How to apply to become an academy sponsor, and what happens if your application is successful.

Sponsors are responsible for:

  • the performance and finances of their school
  • setting up the academy trust
  • selecting the governing body
  • recruiting the headteacher

The sponsor will work closely with the headteacher to run the academy.

We aim to match sponsors with schools in their local area.

Who can be a sponsor

The following bodies or people can sponsor an academy:

  • high-performing schools
  • further education colleges
  • sixth-form colleges
  • universities
  • businesses and entrepreneurs
  • educational foundations
  • charities and philanthropists
  • faith communities

Successful schools interested in sponsoring an underperforming school they are already working with should speak to the governing body before applying.


If you are interested in sponsoring an academy, please contact us to discuss your ideas and start the process.

The documents you need to become an academy sponsor are available.

When you are ready to apply, you should complete the sponsor application form and submit it to us via email so our sponsor approval panel can assess it.

If your application is approved, one of our sponsor brokers will work with you to find a suitable school.

To be successful, a sponsor needs to show:

  • strong planning, including, where necessary, realistic regional growth plans
  • evidence of achieving lasting educational improvement
  • evidence of financial expertise
  • clear governance structures and lines of accountability

Academies sponsor relationship and development division

The sponsorship process

When you have been matched with a school by the sponsor broker, and the Secretary of State for Education has approved it, we will appoint a project lead who will help you to:

  • complete an academy action plan - this sets out the challenges at the school, and the steps you will take as the sponsor to improve performance
  • get ministerial approval for the action plan
  • agree the legal issues with the local authority, including the staffing structure, land transfers and financial agreements
  • complete any administrative tasks, such as registering the new academy with exam boards, carrying out Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks (formerly called CBS checks) and agreeing contracts for school services
  • sign a funding agreement to formally transfer leadership of the school from the local authority to you


Once the academy order has been approved, agreeing to the school’s conversion, the sponsor will receive a grant to cover the pre-opening costs such as staff recruitment, project management and legal advice. Sponsors can use any underspend on the academy after it opens.

There are 3 levels of start-up grants:

  • fast track - we expect most sponsored academies to follow this route
  • intermediate - this support is for schools needing more financial support than fast track provides, but less than full-sponsored academies
  • full-sponsored academies - this is the maximum funding support available

An environmental improvement grant (EIG) is also available to full-sponsored academies. Find out more in the funding guidance for sponsors.

Grant Since Sept 2013
Full sponsored primary/special pre-opening £110,000
Full sponsored secondary pre-opening £150,000
Fast track primary/special pre-opening £70,000
Fast track secondary pre-opening £80,000
Intermediate primary/special pre-opening £90,000
Intermediate secondary pre-opening £115,000
EIG full sponsored primary/special £40,000
EIG full sponsored secondary £80,000


Once the academy has opened, the sponsor will be expected to:

  • provide support and guidance to achieve success
  • monitor the academy’s performance, taking action to improve it where necessary and report back to us
  • involve parents and the wider community in the work of the academy through events, mentoring and business links
  • use public funds cost-effectively and find other sources of income when needed
  • chair meetings of the academy trust or governing body
  • work effectively with the academy trust, governing body, principal and senior leadership team of the academy

Sponsors are subject to ongoing review and the performance of their academies is monitored. If the Secretary of State considers that a sponsor no longer meets the required standards, he may remove their approved sponsor status.

Other ways to get involved

To contribute to the academies and wider education programme you can also:

  • become a mentor
  • set up business links and other partnership arrangements
  • provide support and scrutiny as chair or governor of a governing body
  • join the board of an existing sponsor

To find out more, please contact us.

Academies sponsor relationship and development division