particular Academy’s Funding Agreement. Also see

Does an Academy or Free school need to put in place SEN Support/ the graduated approach?

Yes, The Children and Families Act 2014 compels Academies and Free schools to put in place the four part cycle of Assess, Plan, Do, and Review.

Can I request an Academy to be named in an EHCP?

Yes, the Local Authority can name but as with mainstream schools they will ask the school. The two reasons for saying no in law are:

Do Academies and Free schools have to follow other legislation and guidance issued by the department of education?

imageLook at the legislation/guidance on the Department for Education (DfE) website, it will say who it covers.

Academies must adhere to The Equality Act 2010 and the Exclusion Guidance.

What are Free Schools?

They are a type of Academy and legally they function in the same way as Academies. They are also state funded directly by the government. They can be set up by groups of parents, teachers, charities or faith groups. Free schools do not have to teach the national curriculum but they are inspected by OFSTED.