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How to Sponsor an Academy


Wealthy individuals, companies, faith groups, universities and even public schools are sponsoring academies. The association of school and sponsor ensures a high profile and Britain’s best known sponsors include Peter Vardy (Emanuel College, Gateshead) the late Sir Clive Bourne (Mossbourne Academy, Hackney) and Lord Harris (City Academy, Peckham and four other south London academies in South Norwood, Crystal Palace, Bermondsey and East Dulwich).

Star Quality

  • Most sponsors will have no experience in running schools and will engage educational advisors to support them.
  • What all sponsors have in common is a vision and a commitment to education.
  • The sponsor’s role is to ensure school buildings are properly designed and equipped for education in the 21st century.
  • Sponsors make a significant contribution to the capital costs of the new academy — on average around £2mn.
  • The government provides the balance of funding for capital costs increasingly through its Building Schools for the Future Programme.
  • The sponsor will have a strong influence on the academy's vision and ethos.
  • Sponsors must create the structures for governing and managing the new school. Their role is to bring the best of private-sector best practice and innovative management to the education sector.

The stability and consistency brought by sponsorship is often in marked contrast to the lack of leadership experienced by the failing schools that academies have replaced. Through their involvement with the governing body, the sponsor’s support is vital as the academy develops.

The sponsors

The University of the West of England is one of three backers for City Academy, Bristol. And a collaboration between Liverpool University and the educational publisher Granada Learning is also in the pipeline.

Another educational publisher, Thomas Telford Online, is one of several sponsors of an academy at West Bromwich. The company was set up in 2000 to sell the online learning materials developed by Thomas Telford School.

The Edge Foundation, the organisation that promotes excellence in vocational education and Sir Peter Lampl’s education think tank, the Sutton Trust sponsor academies. The United Church Schools Trust — which runs independent, fee-paying schools with a Christian ethos is another major player.

Companies and Business leaders

Whilst most sponsorship is done by individuals or through trusts, a large number of academies are being sponsored by companies. Two of the most influential, RM and Microsoft are involved in educational ICT and aim at promoting leading edge educational technology. Other sponsors include property development companies Chelsfield plc, Bee Bee Developments, the financial services company UBS, Toshiba and Perkins Engines, a Peterborough-based company.

Individual sponsors include Lord Harris of Peckham, the millionaire Chairman of the CarpetRight floor-coverings chain, Sir David Garrard, the former Chairman of the Minerva property group and Roger De Haan, former owner of the over-fifties-services provider Saga.

Sponsoring a specialist school

Specialist schools are an important part of the government's plans to raise standards in secondary education. Any maintained secondary school in England can apply for specialist status in one of ten specialisms: arts, business and enterprise, engineering, humanities, languages, mathematics and computing, music, science, sports and technology. Schools can combine any two specialisms. Specialist schools must meet the National Curriculum requirements and deliver a broad and balanced education to all pupils.

Specialist schools need sponsors. The Specialist Schools Programme (SSP) helps schools and sponsors by guiding them through the application process. Once private money has been pledged the government will match that funding. Most schools will have to raise £50,000 in unconditional sponsorship. But schools with less than 500 pupils, including special schools, need to raise less sponsorship — equivalent to £100 per pupil, or a minimum of £20,000.

Sponsorship money goes to support new or refurbished specialist teaching facilities, for example a state-of-the-art gym and sports hall, a performing-arts studio, language lab, IT suite or a new business-studies teaching block. There are currently 2,695 designated specialist schools. Specialist schools represent around 85 per cent of all secondary schools. Over 2.5 million students are now taught in specialist schools — over half of all students attending secondary schools. There are specialists in all areas of England, and every local education authority that has secondary schools has at least one specialist school.

The government has set a target of virtually all mainstream schools becoming specialist — out of a total of around 3,500 — by 2008, and has lifted the cap on the number of schools that can specialise. The target for special schools is for 100 to gain either a curriculum or SEN specialism by 2008.

Specialist schools form a valuable relationship with their sponsors, and links with local businesses play an important part in developing the specialist school’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Sponsorship is not just a one-off financial contribution. Sponsors maintain close involvement in the running of the school. Sponsors help to instil in pupils a spirit of enterprise, self-reliance, responsibility and motivation, which will help to prepare them for success in their working lives. Sponsors can also provide valuable contributions in relation to curriculum development and delivery, work experience, and governance.

An easy guide for sponsors

  • Schools are not allowed to accept sponsorship directly from companies with which they have an existing or potential commercial relationship (Although certain exceptions are made for companies which have an LEA-wide contract).
  • Companies involved in providing services for schools can only sponsor on a ‘blind’ basis through a DfES approved stakeholder.
  • Sponsorship can come from charitable foundations, businesses without direct educational interests, individuals and schools’ own fundraising efforts.
  • A sponsor cannot use the relationship with the school in any advertising. SSP has clear rules and guidelines.
  • Certain sorts of sponsor could be controversial or inappropriate — for example a tobacco or a drinks company. A sponsor should fit with the ethos and culture of the school.
  • Sponsors must be able to play a role in raising standards by improving the teaching and learning in the school’s specialist subject.
  • Sponsors can contribute £50,000 over two financial years, but the school must hold the money in a separate account to support the capital project when required.
  • When I have raised the required level of sponsorship from acceptable sources according to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) guidelines, can I then seek other additional funding? Sponsorship over and above the bidding threshold of £50,000 can take the form of cash, goods, services and equipment. In general, additional financial support will serve to strengthen the bid and should be written into the plans and approved by the governing body.
  • What if a sponsor fails to honour their pledge? The school will be expected to find replacement sponsorship for any pledges not received within the required timescales. Please contact the specialist schools finance team on 01325 391037 to discuss next steps. Any replacement sponsorship must be cleared by the department.


The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) is the lead advisory body to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). It provides advice and support for schools and for sponsors wishing to support academies.

SSAT has two main offices, both in central London. The chairman and a small number of staff are based at our Queens Gate office, whilst the chief executive and the majority of the staff are housed in the 16th Floor of the Millbank Tower.

The trust has a dedicated website for schools at Here you can find online resources case studies, classroom aids and contributions from schools covering all aspects of the curriculum.


Saskia Murk Jansen
Head of Sponsor Relations
Tel: 020 7851 7336

Anne Collins
Academy Sponsor Relations
Tel: 020 7590 7448

Academy Sponsor Relations
Specialist Schools and Academies Trust
37 Queen's Gate
London SW7 5HR

Specialist schools

For advice and support, schools should contact the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (Tel: 020 7802 2377; Email or the Youth Sport Trust School Support Unit (Tel: 01509 226600; Email: