Academy Conversion FAQs
Academy conversion is a detailed and involved process. Read our FAQs and find out if your school has all of the bases covered.
A multi-academy trust (MAT) is a a group of schools working in collaboration as one entity to improve and maintain high educational standards across the trust. The multi-academy trust is governed through a single set of members and directors.
It is advisable that key governors and senior leaders come together to discuss their views before making a decision to set up or join a MAT. This kind of leadership visioning session can be very helpful.
The Trust or the Sponsor will be the new employer, employee contracts are moved over to the Trust, this is called TUPE. TUPE is a complex process and it is recommended you seek advice from a HR specialist.
It is advisable to have meetings with potential sponsors, speak to the Principles already with the MAT. Ask questions about what goes well and what could be improved. Look at the productivity of the schools within the MAT, does the sponsor have the resources to support your need?
There is no overriding education legislation that determines how MATs must be structured or managed. MATs are governed through their articles of association. The Department of Education has model documents to cover this including information about trustees and management. The MAT will set out its governance through an annual statement shared with key stakeholders. The key responsibilities for the operation of the MAT rest with its Members, Trustees and Local Governors.
Members are similar to shareholders of a company, who have rights under relevant company law. The members generally have powers to appoint some of the trustees and right to amend of the trust’s articles of association (subject to the consent of the Charity Commission). The members for the Trust are individuals or corporate sponsors that wish to be engaged for the long term. The DfE encourages trusts to have at least five members in total.
The trustees are responsible for three core governance areas as performed by a governing body in a maintained school.
The MAT has the structure of a charitable company and the trustees are therefore company directors, and must comply with company law requirements. Model EFA articles state the chair of the board of trustees will also be a member to provide a connection between the two levels. Members hold trustees to account. The board of trustees may choose to set up different committees covering key areas specifically, such as education standards and finance.
Trustees can delegate governance functions down to the local level of the academy and therefore operate Local Governing Bodies (LGBs). Trustees have the discretion to determine what is delegated to each academy depending on its performance or operation. Individuals that sit on LGBs are often referred to as “local governors”.
Other MATs may take a different approach and retain governance at a central level. To achieve this it would therefore set up an advisory body at school level which does not have a formal governance function but advises the board of trustees on decisions taken. Each MAT should have a clear governance structure and document what is delegated to LGBs through a scheme of delegation. Local governors are not trustees of the academy trust unless they also sit on the academy board.
Each Multi-Academy Trust will have different requirements and approaches to finding the right chief executive. Trusts with a clear high performing lead school are likely to have the headteacher of this school becoming the chief executive. However in some trusts where the majority of schools are good or outstanding this can be a difficult decision to make. It may be beneficial to seek an independent persons viewpoint before making a decision.
The MAT receives a general annual grant (GAG) relating to each academy and this is under the control of the Trustees. The DFE model funding agreement permits this to be pooled between the academies and allocated. Each MAT will have a master funding agreement, and supplementary agreement with each academy, which is signed by the Secretary of State for Education.
The MAT will file a single set of academy financial statements with the EFA and at Companies House.
All MATs operate a central function to ensure compliance and an oversight of management being a single entity. The extent of the function is determined by the MAT strategy and is model dependent.
The central function does not receive funding directly and therefore charges a levy against each academy. Selected MATs keep the central function narrow to minimise the levy charged whereas other models pursue a larger central function not only to cover group compliance but to develop a resource base of high quality expertise and skills to drive up standards and results across the MAT.
The MAT must review and consider its reserves at the central level for the MAT and individual academy level. The purpose of retaining reserves must be clear and central policy established. Selected academies may have financial difficulties and therefore cross funding can be considered but the policy and benefits would need to be clear. Effective communication and negotiation with each LGB would also be required. Each MAT member will have pension arrangements for its teaching and support teams respectively though the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) and Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). Each academy will be required to meet its current obligations and make good any future obligations. If academy members are in the same boroughs, there may be scope for pooling of LGPS liabilities to manage liabilities and average pension rates.
VAT planning maybe required by the MAT where activities income, not covered by exemptions, exceed registration thresholds of £82,000. In this case, a MAT may wish to consider a subsidiary entity to ring fence the funding. The Academies Financial Handbook sets out the related duties and obligations of MATs in detail.