As communicated in a letter from the Chair of Governors to parents and carers (23/02/23), Governors have confirmed the intention to progress with plans to convert to academy status with The YES (Youth Engagement Schools) Trust.
There is a dedicated email address firstname.lastname@example.org to submit questions about the process. Emails will be responded to, and the answers to frequently asked questions will be given in the FAQ section below.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is an academy?
An academy is an all-ability school that is directly funded by central government and independent of direct control by local government. Academies are inspected by Ofsted. Academies are self-governing.
What is the main motivation for converting to academy status?
> National curriculum: Academies do not have to follow the national curriculum as long as the curriculum remains ‘broad and balanced’. This will provide us with greater flexibility to determine what best suits our children.
> Financial budgets: Academies receive funding directly from central government instead of via the local authority. This will include money that would previously have been held back by the local authority. An academy may also accumulate funds from private sources should it choose to.
> Admissions: Academies are responsible for drawing up their own admissions criteria in line with the Admissions Code and SEN Code of Practice (the law). Academies are required to cater for children of all abilities (unless they were already selective).
> Length of terms and school days: Academies are free to set the length of its terms and school days.
> Pay and terms of conditions of staff: The academy is responsible for agreeing levels of pay, conditions of service, staffing structures, career development and appraisal. However all existing staff transfer from the local authority under legislation known as TUPE regulations which will protect their current conditions.
Is an academy like a business?
No. A business makes profit for its shareholders. An academy is a charitable trust which cannot make profit.
Who makes the decision to become an academy?
The governing body.
Are academies bound by the same rules and regulations as other schools?
Academies are required to follow the law and guidance on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions.
THE NATIONAL CURRICULUM
Will the academy follow the National Curriculum?
Yes, but it would have more freedom to try different things in the curriculum and make sure that what is taught is relevant to our pupils and their specific needs.
Does becoming an academy change the relationship with local schools and the community?
No. Academy funding agreements state that they must ensure that the school will be at the heart of its community, collaborating and sharing facilities and expertise with other local schools and the wider community.
As an academy, will it still work with the local authority (LA)?
Academies are independent of the local authority. However, we wish to continue working the LA, other local schools and local partners.
How does governance work?
The Yes Trust has a board of directors who are ultimately responsible for the work of the Trust and the academies. However, we devolve as much responsibility as possible to the individual academies. The Board of Trustees is responsible for appointing the majority of the governors on each academy governing body, including the post of Chair of Governors. Each academy has its own governing body who work with the academy Headteacher to check that the academy is making good progress. Each governing body has parent/carer representatives and a staff governor. The academy Headteacher is always a governor for the time they are employed in that role. The governing body will set the vision for the academy in line with the overall commitment of The Yes Trust. The governing body also draft the academy spending plan and improvement plan for approval by The Yes Trust. The governing body has delegated powers from the Trust Board including the management of finance and property and the appointment of staff. The schedule of delegation is the same across each of the academies within the Trust.
What will happen to our school’s funding?
The Department for Education meets the running costs for an academy in full. Academy funding is calculated on a like-for-like basis with local authority schools. Therefore the academy will have a similar budget to that of its predecessor maintained school. With greater freedom to procure services from other providers and to realise cost efficiencies across the network, the academy will be able to make more efficient use of resources to support school improvement. Like other schools, an academy cannot run at a loss or agree a deficit budget, i.e. it has to break-even.
How will the school be accountable financially?
An academy is governed by the rules and regulations for charitable trusts, e.g. we will be required to produce and file accounts and trustees cannot be paid. There will be robust systems with an audit conducted by an external independent auditor.
How does academy status affect SEN funding?
SEN funding will come directly from the government through the Education Funding Agency. Funding allocated to a named child would continue to be funded directly by the local authority.
EMPLOYMENT AND STAFFING
Will the staff stay the same?
When a school converts from a local authority maintained school to a new academy, all permanent staff are entitled to transfer to it under the same employment terms and conditions.
Will the terms of employment for staff change?
As part of TUPE arrangements, staff are entitled to transfer to the new academy under the same employment terms and conditions. However, it is essential that the academy is able to respond to the changing curriculum requirements and educational demands. This may therefore require consultation with staff and trade unions, once the academy has been established, on changes to terms and conditions of employment. This would be necessary if, for example, the Trust wished to introduce a particular organisational change to the academy’s term dates, or if curriculum demands and the need for improved educational outcomes required a different leadership and organisational structure.
What will happen with regard to staff pensions?
If you are a teacher in the current school, your pension will continue as part of the teacher’s pension scheme, with the Trust continuing with the same employer responsibilities as the predecessor school. Non-teaching staff will usually be members of the local government pension scheme and the Trust will secure ‘admitted body’ status with the local pension authority to protect the pension rights of employees and take on employer responsibility, both for contributions and administration of the scheme. Staff can opt out of either if they wish to make alternative provision.
What happens if the headteacher leaves?
The academy trust will work with the academy governors to appoint a new headteacher.
STAKE HOLDER ENGAGEMENT
Will you consult with staff, community and parents?
Yes, as part of our approach to project management for any new academy, we will consult with all key stakeholder groups during the transition phase. This will include the sharing of our plans for the new academy (known as the Expression of Interest) and an opportunity to gather feedback and suggestions, as well as addressing any questions or concerns. A clear consultation and communications strategy will be agreed with the school.
Will the Trust recognise and engage with our trade unions?
Yes. The Yes Trust recognises the role of trade unions and sees positive engagement as critical to the transition process and ongoing success of the academy. They will play an important role in the consultation process on TUPE for staff.
Will the school remain non-selective?
Yes - academies are non-selective schools. Academies are required to follow the law and guidance on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as if they were maintained schools. It is the aim of the Trust to ensure that our academies provide high quality, inclusive education for local children.
THE NEW ACADEMY
Can the academy work with the council and other schools?
Yes. Where possible, the academy will buy back services to support the local authority. The academy can work with any schools it wishes if this makes a difference to the education of the children.
What will happen to student transport?
The process for applying for transport remains the same. The organisation of day-to-day transport will still remain with LCC.
Academies will be forced to cut all ties with the local authority...
Schools will still be able to work closely with local authorities as most academies already choose to do. The difference is that the arrangements will be determined locally and driven by headteachers deciding what works for their school, rather than functions and responsibilities designed in Whitehall.
Schools will also be free to group together to buy services from local authorities as is already the case - it’s just that they will also have the choice of other services and providers that may be better for their particular needs.