CHURCH voluntary controlled
(VC) schools are now able to convert to academy status with
neighbouring community schools under a new company model for a
multi-academy trust (MAT) which protects their church
The new company model has
been agreed with the Charity Commissioners, and also with the
Department for Education (DfE). The pressure for such a model came
from several dioceses, including Birmingham and Oxford, that
already have relevant projects under way.
The model has been
structured to achieve the right balance of power to protect the
different types of schools joining the academy company. As it has
been designed specifically for VC schools, the new model only gives
the church a minority interest in the governance of the company,
but church protection is clear.
It requires the company to
follow Diocesan Board Of Education (DBE) directives in respect of
the church school; DBE consent is required for co-option to the
board of directors, and the diocesan director of education must
approve the appointment of the principal of the church academy.
Importantly, the model itself cannot be changed without the church
The model's simplified
ownership structure requires only four directors, one of whom must
represent the church, and could be drawn from the the DBE, or its
umbrella trust, or the diocesan board of finance, or even the
bishop, if that is the diocese's practice.
The church can appoint one
quarter of both members and directors, and the DfE has indicated
that there should always be at least two church directors and one
There is, as in all the
latest DfE-approved MAT models, no concept of directors being
appointed because they chair school governing bodies.
Uniquely in the church
model, one of the owners of the company must always chair the
The new model is not
suitable as it stands for voluntary aided (VA) schools - whose
natural home is the Church Majority Multi-Academy Trust, agreed
with the DfE last year, where control lies with church bodies.
A word of caution: avoid
disruption of the Trust wording in local negotiations - the DfE is
unlikely to accept substantial changes. The National Society's wise
advice is: "Stick to the model."
Howard Dellar is head of the ecclesiastical, education and
charities department at Lee Bolton Monier-Williams and Secretary of
the Ecclesiastical Law Society.