Steps to follow to become an academy sponsor.

Sponsors are responsible for:

  • the performance and finances of their school (or group of schools)
  • setting up the academy trust
  • selecting the governing body
  • recruiting the headteacher

Sponsors work closely with the governing body to run the academy.

Regional schools commissioners (RSCs) aim to match sponsors with schools in the sponsor’s local area.

Academy sponsors

An academy sponsor is an organisation or person who has received approval from the Department for Education (DfE) to support an underperforming academy or group of academies.

Sponsors work with the academies they support through the academy trust. An academy trust is the charitable company that runs an academy or a group of academies.

Any of the following can apply to become an academy sponsor:

  • schools
  • further education colleges
  • sixth-form colleges
  • universities
  • businesses and entrepreneurs
  • educational foundations
  • charities and philanthropists
  • faith communities

Academy sponsors are responsible for:

  • setting up the academy trust
  • appointing the leadership team
  • selecting the governing body
  • monitoring the academy’s performance and taking action where necessary
  • reporting to DfE about the academy’s performance
  • involving parents and the wider community in the academy’s work through events, mentoring and business links
  • making sure the academy spends its funding effectively
  • working with the academy trust, governing body, principal and senior leadership team

If you don’t comply with your responsibilities as sponsor, the Secretary of State for Education can remove your sponsor status.

1. Before you apply

Contact your RSC

If you’re interested in becoming an academy sponsor, you should first contact your RSC office to discuss your ideas.

If your RSC agrees that you should apply, DfE will nominate a ‘sponsor lead’ to work with you. Your sponsor lead will ask what sort of academy you wish to sponsor so they can advise on the sponsor opportunities in your region. They’ll also ask if you are already working with a particular school that may need a sponsor.

Get consent

If you’re an academy, you must ask your academy trust to pass a resolution to show that they agree with your plans to become a sponsor.

If you’re a state-funded school that isn’t an academy, you’ll need to do the following before you can apply to become a sponsor:

If your school has a religious character, you’ll also need to get approval from your relevant religious body (for example, the local diocese for a church school) before you can apply.

Other organisations or individuals don’t need to show that they have consent.

Read the good practice guidance for academy trusts

We also recommend that you read ‘Multi-academy trusts: good practice guidance’ before you begin the application process.

This guide gives more detail on what RSCs will look for when assessing your application.

2. Prepare to apply

Schools and academies

As part of the sponsor application process, you’ll need to show:

  • that you have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve as a sponsor and of how you’ll achieve it
  • that you have the necessary financial expertise and ability to plan strategically
  • evidence of how you would support an underperforming school to improve and that you’ll be able to do so
  • that you have a strong track record of school improvement – you could explain how you’ve worked with other schools or give details of your current work in your multi-academy trust
  • that you plan to establish clear governance and accountability structures

If you’re a school or academy, we recommend that you inform parents and the local community that you intend to become an academy sponsor. You should consider their views before applying.

Other organisations

Other organisations applying to become a sponsor need to prove that they have the skills, expertise and ability to help schools improve. This includes universities.

If you’re an overseas sponsor, you’ll also need to show that you have good knowledge of the British education system.


If you wish to become a sponsor in an individual capacity, you’ll need to demonstrate at least one of the following:

  • that you have the skills and experience to help schools improve
  • that others who have a proven track record in helping schools improve will work with your trust to support underperforming schools

You’ll also need to show:

  • how you would establish the academy trust and finance its operations in the initial stages
  • what your role would be in carrying out the responsibilities of a sponsor, and who would help with this

3. Apply to become an academy sponsor

You should fill in the academy sponsor application form and submit it to us.

You should work with your sponsor lead to complete your application.

Your RSC will send you a letter to let you know the outcome of your application.

4. Become an academy sponsor

If your application is successful, your RSC will select an appropriate school that needs a sponsor. If this school isn’t an academy, it will have to convert to academy status before you can become its sponsor.

Your RSC will ask you to explain what specific support you would offer the school and to provide evidence that you can give this support.

Your RSC will also discuss the plans for the school with the local headteacher board (HTB). If the RSC agrees that you’re the right sponsor for the academy, they will approve the match.

You’ll officially become the school’s sponsor once the school has signed its funding agreement and has become an academy.

Converter academies can also join your trust, if the RSC agrees.

Read about the RSC’s approach to sponsor matching (PDF, 185KB, 4 pages).

5. Grants

Once the school you’re going to sponsor has been granted an academy order (ie confirmation that it can become an academy), you’ll receive a grant to cover the new academy’s pre-opening costs.

Read guidance on sponsored academy funding to find out what type of start-up grant you’ll receive.

6. Support

There are several places you can go to for support and guidance on developing your multi-academy trust.

Published 25 March 2014
Last updated 30 September 2019 + show all updates

  1. Added the ‘RSC’s approach to sponsor matching’ document.
  2. Deleted paragraph: ‘If the school you’ve been matched with is a ‘school causing concern’, your RSC will name you as the school’s sponsor as soon as they’ve approved the match. Schools causing concern are schools that are ‘coasting’, have been judged inadequate by Ofsted, or have failed to comply with a warning notice from their RSC.’
  3. Added a link to good practice guidance for multi-academy trusts.
  4. Added a link to resources on expanding your academy trust. Also clarified step 4 ‘Become a sponsor’.
  5. Updated information about what academy trusts need to do before they apply. Also clarified that sponsors need final approval from their regional schools commissioner to sponsor a school.
  6. Updated guidance and links to resources.
  7. First published.