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Alex Masters

Academy conversion: how SBMs can prepare

Could your school be considering converting to an academy? We offer expert advice on how school business managers can feel prepared.

Despite the recent government U-turn on academisation, the prospect of academy conversion is still inevitable for many and SBMs are concerned about life without LA support.

New analysis suggests that all schools will still be converted into academies by the year 2020 as planned. ‘Given the combination of voluntary conversion, academisation under the Education and Adoption Act and direction at local authority it is possible that full academisation (or very close to it) could be achieved without forcing schools one at a time,’ said David Laws, executive chairman of think tank CentreForum.

However, the think tank said the analysis was dependent on the Government’s definition of what constitutes as an ‘underperforming local authority’ – a concept which has not yet been defined by the department.

LA support

As one school business manager recently told us, converting to an academy means you no longer have the comfort of LA support. ‘There is no longer the “comfort blanket” of the LA in the background thinking for you, reminding you when deadlines are approaching, organising statutory returns or being there as a failsafe if something doesn’t go as it should,’ she said. ‘Their role will become more diminished and may even disappear.’

She explained that, when working at an academy, the demands in terms of financial regularity and accountability extend far beyond anything that you will experience in the maintained sector. ‘This is the first time that I had dealt with other professions such as auditors, accountants and solicitors for a very long time,’ she said.

From accountancy and knowledge of funding to HR and site management, SBMs new to working in academies will be faced with a raft of new challenges.

Site management will likely become a much larger proposition: all statutory requirements will become your responsibility to organise, cost and implement. The same applies for personnel and staffing and, as the level of knowledge needed increases, you may find yourself having input into areas such as salary scales, professional development, and performance management which you may not have had before.

Understandably, this can feel tremendously daunting. A great way to alleviate this is to start preparing in advance.

How SBMs can prepare - your questions answered

Our webinar offers expert advice on how to manage your new responsibilities, from HR, finance and health and safety to policies, premises, and planning.

Cate Hart guides you through the most pressing concerns you will have at this stage. She also addresses your most pressing concerns, including:

  • What are my new responsibilities?
  • How can I manage them in-house?
  • What resources are out there?
  • How can Optimus help me?

According to government figures, at least 227 schools have put in applications to convert to academy status within the past month, with 104 directive academy orders issued to underperforming schools.

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