Council defends £5,500 fee for schools that become academies

Norfolk County Council. County Hall. Photo : Steve Adams

Norfolk County Council. County Hall. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

Norfolk County Council has defended the estimated £200,000 it has charged schools that have become academies over the past two years.

The council agreed in September 2014 to introduce a fee for schools to convert to academy status, to cover the costs of 'non-statutory functions'.

The fee is currently set at a maximum of £5,500 per school, and the council said about 40 schools had converted since October 2014.

Schools Week newspaper has reported that the council is one of at least five in England who levy such fees, including Swindon, Portsmouth and Staffordshire.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said the fee was introduced 'in the interests of fairness' because, if they were not met by the schools that convert, they would come from a contingency fund, meaning that all remaining maintained schools in Norfolk would have to pay for work being carried out on behalf of a few schools.

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He added: 'Each converting school receives a Start-Up Grant from the Department for Education of £25,000, which is to support them with meeting the costs of the process, including re-branding, signage and marketing, as well as fees.

'The costs are recorded in such a way that the closing school can pay for the costs incurred by Norfolk County Council via their Start-Up Grant meaning it will not impact on their pupils, nor act as a barrier for academisation being a fresh start for them.

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'As a local authority, we have a statutory duty to support part of the conversion process which includes staff transfer and the work around the lease of the land.

'Other non-statutory functions include carrying out additional work which makes the transition process quicker and smoother. This work is carried out by traded services which come at a cost to the county council. Therefore, the cost, currently a maximum of £5,550, is spread across four service areas.'

A Department for Education spokesman said: 'We expect councils to support schools converting to academies and do not expect to see them charging for this. The academies programme is transforming education for millions of pupils, and we would expect all councils to put children's education first.

'Where councils do impose charges, these must be reasonable and should not be for services they must provide.'

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