Trust schools are maintained foundation schools with a charitable company (the trust) attached. The governing body invites individuals and organisations to form the trust, which supports the particular aims it has identified.
The land and buildings are normally owned by the trust, although in many cases the local authority owns the playing fields. The trust is not involved in the running of the school, which is the responsibility of the governing body, but it appoints either a minority or a majority of the governing body members.
Trust schools are able to formalise links and partnerships with individuals and organisations while remaining within the local authority maintained sector.
Specific issues for trust schools considering conversion: conversion is a logical next step for those trust schools that want the greater freedoms that academy status confers. However, there are some specific issues governing bodies need to consider.
Consultation: the Academies Act 2010 requires trust schools to obtain the consent of the trust as the owner of the school’s land and assets before the school can apply to the DfE to become an academy.
If the trust refuses to give its consent, the school can go through a consultation process to withdraw from the trust and revert to being a foundation school and then apply to become an academy. Usually it will be possible to run both the consultation on withdrawing from the trust and converting to academy status simultaneously.
Conversion process: trust schools already have a charitable company that is very similar to an academy trust, but this cannot be converted into the academy trust.
In the case of trusts that support a single school, the school can go through the conversion process to become an academy with its trust attached. Once the school becomes an academy, the trust would no longer be able to support the school, because trusts set up under trust school legislation can only support maintained schools. The trustees would therefore be expected to wind up the trust, leaving the school as an academy.
In the case of trusts that serve several schools, the above would still apply, with the exception that the trust would not be wound up but would continue to support any remaining maintained schools. It could not, however, continue to support any schools within the trust that become academies.
Dealing with existing trust partners: trust schools need to consider how to deal with existing trust partners (individuals and organisations currently involved in the trust). Some trust partners may wish to be involved in the new academy, as members or governors, others may not. It is important to consult all existing partners and explain the new roles and responsibilities that come with the academy trust.
Land: on conversion to academy status, the Secretary of State makes an order transferring school land and buildings held by the trust to the academy trust. For schools that have not yet had their land transferred to the trust, negotiating with the local authority may cause a delay, but will not prevent the conversion.
Summary: governing bodies of trust schools considering conversion should open a dialogue with their trusts as early in the process as possible to gain the necessary consent and to identify and address potential problems prior to application.
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