The academies programme introduced in 2010 is perhaps the single most significant piece of education legislation for a generation. It is probably too early to say what impact it will have on educational outcomes, but it is now an important feature of the wider education landscape. The programme was intended (in part at least) to promote wider engagement between state funded schools and other institutions with an interest in education, including universities, FE colleges, employers and independent schools.
The implications of the programme for many independent schools are not yet clear - but many of our clients are thinking hard about the risks and benefits of the programme for them. Our team understand the strategic priorities for independent schools and our experience in relation to state schools and academies allows us to advise our clients with a comprehensive understanding of the issues that will be relevant.
An obvious risk for some schools is the creation of improved schools on their doorstep, which may compete for pupils. Benefits include widening the number of children whose education the independent school can contribute to and a positive contribution to the school's public benefit profile.
Some independent schools are already taking steps to become involved in the programme or to become involved with other state sector schools. For some, involvement may be limited to sharing facilities. For others, a closer relationship involving sponsorship may be the preference. For a much smaller number, conversion to academy status may be a strategic response to issues of financial viability.
We have advised on over 300 academy conversions (since the earliest projects in 2004). We also advise university clients on UTC projects, the Education Funding Agency on the free schools programme and the Department of Education on aspects of the academies programme. We have a good working relationship with the Department and work hard to make sure we understand their policy approach to specific issues.
We have worked with a number of independent schools on their sponsorship of academies. We have also worked with a number of independent schools joining the academies programme, including some of the very first independent schools to opt for conversion.
All of this experience enables us to deliver the kind of strategic advice that our clients expect of us, together with the kind of structured approach to implementing sponsorship projects that enables us to deliver them on time and on a cost effective basis.
VWV's education practice enjoys a stellar reputation in the market as a one-stop shop.