First sixth-form college to reopen as academy within weeks

More new academies expected in spring, as conversion pioneer Hereford Sixth Form College hails ‘straightforward’ transition process

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The first sixth-form college to convert to an academy is on track to complete the process within the next two weeks, TES understands.

Hereford Sixth Form College is hoping to convert on 1 February, which is likely to make it the first institution to take on academy status .

About two-thirds of sixth-form colleges have expressed an interest in converting, according to the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA), with several more set to complete the process this spring. Minister Lord Nash told the SFCA’s annual conference on Wednesday that a fifth of colleges had already started the formal process of academy conversion.

Hereford – the inaugural winner of the sixth-form college of the year title at the TES FE Awards 2016 – has found conversion to be “relatively straightforward” because it does not have debts and has opted to create a standalone single-academy trust, according to principal Jonathan Godfrey.

‘Technical’ hold-ups

The college’s conversion had been due to take place on 1 January, but it was delayed because of “technical issues” related to funding agreements for converting colleges, with all the other hurdles having been cleared. “The reasons which led the sector to conclude that academisation was in the best interests of our colleges remain, and our experience of the process has been that it is not burdensome,” Dr Godfrey said.

The Department for Education refused to confirm the date of Hereford’s conversion, but TES understands that several other colleges are also at an advanced stage of the process.

New College Pontefract, the first to state its interest in academisation last year, had also hoped to relaunch as an academy on 1 January. Principal Pauline Hagen said this was now likely to take place in April or May. “The trouble is that we are waiting for policies and procedures to be developed. But there is a real will to get it over the line as quickly as possible,” she added.

The policy change allowing sixth-form colleges to convert to academy status was announced by then chancellor George Osborne in November 2015.

This is an edited version of an article in the 20 January edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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