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Academy Proposal Consultation

As you may already be aware, the role of Local Authorities in supporting schools is rapidly diminishing and Government Policy is to encourage effective schools to become academies.  It is for this reason that the Governing Body of Richard Wakefield C of E Primary School has been exploring possible options for our school, with the intent to continue to provide an excellent education for our children.

The Governing Body believes that the best way to maintain and continue to improve standards is to become an Academy as part of The de Ferrers Trust.  We believe that this partnership will provide the best opportunities for our children now and in the future, allowing for collaboration of resources and expertise across the trust.

It is important to recognise that should the school convert to an academy, we will retain our own independence, identity and governing body, whilst benefiting from being part of the trust.  We are proud to be a Voluntary Controlled School and we are seeking to enshrine our relationship with the church on conversion to Academy status.  We are also proud of our close links and good working relationships with our neighbouring primary and secondary schools, which will be retained.

The Governing Body has therefore agreed to consult on a proposal to join the Trust with a view to converting to Academy status from 1st February 2018. This consultation is open to all, including school’s parents, pupils, staff, pre-school and the wider community. The consultation period will end on 15th December 2017.

We have prepared some frequently asked questions (see below).  These will help explain why we are proposing to make this change, and the benefits associated with conversion.  We have also included further information on what it means to become academy as part of a multi academy trust.

We are keen to hear from as many stakeholders as possible before reaching a final decision.  With this in mind we have set up the following email address for you to send in your views, questions and concerns: governors@richardwakefield.uk.  Please can all feedback and questions be submitted either via the above email or in writing to the school office by 15th December 2017.  

In addition, members of the Governing Body, including the Chair and Vice Chair, along with School Senior Leaders will be available to discuss any questions on Monday 27th November, 3:45-6:15 in the school hall. 

We would like to thank you for your continued commitment and relationship with our school and look forward to your thoughts and comments on our proposal.

 

Simon Webster, Headteacher

Nicki Becker, Chair of Governors

 

FAQ:

1. Why Change?

In recent years, there has been a drive to create Academies; schools that exist outside of the oversight of the Local Authority. Staffordshire County Council has told us it expects all schools to become academies in the next 18 months and that it will no longer have the capacity to support maintained schools. We want to be able to control our own destiny and to choose the best partners to work with, rather than having this forced upon us.

2. What is an Academy?

An academy is a government funded school that is independent of the local authority. In terms of the day to day functioning, an academy will not be noticeably different to a local authority maintained school. Responsibility for funding the school, monitoring performance and any capital projects will fall to central government rather than to local government.

Becoming an academy does not mean that the character, nature or ethos of our school would need to change at all.  In fact, academy status gives schools greater freedoms in terms of finance and the curriculum that they may wish to offer.

If the decision is made to transfer to become an academy, the school and governing body will join what is known as an academy trust, which in reality, is a charitable company.

No one can make any money from the company. The company is limited by guarantee. It does not pay dividends and makes no profit. It is, however, a legal entity and will mean that the school is able to enter into contracts, employ staff and be recognised as a legal body.

 3. Funding of Academies

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 services that are no longer provided for them by Staffordshire County Council and to cover the costs of Academy status.

All funding in relation to the academy is remitted directly from the Government to the Multi Academy Trust.  The Academy will set their budget which will in turn be reviewed and approved by the Trust Board. 

As a school, we have also received a significant capital allowance from the local authority for building projects, renovation, maintenance and general upkeep. This has been reduced over the last 5-6 years. As an academy, we will have access to other forms of capital funding.

 4. What is a Multi-Academy Trust?

A Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) is when 2 or more Academies come together in partnership. Our Governing Body believes that the best option is to become part of The de Ferrers Multi Academy Trust, securing a focus on education for our children that ranges from when they join us aged 3-4 through to when they leave at 18. Our school will keep its own name and unique identity. The de Ferrers Trust already includes a number of both primary and secondary schools, with a fully formed organisational structure.  Through partnership they will support member Academies in:

  • developing and sharing best practice in teaching, learning and curriculum
  • creating a skilled, motivated, expert workforce
  • ensuring high standards through mutual challenge of performance
  • making optimum use of their resources.

 5. How would converting to an Academy as part of The de Ferrers Trust benefit our School?

Converting to an Academy as part of a MAT is about enhancing teaching and learning for all children.  Benefits include:

  • developing and sharing best practice in teaching, learning and curriculum
  • improving development opportunities for staff which will support a skilled, motivated, expert workforce
  • ensuring high standards through mutual challenge of performance
  • making optimum use of our shared resources, including driving efficiencies in procuring essential services for our school, freeing up more resources to invest in educating our children.
  • Having the flexibility to become an employer of choice, attracting and retaining top talent in our schools.
  • Secure our position as a feeder school to The de Ferrers Academy.

As a governing body, we explored several other options, including becoming part of a newly formed Central Co-operative Learning Trust (MAT) with other primary schools within the area. 

We believe that by joining an established MAT with already strong links to our school, we will be providing the best opportunity for our children both now and in the future.  We know that The de Ferrers Trust shares the same values and principles that children, no matter what their background, should be supported to achieve their potential in a safe and nurturing environment.

There are risks associated with not changing to Academy status. At some stage in the future, any school might be influenced to become part of a broader Academy Chain which have lower success rates and fewer benefits. We believe that the ability to become part of a local.  MAT, under local direction, offers the best opportunity to sustain vibrant, successful local schools. 

Converting to a standalone Academy is no longer an option the Department of Education support.

 6. Who will be responsible for running our school?

The de Ferrers Trust has an established Trust Board of Directors, which includes a representative from the Diocese.  The Trust Board will delegate many powers to a Local Governing Body (LGB), which will have a role similar to that of the current School Governing Body. However, overall accountability for the running of the school will sit with the Board.  The Trust is also the employer for staff at the school and would have a license to occupy the land and buildings.

The current governors would be encouraged to remain and form the Local Governing Board.

7. What is involved in becoming an Academy?

  • The Governing Body has voted for the proposal in principle.
  • The Secretary of State for Education has approved out application in principle and issued an academy order, which allows the school to convert if governors decide so in due course.
  • The Diocese has given permission in principle to become part of The de Ferrers Trust.
  • The de Ferrers Trust and Richard Wakefield school have undertaken due diligence on each other and are in agreement to proceed in principle.
  • The school is now undertaking a period of consultation with parents, staff and other key stakeholders which will be taken into account in the Governing Body reaching its final decision.
  • We would expect to convert to an Academy within The de Ferrers Trust on the 1st February 2018, if the final decision to convert is made by the Governing Body.

8. Will our relationship with the Diocese change?  Will we still be a C of E school?

We will still maintain our relationship with the Diocese and maintain our C of E school status.  As a church school, there are specific Memorandum and Articles of Association which establish the Founding Members of the Trust.  As the proposal is to join The de Ferrers Trust their articles of association will have to be changed to enable us to join which will provide protection for the Church School Ethos of Richard Wakefield.

9. Would the school have to change its name, logo or uniform?

The school will continue to be known as Richard Wakefield C of E Primary School, but will have ‘A de Ferrers Trust Academy’ added to its logo and documentation. The school will continue with the same uniform colours that we have today, but the logo will be updated on branded uniform.  The intention is to phase the introduction of this new logo so parents will not be exposed to any unnecessary expense.

 10. How will being an Academy affect staff?

Currently, the employer for staff at our school is the Governing Body. After conversion, all staff will be employed by The de Ferrers Trust.  Staff are legally protected to transfer under the same employment terms and conditions, including pensions. Their continuity of service is protected, and all staff will be consulted in accordance with the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations.

With regards to Teaching Staff Pensions, Teaching Staff will continue to be members of the TPS (Teacher’s Pension Scheme) funded by the government – teachers’ pensions do not come of out of the school budget.  This situation could change, but this would not be driven by the school being an Academy (school status would be irrelevant).

With regards to Support Staff Pensions, this is currently provided by the local authority.  The school will need to apply for Admitted Body status to the scheme (generally a formality) and have an actuarial assessment made of the employer’s contribution rate.  The Secretary of State of Education and the Local Government Secretary wrote to all Local Government Pension Schemes in December 2011 expressing the view that the employer’s contribution for Academies should be on par with Local Authority Maintained Schools.  The effect is that there will be a small percentage increase in the contribution by the school.

11. How are the children affected?

In many ways, the children will not notice any immediate difference; they will be in the same uniform, in the same classrooms with the same teaching staff. We 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 pupils’ learning.

12. Length of School Terms and School Days

The Department of Education allows academies to vary the length of the school term and the school days. At the present time, there is no plan to do that. The school is aware that parents have made arrangements for childcare, and often have work arrangements to fit around the school day and school terms.

As a local authority school, subject to consultation and discussion, the school could already seek to change the length of the school day if we wished to do so.

It is likely that inset days and holidays will be aligned with those of the other schools within the Trust, so time can be spent together to share improvement, ways of working and obtain economies of scale when undertaking training.

13. What are the risks of becoming an Academy?

The change to Academy takes a school out of Local Authority control, but does not exclude the school from Local Authority support. For example, Academies can continue to receive finance, HR, behavioural support and other services from the Local Authority and where these represent ‘best value’ the MAT would use these services. Where the MAT feels that others can provide better services or better value the change to Academy increases the freedom to make these changes.

There are risks associated with not changing to Academy status. At some stage in the future, any school might be influenced to become part of a broader Academy Chain. We believe that the ability to create a local MAT, under local direction, offers the best opportunity to sustain vibrant, successful local schools.

14. Admissions

The local authority still has an obligation to make sure that there is a place for every child who lives in the local area of a school. If we become an academy within The de Ferrers Trust, we would still want the school to be at the heart of our local community. The academy could change its admissions criteria, but only after a period of consultation and almost a two-year leading period. Parents would still apply to the local authority, which would ensure absolute fairness when determining student places.

By becoming part of The de Ferrers Trust, we will secure admission for our children to The de Ferrers Academy.

 15. Does becoming an Academy change the relationship with other schools and the community?

No. Academies must ensure that they continue to be at the heart of their community, collaborating and sharing facilities and expertise with other schools and the wider community.  We have good links with other primary schools in the area and this collaboration will continue.

16. Will our responsibilities in relation to Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and exclusions change?

No. Responsibilities as an Academy in relation to SEND and exclusions will be just the same as they are now.

17. Can a child with a statement or an EHCP nominate an Academy as his or her school of choice?

Yes. Schools converting to Academy status can retain the admissions criteria they currently use. These arrangements and related processes must at all times comply with the School Admissions Code.

18. Ofsted

Schools that have converted to an Academy are still subject to Ofsted inspections and quality assessments.

19. How can I find out more?

The best source of information on academies is the Government's own website:

https://www.gov.uk/become-an-academy-information-for-schools

 

Link is also included below.

 

Useful links:

Please click on the followings links to access information on each category:

 
 
 
 
Types of schools
Multi-academy trusts: establishing and developing your trust
Convert to an academy: guide for schools