The routes by which a school can become an academy has evolved from the introduction of the Academies Act 2010. The intention of the Academies Act 2010 was to simplify the process by which a school could become an academy (compared with the conversions under the Education Act 1996, which tended to be a protracted process) and allow schools the choice to become an academy for the first time. However, as time has gone on the legislation has been amended and the routes by which a school may become an academy is now more complex. We have summarised here the current position.
In 2010 legislation was introduced; namely the Academies Act 2010, to make it possible for all schools to become academies. Under the Academies Act 2010, a maintained school’s governing body could elect to become an academy if it was a good or outstanding school.
The Academies Act 2010 also gave the Secretary of State the power to force those schools who were eligible for intervention by virtue of the Education and Inspections Act 2006; those schools requiring significant improvement or schools requiring special measures; to become academies. The Education and Adoption Act 2016 increased this power to a duty and the Secretary of State must now make an academy order in respect of a maintained school in England that has received an Ofsted judgement of ‘inadequate’.
The Education and Adoption Act 2016 added another category of school which could be at risk of being forced into academisation; namely “coasting” schools.
The coasting criteria are based on the same school performance measures (i.e. attainment and progress) used to set standards to hold schools to account (also referred to as “floor standards” for primary schools).
The Department for Education has confirmed the coasting definition for primary and secondary schools in 2017 in The Coasting Schools (England) Regulations 2017 which remains the same as in 2016. Coasting schools are those where over three years, pupils are thought to not be progressing as much as they should.
For primary schools, the measures are:
Schools must meet the criteria for three consecutive years to be deemed coasting.
For secondary schools, the measures are:
Schools will be notified by the Regional Schools Commissioner when they fall within the coasting definition but unlike the ‘inadequate’ category, being ‘coasting’ does not put the school in an ‘automatic’ forced academy conversion category.