Skip to main content

Schools Academy Conversion Form - Service Assessment

This service is to allow schools who wish to convert to academy status to submit applications online, quickly and correctly. The form can be saved at any time and does not need to be completed in a single sitting. The primary audience is schools. The online service will replace the offline application.

Department / Agency:
Department for Education

Date of Assessment:

Assessment stage:
Beta Review

Result of Assessment:
Not passed

Lead Assessor:
M. Harrington

Service Manager:
L. Rugg

Digital Leader:
S. Bruce

Assessment Report

After consideration the assessment panel have concluded the Schools Academy Conversion Form does not yet meet the service standard at Beta and should not be given formal Beta status and a GOV.UK start page at this time.


The panel would like to highlight that while this assessment was not passed by following the recommendations below a pass could be achieved.

The Schools Academy Conversion form did not pass for the following reasons:

- User needs: Good work was done to understand user needs at discovery and a positive example was given of how the login process was redesigned to meet the needs of the user. However, this user research hasn’t been continued and there is no regular testing in place.

- The team: While the service team is small they have clearly worked hard to deliver the service so far. The lack of design, content, user research and testing support means that the team have to support many different roles. The lack of access to specific expertise impacts the ability for the team to meet some key points of the standard.

- Software, Privacy, Tools and Standards: The service team do not currently share non-sensitive source code, design artefacts or tests as open source, doing so would mean these could be re-used by other organisations. It should also be noted, that while using an online forms service might be suitable for the front end replacement of paper and phone it is likely to introduce design and process constraints which are hard to overcome when looking at end to end service re-design.

- Improving the service: The software allows for quick changes and edits by the service team but the lack of a user researcher or research plan mean iterative improvements are not being driven by real users.

- Design: Although there has been no designer for the service the team have worked to build the form with the look of GOV.UK. However, advice on design patterns from the service manual has not been closely followed and there is still work to do to improve the design to meet the GOV.UK standard that would be expected of a public Beta. Specifically the team should look at the following areas:

  • JavaScript / progressive enhancement - The site relies on JavaScript to display. If JavaScript is turned off the site fails to display anything, despite there being HTML served to the browser. Teams should be creating services that work for everybody, regardless of browser capabilities. A lack of JavaScript should not impede the use of the service and JavaScript and other additional technologies should only be used to enhance the experience. The use of JavaScript also affects the accessibility of the service. All pages are shown at a single URL, the back button does not behave as most users expect. Each page should have its own URL, a unique page title which explains the purpose of the page and the respective headings alongside this. If JavaScript is used to navigate or load pages (on a service this simple, it is not technically necessary) then functionality should be put in place to update the browser history and page title.
  • Modal popups - It is strongly recommended that modal popups are not used at all as these present significant usability and accessibility issues. A separate sign in and registration flow could straightforwardly be incorporated into the process.
  • Navigation, Form Design and Headers, Footers and Typography - A number of specific concerns and recommendations were made by the panel in these areas.

The team will need full control over the front end to address these issues.  The panel were advised a non-JavaScript enabled version will be included in the next release from the developer. The panel will expect to see evidence of this either having taken place or of an agreed timeline when the service returns.

- Analysis and Benchmarking: Google Analytics has been instrumented but little has been done to implement goals/conversion funnels. These are important to better understanding the service and meeting the requirement to publish the KPIs on the Performance Platform.

- Digital take-up: The team has no plan in place for digital take-up and have requested advice from GDS.


- User needs: The team should put together a plan for user research and  ideally should have access to a dedicated user researcher.  This is a relatively small service (20-30 applications per week) and the research should be scaled to this but without research it is unclear where the iterative improvements will come from.

- The team and Improving the service: Support a multidisciplinary team to deliver the best possible product. The team should have access to specialist skills in the department to provide expertise in the areas of user research, design, content design and digital analytics. These skills will be of benefit not just to this service, but will enable all digital services the department are developing to meet the standard.

- Software, Privacy, Tools and Standards: The service needs to own their URLs, not the underlying technology so they could more easily switch suppliers if the needs arose. The panel also recommends automated testing (especially as the number of forms increases), service monitoring and a plan for how to operate a service which could go down or be abused (DDoS). The team need to understand and be able to explain how long they will hold the data provided and the purpose of this.

- Design: The team would benefit from a designer on the team to help with improving the user experience and form design. The team will need full control of the front end for this. The form should also work without JavaScript and must be tested for accessibility.

- Analysis and Benchmarking: If keeping Google Analytics this should be upgraded to Google Analytics Universal. IP anonymisation should be implemented and data sharing with third parties turned off if not done already. The team should start discussions with the Performance Platform team regarding a dashboard for the service.

- Assisted Digital: The team clearly understood assisted digital principles and had good plans in place to provide support through Project Leads. They should do more research to understand the number of schools which will need this support and the channels they will use. They need to develop their plan to measure the assisted digital support and gather feedback from users in beta, to ensure that the support will fully meet the assisted digital standard in live.


The panel thought that the team presented answers openly and succinctly at assessment and have made good progress in implementing a new digital approach in their department. The form is close to meeting the standard for Beta. In particular the panel were very impressed by the work of such a small team and how they are using agile in spite of challenges. The recommendations for a multidisciplinary team are there as the panel believe additions to the team would provide significant support and expertise which will be necessary to help the existing team improve the product. In particular the panel thought the points on assisted digital were very well answered and it is good to see that support is already in place and well on the way to meeting the standard.

Digital by Default Service Standard criteria

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 No 2 No
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 No 8 Yes
9 No 10 Yes
11 No 12 Yes
13 No 14 Yes
15 No 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 No
19 No 20 No
21 No 22 No
23 No 24 No
25 No 26 Yes