This reply from TKAT (8th April 2014) is very helpful in illustrating the kinds of arrangements which exist, and the legal constraints on transfers of school land freeholds:
Please find below a summary of the how TKAT holds the school sites for its academies:
• TKAT holds a 125 year lease of 29 school sites.
• TKAT holds the freehold of 7 school sites.
• There is one TKAT academy where TKAT holds the freehold of part of the site and part of the site is held under a 125 Year Lease (due to amalgamation of two different categories of school to form a single primary academy).
• There is one TKAT academy where the school site is held under a Tenancy at Will pending grant of a 125 year lease (due to Local Authority registering freehold of land).
• There is one TKAT academy where the school site is held under a short lease pending grant of a 125 year lease (due to Local Authority carrying out development works).
• TKAT holds one school site under a Land Supplemental Agreement (due to this being a church school and land being retained by trustees and occupied by TKAT by way of a licence to occupy).
TKAT cannot lease land to any of its Academies as these are not separate legal entities and are therefore unable to hold land themselves.
Please note the manner in which each school site is transferred to TKAT when the school converts to academy status is governed by the Academies Act 2010 and the DfE’s Land Transfer Advice and the prior approval of the DfE must be obtained. The manner of transfer is determined by the type of School and the land arrangements in place prior to conversion. The freehold of a school site has only transferred to TKAT where it was previously held by the Governing Body of the school not where the freehold is held by the Local Authority. Where the freehold of land is transferred a restriction must be entered against the title at the Land Registry to prevent any disposal without the prior consent of the Secretary of State for Education.
Please find a link to the DfE’s Land Transfer Advice here which you may find useful – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/254887/land_transfer_advice_april_2013.pdf.