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Academies and free schools account for almost one in five maintained schools

With the arrival of academies and free schools, the landscape of state-funded education in England has changed dramatically over the last few years.

Academies and free schools

Just two years ago, these schools accounted for just over 2 per cent of all mainstream schools.

But there are now 3,657 academies and free schools in England, accounting for more than 18 per cent of schools, according to the latest official figures.

These schools are taxpayer funded, but not overseen by a local authority.

This means that they set the pay and conditions for their staff, as well as having other freedoms about the delivery of the curriculum, the length of terms, and how they structure the school day.

Schools undergoing change

Changing from a school to an academy can be unsettling for staff. They may have questions about how a conversion may change their contracts, and whether their hours and holidays will change.

School leaders need to communicate well and consult staff to keep them motivated and engaged, rather than feeling threatened by the change.

Governing bodies and school business managers also have to be confident in the key areas, including:

  • transfer of staff or terms and conditions under TUPE regulations 
  • devising written statements of employment 
  • developing discipline and grievance procedures 
  • dealing with maternity and paternity leave and pay 
  • performance management 
  • absence management 
  • handling redundancies and dismissals.

Acas publications and services

Acas is an authority on employment relations and change management, and has extensive experience working with professionals in the education sector.

For instance, there's Acas guidance for academies and free schools, including help with Transferring Staff (TUPE), Working with Trade Unions and Employee Representatives, and Communication and Consultation.

Acas can also send expert advisers to visit your school and help you develop practical solutions for a range of related issues. They can help you through the HR implications of converting into an academy, or setting one up, including minimising the potential for disputes and reaching agreements if they arise. For details, see Contracts and hours: how Acas can help.

Practical training courses are also available in Managing changeHaving difficult conversations and Contracts of employment.

And you can get free, confidential advice from expert advisers on the Acas Helpline; call 0300 123 1100.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.


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