Academies – who can become one?

August 13th, 2010 by Edward Capewell

The ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section of the DfE website on Academies ( gives the following answers under the heading ‘Requirements’:

  • “Which schools can apply to become academies?
    Only schools (primary, secondary and special schools) that have been rated outstanding overall in their most recent Ofsted inspection are eligible to convert to academies through this process. Register your interest on the online form.
  • We are not an outstanding school but want to become an academy – can we apply?
    Not yet. All schools will eventually be eligible to apply to be considered for academy status but the applications for all other schools will open at a later date in the year. There will be a further announcement on this process. However all schools are encouraged to register their interest in becoming an academy and we will ensure they are kept informed and provided with any help that is needed”

These ‘requirements’ are departmental policy only as they have no basis in the Academies Act 2010 itself. There is of course nothing to stop a non-outstanding school filling in the online form to register its interest (though it has to tick a box to state that it is not outstanding), and many have done so:

Under the previous government’s Academies programme, the requirements for becoming an Academy were rather different. The FAQs on the DCSF website are still available here: and they state:

  • What are the criteria for a school to become an Academy?
  • Some Academies are brand new schools in areas which need the extra school places. Most of them replace existing weak or underperforming schools. As a broad rule of thumb, the Government is prepared to consider any secondary school where in 2006 fewer than 30% of pupils gained five or more GCSEs at grades A* – C (including English and Maths) as a potential Academy project. In addition, local authorities should always consider an Academy as an option for dealing with a school in special measures, or subject to an improvement notice, whatever its results.
  • Sponsors may also enter an Academy proposal in any of the competitions now required under the Education and Inspections Act 2006 for most new and replacement schools, regardless of whether the normal standards criteria for an Academy apply. The competition decision maker must consider all proposals on their individual merits, having consulted the Department on whether it would be willing to enter into a funding agreement in the event of the Academy succeeding in the competition.

So the Coalition’s ‘new Academies’ are intended, for the time being at least, for outstanding schools to become even better, whereas the previous government’s Academies were intended to bring weak or underperforming schools up to scratch.

But what of those weak or underperforming schools which were in the process of becoming an Academy under section 482 Education Act 1996 when it was repealed by paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to the Academies Act 2010 on 29th July this year? Some of them may have been planning to open as ‘old Academies’ at the beginning of the new school year in September. It appears from the transitional provisions in section 15 of the Academies Act 2010 that they will become ‘new Academies’ under the 2010 Act as well, whether or not they have yet entered into the funding agreement, and may, all things being equal, be allowed to open as such in September along with their outstanding colleagues.


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