What is an academy and what does the trust board do?

What is an academy?

Academies are independent, self-governing schools that are funded directly by the government and not via the local authority. The number of academies has expanded rapidly from 200 to 6,500 since 2010 with two-thirds coming together to create multi-academy trusts (MATs).

Some academies have sponsors such as businesses, universities, other schools, faith groups or voluntary groups, with the aim to prepare more school leavers with more school leavers have the essential qualifications they need to fit them for further study or employment.

The Academies programme was established by the Labour Government in 2000 with the aim of raising national educational standards. Since then, the number of academies have grown significantly to the 6,500 open academies in England today. There are two types of academy – sponsored and converter.

  • Sponsored academies are schools that were underperforming schools which are brought under the control of a sponsor who is tasked with improving standards. Sponsors are generally businesses, charitable trusts, church groups or other educational institutions. Information on academy sponsorship is available on the Department for Education website.
  • Converter academies were introduced in 2010 by the 2010 Coalition Government. The Academies Act gives all Local Authority maintained schools in England the right to convert to academy status. Guidance on the conversion process is available on the Department for Education website.

Unlike maintained schools, academies have autonomy over areas such as staffing structure, finances and term times. They are not obliged to teach the national curriculum although they must offer students a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum. Academies must also follow government policy on special educational needs and exclusions and be non-selective. All academies are inspected by Ofsted and are expected to meet national educational standards. 

Free schools are a particular type of Academy. Since 2010 charities, groups of teachers, existing schools and parents can set up these new schools if they can prove that they are needed and wanted by a local community. Find out more about free schools here.

What does an academy trust board do?

Non-executive directors lead strategy development and then hold the executive to account for delivery of the business plan. Academy trust boards face the same challenges as any business board: defining a compelling vision and strategy; operating within financial constraints and creating a strong and effective governance structure. 

Find out more about trust boards and the non-executive role here or contact us for more information.