The conversion to Academy status can bring with it a large number of benefits. There are, however, a number of legal issues which need to be dealt with before, during and after the conversion process.
Coodes Solicitors have put together a specialist Academies Team – a cross-spectrum of legal experts who are able to advise you on all aspects of the process required to take you from your current status to becoming an Academy.
We can help you understand the new Academy framework and documents required, the timeline involved and your obligations. We believe that the more information you have at the outset regarding the legal risks and issues you will have to consider will help you decide whether or not conversion to Academy status is the right step for your school.
The Implementation Stage
1. Establishing the Academy Trust
We will help you establish the Academy Trust. This will involve drafting the Memorandum and Articles to govern the charitable company which will own and manage the school and the transfer of the school’s assets and staff (the Transfer Agreement) to the new legal entity.
2. Governance Issues
The Academy Trust will be a Company limited by guarantee with charitable Objects. From January 2011 it is expected to be an exempt charity. As a charity however, it remains subject to charity law and to regulation by the Charity Commission. Certain aspects of charity law will continue to apply, however, and the duties and responsibilities of the board of governors will remain unchanged. The board will still have a duty to act reasonably, prudently and in the best interests of the Academy Trust at all times. Our Charity Law experts can offer sound advice as to which aspects of charity law will apply to the Academy. The Charity Commission will also require further assurances where Academy involves land subject to a PFI commitment.
The Academy trust will be required to enter into a funding agreement with the Department for Education. Legal advice may need to be sought on its terms and conditions so that the Academy trustees are fully aware and briefed of their duties and potential liabilities. As part of completing the paperwork, the funding agreement also requires further documents to be attached for example the proposed admissions policy.
The conversion process will generate a transfer of land/assets to the Academy which will need to be agreed and resolved with the Local Authority. Property and land issues can be complex. The title to land is not always clear, boundaries are often not clearly identified and public footpaths across schools are all too common. Where schools share facilities with third parties, formal agreements should be put in place to confirm the terms and keep the facilities available. Our Property Lawyers will guide you through all of these issues and ensure that all the necessary land searches and enquiries are undertaken.
It is vital that you seek expert advice and assistance with the staff transfer process from the local authority to the newly constituted Academy Trust. Staff must be properly informed and consulted with before the decision to become an Academy is made. The transfer of staff is governed by the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) regulations, otherwise known as ‘TUPE’. There are three main considerations: Pay and conditions. Pensions and Building Schools for the Future. We offer a bespoke HR consultation service which will help you with the staff transfer process.
6. Asset Transfers
Schools involved in the conversion process will also inherit assets. A formal agreement is required stating which assets are to be transferred to the Academy Trust. There is a template available for the agreement but our team would be happy to advise, should you wish to negotiate the terms or add further terms to the standard agreement. We are also able to advise on any contracts with suppliers and third parties that the Academy Trust is expected to inherit for example IT support contracts, catering contracts etc.
We believe in building long term sustainable relationships with our clients. We provide many local companies, organisations and charities with continuous legal support. Since Academies will often be growing institutions, we are able to offer on-going guidance and assistance on a wide range of issues that they will encounter in their new status as a charity e.g. governance related issues, fundraising, employment matters, contractual agreements, property and land related issues. We can also provide training for new employees and Governors and/or Trustees in understanding the requirements of their new roles and the Academy’s obligations. We are committed to becoming your legal advisers for the long term and will help realise your ambitions to grow and develop your Academy.
To find out more:
Our Academies team is led by Peter Lamble. To arrange a free initial consultation to discuss your Academy conversion, please contact Peter.
Tel: 01872 246200