Charity Commission will retain role in governance of academy schools

Academies will be exempt charities from 2011, but regulator will continue to advise Department for Education

The Charity Commission will continue to advise the Department for Education on the governance of academy schools after they become exempt charities in January 2011.

Under the Academies Act, which was passed in July, all academy schools will be exempt charities and therefore no longer regulated by the commission. They will instead be supervised by a principal regulator, widely expected to be the Young People's Learning Agency, which is funded by the Department for Education.

The previous government dropped plans to make academies exempt charities in February 2010, after the commission described it as a "retrograde step, at odds with the direction of government policy on exempt charities". But the new government has revived and implemented the policy.

A spokeswoman for the commission said it had been concerned about academies being exempt charities but, after meetings with officials at the Department for Education, it had received reassurances that it would be consulted on any changes in academies' governing documents that were "key to charitable status".

She said this included making sure academies operated for the public benefit, were independent and accountable to the public and operated consistently within charity law. The commission will also work with the department and the principal regulator to make sure charitable trusts connected with schools that become academies could continue to fund the schools.

The spokeswoman also confirmed that although the Academies Act's provision that academies will be exempt charities does not come into force until 1 January 2011, those that are not registered with the commission will not be expected to register for the interim period. She said the delay was to allow time for the principal regulator to be set up.

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