Guidance

Sponsor an academy

The steps organisations or people who wish to become academy sponsors must follow.

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.

Academy sponsors

An academy sponsor is an organisation or person who has received approval from the Department for Education (DfE) to support an underperforming academy or group of academies.

Sponsors work with the academies they support through the academy trust. An academy trust is the charitable company that runs an academy or a group of academies.

Any of the following can apply to become an academy sponsor:

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

Academy sponsors are responsible for:

  • setting up the academy trust
  • appointing the leadership team
  • selecting the governing body
  • monitoring the academy’s performance and taking action where necessary
  • reporting to DfE about the academy’s performance
  • involving parents and the wider community in the academy’s work through events, mentoring and business links
  • making sure the academy spends its funding cost effectively
  • working with the academy trust, governing body, principal and senior leadership team of the academy

If a sponsor doesn’t comply with their responsibilities, the Secretary of State for Education can remove their sponsor status.

1. Before you apply

Contact your regional schools commissioner (RSC)

If you’re interested in becoming an academy sponsor, you should first contact your regional school commissioner (RSC) to discuss your ideas.

If your RSC agrees that you should apply, DfE will nominate a sponsor lead to work with you. Your sponsor lead will ask what sort of academy you wish to sponsor so they can advise on the sponsor opportunities in your region. They’ll also ask if you are already working with a particular school that may need a sponsor.

If you’re an academy, you must ask your academy trust to pass a resolution to show that they agree with your plans to become a sponsor.

If you’re a school that isn’t an academy, you’ll need to get approval from your governing body before you can apply to become a sponsor.

If your school has a religious character, you’ll also need to get approval from your relevant religious body (for example, the local diocese for a church school) before you can apply.

Other organisations or individuals don’t need to show that they have consent.

2. Prepare to apply

Schools and academies

As part of the sponsor application process, you’ll need to show:

  • that you have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve as a sponsor and of how you will achieve it
  • that you have the necessary financial expertise and ability to plan strategically
  • evidence of how you would support an underperforming school to improve
  • that you have a strong track record of helping schools improve - you could explain how you’ve worked with other schools or give details of your current work in your multi-academy trust
  • that you plan to establish clear governance and accountability structures
  • your most recent annual accounts

Academy trusts

If you’re an academy trust, or are in the process of setting up an academy trust, we recommend that you inform parents and the local community that you intend to become an academy sponsor. You should consider their views before applying.

Non-educational organisations

If you’re not an educational establishment, you’ll need to prove that your organisation has the skills and expertise to help schools improve.

If you’re an overseas sponsor, you’ll also need to show that you have good knowledge of the British education system.

Individuals

If you wish to become a sponsor in an individual capacity you’ll need to demonstrate either:

  • that you have the skills and experience to help schools improve or:
  • that others who have a proven track record in helping schools improve will work with your trust to support underperforming schools

You’ll also need to show:

  • how you would establish the academy trust and finance its operations in the initial stages
  • what your role would be in carrying out the responsibilities of a sponsor, and who would help with this

3. Apply

You should fill in the academy sponsor application form and submit it to us.

You should work with your sponsor lead to complete your application.

Your RSC will send you a letter to let you know the outcome of your application.

4. Become a sponsor

If your application is successful, your RSC will select an appropriate school that needs a sponsor. If this school isn’t an academy, it will have to convert to academy status before you can become its sponsor.

Your RSC will ask you to explain what specific support you would offer the school and to provide evidence that you can give this support.

Your RSC will also discuss the match with the local headteacher board (HTB) and the school you will sponsor. If they all agree that you’re the right sponsor for the academy, your RSC will recommend you formally to the school.

The school’s governing body will then have to pass a resolution to approve you as their sponsor. It’s likely that the academy’s governing body, headteacher and staff will want to get to know you before they pass this resolution.

Once the academy’s governing body has passed the resolution approving you as their sponsor, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools will consider the match.

You need final approval from your RSC before you can officially become the academy’s sponsor.

Converter academies can also join your trust, if the RSC and HTB agree.

5. Start-up grant

Once the school you’ll sponsor has been granted an academy order (ie confirmation that it can become an academy), you’ll receive a grant to cover the new academy’s pre-opening costs.

Read the departmental advice on sponsored academy funding to find out what type of start-up grant you’ll receive.

6. Support

There are several places you can go to for support and advice on developing as a sponsor. You can:

  • contact your RSC - they can give you details of:
    • what support is available in your region
    • information about events and sponsoring networks in your region
    • the sponsor matching database, which matches sponsors with support from other sponsors
    • the Academy Ambassadors programme, which brings business people onto the boards of academy trusts as non-executive directors to strengthen their governance arrangements
  • use the National College for Teaching and Leadership’s school-to-school support tool to get in touch with your local national leaders of education and national leaders of governors
  • visit the New Schools Network website - they provide useful resources and guidance for schools and academy trusts