In the current uncertain climate, many schools will be looking to ‘future proof’ themselves and review their strategy. This might include making organisational changes which are deemed a ‘material change.’
It is important to remember that when material changes are proposed for independent schools, there is a legal requirement to seek approval from the Department for Education (DfE) before that change is made.
By way of reminder, the following are considered a material change:
- A change of school address
- Change of proprietor
- Change to the maximum number of registered pupils
- Addition or removal of boarding
- Change from single sex to co-ed or the reverse
- Change to the registered age-range of the school
- Admitting one or more SEN pupils.
The DfE have the power to approve or reject these changes when they are applied for. As a practical point, an application for a material change must be made before the change is implemented in case of the chance of rejection. The DfE may remove a school from the register if there is a significant change that has not been approved. An appeal can be submitted if a material change is rejected.
It’s worth noting that an application for a material change may also trigger an inspection to consider any implications of that change. This will depend on the specific circumstances in each case. Inspectors will report to the DfE on whether or not the material change is likely to prevent the school meeting the relevant independent school standards.
When considering the timing of any proposed changes it is important to factor in this application to your timeline.