What is a Multi Academy Trust (MAT)?
A MAT is the structure that allows more than one academy to work together under an academy trust. It has one overall board of directors which runs the trust, with each academy having its own local governing body.
The MAT gives us the chance to share knowledge, teaching and learning between schools. It gives schools within the trust the opportunity to make collective decisions about contracts with strategic partners thereby releasing more money for teaching and learning.
Why should our school consider becoming an academy?
In addition to the fact that we believe the greater freedoms and flexibilities will enable us to raise educational standards, there are other factors which are pointing towards conversion to an academy. As central services provided by the LA are already considerably reduced and the services which we receive are much more limited than they were a few years ago, all schools are being urged to give serious consideration to pursuing conversion to academy status.
The Government’s policy is to encourage conversion and they are currently providing funding to assist with the costs of doing so. The governing body therefore feels 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.
Nationally, the majority of secondary schools – 60%+ are now academies and there are already well over 2,000 primary school academies – about one in every ten primary schools and this figure is increasing month by month. The trend is for schools to convert as part of a MAT – more than two thirds of convertors last year did this.
Would conversion to academy status affect our admissions policy?
Academies are subject to the same admissions code as other state schools. This sets the rules for fair admissions. We plan to continue to use the authority admissions team to administer the process as we do now but we would be able to represent ourselves at appeals.
Would there be changes to the admissions over-subscription criteria of the school?
There are no plans to change the current over-subscription criteria. The admissions process and criteria will stay the same and be managed by the local authority as it is at present.
What about the way in which the school is governed? Would that change?
Each school in the MAT would then have a Local Governing Board to oversee the day to day running of the school in the same way as they do now. They would make decisions on how they want their school to run including policies e.g. behaviour, marking, homework.
Would staff remain the same after conversion?
Although staff would transfer to employment with the Multi Academy Trust (MAT) on academy conversion and the staffing structure would remain the same with the governing board making the decisions on staffing.
Would staff pay and conditions change?
When a school converts to academy status, members of staff transfer to the academy trust with their existing employment terms and conditions under the TUPE regulations which means that their terms and conditions of employment and pension arrangements, including continuity of service, are protected on conversion. The Family of Learning Trust is committed to ensuring staff terms and conditions would be no less favourable than they would be if staff were employed by the Local Authority and this assurance remains for all schools in the MAT.
What are the benefits for staff in a school joining the Family of Learning Trust?
Access to a free Employee Assistance Programme where staff can benefit from expert advice to help them deal with professional and personal problems that could be affecting your home life, work life, health and general wellbeing.
- Optional cross trust shared planning to reduce staff workload
- Drive school improvement through specialist staff and lead practitioners in the trust
- Collaborative working with school across the trust
- Minimise bureaucracy for leaders so they are able to focus on achieving the best outcomes for learners
- Opportunities to retain excellent staff within the Trust
- Provide excellent CPD opportunities
- Ensure staff wellbeing and a good work life balance – both schools have Achieved the Investors in People Award
- Provide onsite HR support
What does the process of converting to academy status entail?
Initially, schools register their interest in becoming online with the DfE. A school then completes and submits an application to become an academy to the DfE. A school must also consult with parents, staff and all other stakeholders before a funding agreement is entered into between the academy trust and the Secretary of State for Education.
When the Secretary of State for education approves the school’s application to convert, they issue an academy order. An academy trust is then set up to operate the schools in the MAT as academies and enter into a funding agreement with the Secretary of State to run the academies. The MAT also employs the staff and owns the assets of the schools in the MAT and will enter into arrangements to enable it to occupy the school sites after academy conversion.
The final stage is the signing of the funding agreements with the Secretary of State for Education.
What services would remain with the local authority?
The following duties remain with the local authority and do not become our responsibility:
- Education psychology, SEND statements and assessment.
- Assigning SEND resources for pupils who require high levels of additional resource (this is a top-up to formula funding under a separate contract with the local authority).
- Monitoring of SEND provision and parent partnerships.
- Prosecuting parents for non-attendance.
- Provision of pupil referral units for a pupil no longer registered at an academy.
What are the safeguards for vulnerable students?
Under the terms of the Funding Agreement (which is the contract between the Academy Trust and the Secretary of State), an academy has to act in exactly the same way as a maintained school in relation to Special Education Needs, behaviour and exclusions.
What about the insurance costs an academy would incur to cover the significant risks posed by potential emergencies such as fire, flood, pupil accidents, major crimes etc?
All academies are required to take out a wide range of insurances, often to levels specified by the DfE. The academy receives a grant equivalent to the cost of insurance from the DfE so it has no net effect on the academy budget.
Would the school day and school year change?
Would the school name change?
No but we would become part of The Family of Learning Trust, a Multi Academy Trust.
Would the school uniform change?
Where can I get further information?
The Department for education website has information about academies, including an extensive set of themed questions and answers: www.education.gov.uk/academies
Will we be able to improve the services and support that we offer children and their families?
Children and families should directly benefit from a school’s membership of a MAT through an improved capacity to establish and develop support services such as pastoral care, family support and education psychology. In addition the school would benefit from
What will this actually mean for the staff and families of a school joining a MAT?
Life would continue as usual with the ethos, values, uniform and culture of each joining school remaining their own, and unchanged unless they are a contributing factor to a school’s vulnerability, as identified by Ofsted.
Would a joining school lose control of its own budget?
The MAT’s qualified accountants and business director would have an overview of all financial matters and would be expected to provide best value practices through procurement, income generation and efficiency. At a local level, schools would still make decisions about how they spend their own allocated budgets.
How would central services be paid for?
Schools would not be charged with a ‘one size fits all’ top-slice but instead would be charged proportionally to each school’s level of need. The charge would include a general contribution to allow the MAT to operate. The charge would be around 5% of a school’s GAG (General Annual Grant) and we are confident that schools joining the MAT would see a net financial gain with this arrangement. Pupil Premium, sports funding and other such funding streams would not be included as part of this charge. Our financial models are based on providing central services including a CEO, Director of Finance, HR Directors, Estates Management and IT strategic network management if required. Each school would equally financially contribute to the MAT.
Would a school’s funding and budget be used to support another school?
How much support would be given for the process of academy conversion?
Conversion will be handled by the MAT together with our professional partners and legal teams. The ESFA support schools with this process and schools receive a grant so there would be no additional charges for the school in this process.
Would the current Headteacher of the school remain in charge, retain their status, position and responsibility?
This is the job Heads are paid for and they will be left to continue to do it. They will have the option of passing on some parts of their job to the central team should they wish to allow them to focus on school improvement and raising standards. Their performance management and professional priorities will be coordinated by the CEO of the MAT for consistency.
Would there be separate OFSTED inspections for partner schools?
Yes, schools would be still inspected separately, this may be as part of a batch of schools within a MAT. MATs will be inspected the same way that OFSTED currently inspect local Council’s children’s Services.
Would our governing body lose the power to make decisions affecting our school?
All schools joining the trust would retain their local governing boards (LGB) with similar powers but less statutory responsibility. We celebrate the differences between our schools and strongly recognise each school is unique. School must be given autonomy to make decisions on how best to ensure outstanding outcomes for their pupils. The LGB’s are best placed to make these decision and are most effective on providing challenge and support in the delivery of educational excellence in a school.
Is the school going to become a business and focused on managing finances?
Schools are not businesses for making money. Their core purpose it to provide the best possible educational experience for their pupils so they are able to achieve outstanding outcomes. In the Family of Learning Trust, everything we do is underpinned by the benefits to the pupils. Across the trust we do strive to produce ‘best value for money’ but this is achieved through procurement and savings through economies of scale across the MAT.