What are Academies?

Free Schools, traditional Academies and Academy Converters all have the same status in law – they are all ‘Academies’ which means they are all independent schools which are funded by the state, must meet certain requirements set by the state, and are founded and held accountable through a legally binding “funding agreement”.

The differences between free schools, traditional academies and academy converters are over:

  1. Who sets them up;
  2. Why they are set up;
  3. Whether there is a predecessor school; and
  4. What the ‘provider’ has to demonstrate in order to be given permission to set one up.

Free schools

  1. What are they? New state schools (which could include independent schools becoming state schools for the first time).
  2. Who sets them up? Teachers, parents, existing educational charities, universities, community groups. There must be parental demand for the school and a high quality application. The group must form a charity and cannot make a profit.
  3. How are they run? Free schools are held accountable through a ‘funding agreement’ – a contract with the Government. They are free from the Local Authority.
  4. How do they get permission? Free schools must submit an application in two stages – a proposal and a business case. The business case must detail all aspects of the school and demonstrate clear demand from parents for the particular provision being offered.

Traditional academies

  1. What are they? Usually existing poorly performing state schools which are given to a new provider.
  2. Who sets them up? Universities, FE colleges, education charities, businessmen. The provider must form a charity and cannot make a profit.
  3. How are they run? Academies are held accountable through a ‘funding agreement’ – a contract with the Government. They are free from the Local Authority.
  4. How do they get permission? The Department for Education (DfE) ‘brokers’ between academy providers and schools which are underperforming.
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