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Solicitors in Westminster, London

Revoking an Academy Order

Revoking an Academy Order

On 2 October 2020 The Department for Education revised its statutory guidance on "schools causing concern", and in so doing went further than previous guidance in detailing when academy orders can be revoked.

Whilst most schools that are the subject of an academy order go on to convert within a few months, some are still waiting to convert years later. In some cases the academy orders have then been revoked by the Secretary of State, although perhaps only a small percentage of academy orders have been revoked. Previous guidance has been unclear on why some academy orders are revoked whilst others remain in place.  

Section 5D of the Academies Act 2010 enables the revocation of an academy order that was made when a maintained school is eligible for intervention. The new guidance provides some detail, stating that the power is used at the Secretary of State's discretion and will only be used in "exceptional circumstances" and "not just because a school's Ofsted rating has improved".

The guidance restates the Secretary of State's view that schools should benefit from being part of an academy trust and that conversion is an "effective means of securing their rapid improvement".

Previous guidance has been vague on the meaning of "exceptional circumstances" and referred only to instances where a school is "not viable" or where the school is no longer deemed to be inadequate by Ofsted.

The new guidance provides greater detail on when academy orders will be revoked and lists the following examples for "exceptional circumstances":

  • "The Secretary of State considers that the school would not be viable as an academy (in these cases, we would expect the local authority to close the school and the Secretary of State can direct them to do so if necessary)
  • The school has been re-inspected by Ofsted and judged Good or Outstanding, and the Secretary of State is satisfied that the improvement can be sustained without the support of a strong sponsor. Ofsted’s findings will be one of a number of sources of information the Secretary of State will consider when deciding whether improvement can be sustained without the support of a strong sponsor
  • The school was rated inadequate by Ofsted solely on safeguarding grounds having previously been judged Good or Outstanding, the school has reverted to its previous Ofsted rating and the Secretary of State is satisfied that the safeguarding concerns have been addressed and can be sustained without the support of a strong sponsor or Multi-Academy Trust."

The guidance states that the above examples are not exhaustive and the Secretary of State will consider each case on its own merits, taking into account whether the revocation is in the best interests of the pupils. The school's governing board must also agree that the academy order should be revoked and submit a request to do so.

Whilst the new guidance elaborates on the meaning of "exceptional circumstances", it remains to be seen whether the guidance represents greater willingness to be flexible about academy conversions and whether in practice it will provide clarity on when academy orders will be revoked.

The full guidance can be accessed via the following link: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/922910/schools_causing_concern1.pdf