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Academies: Sponsorship

Volume 481: debated on Thursday 23 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many private sponsors of (a) existing and (b) planned academies have had discussions with his Department about withdrawing from the programme; and if he will make a statement. (227723)

One sponsor, Amey, has discussed withdrawing from an existing academy. We are not in similar discussions with any other sponsors of open or planned academies.

Since the first academies opened in 2002 one lead sponsor withdrew after signing a funding agreement, but before the academy opened. In this instance a new lead sponsor took over. There have also been two instances of co-sponsors withdrawing from projects after signing the funding agreement. On both occasions the other co-sponsors continued with the projects.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families whether any women have acted as individual sponsors of academy schools. (227749)

There have not been any women acting as individual sponsors of academies, but there are a number of women who are part of a sponsorship team behind an academy, or who run the operations of sponsoring organisations.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what powers he has to dismiss any academy sponsor; and when those powers have been exercised. (227750)

The Secretary of State may, at any time and in certain circumstances, by notice in writing, terminate the funding agreement with an academy sponsor. These circumstances include insolvency or if the academy trust has passed a resolution for its winding up. The Secretary of State may also terminate the funding agreement if the chief inspector gives a notice to the academy trust stating that in his opinion special measures are required to be taken in relation to the academy. However, he would usually only do so if the academy trust had not made and acted upon a written statement of the action the trust proposes to take, and the period within which it proposes to take such action. In all other circumstances the Secretary of State, or the academy trust, may give not less than seven academy financial years’ written notice to terminate the funding agreement.

The Secretary of State may appoint additional governors as he thinks fit if he has given the governors a warning notice in accordance with the articles of association and the governors have failed to comply with the notice to his satisfaction. With a majority of the governors, the Secretary of State would have the power to dismiss the sponsor, through amendments to the memorandum and articles.

The Department carry out rigorous checks to establish the suitability of individuals and organisations to become sponsors of academies. These include checking their financial viability to supply the funds pledged as well as their general suitability.

To date, the Secretary of State has not terminated a funding agreement with an academy trust, or flooded the governing body to dismiss an academy sponsor.