Becoming an Academy

The Academisation Strategy and process for Church of England Schools in the Diocese of Chelmsford

The Diocesan Board of Education (DBE) respects the decision-making powers of each governing board to make informed decisions, in the best interests of their pupils, whether to remain as a maintained school, federate or become an academy. For Governing Boards exploring academisation it is essential to review the Diocesan Academisation Strategy. Approval by the Diocesan Board of Education (DBE) is required for any Church of England school to become an academy.

Diocesan Academisation Strategy

The Diocesan Board of Education (DBE) launched the Academisation Strategy in January 2024. The strategy outlines the DBEs approach to academisation and the decision to prioritise the further growth and strength of Church Majority MATs. This ensures that pupils have access to resilient, strong Church MATS, with a secure Christian ethos and vision and with a strong commitment to ensuring Christian Distinctiveness is at the heart of their strategic planning for their Church Schools. The Academisation Strategy can be read in full on the link below. 

Diocesan Academisation Strategy

A webinar explaining the key aims of the strategy was recently shared with all schools and is available below as well as on the Chelmsford DBE YouTube channel. A copy of the accompanying slides can be accessed here.


Majority Church Multi Academy Trusts (MATs)

The DBE are prioritising the further growth and development of Church Majority MATs. The following MATs have been approved as homes for Church Schools by the DBE:

Minority Church Multi Academy Trusts (MATs)

In exceptional circumstances foundation and voluntary controlled schools may be given consent to join one of our minority MAT partners. The DBE will review applications based on exceptional circumstances on a case by case basis. The following trusts are the approved minority MAT partners:

  • Berlesduna Academy Trust
  • Burnt Mill Academy Trust
  • Epping Forest Schools Partnership Trust
  • HEARTS Acadmy Trust
  • Life Education Trust
  • Osborne Co-Operative Academy Trust
  • Unity Schools Partnership

Diocesan Board of Education Approval

DBE approval is a two stage process:

Conditional Approval. This is the ‘in principle’ approval taking into account the aspirations of the school, its vision and the shape of the Multi-Academy Trust the school intends to join or create. The Headteacher and Chair of Govenors, alongside the MAT CEO, will be invited to present to the DBE at one of the termly meetings. The DBE will be looking for evidence of considered vision, sound planning, good preliminary consultation as well as intention to comply with diocesan guidance and continuing engagement with its officers. The DBE may set appropriate conditions on detailed structures etc. Conditional approval allows a school to apply to the DfE for a conversion grant to cover the legal costs associated with academy conversion.

From September 2024 the criteria for the DfE conversion grant is changing. Schools that choose to convert to academy status and join a MAT will only be eligible for the grant if they are making an application alongside two other schools, creating a group of 3 or more. The Diocesan Director of Education can support with further information. 

CDBE In-Principle Approval Process

Final Approval. This is normally a formality since diocesan officers and our respective legal teams will have agreed the details of the Articles of Association and Supplementary Agreements etc. and the DfE will have conducted its own due diligence process. However, if conditions originally set have not yet been achieved, there might be a delay in granting final approval. It is therefore in the best interests of all parties to work closely together through the whole process.

In considering Conditional Approval, the DBE needs to be satisfied that the school will continue to be an effective church school and that its church school character will flourish as the foundation of its whole educational provision. It will therefore look for evidence of vision, moral purpose and consultation, including with its associated parish(es) who’s approval must also be obtained.

The DBE expects any church school to carry forward into the Multi Academy Trust it seeks to join or form at least the same proportion of church appointed Members and Trustees as its current governing board has (e.g. 51% for VA schools; 25% for VC schools). This is regardless of whether or not there are or may be former community schools in the MAT. 

Contact Us

Please, contact your School’s Diocesan Adviser as early in the discussion as possible, and certainly before any provisional decisions are taken. The Team will help you as you move forward. The PCC of the parish church is required to offer its consent at the preliminary stage also since most church schools were established by local churches to educate the children of the parish. It is wise to engage with the PCC, perhaps through foundation governors, as early as possible.

Arrangements must fall within the parameters of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which has been agreed between the Church of England and the DfE. That MOU provides the working framework within which applications from church schools to become academies will be considered by the Regional Director.

More crucial as your school embarks on a journey to becoming an Academy are:

  • vision - in the medium and long term as well as for the immediate future
  • understanding up to date guidance and policy - that of the Diocese, the Church of England; the DfE and Regional Director (RD)
  • taking account of best practice - which is of course constantly evolving in the light of the experiences of others across the country.

These are long-term decisions with far reaching consequences. 

The Government's Guidance notes for schools thinking about converting to an academy have several modifications to clarify the situation for Church Schools. Please make sure that you follow them carefully and check with the Diocese before committing to anything.

If you wish to convert to an academy the first step is to contact your Schools Adviser and initiate a conversation with the Director of Education.