Blake Morgan advises first sixth form college to convert to academy status

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Education sector specialists from Blake Morgan have assisted the first sixth form college in England to convert to academy status.

Chris Williams, a Partner in the firm’s Commercial Services team who specialises in the education sector, led a team working on behalf of Hereford Sixth Form College, which officially joined the academy programme this week.

It is anticipated that Hereford will be the first of a series of sixth form colleges to convert. The Sixth Form Colleges' Association has indicated that 18 of 90 similar colleges in England are already at an advanced stage of the process to become an 16-19 academy and more than two thirds of colleges in the sector are actively considering whether to convert.

The option for sixth form colleges to convert to academy status was announced by the then Chancellor, George Osborne, in his 2015 spending review.

It is significant because the government refunds the VAT costs of schools and academies but not those of sixth form colleges – a situation described as a “tax on learning”.

Taking up the option to convert to academy status can therefore save an average sixth form college upwards of £385,000 a year in VAT costs.

Matthew Smith, Head of Blake Morgan's Education Sector said: “The removal of the hurdle of VAT is potentially hugely beneficial to sixth form colleges. Colleges which wish to convert to academy status will feel that it puts them on a more level playing field, meaning that more investment can be made where it counts – in the education of students.

“The step taken by Hereford Sixth Form College is a significant milestone and it’s one which we anticipate that a number of other sixth form colleges will wish to take, if they judge that it’s right for them and their students.”

Jonathan Godfrey, Principal of Hereford Sixth Form College, said: “We are delighted to become the first Sixth Form College to academise and would like to thank the team at Blake Morgan for guiding us through the process.

"With their experience in the education sector, Blake Morgan was an obvious choice when selecting a legal advisor. We were impressed by their professionalism, commitment and ability to complete the conversion process successfully."