Schools tsar fears academisation will lead to education funding ‘washing’ into lawyers’ pockets

Sir David Carter, the new national schools commissioner, urges schools not to pay lawyers to help with academy conversion

The government’s schools tsar fears academisation could lead to law firms benefitting from education funding.

Sir David Carter is keen that schools avoid paying lawyers to help with academy conversion. He suggested that local authorities could help in the legal process of transferring responsibility for the state schools they currently support.

The recently appointed national schools commissioner was speaking at the Academies Show in London today, where he said the government would provide extra resources to help with academisation.

“We have to provide some capacity for local authorities to help us with the conversion process and we have to make that a hell of a lot simpler and a hell of a lot cheaper,” Sir David said.

“The other issue is that the extra money we are given to help us to achieve this will just wash through into law firms and I want to get as much as that into school classrooms as we can. There is something to be done about growing the people to be able to do this.”

‘Conversion cost is too high’

The schools commissioner added that although the cost of conversion had “fallen dramatically”, the average cost of £32,000 was still too high.

“There is no reason why it needs to be £32,000 and people who are better qualified to talk about legal transfer [than me] will say it is not that complicated a piece of work.”

Sir David was responding to a question from an employee at North Yorkshire County Council, who said schools were “panicking” over the government’s proposals and warned that there was not enough capacity within local authorities to convert so many schools.

The commissioners’ comments were backed by Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governors’ Association, who said there was “no need” for a school to pay money for legal advice.

“You want to avoid paying a lot of money in legal fees, there is no need. You do not have to pay a law firm to set up your schemes of delegation,” Ms Knight said.

Sir David also urged schools not to rush into making any hasty decisions about their future.

He made his comments on the day that education secretary Nicky Morgan tried to reassure schools over the government’s plans to turn every school in the country into an academy by 2022.

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