Speech

Queen's Speech: Academies Bill

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Notes on: "Legislation will be introduced to enable more schools to achieve academy status and give them greater freedoms over the curriculum."

Legislation will be introduced to enable more schools to achieve academy status and give them greater freedoms over the curriculum.

The purpose of the bill is to:

  • the Academies bill will enable more schools to become Academies and give them the freedoms and flexibilities they need to continue to drive up standards
  • the Government’s vision is to create a world beating school system in which every parent has access to a good school and all pupils achieve high standards. Our central aims are to raise standards for all children, while narrowing the gap between the attainment of the most and least advantaged

The main benefits of the bill would:

  • allow maintained schools to apply to become academies and power for the Secretary of State to issue an Academy Order requiring the local authority to cease to maintain the school
  • remove the requirement to consult the local authority before opening an Academy, thus simplifying and accelerating the process;
  • require the consent of any existing (mainly church) foundations before a school applies to become an Academy.
  • deem Academy trusts to be exempt charities;
  • provide for secondary, primary and special schools to become Academies;
  • ensure there is no change of religious character in the conversion process (such changes can be made through separate existing provisions);
  • there will be no expansion of selection but grammar schools and other schools which select or partially select pupils will be able to continue to do so
  • retain the existing legal requirement for funding agreements to last at least seven years (the agreement can still provide for intervention or termination, if the academy fails).

The main elements of the bill will:

  • provide schools with the freedoms to deliver an excellent education in the way they see fit, within a broad framework where they are clearly accountable for the outcomes they deliver
  • enable all maintained schools to apply to become an Academy. For the first wave of applications, the key test for approving an academy conversion will be that the school is currently rated outstanding by Ofsted - the Secretary of State normally expects he will approve applications from outstanding schools unless they have a substantial financial deficit (more then £100,000) or other exceptional circumstances apply
  • allow primary and special schools to apply to become an Academy in their own right for the first time and will benefit from the increased freedoms and flexibilities that this will offer
  • make the process of applying to become an Academy as simple as possible without a requirement for Local Authorities to be consulted;
  • allow schools which apply to become Academies to keep any surplus balance they hold
  • the bill will automatically make all new Academies charities

We expect standards across the education sector to rise through the creation of more Academies. We expect a significant number to open in September and for the number to continue to grow each year;

NB. Academies will continue to be funded at a comparable level to maintained schools but will also get their share of the central funding that their LAs used to spend on their behalf. They will have freedom to allocate this funding in a way that focuses on the needs of their own pupils.

Existing legislation in this area

Section 482 of the Education Act 1996, as amended by Section 65 of the Education Act 2002, provides for the establishment of Academies and specifies the core characteristics of Academies.

Devolution

The provisions of the Academies Bill will only apply in England and will therefore only permit an Academy to be established in England.

England and Wales is a single legal jurisdiction and so all laws passed are part of the law of England and Wales. The application of laws can apply to only one country or the other but the provisions of the Academies Bill will have no practical impact on, or application to, the organisation of schools in Wales.