Frequently Asked Questions


Here at the Trust we have devised a number of scenarios to try and cover the questions that might be asked by governors, parents and staff of schools thinking about converting to an academy as part of The Good Shepherd Multi Academy Trust. Additional information can also be found in the Resources Section - Policy Papers. These policy papers provide the framework around which the frequently asked questions are based.


General

1. What is a Multi Academy Trust?

A Multi Academy Trust is where a number of schools join together and form a single Trust with a Board of Directors answerable to the Trust’s members. The members will be senior leaders in the Diocese including the Bishop, Members of the Board of Finance and the Chair of the Board of Education. The members of the Trust are responsible for the strategic oversight of the academy. They are the conscience of the Trust, ensuring that the objectives are upheld.

They appoint most of the Trust’s directors who determine the policies of the Trust, monitor the effectiveness of individual academies, manage central services and report to the Secretary of State. They work with their academies to ensure they are performing to their best ability and that they get the support they require. The directors will include 2 very experienced headteachers, the Diocesan Director of Education, a senior governor leader, a business and clergy person with relevant experience and up to 3 chairs of local governing bodies from its family of academies.

The Trust is the legal entity and it has one set of Articles that govern all the academies within it. The Trust has a Master Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State and each academy also has a Supplemental Funding Agreement. Each of the academies in the Trust has its own local governing body that deals with local issues.

The Trust is accountable for all its academies. However, before any agreements are signed, the Trust will work with schools to agree those matters that will be handled centrally and those that will remain the responsibility of the individual academy local governing bodies. This agreement will be encapsulated in the Scheme of Delegation.

2. Why should our school join the Good Shepherd Multi Academy Trust?

One of the key strengths of the Good Shepherd Multi Academy Trust for primary schools is the flexibility to manage resources and expertise. Funding will be allocated on an individual academy basis, but there will shared support services (e.g. HR, business support, etc.) through a central pool. It’s also easier to share expertise, as all staff in the Trust are employed by the same employer and so can transfer more easily or work across more than one academy. This presents positive opportunities for staff development.

The Trust is accountable for all its member academies and is expected to provide effective support for any school in the Trust that is underperforming or has additional needs.

 The Good Shepherd Multi Academy Trust is special and unique because:

  • First and foremost this is a Trust that will build on existing strengths and has the potential to strengthen schools’ Christian ethos. Christian values will frame the work of the Trust e.g., honesty, trust, empathy, social responsibility. Spirituality of children and young people and teaching and learning will be at its heart.
  • It will develop, with its member schools, a distinctively Christian structure, curriculum, policies and services.
  • The Trust takes the view that everyone is on a shared journey, being there for each other and not feeling isolated; everyone has something to offer.
  • The Trust will operate with transparency and openness.
  • It can be the glue in difficult times.
  • There will be a focus on achievement and not just attainment. There will be a focus on ensuring schools get the best out of the children and families they work with rather than simply a focus on Ofsted and league tables.
  • It will provide small schools with greater security and flexibility in organisation and structure but also take away some of the risks of going it alone.
  • The Trust will be part of the wider local arrangements for school-to-school support and not a competitor. Its academies will continue to work in local collaborative networks and seek support through the Cumbria Alliance of System Leadership. The Trust will have accountability for its academies in a way the Diocese doesn’t, it can be a strong voice in the ‘system leadership’ structure.
3. So is the Board of Education expecting all church schools to join the Good Shepherd Multi Academy Trust?

Whilst not favouring any particular organisational structure the Board wishes to provide the widest possible choice for its schools to ensure their sustainability and success into the future. It acknowledges that some schools will find academy status is right structure for their school. Therefore the Board have developed the Trust to enable them to do this in a way which will be welcoming and effective. It is for individual schools to decide if they wish to join.

Existing academies can join the GSMAT if they wish. That would be a decision for their individual Boards.

4 If a church school wants to be an academy does it have to join the Good Shepherd Multi Academy Trust?
Following the recent Education Act and White Paper the pace of change is accelerating.  The Diocese acknowleges that there will need to be further diocesan trusts across the Diocese but this must be achieved in a sustainable manner.  The Diocesan Director of Education is happy to discuss this with schools although it is acknowledged that, given the nature of our schools, it will be beneficial for them to continue to work as clusters within the Trust.
5. Ours is a small rural primary school. Why should it become an academy?

There are many benefits being part of the Trust will bring to small schools:

  • The additional work involved in operating an academy would be managed by the Trust. The workload of headteachers in small schools is already significant with teaching commitments and all the other responsibilities they have. The Trust would be able to take some of this bureaucracy away from schools, releasing more time for heads to focus on teaching and learning.
  • There are concerns as to what might happen in future if the current leadership of a small school changes and whether a new head could be found when recruitment is so difficult. The Trust will be available to support a new headteacher and the possible reduction in workload that this brings makes membership of the Trust an attractive option. The Trust would also be able to be more flexible in supporting the school with appropriate interim leadership arrangements.
  • The sustainability of small schools is being threatened by budget changes and falling pupil rolls. Being part of the Trust will make it easier for schools to support each other e.g. to share headteachers and staff. Where necessary the Trust can be a strong voice for individual schools. The Trust will have a clear policy on school organisation, recognizing the vital contribution of schools to their local communities and that school closure will always be the last resort. Alternatives to closure can be better managed within a Trust structure.
  • It will be easier for schools of differing contexts within the Trust to co-operate, share resources and work together to bring about an improvement in outcomes for pupils and young people.
6. What are the different types of academies?

There are two types of academies:

Sponsored academies are those normally falling into the Ofsted ‘inadequate’ category. They require the maximum support within the Trust family and conversion to an academy can be the most appropriate solution as part of a suite of measurements to improve educational standards.

Converter academies are successful schools that have chosen to convert to academies in order to benefit from the increased autonomy academy status brings, having decided that becoming an academy is the best route for the school.

Governing Body

7. What does the conversion process involve and how long does it take?

Anyone can register an interest in their school becoming an academy but the school must have received agreement from their governing body before it can apply.

The basic start up grant of £25,000 is paid to all converters when they are approved in principle to become an academy and can be used to support the process. The key steps a school must take are all explained in the DfE’s conversion guide.

It is intended that the Trust supports this process so that if a number of schools are converting at the same time the process can be carried out more effectively and efficiently to ensure a co-ordinated, high quality and consistent process using one project team. This will lead to savings that will come back to the schools. The process may differ according to the type of school, VA, VC or community and who owns the buildings and land.

It is important to ensure the consultation process is as inclusive as possible. There is no specified length of time for the consultation but it usually takes about a month and involves a range of methods of engagement with stakeholders. The Trust will produce template documents to support the process.

Most schools are able to convert in around four months. It is hoped that the first tranche of schools will join the Trust as academies in September 2014.

8. If our school becomes an academy, how will this affect the governing body structure?

The principles and expectations of governance are the same in academies as in maintained schools.

Each school will have a local governing body with parent and staff representation. There will be up to three chairs of the local governing bodies within the Trust who will also be directors of the Trust.

The local governing body manages the academy on behalf of the Trust in line with the Scheme of delegation approved for each individual academy. The flexibility of the academy governance model will allow, in most cases, schools entering the Trust to replicate their existing governing body if they wish to do so.

The centralisation of a range of services will enable governors to concentrate on those aspects of their role that make a positive difference to learning and teaching in their own schools. Governors will still be expected to ensure that delegated spending is used prudently for the purposes intended.

Where a school enters the Trust as a sponsored academy, the majority of the local governing body will be appointed by the Directors plus the headteacher and a parent. There would also be staff and parent forums but these are only consultative arrangements.

9. How will we know what responsibilities we will have as a Governing Body?

The directors hold accountability for the performance of the academies to the Secretary of State. Local governing bodies are effectively committees of the Trust with delegated powers given to them by the directors through a Scheme of Delegation.

The Trust promotes the principle of ‘supported autonomy’ and the Scheme of Delegation reflects the level of support each academy will receive from the directors and the Trust. It also outlines the delegated powers given to them by the directors of the Trust.

Broadly speaking a school that is good or outstanding will see little change.

10. How will school improvement be managed and standards monitored?

Most academies will be expected to operate as now, looking to ensure there is peer-to-peer support and using local networks, including Local Alliances of System Leadership (LASL). Likewise, academies requiring support will access it in this way.

The Trust will provide a strong voice within system leadership to make sure it works for church academies. Where academies require intensive support for which there is additional funding or where the academy budget is used, this will be brokered by the Trust through agreements with other schools and academies. Diocesan outstanding schools and academies have agreed this approach in principle.

The Trust will co-ordinate some central school effectiveness provision to monitor academy performance/ achievement and ensure support is provided and matched to need, mainly as brokerage, within the system leadership structure. This will be funded within the retention.

Local governing bodies will be responsible for standards in their academies in line with scheme of delegation and will report to the directors of the Trust.

11. What is the desired relationship with the rest of schools and organisations in the local area and the wider county?

Academies will be working in a family framework with other academies, within the Trust, that value the same core principles.

As well as this it is expected that links with other local networks won’t change, rather that these to grow and develop. It will be important to recognise that the Trust intends to work with local schools and collaborative arrangements and not impose structures and support from outside like other academy chains. Being part of a Trust will give church schools a stronger voice and access to even more support than might be the case at present.

12. What happens to positive and negative balances and what financial benefit will academies get?

Through the supplementary funding agreement, schools budget allocations will be ring-fenced.

Positive balances remain with the school though the Education Funding Agency (EFA) currently limit the level of balance a school can hold. We would expect the Trust to do the same but, because there is one Funding Agreement, there can be more flexibility in how this is achieved.

Those schools with a deficit budget will need to demonstrate that they have a robust plan to reduce their deficit.  It is hoped that the economies of scale that the Trust can generate will help, as will the potential to introduce more flexible staffing arrangements.

It is expected that the amount retained from schools budgets to manage the Trust and deliver services would be less than the cost of activities currently purchased. The Trust will look to procure value for money services through various routes and is currently undertaking a series of consultation workshops with schools to scope the central service provision.

The Trust will fully involve staff in undertaking an ongoing systematic review of all services post conversion, looking at, amongst other things, quality of service delivery.

13. If our school converts to an academy, will the ownership of the land transfer over, or would the Trust lease the land from the LA?

For church schools the land and buildings remain with the site trustees, usually the Diocese. For non-church schools the MAT will lease the public land from the freeholder (usually the local authority) on a long lease (125 years).

The DfE has worked with the Church of England to provide model documents (e.g. Funding Agreements and model leases) which address the specific land issues for schools with a religious character.

14. What Capital Funding do Academies have access to?

Academies will continue to receive their Devolved Formula Capital (DFC), which is allocated on the same basis as for maintained schools, and which academies normally decide to use for capital maintenance of their buildings and ICT.

The Academy Capital Maintenance Fund is administered by the Education Funding Agency and is calculated on the same basis as funding available to maintained schools. Funding is available for expansion and high value repairs. Individual academies within the Trust will be able to apply for the grant, but must contact the Trust before doing so.

Former VA schools would no longer be required to find the ‘governors 10%’.

The Trust, on behalf of its academies, is eligible to seek an Earmarked Annual Grant from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) for emergencies, such as the boiler breaking down, in the same way the LA can pay a maintained school a contingency payment. The Trust is required to take out insurance at specified minimum levels of cover to protect against potential capital emergencies.

15. If a school has resourced SEN provision, will it be expected to continue to provide that service if it becomes an academy?

It is the DfE’s expectation that existing educational provision in the school will transfer to the academy. The local authority (LA) will need to agree the transfer of land and assets (if applicable, for example in the case of separate SEN Units) with the school. The LA will therefore be part of the conversion process and will have the ability to influence the outcome of that process.

As an accountable body, the Trust will have more power to advocate on behalf of its academies. Some school collaboratives are looking to employ their own SEN support, e.g. speech therapy, and this is something the Trust could facilitate on behalf of its academies.

Parents

16. What inspection regimes and assessment data information do academies have to provide?

All academies are inspected by Ofsted using the same framework and timescales as for maintained schools. The diocesan Statutory Inspection of Anglican & Methodist Schools (SIAMS) will continue to be implemented in the same way for all maintained church schools.

Academies will still have to take part in national tests and in teacher assessments of pupils' performance as they apply to maintained schools. The results are reported in performance tables in the same way as they are now, i.e. against the school where tests were conducted.

17. What will happen to the Nursery and/ or Children’s Centre the school runs?

Academies are able to run their own early years provision and charge for it. Separate or stand-alone Maintained Nursery Schools must, however, remain maintained and are not eligible for academy status.

The Early Years Free Entitlement continues to be paid by the local authority for 3 and 4 year olds. If, as an academy, you wish to offer beyond 15 hours provision for 3 and 4 year olds, or provision for under 3s, we would have the option of the academy charging parents directly, operating the nursery through a subsidiary company or contracting with an independent provider.

The delivery of Children’s Centre services is the statutory obligation of the LA. Academies are able to run Children’s Centres. They may need, however, an extension to their object and protections in the Funding Agreement.

18. Will the school have to follow the national curriculum?

No. Academies are not required to teach the National Curriculum but rather a broad and balanced one that includes English, mathematics, science and religious education and promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils preparing them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life. Academies must also provide a daily act of collective worship that should be broadly Christian, unless the school has been granted a determination to conduct collective worship. Within the Trust individual academies will be responsible for their own curriculum development in accordance with the Scheme of Delegation and in line with expressed aims and values of the Trust.

The Trust will co-ordinate and promote its academies to work together more closely to encourage curriculum innovation and sharing of good practise. There will be a curriculum working group of school leaders that will commission and co-ordinate specific curriculum development work across all academies in the Trust. The Trust will also encourage the development of Christian values approaches to learning such as ‘What if Learning’.

19. How will the uniqueness of each school be preserved?

The legal documents protect the Church of England Foundation of the school where appropriate.

The Trust is about forming a Christian framework in which academies can work together to support each other and celebrate their individuality. It is not about making all academies the same. Whilst there will be some things that will be delivered from the centre, most academies will be able to operate as they currently do. There is the potential for additional freedoms that will support and enable schools to further develop their uniqueness eg uniforms.

20. How does the admissions process work for academies?

As publicly-funded schools, academies must have admission arrangements that clearly set out how children will be admitted, including the criteria that will be applied if there are more applications than available places.

Academies, as their own admission authorities, must ensure that the practices and the criteria used to decide the allocation of school places are fair, clear and objective. Academies are required to undertake periodic consultation on their admission arrangements, regularly publish their admission arrangements, and conduct the admission process as part of a wider local authority process.

Academies are required to comply with the Admissions and Admission Appeals Codes of Practice as if they were maintained schools. They are also required to participate in local authority co-ordination of admissions processes and the local authority’s Fair Access Protocol. The Trust is responsible for setting up Independent Appeal Panels.

Academies are required to comply with any Direction from the Secretary of State to admit a pupil to the academy, or to amend their admission arrangements if they fail to comply with the Admissions Code.

Academies retain the admission arrangements they had as maintained schools when they become academies. They can only change their admission arrangements following the procedures set out in the Admissions Code. For former Voluntary Controlled Schools and Community Schools the admission policies must reflect the previous status i.e. community schools may not have any faith criteria within its admissions policy. Academies are required to provide education for pupils of different abilities (i.e. they may not select pupils by ability). Academies are required to provide education for pupils wholly or mainly drawn from the area in which the academy is situated. Academies are not allowed to charge for admission.

Coordination is the process for allocating school places to children. Because admissions are centrally coordinated by the LA, parents/carers only need to complete one application form (but they can name several schools on it) and, because a single place is offered, places are not tied up by parents holding on to more than one offer. Academies remain part of this process.

21. What role will PTA’s play within the school after conversion into an academy?

The Trust recognises that PTA’s have an important role to play within the context of support to the school and it anticipated that they continue to provide support post conversion.

22. How will transport be affected?

There should be no change to school transport provision since it remains a statutory duty on local authorities to make suitable home to school travel arrangements for eligible children in their area.

23. What opportunities are parents given to engage in the decision for the school to become part of the Trust?

All schools are required to carry out a consultation process. Typically that will include staff, parents, the local community, and the local authorities. The methods can vary from newsletters, questionnaires, features or adverts in local papers, and meetings. The Trust has produced a detailed template for consultation that schools will use.

Staff

24. What happens to pay and conditions including pensions?

Rules for conversion to academy status mean that Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations apply and all staff will transfer on existing terms and conditions to the Trust as the employer.

Academies are not bound by the Standard Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document therefore the Trust is responsible for setting the pay and conditions of its staff.

The Trust will be honouring the national teachers’ pay and conditions and Teachers’ Pensions Scheme arrangements for as long as they continue to exist and will also ensure that the Local Government Pension Scheme arrangements stay in place for non-teaching staff. As part of the conversion process, the LGPS scheme’s administrators will undertake an actuarial assessment to determine how much the Trust will need to contribute.

There are currently no plans for systematic change / re-negotiation of contracts and conditions for staff who TUPE across however it may be necessary to iron out anomalies and promote equality. The Trust approach to this will be based on its underlying values. The Trust is committed to doing everything it can to retain and reward good staff.

Full union recognition agreement and acknowledgement of union duties and reasonable time off for trade union duties will be given.

25. How secure is my job?

Local governing bodies will be responsible, according to their Scheme of Delegation, for appointing staff to their academy and for deciding the staffing structure that best meets the needs of the academy within available budgets.

One employer across a family of academies can allow for more effective use of staffing. There may be opportunities for excellent staff to gain more experience by supporting another academy or clusters of academies, for which additional funding would be available, for example.

New teaching and teaching assistant staff could be re-deployed to another setting. This might be because of school organisation or redundancy issues, in which case local governing bodies will be involved in the process and will be consulted, but the final decision is with the directors

26. What are the statutory requirements with regard to the TUPE process?

There is no statutory obligation for the governing body to consult unless it is planning to make changes to working conditions or staffing before the transfer. However even if the statutory obligation does not apply, it is best practice to consult staff and their representatives and to allow 30 days for this consultation..

In all cases there is a statutory obligation on the current employer to inform employee representatives (i.e. the recognised union or if there isn't one, elected representatives) of certain matters in writing. These are:

  • the fact that the transfer is to take place;
  • the date of the transfer and the reasons for it; and
  • the legal, economic and social implications of the transfer for any affected employees and the measures which the employer envisages it will, in connection with the transfer, take in relation to any affected employees or, if it envisages that no measures will be so taken, that fact.

Schools will be supported with this process by the Trust.

27. How will it work for new staff?

New staff will be employed by the Trust and therefore could work at more than one academy.  It will be clear at appointment where the main base or bases will be e.g. a group of academies may choose to employ a SENCO across establishments or employ a counsellor.

An academy designated as having a religious character can take into account an applicant’s faith in appointing staff (i.e. whether the applicant is of the designated faith of the academy).