MAT Consultation – Key Questions

What is an Academy? Academies are classed as independent state schools with the freedom to determine their own policies in areas such as the curriculum, school hours, term dates, staff roles and service providers. This is enabled by the Academies Act 2010. Primary, secondary and special schools are all able to apply to convert into an academy and are accountable to the Secretary of State, not the local authority. Academies are managed by their own academy trust and are no longer the responsibility of the council. Academies are given their funding direct from the government. This means that they get slightly more money per pupil, as money is no longer held back by the council to fund central services. This gives them greater freedoms about how to spend the money.

What is a Multi Academy Trust?

Schools can convert on their own or as part of a group of schools. We refer to these group arrangements as Multi Academy Trusts (MATs). Dependent on arrangements, the school can still be governed at a local level. The amount of governance (decision making) kept at a local level varies according to the trust. In our case, the intention would be for each school to retain its own governing body and headteacher, so that there would be a great deal of autonomy allowing for the individual characteristics and ethos of each school to continue. Decisions made at trust board level would focus on services that can be provided more effectively across the MAT and ensuring local governing bodies are supported and held accountable for the quality of provision in each school.

Are all Multi Academy Trusts the same?

No. Some are asked to take over failing schools. They are both then deemed to be academies joined together in a MAT or a chain. Sometimes this is done with one executive headteacher across the chain. This is not the approach we are proposing. Different trusts employ different philosophies to how a trust should run. This can be in a corporate approach where the vast majority of systems and processes are aligned across all of the schools in a MAT or it can be organised with more autonomy for individual schools. We are proposing that the Shires Trust is formed to ensure that the individual ethos and approach of each school is recognised and encouraged to develop further whilst ensuring high quality provision for every pupil in the Trust.

What is the proposal?

The proposal is that Webheath Primary Academy, Feckenham First School and Studley High School Academy join to form the Shires Multi Academy Trust.  Each school would retain its own headteacher and a local governing body and unique character, and operate with a high degree of autonomy. The Trust would be managed by a trust board, the planned composition of which is set out below, and would manage any services which may be delivered at trust level rather than at school level, for example financial processes, site management, payroll, ICT provision purchasing and human resources.

When might this happen?

The schools have applied to the Department for Education to become a Multi Academy Trust. The conversion will cost the schools money but this can be recouped within the savings generated across the first year of operation as outlined above. Before any conversion takes place, each governing body would have to pass a resolution to that effect after a widespread consultation. Only if a school’s current governing body resolves to convert, would any school convert and this would be a decision for each governing body. If a governing body does pass such a resolution, it is possible the school could convert ready for Jan 2020.

What is the composition of the Trust Board?

Trustees are responsible for;

  1. ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
  2. holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils, and the performance management of staff
  3. overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.

The proposals for membership of the trust board may change but at the moment, the members would be:

  • Three members of the founding local governing bodies
  • Three chairs from existing governing bodies
  • One senior leader from the founding schools
  • Three appointed trustees drawn from the schools’ catchment area served by the trust, with skills in HR, finance and legal work.

Who will be members overseeing the Trust Board?

It is proposed that 5 members will manage the Trust as a whole and provide strategic accountability. Members will be recruited based on educational experience, corporate skills and governance experience. Headteachers from the schools cannot be members.

What are the risks of this change?

This change is likely to carry some risks – for example:

A conversion into a MAT does not by itself guarantee improvement – it is dependent on the governance and leadership of the schools, and this would inevitably change over time. However, this is also true of individual academies. We believe a MAT provides a more secure platform for future success. This risk is minimised by having a strong governing body, sensitive to its own succession planning and supported by an equally strong trust board.

The current commitment shown by Government to using MATs and Teaching Schools for school improvement may change. It is difficult to mitigate against this risk. However, with over 5000 schools already academies or in MATs, we would not be alone. If either school was to see a sharp drop in educational standards, the Trust as a whole, would have to offer help. However, the Teaching School status of Studley High School, means there is a wide range of alliance schools we can use to support if required, for a particular phase. The two schools involved are currently graded Outstanding and Good. While the risk of a significant drop in standards is very low, the capacity to correct that in each school is currently high.

Funding pressures nationally have built over the last 5 years. If this were to continue then schools would have no choice to react accordingly through money saving exercises. However, the landscape in the last 6 months has become more positive and it is likely that education will receive further top up funding over the next 12-24 months.

What guarantees can you give?

It is very difficult to make guarantees when the outlook for education funding is so challenging, but governors have committed to the following.

As a result of any conversion to an academy:

  • There would be no name changes for the schools.
  • There would be no changes to the current school uniforms.
  • There would be no changes to the distinct ethos of each school.
  • It is particularly important to governors that the inclusive nature of both schools is maintained.
  • There will be no requirement, for children in Webheath to continue to Studley High School at age 11. This is, as it always has been, a choice for children and their families.
  • There would be no changes to staff employment rights on transfer of employer from each academy to the MAT.
  • There would be no detrimental changes to pay or conditions of service.
  • Both teaching and support staff would enjoy the same pension rights as now.
  • Continuity of service from each academy would be recognised for employees.
  • There would be no detriment to the provision of excellent support for children with SEN/disabilities.
  • The change would provide further clarity for parents in Redditch who opt for a primary education for their child with the admissions policy for Studley High School recognising this.

For more information: MAT Consultation Key Information