VALOUR Multi-Academy Trust Proposal
VALOUR: boldness or determination; heroic courage; bravery
Information on Academies
The Government’s policy is to strongly encourage conversion and they are currently providing funding to assist with the cost of doing so. As outstanding schools, we are both in the fortunate position to make this decision at a time and in a manner of our choosing. The governing bodies therefore feel that we need to engage actively with this issue; if we wait and ignore the changes that are happening around us, we may lose our choices and have a model of academy conversion imposed upon us.
The landscape of education is changing. Schools are already taking much greater responsibility for many areas than was the case five years ago. By becoming an academy we would have even greater freedom and flexibility to make the decisions which support our pupils and staff as we continue to grow and develop.
As an academy, we would be funded directly from central government and not through the local authority (LA). We would use this funding to buy in the best services for our pupils and staff from a range of partners, including the LA. We would still be inspected by OfSTED and our pupils would still be assessed at the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, and results would still be published to parents. We would continue to invest in our relationships with our neighbouring school and with the wider community.
We believe that now is the right time to build a new Multi-Academy Trust in the best interest of our pupils. A possible name for this will be Valour and has been created by Governors, Staff and Stakeholders of Beech Hill and Walbottle Village Schools. It links to our Vision whereby we want our children to be Valiant, Aspirational, Loved, have Opportunities to thrive, be Unique and be Respectful and Respected.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT)?
A MAT is the structure that allows more than one school to work together under an academy trust. It has one overall board of directors which runs the trust, with each school having its own local governing body, with its own budget and powers.
The MAT gives us the chance to share knowledge and teaching and learning between schools. It gives the schools within the Academy trust the opportunity to make collective decisions about contracts with strategic partners thereby releasing more time and money for teaching and learning.
What about the way in which your school is governed? Would that change?
Yes and no. Yes, in that legally the VALOUR Academy would have responsibilities for the governance of the school. No, in that the current governing body would continue to exist called a Local Governing Body (LGB) and the VALOUR Academy would delegate to the Local Governing Body responsibility for virtually all tasks required for the running of the school. The arrangements by which responsibilities are passed to the Local Governing Body and the head teacher would be set out in a document called the Schemes of Delegation. The Schemes of Delegation gives these powers to the Local Governing Body however the Directors will be called to account by the DfE on financial issues, performance, and effectiveness of leadership. Therefore within the Scheme of Delegation there will be an acceptance of a right to intervene if a school requires support.
What are the advantages of becoming an academy?
Becoming an academy means that our school would have greater freedom to innovate and raise standards even further. We would have much greater freedom around the delivery of the curriculum, using our budget to work with the best partners available. Each of our schools has worked very hard at creating a curriculum which is relevant to our pupils and our community and which meets the needs of all our pupils. We want to continue developing that curriculum whilst taking on board what we consider to be the best parts of the National Curriculum. We would still be subject to OfSTED inspections and the pupils would still be prepared for SATs in the same way as they are now.
Are there freedoms that the school would have if it became an academy which you don’t intend to use?
As an academy, we would have the ability to change the length of terms, and staff terms and conditions but we must stress that we have no intention of doing this. In addition, we do not propose to alter our position on admissions and appeals on admissions; those would still follow the current Newcastle Local Authority systems.
Would your school receive more money as an academy?
Academies receive the same level of per-pupil funding as maintained schools receive from the LA, but they also receive an additional amount called the education service grant which is currently retained by the LA to pay for some services they provide. However, out of this money we would have to purchase some services which are currently provided by the LA. The Government states that becoming an academy should not bring about a financial advantage or disadvantage to a school. The main change is that academies have greater freedom over how they use their budgets. As an academy we would, therefore, have more freedom to buy the services we need from a range of providers and obtain best value for money and the best quality services. We do believe that the greater flexibility and the ability to innovate would mean there is likely to be more money to invest in the school for the benefit of the pupils.
Why should your school consider becoming an academy?
In the rapidly changing educational landscape, we believe the greater freedoms and flexibilities available to the school as part of a MAT offer the best opportunities for the school to continue delivering outstanding pupil progress. Central services provided by the LA continue to reduce (e.g. fewer educational advisers, closing down of school’s library service) and the services which we receive are much more limited than they were a few years ago (e.g. fewer regular visits from advisers). A decision to remain as Foundation Trust School does not mean we would be able to stay exactly as we are now. Our status as a maintained/Foundation Trust School has served us well in the past and there are many LA services which we would want to continue using even if we became an academy (for instance payroll, human resources). However, becoming part of a MAT gives the opportunity for control over our whole budget, greater freedom over what and where we spend the money and the ability to pool that decision making and spending with a group of schools. We would continue to work with the Outer West Learning Trust.
How accountable are academies?
Academies are subject to inspections by the school inspectorate OfSTED, in the same way as other schools are. Academies’ SATs results will continue to be published as at present, alongside those of other state schools in league tables. Academies are accountable directly to the Secretary of State for Education.
Would conversion to academy status affect the school’s admissions policy?
No. We do not propose to alter the criteria on admissions or appeals on admissions.
Although a MAT is the admissions authority for the academies it operates, rather than the LA or OWLT, this has no real impact on admissions when the criteria on admissions (and appeals on admissions) remain the same, this is because the allocation of places would continue to be administered by the LA for us as a local school. Academies are subject to the same admissions codes as other state schools, which set the rules for fair admissions.
Would staff remain the same after conversion?
All current permanent school staff at our school would transfer to employment with the VALOUR Academy if we became a MAT and there are no plans to change the staffing structure at any of the schools. The governing bodies of each of the schools are committed to continuing to recruit and retain high quality staff and will support existing staff through the transition and beyond, if the schools do become an academy. We all intend to work alongside and maintain open dialogue with all staff and unions and their representatives throughout this process.
Would staff pay and conditions change?
When a school becomes an academy, all members of staff are entitled to transfer to the Multi-Academy Trust under their existing employment terms and conditions – on academy conversion their terms and conditions of employment are legally protected by something known as the TUPE regulations. Thereafter, the MAT board, which will govern the academy, may consult with staff and their union representatives on changes to these terms and conditions, for example to enable the academy to operate over different term times or change the length of the school day.
When consulting on becoming a member of the Outer West Learning Trust, a commitment was made that staff terms and conditions would be no less favourable than they would be if staffs were employed by the LA and the governing body of our school wishes to make the same commitment. The VALOUR Academy will use their current provider of payroll and pensions services so continuity and security of records can be maintained. In the longer term the VALOUR Academy may wish to carry out a procurement exercise, in consultation with the unions, to review the payroll and pension provision currently provided by the LA to see if a better scheme is available by an alternative provider to ensure best value for money. Until this time the current arrangement with the LA would continue.
What does the process of becoming an academy entail?
Initially, schools register their interest in becoming an academy online with the Department of Education (DfE). A school then completes and submits an application to become an academy to the DfE and notifies the LA of their decision. When the Secretary of State for Education approves the school’s application to convert, they issue an academy order.
A school must consult with parents, staff and all other stakeholders about its proposal to become an academy. The school’s governing body will take account of any issues raised during the consultation process before making its final decision about whether to convert to an academy. Only when the resolution to convert has been passed by the governing body is a funding agreement entered into between the academy trust and the Secretary of State for Education.
Do schools have to cover the cost of conversion to academy status?
The DfE pays a flat-rate grant of £25,000 into each school’s bank account after an academy order has been issued to cover the costs of conversion. To reduce potential legal costs, the DfE has produced a model legal document. This amount should cover all of our conversion costs. Other funding to develop our MAT would also be available.
What else would change at your school?
There will be very little that obviously changes in the day to day running of each of our schools. Keeping all that is special about each of our schools whilst allowing us to continue to grow and develop is one of the drivers for an academy conversion. Academies are required to follow the laws and guidance on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions, as in maintained schools. Academies have to ensure that the school will be at the heart of its community, collaborating and sharing facilities and expertise with our schools and the wider community. The governors of each of the schools are committed to retaining our existing names within the new Multi-Academy Trust structure. There are no plans to alter our fabulous new school uniforms and, importantly, we expect continuity of all staff.
Is the funding received by the MAT ring-fenced for each school or do schools within the MAT have to compete/bid against one another for the funding?
The funding received by the MAT for each school is directed in the same way as it is for the LA and Foundation Schools. The amount is calculated by the Department for Education using the LA per pupil formula. It comes directly to the Trust and is called the General Annual Grant. The General Annual Grant (GAG) funds for all schools are calculated and come through to the Trust together. Normally, of course the distribution of the GAG to each school is as indicated but there might be particular occasions when it is to the benefit of all VALOUR Academy schools to contribute to a central fund for a specific purpose. There is no competition or bidding between schools in the MAT.
Is money raised by the PTA of our schools kept by our school or is it available to be used generally by the MAT?
Yes and there might be particular occasions for example when schools pool resources together i.e. shared Mini Buses. The Trust Board must oversee all accounts in case there are any irregularities as the Multi-Academy Trust bears the responsibility for this, not the individual school. If we create the VALOUR Academy Trust there would continue to be a dialogue between the school and the PTA to agree how money raised by the PTA is spent in supporting and developing the individual school.
Please can you explain in more detail the reporting structures and areas of responsibility for Members, Directors and Local Governing Bodies
At the end of this document is a diagram showing the relationship between the member’s board, directors and local governing bodies.
The extracts below in italics are from the National Governors' Association/Browne Jacobson publication “Introduction to Multi Academy Trusts” and describe the various roles within a MAT.
“The member’s board of the academy trust have a very hands off role in terms of management of the academy trust. The member’s board’s role is to monitor the performance of the trust and hold the trustees to account. In reality, the members will meet rarely (for example once a year to approve the auditors and the accounts), although they do have an important role in appointing persons to the central MAT board. Under the current model articles a member of staff (including the head teacher) cannot be a member.”
The directors have “specific legal responsibilities including:
- making sure the academy trust complies with the law and its governing document, e.g. regard must be had to guidance released by the Charity Commission, as well as the requirements in the funding agreement, articles of association and the Academies Financial Handbook;
- acting responsibly, in the interests of the academy trust;
- exercising independent judgement;
- managing any conflicts of interest;
- exercising reasonable care and skill - using relevant personal knowledge or taking professional advice where appropriate;
- promoting the academy trust’s success.
While most MATs have some sort of local governance at individual academy level, the actual responsibility and authority delegated to these local committees differs hugely from one MAT to another. Some MATs have chosen to establish local governing bodies that function in much the same way to a maintained school governing body. These local governing bodies will have local governors on them that may be appointed or elected.”
The VALOUR Academy is establishing local governing bodies for both schools joining the MAT. In the short-term and mid-term this is true; however, in the future as the Trust is established reviews could take place to ensure the Trust is accountable for good governance in line with the Nolan Principles of Public Life. These require the directors to act with selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. The responsibility of the directors is to act in the best interests of all the schools in the MAT. If, for example, governance was failed in an Ofsted inspection the Multi-Academy Trust would be required to take action.
Prior to making a final decision about whether to become part of the VALOUR Academy each school will agree what decisions will be delegated to our local governing body (this agreement is known as the Scheme of Delegation). It is the intention of all involved that the Scheme of Delegation will delegate to the local governing body of our school as much decision making responsibility as is possible. This principle has been agreed between all schools forming the VALOUR Academy but the detail of the Scheme of Delegation has yet to be agreed.
We are keen to ensure that parent’s feel valued and engaged in this process. If at the end of our consultation process we go ahead and form the VALOUR Academy, we are planning to establish a parent forum. Through the forum parents would have a specific link governor with whom they could discuss questions and concerns arising from the school being part of the VALOUR Academy.
Will Ofsted inspect individual schools or the MAT as a whole?
Ofsted will inspect individual schools and, from comments made by Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, it is anticipated that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.
If we resolve to go ahead, when will the conversion happen? Will it be this academic year?
If we decide to form the VALOUR Academy, the earliest date for conversion is 5th September 2016. It is likely to be in the next academic year if we decide to proceed.
What happens if we decide not to form the VALOUR ACADEMY?
We will remain as a Foundation Trust Primary School. However the Government White Paper 2016 has made very clear the intention for every school to be an academy in the future. As a governing body, we have concluded that now is the right time to consider academy conversion as the widest range of options is available to us. Therefore, we would continue to explore these options. It would be preferable to create our own MAT now, than face the uncertainty of being asked to join another MAT in the future.
Would joining the VALOUR Academy reduce diversity and parental choice in education in our area?
- Diversity in education means having a choice of schools. Real choice comes from having schools with different characters – each of our schools has a very special character and each is at the heart of our local communities. This has developed over a long period of time. We believe that by creating the VALOUR Academy this special character will be respected and allowed to develop.