Academies are publicly funded independent schools which enjoy a number of freedoms and flexibilities.
- They can set pay and conditions for all staff
- They don't have to follow the National Curriculum
- They can change the length of school terms and school days
- They have greater control over the school budget
- They have the freedom to spend money the local authority currently spends on behalf of schools
- They have responsibility for all capital assets (land, buildings) and their management.
All maintained schools (primary, secondary and special schools) that are performing well can submit an application to convert to an academy. Any school can apply with other schools as part of a formal partnership, providing at least one is performing well, to join an existing academy trust with a proven track record of school improvement.
The Governing Body is responsible for establishing the academy trust and entering in to a funding agreement with the DfE (Department for Education) for the running of the academy. Its key responsibilities are to:
- ensure the quality of education provision
- challenge and monitor the performance of the academy
- manage the academy trust's finances and property
- employ staff
The Academies Act places the same requirements on academies and maintained schools for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils, such as those with SEN, Children Looked After, those from minority ethnic groups and those at risk of exclusion.
Academies are answerable directly to the DfE about their standards.
When a school becomes an academy the academy trust becomes its own admissions authority. This means that it manages its own admissions process and must ensure that its admission arrangements comply with the School Admissions Code.
Academies have the freedom to determine and set their own term dates and holidays and inset days. The local authority will continue to set term and holiday dates for maintained schools.
Academies will have their own complaints procedure and parents are advised to contact the academy for a copy if required. The local authority cannot become involved with academy complaints.