With increasing pressure from the government, it looks like every Local Authority maintained school will eventually become an Academy. One of the barriers that discourage many schools is the complex conversion process and the challenge of managing people through this transition. Keeping staff engaged at this time is no small feat.

Thinking of an Academy as a business can help ensure its success and make the process a lot less daunting.

Reassurance during uncertainty

When the link with the Local Authority is severed, a feeling of uncertainty is to be expected, especially as the Local Authority dictated some of the internal processes of schools for such a long time.

Make sure you communicate the benefits of academisation to your team – greater autonomy to recruit and influence staff pay, determine length of school day, admission process, term time and other matters.

Like any other organisation facing radical change, you will need commitment to strong leadership and business processes to see the change through and ensure its overall success. During academisation it is not only important to develop a proper infrastructure but also to develop a culture where change is openly embraced. We often find this is the biggest challenge during an organisational change.

Navigating a Complex Academisation Process       

Alongside keeping staff engaged and motivated, senior leadership teams face a difficult change process.

Failure to adhere to the legalities around Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) can leave academies open to expensive and time-consuming Employment Tribunal claims. Therefore, it is important to engage in careful management of the consultation process and resolve staffing issues throughout the organisation transition. The consultation process can be made more meaningful by taking the time to listen to and respond to questions employees may have.  Time invested at the early stages encourages buy-in and can avoid potential problems in the future.

The Academy also inherits liability for employee disciplinary and grievance action taken by the Local Authority. Therefore, governors will need to be trained in the terms of the collective agreements in place and their legal responsibilities as an employer.

Thinking of an Academy as a business can help ensure its success and make the process a lot less daunting.

Ongoing Legal Compliance

The impact of legal rights and employment regulations can be underestimated, so it’s important to follow the correct process to prevent legal disputes and keep staff engaged.

Schools should be aware that responsibility for the Terms and Conditions of employment automatically transfer to the academy. This applies to staff as well as other service providers who no longer serve the school or transfer to the academy i.e. cleaning contracts or outside curricular providers etc.

Here are some of the key employment legalities to watch out for:

  • Emerging legislation such as General Data Protection Regulations which come into force in May 2018
  • Legal responsibilities with regards to Health and Safety are transferred from the LA to the Academy so the relevant legislation has to be complied with to avoid fines
  • When recruiting staff, governing bodies must be aware of their responsibilities set out in the Equality Act 2010 and also be mindful of the rights of agency workers.

Like any other organisation, academies have to keep abreast and be aware of recent issues in the media like mental health and equality which affect the well-being of not just employees but pupils as well.

Managing People in an Academy

Recently Ofsted announced its plans to change the Academy inspection legislation to enable them to better scrutinise education, training and care structures. Therefore, proper data systems, due diligence and internal documented procedures are vital from the outset. So many academies fall at the first hurdle and even if they are achieving outcomes for pupils, fail on everything else if these processes are not implemented from the start.

Added pressure on academies to achieve outstanding Ofsted results is of course the priority but in turn it is important to fully understand the impact of people management in delivering these results. This process starts with employee engagement, informing and involving the team, clear communication and the development opportunities available.

The goal is of course to improve efficiency, achieve the best possible outcomes for all students and provide an inspirational and engaging experience for the academic and support teams.

For advice and support, more and more academies are seeking outsourced HR support services.

Get in touch with Tassic for expert advice.