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Schools making decisions in the dark on academy conversion - March, 2017

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Almost half of schools (44%) in England feel there isn’t enough information available to support decisions on joining or forming a multi-academy trust (MAT), according to new findings from The Key's annual State of Education report – soon to be released[1].

School leaders are searching for answers to important questions on academy conversion, such as whether it is the right thing to do, what they might need to consider before joining a MAT, what to do if their school has a deficit/surplus and whether they can pull out of the process once they’ve started[2], but such information can be difficult to access.

In response to this, NAHT, The Key and NASBM, have come together to provide free guidance on academy conversion for schools considering taking this step.This resource provides schools with a clear understanding of what they need to do and consider at each stage of the process, so head teachers and business managers can confidently manage decisions around conversion, as well as the process itself. This includes the decision not to convert.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “No school should be forced to become an academy, but for those certain that it is the right course of action for them, it is important to be clear from the outset about what this will involve. At a time when school budgets are being pushed to breaking point it is hard for many small schools to find the resources to investigate conversion properly and we hope this guidance will make it that bit easier for them.”

Last month, the government withdrew the £384 million it had earmarked to fund the conversion process[3] and with schools needing to find £3 billion in savings by 2020 to counteract cost pressures[4],  schools may lack the resources to fully explore academy conversion. Recent figures from NAHT revealed that seven out of ten schools are only balancing their books by making cuts or dipping into reserves.[5] In light of this, school leaders may be unsure about whether the benefits of conversion are outweighed by the risks.

Stephen Morales, CEO of NASBM, said: “There is evidence that in the right circumstances schools can benefit enormously from effective and meaningful collaboration. Additionally, many education leaders have campaigned vigorously for many years to enjoy autonomy over the local management of their schools. Academisation, and therefore a route into collaborative MAT structures, responds to both of these issues. The role of the school business leader in this environment becomes critical as the umbilical cord between the school and the LA is severed and schools are required to manage complex operational functions in house. We hope this guide provides schools with the information to make informed decisions about academisation and potentially life as part of a multi-academy trust.”

Speaking about the academy conversion process, Fergal Roche, CEO of The Key said: “Becoming an academy is one of the largest projects a school can undertake and it’s important that school leaders have all the information they need during this complex process. Schools need to be able to stay focused on what teaching and learning will look like in the new structure and be sure that conversion is a tool to drive school improvement forward rather than a distraction from day-to-day business. This new guide, which is endorsed by school leaders, should provide a useful benchmark about what to expect.”

To view An essential guide to academy conversion for school business professionals, please visit:

For more information or to speak to a member of the team, please contact Rose Tremlett, NAHT Press Officer: 01444 472874 | 07540 760629 | [email protected].

About The Key's survey

The Key invited a sample of its members to complete its annual survey in February 2017. The questionnaire for this study was designed by The Key and conducted online using Survey Monkey. More than 1,000 school leaders from mainstream schools completed the full survey. The survey response data was weighted to match the population profile of schools in England in terms of region, school phase and school type, so the data described in this summary can therefore be taken to provide an indication of the opinions of school leaders in mainstream schools across England.

The detail behind the finding referred to in this release can be found below. A report on the full findings will be released later this spring.


Please state to what extent you agree or disagree with the following statement:


“There is enough information available to support decisions on joining/forming a multi-academy trust”

Per cent

Strongly agree


Tend to agree


Neither agree nor disagree


Tend to disagree


Strongly disagree


Don't know





[1] More than 1,000 school leaders, completed The Key's survey in February 2017. The State of Education report will be available in the coming weeks - you can see the more detailed findings in ‘Notes to editors’



[4] NAO report on the financial sustainability of schools, NAO, pg.4,

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