Aladair is correct in saying that it depends on who owned the land prior to conversion.
For community schools (and most likely voluntary-controlled schools) the local authority would have owned the land and this would remain the property of the LA being the subject of a 125 Year lease to the academy.
For voluntary aided schools the foundation or diocese would have owned the land. Again this land would most likely be the subject of a 125 year lease or the freehold could be transferred to the new academy trust.
For the majority of foundation schools the governing body would have been the owner of the land, with in some cases a charitable foundation being the owner of part or all of it; depending upon whether the land was bought originally with either public funds (e.g. by the LA) or private funds (as would be case for many long-standing endowed schools) For foundation schools the freehold of the “publicly-funded” land has necessarily been transferred to the new academy trust. As the governing body of the former foundation school would have ceased to exist at the time of conversion to academy status, if this transfer had taken place, then the land and buildings of the school would no longer have had an owner!!
As the governing body of the former foundation school would have ceased to exist at the time of conversion to academy status, if this transfer had NOT taken place, then the land and buildings of the school would no longer have had an owner.
Let’s be clear about this. A converter academy trust will only own the land and buildings of the school if the predecessor school was not owned by the local authourity; i.e. for academies that were formerly foundation schools without a foundation (where the governing body owned the land) or voluntary aided schools / foundation schools with a foundation (where the diocese or the charity of the school would have owned the land).
For all of the community schools that have converted it is still the local authority that owns the freehold to the land, which is leased to the academy trust for 125 years at a peppercorn rent.
Consequently it is only academy trusts which replaced foundation or voluntary-aided schools that have the opportunity to sell land. They do not, however, have the power to do this without the agreement of the secretary of state. And then they can only sell it to make improvements to the facilities provided at the school. Any surplus funds would have to be given up to the secretary of state.
Indeed the situation for these schools has not changed with converting to an academy. When they were foundation or voluntary aided schools exactly the same situation existed. So no changes there then!
I recently checked with land registry and it looks as though the Academy near me belongs to the academy trust. The Chief Ex./Education of this area states that the council has no rights to the buildings or land.
A proposal that land and buildings owned by Councils on behalf of us all, and that we have paid for over the years, at some point in the distant future could I think be transferred to a private organisation.
This in my opinion is the real reason for this policy – the transfer of assets from the public to the private sector. Disgraceful!