Key property provisions of an academy conversion

The property aspects of an academy conversion can be more complicated than you may expect.  There are a number of reasons for this.  No matter whether the property occupied by the school is freehold /leasehold or registered/unregistered there needs to be a transfer of the freehold or a lease of the land and buildings.  The type of transaction will depend on what type of school you are and the ownership history of the school land.

So why convert?
Schools with academy status have more freedom and flexibility.  They can decide how the school days and terms are structured; how to discipline, develop and assess staff and have greater flexibility from the Local Authority and in following the National Curriculum. 

Voluntary aided/foundation schools
Land and buildings are always owned by the governing body.  Once the academy trust has been set up (incorporated) the freehold title will need to be transferred to the trust, although this will be subject to the Secretary of State giving a direction for the transfer.

Other schools
The Local Authority will typically grant a 125 year lease to the academy trust on a nominal rent.  The Secretary of State has the power to make a scheme for the transfer of the freehold title of the relevant land and buildings to the academy trust.  Before it will give its approval to the conversion of the school to an academy, it will require that there is clarity relating to the arrangements for the occupation by the academy of the land and buildings post conversion.

Investigating title
The title to the land will need to be checked to see:

  • who owns it, locating the title deeds to establish who is in occupation of the school property;
  • what liabilities apply to the title;
  • what rights and liabilities the academy trust is taking on;
  • that the requirements of the Department for Education can be satisfied.

Common problems

  • Lack of comprehensive records about ownership of their site.
  • Registered ownership does not mirror occupancy.
  • Unknown school boundaries.
  • Shared use of facilities and buildings by third parties or neighbouring nurseries/infant/junior schools.

If you are considering converting to an academy, please contact a member of the education team on 01206 217317.  We would be glad to meet and talk to your head teacher and governors.

Emma Wraight
​01268 244149
emma.wraight@birkettlong.co.uk  

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.