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Wider policy and strategy development

Buzzcott's final feature looks into the affect of wider policy and strategy development on academies

Posted by Hannah Oakman | December 26, 2016 | People, policy, politics

The Government launched its White Paper in March 2016, which has been the subject of much interest in its aim to drive every school to be an academy. How far that particular aim is driven remains to be seen but the White Paper does continue along a path of radical change that all schools, currently within or outside the academy movement should take heed of. 

More than half of academies are already part of a multi-academy trust (MAT) with many more set to form or join MATs. The new language is ‘supported autonomy, alignment of funding, control, responsibility and accountability in one place, and institutional collaboration’. The White Paper signals a ‘school-led’ system where improvement is delivered by effective education leaders and every school is an academy.

Senior management and trustees should be familiar with the White Paper’s contents, which should form the backdrop to academies strategic planning. 

Whether you are in a single academy trust (SAT) or an MAT, you work in a complex statutory framework. This update covers some of the latest news on what is happening in the sector, including updates on key financial, compliance and assurance issues and helps signpost you to information relevant to your areas of accountability.

Read on to read the sixth and final part in our series based looking at wider policy and strategy developments:

There have been a number of recent policy and strategic developments that impact directly or indirectly on academies and the environment in which they operate and we have provided a quick roundup.

Post 16 Skills Plan

In the new Prime Minister’s first Cabinet reshuffle in the wake of the Brexit vote, she announced the transfer of responsibilities for skills and apprenticeships from The Department Business, Innovation and Skills back to DfE.

The two departments launched the Government’s Post 16 Skills Plan in July 2016, which follows the Report of Lord Sainsbury’s Independent Panel on Technical Education. The plan brings clarity on the academic and technical routes through which people can develop towards their careers and introduces the employer-led Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education as the sole gatekeeper of standards with the aim of regulating the quality of provision.

The plan proposes a common framework of 15 routes across all technical education. The plan also states the Government’s intention that all University Technical Colleges (UTC’s) and technical free schools should be part of a multi-academy trust or similar partnership, following the principle set down in the White Paper. In addition to the creation of new National Colleges in five key sectors, the Government will also set out in the autumn its proposals to create Institutes of Technology (IoTs) for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Sixth form college conversions to academies

The DfE issued updated guidance in March 2016 on the process for sixth form colleges to apply to become academies, an announcement made by the then chancellor in the 2015 Spending Review.

A college can apply to convert to become an academy where 80% of its students are aged 16 to18. If accepted, the college would dissolve and transfer to an existing academy legal entity or to become a new academy.

There are benefits to colleges to be derived from the conversion, most significantly from a more favourable VAT regime allowing a higher proportion of VAT recovery. Depending on the structure of the new academy or multi-academy group there could also be benefits through economies of scale. This has opened the door to wider institutional collaboration, again supporting one of the aims of the White Paper.

Early Years National Funding Formula consultation

The Department for Education (DfE) has published a consultation on an early years national funding formula and changes to the way the three and four- year-old free entitlements to childcare are funded. This will be relevant to primary academy trusts that offer early years’ provision.

The consultation builds on the government’s commitment in the autumn statement to invest over £1 billion more per year in childcare by 2019 to 2020, which includes £300 million per year for a significant uplift to government funding rates. It sets out major changes to deliver a fairer and more transparent funding system for the three and four-year-old free entitlements. 

The final formula will distribute the new investment to local authorities from April 2017. At this time, there will also be an uplift to the funding of the two-year-old entitlement to free childcare, although the formula for distributing that money will not change.

The closing date for responses to the consultation was Thursday, 22nd September 2016.

Child abuse and neglect consultation

The Government has launched a public consultation on reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect and welcomes contributions from a range of multi- agency providers, including education providers. The consultation ran until 13th October 2016.

Charity Commission consultation

A new consultation has been issued by the Charities Commission seeking views on how it should implement its new powers under The Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 to issue official warnings to a trustee or to a charity when it considers that there has been a breach of trust or duty, or other misconduct or mismanagement in the charity. The consultation closed on 23rd September 2016.

Careers education, information, advice and guidance 

BIS and the Education Committees have published their joint report on the provision of careers, education, information, advice and guidance, in advance of the Government launching its forthcoming careers strategy. The report recognises the inadequacy of the current provision of advice across the country.

Buzzacott accountants have produced a series of short articles proving an overview of the academy sector. 

To find out more about Buzzacott, visit their website or email them at enquiries@buzzacott.co.uk.

Previously published features in this series are The Funding landscapeCompliance for academiesAssurance for academiesFinancial reporting and regulation and the Apprenticeship levy

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