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Academy Conversion Consultation

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Academy Conversion

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What are the financial efficiencies that might be expected from academisation?

  • The main efficiencies will come through staff development.  Whilst we will continue to send staff on training courses, we will be able to share expertise with colleagues in schools within the trust. 

Will you consider cutting the school week to four days?

  • No. Our budget plan does not require us to lose any teachers or have any redundancies amongst other staff.

Will children with special needs still be cared for?

  • Yes. Additional funding is received to support children with EHCPs/statements. We will maintain the level of interventions for other children.

How about the number of teachers. Will there be changes?

  • No.

We understand that teachers will work together.  What about SENDCO teachers, will they also co-operate?

  • Yes. We will collaborate on all levels, not just class teachers. We already have a plan for the SENDCOs to work together this term.

What will we be doing to improve the Coasting designation to become Outstanding?

  • We wrote to the Regional Schools Commissioner about our views on the data that caused the designation and our next steps. His office replied to state that they are pleased with everything we have in place.  The letter can be found on our website.
  • The next steps we identified in our response were:
    • Action plans up to date and on-going: School Development Plan, English, Maths, Behaviour and Welfare, EYFS, Governance.
    • Full Governing Body to formalise beginning of process for academisation on 1st February 2017. Intention is to start due diligence process with Ravenscote (EEEA) with potential conversion for September.
    • Restructure of Executive Leadership Group, resulting in additional funding to be available to build greater capacity for middle leaders.
    • CPD focused on priority areas, including continued work with Surrey Heath Learning Partnership.
    • Interventions targeted at identified groups of learners and individuals. This includes development of ELSA role and introduction of a nurture room.

In a follow up, we added that we would be working with Ravenscote as a National Support School. The key focus is on capacity for leadership, governance and teaching and learning. A clear focus has been on ensuring effective monitoring systems based upon non-negotiables.

There was some concern about staff retention after academisation.

  • There has been a positive response from staff to leaders and the Governors to the proposals.

What improvement can we expect?  Can you explain what will actually change to the quality of teaching and learning?

  • As a result of the work we have been doing with Ravenscote, we have changed the way that we use success criteria in the books with children, created a ‘house style’ for teaching (including a range of non-negotiables), and adapted procedures for monitoring.  These actions have already had a positive impact on teaching and learning.
  • We are looking at a range of other ‘house style’ options, including consideration to methods for planning lessons to create greater efficiency.

What about child protection?

  • This is a legal duty on all adults within a school and our procedures will remain the same with Governors having a responsibility for ensuring that our policies are up to date and adhered to.

What about teacher work load balance?

  • We are focusing on having efficient systems in place to maximise balance.

Networking and sharing best practice are natural drivers of improvement. Do you not currently collaborate with other schools?

  • Yes, we do.  For example, we have worked with schools on the north side of Farnham regarding assessment methods, a group of Surrey schools for a writing project, and local schools for moderation activities.  The main difference is the accountability for supporting each other.

If the school is able to set its own curriculum are there plans to make it radically different? How does this dove tail into the national benchmarking?

  • There are no plans to make it radically different.

There is no reference to this in school governor meeting minutes going back for the last year - so out of interest where was it discussed?

  • The Governing Body set up a Partnership and Academy Development Group in November 2015.  That group reported to the Full Governing Body.  Discussions within the Full Governing Body meetings are recorded in minutes from 09/3/16, 29/6/16, 21/9/16, 1/2/17 and 22/3/17.  Academisation is identified as a school priority on the front page of the agendas throughout.

Why would the governing body choose to join an existing academy which only has one school so far?    Did you not consider starting your own - i.e. be a leader rather than a follower?

  • We considered a range of options, including establishing a Multi Academy Trust with a group of schools.  We are unable to set up on our own due to the rules regarding academisation.  It was viewed by the governing body that EEEA is the best option.
  • What is the academy's future expansion plans?
    • The trust will only take on schools if the performance standards of its current schools is at least maintained.  The Regional Schools Commissioner reviews all decisions regarding schools joining trusts, including capacity.  They currently have permission to grow to three schools.

For the Ravenscote conversion - it looks from their website that they had a much longer parent consultation period - with clearly recorded Q & A's - from all interactions with parents - will SCPNS also be doing this?

  • The decision regarding the length and nature of consultation is for individual governing bodies to decide.  The Q & A’s are being recorded on our website.

Will you be waiting until the GE results before confirming the decision to convert?

  • Yes.  Also, the Regional Schools Commissioner’s Office is not allowed to make decisions during the purdah period before the election.

What control will the governing body have over salaries paid to the academy executives? In other academies - especially as they expand - I note that salaries have increased considerably. Does this not leave less funding for the school and teaching staff?

  • That is a decision for the trust, not the Local Governing Bodies.  The Regional Schools Commissioner monitors the performance of all trusts and their schools and will take action if required.

 

CLASS SIZES AND ADMISSIONS

  • What powers will the Multi Academy Trust (MAT) exercise in relation to class sizes?
    • The trust must abide by the laws governing schools. At this time, class sizes are limited to 30 for infants. Juniors can be larger but standards for all pupils must be maintained. Ravenscote have kept their class sizes at 30 since becoming an academy in 2014.
  • Will the school have to offer additional places if there are not enough places within Surrey Heath?
    • The responsibility for providing places falls upon the local authority. They can request that academies take additional children but this can be declined by the trust. Local authority schools are consulted but additional classes, including ‘bulge’ classes can be forced upon Local Authority schools.

 

THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS AND THE CONSULTATION

  • Why spend time focusing on academisation rather than on becoming an outstanding school?
    • The two things will actually go hand in hand. With the limited provision available from the Local Authority (and reducing further) the opportunities for improving standards lie elsewhere. As a result, seeking academisation with the right trust is the quickest way to becoming outstanding.
  • Will this distract the executive headteacher and staff from teaching our children?
    • No. Nearly all of the process for converting happens behind the scenes. The main people involved are the governors, the Executive Headteacher and the School Business Manager. There are clear and high expectations on our Executive Headteacher to focus on the operational side of the school, resulting in a dedicated focus on teaching and learning.
  • Who initiated the proposals for academisation and why?
    • The Governing Body has been monitoring the Government’s academy agenda. Approximately eighteen months ago, all schools in Surrey were advised by the Local Authority to start looking for partners as it was recognised that Surrey would not be able provide the levels of support that they had been previously able to. Being aware that most local schools within Surrey Heath had or are in discussions to convert themselves, the governors took the pro-active decision to pursue academisation. They have decided that now is the right time for our school, especially as we have engaged in highly effective work with Ravenscote.
  • How was/is the decision making process made? How are the risks identified, evaluated, mitigated and used to access decisions?
    • The governors are carrying out a due diligence process following guidance from the National Governors Association. We are also reassured as the Regional Schools Commissioner’s office monitors established trusts very closely. Approval will only be given by the RSC if their assessments demonstrate that the trust has the capacity to ensure the impact of additional schools is positive for all pupils within the trust.
  • Does the Governing Body have the experience to make the right decision?
    • The most relevant experience for this is understanding our school and governors spend a lot of time ensuring that they are up to date. When new governors join, they are provided with training to get them up to speed quickly, including attending training courses for new governors. Members of our governing body have also attended several academy conversion training sessions to get the latest information.
    • One of our governors has been the Chair of Governors of a school that went through academy conversion recently, our Acting Executive Headteacher was in the leadership group at a school that set up one of the first primary academies in Surrey, and three other governors have significant educational experience.
  • Are we converting simply due to the ‘coasting’ designation?
    • No. The Governing Body has been actively considering becoming an academy for the last year. We have held very open talks with the trust and are confident that academisation is to our mutual benefit.
  • How do governors decide?
    • It is a majority decision. The vote for sending in the application for conversion was universally agreed.
  • How will the General Election affect the process?
    • While we await the manifestos from the main political parties for the forthcoming election, the previous manifestos from 2015 made no reference to reversing the academies programme.
    • The Governing Body are monitoring the campaigns and will have time after the election to consider any impact before making a final decision.
  • What is the timeline of events?
    • Closing date for parent consultation – 12th May 2017
    • Closing date for staff consultation – 26th May 2017
    • For conversion to take place on 1st September 2017, the final sign off must be made by 3rd July.
  • Why do governors get to make such an important decision on behalf of everyone?
    • The Governing Body is made up of elected members, including parent governors. One of their core roles is to set strategic decisions and this is reflected in the decision by Government to make Governing Bodies responsible for deciding on academisation.

 

GUARANTEES

  • What guarantees are there that contracts won’t be ended and staff made to reapply for jobs?
    • Current staff will have their terms and conditions protected through a process called ‘Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)’. While there can be no definitive guarantee, the answer above applies. It should be noted that all staff at Ravenscote have had their original terms and conditions maintained and the trust continue to match Surrey’s pay policy.

 

MEMBERS AND TRUSTEES

  • What is the structure of the EEEA Trust?
    • All trusts have members and trustees (also known as directors). The EEEA trust currently has 3 members and 6 directors. Each school within the trust has its own Local Governing Body, consisting 1/3 elected staff, 1/3 elected parents, 1/3 appointed by the trust. (Note – co-opted governors are a common feature of Governing Bodies of Local Authority schools – we currently have six co-opted positions on our Governing Body. These governors are voted in by existing governors.)
  • Who are the members?
    • Jo Brill
    • Bob Rehill
    • Steve Barker
  • What is the role of the members?
    • They can be considered in a similar way to shareholders but without any financial gain or reward. They monitor the effectiveness of the trust and have the ability to change the Articles of Association if required. They also appoint the trustees and can remove trustees if required.
  • Who are the directors of EEEA?
    • David Harris – Chief Executive Officer and Headteacher of Ravenscote
    • Jo Brill
    • Keith Smith
    • Nathan Elstub
    • David Johnston
    • Tom Li
    • Further details of the directors and members can be found on the trust website (www.eeea.co)
  • What is the role of the directors?
    • The key function of the directors is to drive the strategy of the trust.
    • To support the Local Governing Body in ensuring the best outcomes for the pupils.
  • Can the members make changes, or will the governing body still be fundamentally in control?
    • Technically they can through the Articles of Association but the Regional School Commissioner would seek to understand the reasons behind any changes. The day to day running of the school will still be by our Executive Headteacher with strategic and financial overview carried out by our Local Governing Body.
  • What would Local Authority representation on the trust be?
    • None.
  • Will parents be represented on the MAT trust board?
    • Yes, although trustees are appointed on the basis of skills.
  • Will South Camberley Primary and Nursery School be represented on the trust board?
    • No.
  • Do members and directors get paid?
    • No, they don’t get paid. The reasons why people volunteer is personal to each individual.
  • Who is the head?
    • Our Executive Headteacher is and always will be our ‘head’. While there is a CEO, the role is to ensure effective capacity for leadership in each school.
  • How much power does the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) have?
    • A lot and growing all the time. The RSC monitors trusts and has the power to replace the trust if it is seen to be failing.

 

BUSINESS PLAN/ FINANCE

  • What are the financial benefits of becoming an academy?
    • This is complicated. There are small gains to be made from being able to source elsewhere with potential bulk orders through partnership within the trust. The potential for significant gains is through savings made on professional development as a result of collaboration within the trust.
  • What is the school’s biggest expense?
    • Staff, at approximately 83%.
  • What services will be bought back from the LA? How much more will they charge?
    • We review all of our ‘Service Level Agreements’ every time they are set to be renewed. As an academy we will be able to achieve best value as we will have greater freedoms to contract independently.
  • How much is the MAT going to retain from each academy’s funding?
    • 3.5% for good or better schools and 5% for requires improvement schools. The amount will increase further for schools in special measures.
  • What happens to any surplus?
    • It is retained by the school.

 

STAFF

  • Do the pay scales change when the school becomes an academy?
    • Existing staff have their terms and conditions of employment protected by the TUPE regulations.
    • All schools are now free to set their own pay scales. EEEA and SCPNS follow the conditions advised by Surrey Local Authority.
  • Does the Headteacher still appoint staff to their own school?
    • Yes. The trust provides H.R. support, but delegates responsibility for staff recruitment to the school.
  • What is the feedback from the staff?
    • Feedback from the staff and their trades unions is invited as part of this consultation process.
    • Staff have given positive feedback about the support already received from the Ravenscote team.
    • Feedback about becoming an academy to the Governing Body at ‘drop-ins’ last term was positive.
  • If co-operative working achieves staff development, better teaching and mutual support, why do we need to become an academy?
    • The trust is responsible, and accountable, for the performance of the schools and ensures that all the benefits of co-operative working are implemented across its schools.

 

TEACHING AND CURRICULUM

  • How is teaching improved specifically?
    • Sharing best practice. Through our school to school work, we have:
      • Established new ‘non-negotiables’ for lessons
      • Reviewed our assessment process, involving pupils in evaluating performance against success criteria more
      • Re-designed our monitoring of teaching and learning system, based upon our non-negotiables
      • Considered how we deploy staff more effectively to provide interventions for pupils, whether for special needs or more able challenge
  • What does ‘better teaching’ look like?
    • Children being able to articulate success criteria
    • Challenge always being appropriate, with children taking responsibility for the level of challenge
    • Limits on the amount of teacher talk
    • Allowing children to take on challenges independently
  • Does the break from the National Curriculum bring negatives?
    • We (pupils and school) are still assessed against the national tests. There are certain legal requirements that must be met, otherwise we can adapt according to the needs of our pupils.
  • Who is responsible for the curriculum in the proposed MAT?
    • The Local Governing Body has strategic responsibility for the curriculum within the EEEA trust. As long as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are met (regarding English and Maths) then the school will retain autonomy.

 

REGULATION AND OVERSIGHT

  • How will delivery of education be regulated?
    • The Regional School Commissioner, Ofsted and the Department for Education.
  • Does Ofsted inspect the schools within the trust separately?
    • Yes, although Ofsted will sometimes inspect the schools within the trust in a small amount of time in order to view the performance of the trust.
  • How will standards be assessed? Will you still do SATs?
    • SATs will still be delivered, in accordance to Government requirements (which will be the same for all schools).
  • If standards dropped, how would they be improved again without LA support?
    • For an individual school within the trust, it is the responsibility of the trust to rectify the situation. The trust already has a National Leader of Education and nine Specialist Leaders of Education to provide support if needed. If this does not happen, the Regional Schools Commissioner will intervene. Funding is available to provide support. If this does not bring about the required improvement within the trust, then the trust can be taken over. At this time, this is a very rare occurrence.

 

SEND

  • Who would be responsible for the monitoring of SEND provision?
    • In order:
      • Our SENDCOs
      • Our Executive Headteacher
      • The Local Governing Body
      • The CEO
      • The Trust
    • The Local Authority will still have responsibility for severe Special Education Needs and Disabilities. Funding is in place to enable schools to manage SEND to a certain level. SEND 14 was introduced in 2014 and is legally binding to all schools (whatever their status). Provision and funding for SEND will not be affected by SCPNS becoming an as the services required are available to all schools. We will still have access to services but will have to buy them in rather than them being provided for ‘free’ from the money the Local Authority received from the school.

 

BUILDINGS AND MAINTENANCE

  • If one school in the MAT needed a lot of money spending on, for example, buildings, where would that money come from and would the other schools have reduced funding for a few years?
    • The funding for buildings and maintenance depends on the size of the trust. If we join EEEA, it will be considered a small trust. Therefore we will be able to bid for funds as an individual school within the trust. As the trust grows, the trust will receive a pre-determined amount to manage buildings and maintenance across the trust. It would then be for the trust to determine the priorities.
  • What if one of the schools is in need of significant repairs going into the academy?
    • Negotiations will take place between the local authority, the school and the trust to determine responsibility. This will impact on the decision around academisation.
  • Why would the local authority spend money on buildings that are likely to be part of an academy?
    • They won’t and, as they anticipate all schools to convert in time, limited funding is available anyway.

 

LAND

  • Who will own the school site?
    • The trust. The ownership will be on a 125 year lease from the Local Authority.
  • What is the potential for either the LA or the trust to sell off land? Or build on it?
    • This appears to be constantly changing. In any case, it has to be approved by the Local Authority (as lease holders) and the Department for Education. It is the responsibility of the Local Governing Body and the trust to ensure the best provision for our pupils. There have been no discussions within our Governing Body regarding the sell-off of school fields.

 

OTHER SCHOOLS (IN THE MAT)

  • Can other schools join at a later date?
    • Yes. This will be considered on a case by case basis by the trust and the RSC.

 

THE FUTURE

  • How inevitable is it that all schools will face academisation?
    • Within Surrey, it is almost a certainty due to the position of the Local Authority.
  • Is there a way back into non-academy status?
    • There is currently no quick way back into non-academy status. This is viewed as a permanent change.
  • What if it all goes wrong? What then?
    • Depends on the failure.
      • South Camberley – the Executive Headteacher and/or the Local Governing Body could be replaced.
      • The trust is taken over by a trust with a proven track record. The decision would be made by the RSC.
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