Academies were originally introduced to improve schools that were under-performing, however the focus has now shifted to schools that are performing well and are able to share their good practices. Numbers of academies have increased significantly in recent years and this is likely to continue.

Academies are charitable companies limited by guarantee and are independent, state-funded schools. They are not maintained by a local authority, but have their capital and running costs met by central government. As such, they still have to adhere to some of the Department for Education (DfE) statutory guidance.

The Academies Act 2010 gives all maintained schools (secondary, primary and special) the opportunity to apply to become an academy. Pupil referral units can apply to become an alternative provision academy. Certain categories of schools are pre-approved. All schools apart from special schools can apply to become an academy online.

There are two types of academy: converter (either stand-alone or as part of a chain) and sponsored (often set up to replace under-performing schools). Stand-alone converter academies are expected to support another local school after conversion.

The conversion process involves a number of legal requirements, such as the creation of an academy trust, and also brings with it significant responsibilities and accountabilities. The academy conversion process and legislation is fluent and subject to change on a regular basis.

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