Becoming a 16 to 19 Academy: advice for sixth-form colleges

Government guidance was released earlier this year for sixth form colleges who are interested in becoming an Academy.  The guidance indicates that the aim of allowing conversion to Academy status is to encourage sixth form colleges, with their focus on academic programmes, to partner more effectively with schools. The first step is to express an interest (on a no commitment basis) by contacting the Education Funding Agency (EFA)/Skills Funding Agency (SFA) Joint Area Review Delivery Unity (JARDU) at area.reviews@education.gsi.gov-.uk. An EFA lead will then be allocated to you so that you can discuss your interest together.

The three options for sixth form colleges wishing to become Academies are as follows:

  1. Create and lead a Multi Academy Trust (MAT);
  2. Join an existing MAT; or
  3. Establish a Single Academy Trust (SAT).

Prior to conversion however, the guidance explains various issues specific to sixth form colleges that need to be considered:

  1. It is expected that 80% or more of students at a sixth form college will be within the 16 to 19 age range. Any sixth form college that does not meet this criterion is unable to convert in its current form;
  2. If the college is currently receiving SFA funding and wish to retain this post conversion, this will need to be specified as part of the application.
  3. Colleges offering franchised courses on behalf of a Higher Education (HE) provider will be able to continue to do so post conversion. Student enrolling post conversion are still eligible for student support. However, new contracts will need to be put in place with the HE provider to continue this agreement post conversion.
  4. If the sixth form college provides its own HE courses they are no longer eligible for funding direct from HEFCE.
  5. Students enrolling on any HE courses post conversion will no longer be automatically eligible for student loans. Alternatively, the academy can apply for specific course designation to allow such students to receive student support.
  6. For 16 to 19 academies, non-EFA licences (Tier 4) are not permitted. However, any non-EFA students that are currently enrolled at the college while it becomes an academy are able to continue studying until their leave expires.

Please see the guidance for more information which sets out the criteria and process for making an application to become an Academy. It includes practical and operational information and advice colleges need when judging whether becoming a 16 – 19 academy is the best option in their individual circumstances.

For more information please contact Rosie Phillips, Trainee Legal Executive in the Education team on rosie.phillips@michelmores.com or 01392 687774