PROPOSED MULTI ACADEMY TRUST
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS FROM PARENT & CARER MEETINGS
The three schools proposing to establish a multi academy trust ran a coordinated programme of parent and carer consultation meetings as follows;
Tuesday, April 27th 2pm & 6pm Queen’s Manor Primary School
Wednesday, April 28th 2pm & 6pm Sulivan Primary School
Thursday, April 29th 2pm & 6pm Fulham Primary School
This document is a summary of the questions asked at those meetings, the answers given and where helpful further answers have been added. The acronyms after the question indicate at which meeting a question was asked. The questions have been collated into themed sections.
A. STRATEGY & PLANNING
1. Why convert now when the Government announced the deadline was 2022?
The schools have been discussing establishing a multi academy trust since 2015 and well before the Government’s recent announcement. The schools are clear that formal partnership through the multi academy trust will offer important benefits for the schools and so should be secured now. Also by moving now the schools retain control over their future and won’t be subject to outside imposition.
2. What is the timeline for conversion and is there a risk it will be turned down like two years ago? Why is the consultation only 4 weeks, which feels rushed? (QM & S)
The ideal date for schools to convert is September 1stc 2016 and therefore the timetable for conversion has worked back from that date. A four (4) academic week consultation period is standard. It was started after the Easter holidays to avoid spanning a long break. The Department for Education has already approved the schools’ applications.
3. What is the difference between a sponsored academy and a convertor academy? (QM)
Convertor academies are schools that are considered strong and able to handle the responsibilities of academy status. Fulham, Queen’s Manor and Sulivan primary Schools are all judged at least Good by Ofsted and are therefore convertor academies. A sponsored academy is typically a school that has had a history of under-performance that needs the support of an external organisation, called a sponsor, to secure the necessary improvements.
4. How will the promised benefits be secured? (QM) How will the partnership activities be organised at a MAT and school level? (S)
The Leadership Group of Headteachers are already planning the activities for September 2016 onwards to ensure that the promised benefits are secured. These activities include inset days, joint professional development sessions and opportunities for staff to work together in small partnership groups. The Leadership Group of Headteachers will be meeting weekly to plan and review and are accountable to the MAT Board for securing the promised benefits.
5. Why didn’t the schools federate? (QM)
Federation has two key disadvantages. First it is based on a single Governing Body for all three schools rather than individual Local Governing Bodies within a MAT. Second, it requires an Executive Headteacher to be in charge of the three schools. Both these were unacceptable to the current Governing Bodies.
6. Why are parents only being told now if Governing Bodies have been discussing for some time? (QM)
It is the role of Governing Bodies to investigate future strategies and develop plans. The issue of academy status is complex and the Governing Bodies needed to explore it carefully. Only in January 2016 did the three Governing Bodies each reach a decision to jointly develop proposals for a multi academy trust. In March 2016 the three Governing Bodies considered recommendations from a working group of Governors and Headteachers for a proposed multi academy trust. At that point it was appropriate to consult more widely. It is worth noting that parents and carers are represented through their elected Parent Governors and therefore have been represented in the discussions.
7. Will other schools be able to join the MAT? Will other schools be joining the Trust? (QM & S)
The schools expect it will take at least a year for the Trust to settle down. So new schools are unlikely to join until the second year. There is an expectation from the DfE that the Trust will take on other schools and support under-performing schools. However, that will be a decision for the Trust Directors and will be based on compatibility of vision, ethos, vales and approach and the capacity and capability of the Trust to support other schools.
8. Why now for Sulivan as it has been saved from LA closure? (S)
Because the school is still vulnerable to a Local Authority decision to close any school whereas the Local Authority cannot close an academy.
9. How is this going to benefit the children on a day-t0-day basis? (S)
If the schools convert to academy status and establish the MAT the children will still be in their same uniform, being taught in in the same classrooms by the same teaching staff. So they won’t notice any immediate difference. Each school will continue to strive for an outstanding education for all our children.
However, in time the children may notice changes and improvements in the way that they learn, resulting from the greater training opportunities given to teaching staff to innovate and improve the children’s education. In particular, they will benefit from the sharing of excellent practice in teaching and learning between the partner schools. They will also have wider opportunities to learn new skills and experience new activities.
10. Did you consider joining a secondary school? (S)
No. The schools believe that primary schools are best placed to support each other.
11. What happens if parents say NO during consultation? (F)
It will depend on the number of parents that respond and their reasons for saying No. The Governing Body would use its judgement to decide whether it constituted a significant objection that would make them re-consider the proposal.
12. What evidence is there for the success of the academy programme? (F)
The schools are focused on working within the Government’s clear policy for all schools to become academies for the benefit of their children. The benefits of formal partnership through the MAT are clear and the focus of the Headteachers is to secure the promised outcomes.
13. Why would a good school need to change? (F)
All schools need to continually improve and the multi academy trust will enable this more effectively than if the schools remained as individual Local Authority maintained schools.
B. TEACHING, LEARNING & PERFORMANCE
14. How will the school curriculum change if academies don’t have to follow the National Curriculum Will the curriculum remain broad and balanced? (QM &S)
The schools will still be judged on pupil outcomes and overall performance. So, the curriculum will continue to be broad, balanced, appropriate to each school. It will continue to be closely aligned to the National Curriculum but not restrictively so.
15. What happens if one school gets into difficulty? What happens if one school fails an Ofsted? (QM &S)
The purpose of the MAT is to prevent schools, getting into difficulty through greater scrutiny, challenge and support. The MAT Board has a responsibility to intervene when schools are under-performing and has a number of powers to enable rapid improvement.
16. How will schools be inspected by Ofsted? (F)
Academies are inspected in the same way as maintained schools. The Secretary of State has announced that schools and academies judged to be ‘Outstanding’ will no longer be subject to routine school inspection. The performance of all schools will continue to be monitored and if there are signs of deterioration, or other factors are a cause for concern, these could trigger an inspection. There are plans for MATs to be inspected but it is not clear whether this means all schools are inspected at the same time.
Current policy is that academies are not inspected for the first two years after conversion unless there are causes for concern.
17. Who is the MAT accountable to?
The Trust is accountable to the Secretary of State for Education for the performance of the Trust and its member schools. The schools will still be subject to inspection by Ofsted. As Accounting Officer, the CEO has ‘a personal responsibility to Parliament and the EFA’s Accounting Officer for the financial resources under the Trust’s control and must be able to assure Parliament and the public of high standards of probity in the management of public funds..’ (Academies Finance Handbook 2015).
18. Will the MAT have to publish its financial accounts?
Yes. The MAT must publish its Trustees Report and Financial Statements on its website, as well as submitting them to Companies House, the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency.
19. How can parents hold the Directors to account? How are Governors accountable to parents?
As now parents and carers will be able to put themselves forward to elected as Parent Governors on the Local Governing Body. Parents and carers can still contact their Parent Governors to ask questions about the Trust’s affairs. If parents and carers have specific concerns they would first use the Trust complaints procedure. If at the end of this process, they were still unhappy they could contact Ofsted or the Department for Education.
20. Could continuing consultation be built into the MAT’s operation?
This will be considered by the working group of Governors and Headteachers as part of a wider Trust communications approach.
21. Who makes Trust decisions in the future?
The working group has developed a detailed scheme of delegation that sets out how plans, proposals and policies are developed and who scrutinises and approves them. Decision-making power is split between Headteachers, Leadership Group, Local Governing Bodies, Trust Committees and the Trust Board.
22. Can the DfE take a school away from the MAT?
If a school is causing serious concern, then the Secretary of State for Education has the powers to remove it from the MAT. The circumstances are set out in the Funding Agreement and DfE guidance. A school judged by Ofsted as Inadequate or requiring Special Measures would trigger intervention by the Secretary of State. However, the purpose of the MAT is to prevent schools getting into difficulty that would cause such serious concern.
23. Who will be the Members & Directors? How will they be chosen?
The working group of Governors and Headteachers from the three schools has already agreed that the Trust Board of Directors should have the right blend of expertise and skills across education, child well-being, finance, HR, property, legal affairs and strategy. Subject to Governing Bodies approval there will be a total of eleven (11) Directors, ten (10) appointed by the Members and the CEO.
Existing Governors have been invited to self-nominate to be either or Member or Director. A short-list will be agreed by the working group and presented to Governing Bodies for approval at a joint meeting on May 16th.
The Members are not actively involved in the day-to-day running of the Trust but have an important role as guardians of the Trust vision, ethos and values. They can appoint and remove Directors and only they can agree changes to legal documents such as the Articles of Association. Therefore, the working group will consider very carefully who the Members are and will seek people with a track record of involvement in school governance and community-led values.
24. Will the Members and Directors be paid?(QM, S & F)
No with the exception of the CEO who will be an employee of the Trust as Headteacher and CEO.
25. What is the role of the Local Authority?
The Local Authority will retain three important roles. First, to ensure there are sufficient schools places to meet demand. Second, to monitor the performance of all schools and academies and advise the DfE of concerns about academies. Third, to ensure adequate provision for pupils with special or additional needs.
26. What capacity, expertise and support will be put in place for the Headteachers’ who will be taking on extra responsibility Will the CEO be a super Head and give their school and advantage? (QM &S)
The Trust is very much based on all Headteachers being equal and retaining responsibility to run their schools. The Headteachers will form a Trust Leadership Group to plan and manage the programmes to raise standards.
The Trust will, however, be appointing one of the Headteachers as Trust CEO to manage its day-to-day operation. This will be part-time role (perhaps one day per week) for a fixed term alongside the appointee’s current Headteacher role with appropriate support to ensure their school is supported. At the end of the fixed term the Trust will review the arrangements and decide what is best for the next phase of the MAT.
27. Will the Headteacher need agreement from other Headteachers before they can make a decision? (S)
No. Headteachers will retain their current decision-making powers for the running of their school.
E. FINANCE & PROPERTY
28. How will the school be funded as an academy? Will the school retain its budget? (QM & F)
Academies receive the same amount of per-pupil funding as they would receive from the Local Authority as a maintained school. They also receive additional funding in the form of the Education Services Grant to cover the responsibilities of the MAT, in place of London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, and to cover the additional costs of academy status. The whole of the school budget would come direct to the school from central Government allowing the school to control the whole of their spending.
29. What happens to the land? Will the school be at risk of losing parts of the grounds as an academy? (QM & S)
The MAT enters into a 125 year lease for the school land and buildings, which gives it rights and protections to occupy the site.
30 What happens if a school gets into deficit? (QM)
One of the principles that the Governing Bodies have agreed is that 1) each school is responsible for setting and managing a balanced budget and 2) no funds are diverted between schools.
31. Do the economies of scale really exist? (QM)
Yes. The schools have already been able to secure reductions in service charges from the Local Authority as a group of three schools.
32. Will the schools be better or worse off financially? (S)
Academy status is expected to be cost-neutral.
33. How will Trust costs be shared between the three schools? (F)
The MAT’s central costs will first be funded by the Education Services Grant, the additional funding received by academies. If further funding from schools is required, this will be split and charged on a per-pupil basis.
F. STAFF & EMPLOYMENT
34. Will the Trust be able to vary staff terms & conditions? Will staff terms & conditions change? (QM, S & F)
Staff have already seen their pay, terms and conditions change as employees of the Local Authority.
When a school becomes an academy, staff are legally protected to transfer under the same employment terms and conditions. Like any employer, the Trust could propose to change terms and conditions in the future. As now, there are clear policies on consultation with staff on any proposed changes and rules on salary protection. Because the staff will transfer under TUPE they have the protection that their terms and conditions may never be changed to their detriment if the main reason for the change is the TUPE transfer itself.
However, the Trust will seek to adopt the national and local agreements for annual pay awards agreed between unions and employers for teachers and support staff respectively, and will continue to recognise and consult with Trade Unions on pay and conditions.
35. Will there be a reduction in the staff numbers? (S)
Becoming an academy will not mean a reduction in staff numbers. Schools will still have the responsibility to determine how best to plan their staffing and resources to meet their goals and meet the needs of their pupils. So it is possible, as now, that staff numbers will vary but not as a result of academy conversion.
36. Can retired teachers come back as volunteers? (S)
G. SCHOOL MANAGEMENT
37. What will happen to the SEN unit? Any changes to the SEN provision? (QM & S)
No change. The SEN units will continue to run as they do now, with the Local Authority funding a set number of places. The Governing Bodies are committed to continuing to the provision.
38. How will we apply for Nursery places? (QM)
As now via the Local Authority.
39. Will we need to buy new uniform? (F)
40. Why are you not changing the name to include Academy? (F)
The schools regard themselves as schools and therefore will continue with that in the name.