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Consultation Regarding Conversion to Academy Status

The 'Frequently Asked Questions' section was updated late in the evening of 21 March 2023 (please see below). An additional update is expected on 22 March 2023. Please scroll down for responses to the wide ranging questions that have been submitted.  As we near the end of the consultation period, we cannot guarantee that new questions submitted can be processed before the end of the consultation period. If you have a new question, which does not feature in the FAQ below, please contact your Head of School directly to discuss your query.

Meeting Reminder

A polite reminder that you are invited to attend a meeting to hear more about the proposal for Newbury Park Primary School and Opossum Federation to form a new Multi Academy Trust.

 

The meeting, as previously advertised, will be held online on Monday 6th March 2023 at 6pm; please use the link below to join the meeting.

 

Microsoft Teams meeting

Join on your computer, mobile app or room device

Click here to join the meeting

Meeting ID: 392 034 071 098
Passcode: nGdWv6

 

Kind regards

 

The Governing Bodies of Opossum Federation and Newbury Park Primary School

 

Consultation for Possible Conversion to Academy Status for the Opossum Federation – Dawlish, Newport, Oakhill and Thorpe Hall Primary Schools

 

23rd February 2023

 

Dear Stakeholder,

 

We are starting a consultation process with regards to the possible conversion of the Opossum Federation to form a Multi-Academy Trust with our partner school Newbury Park Primary School (Redbridge).

 

As Chair of Governors of this federation, it is my responsibility to ensure that our federation provides the best possible opportunity for our children to fulfill their potential. Despite our schools being in a strong position, with leaders and all staff constantly striving to improve our children’s education, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get the resources needed to maintain the excellent standards we expect.

 

For some time, there has been a push from the Government for schools to become part of an academy trust. Whilst this isn't yet compulsory, we have been researching the potential benefits and drawbacks of doing so. We feel that converting to a Multi-Academy Trust now would benefit our schools, give us more control over the process and most importantly allow us to form a Multi-Academy Trust with our own unique ethos and values and allow us to ensure that our own identity and autonomy are maintained.

 

With this in mind, we have agreed to consult with our federation community - parents, staff, children and the wider local community - about the possibility of converting to a Multi-Academy Trust. We are very keen to hear and consider the views of our stakeholders before making a final decision and invite you to complete a consultation feedback form. We want to hear from as many of you as possible, whether you wish to show your support for this idea or share any issues you might see.

 

To be clear, the decision to convert to a Multi-Academy Trust has not been made, and will not be, until after the consultation is complete. We welcome all comments in order to aid our decision making.

 

What happens next:

  • The statutory consultation starts today, 23rd February 2023, and will run until 23rd March 2023 (4pm).
  • We have created a frequently asked questions (FAQs) document to provide further information. Please read through the FAQs which will hopefully answer any initial questions you may have. If, having read the information, you have further questions, please submit them using the ‘Consultation Questions’click here to submit questions. This document will be regularly updated on each school’s website to include responses to questions received.
  • There is an online meeting on the 6th March 2023 at 6pm to learn more about the proposal and/or to ask questions. The link will be published on the schools’ websites.
  • Hard copies of the response form may be obtained from each school office for those who have difficulty accessing the form online; these should be submitted in the response box in the school office. All responses must be received by 4pm on 23rd March 2023. Click here to respond to the consultation online.

 

All responses will be considered before a final decision is taken on whether to form a Multi Academy Trust.

 

We look forward to receiving your questions and comments.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Ms. D. Strowbridge,

Chair of Governors

 

The proposal to convert to Academy Status and form a Multi Academy Trust

 

After careful consideration, the Governing Bodies of the Opossum Federation (Waltham Forest) and Newbury Park Primary School (Redbridge) have registered interest with the Department for Education (DfE) to form a Multi Academy Trust (MAT). We are using this period of preliminary due diligence and consultation to inform a Governing Body vote and are seeking views on the proposal from both school groups.

 

Opossum Federation and Newbury Park Primary are successful schools that serve their pupils, families and community well. We believe strongly in the educational offer we provide and we want to decide our own future. We believe the time is right to create our own MAT, to maintain our successful school cultures, financial security and further improve the educational experience of the children in all our schools. We are at our best when we work together, for each other, in service of the common good.

 

The governors and leadership of both organisations believe that converting to academy status will be beneficial:

 

  • Academies receive their funding directly from central government – this means that academies receive more funding because none is retained by the Local Authority for the provision of central services. We have received an opinion that this point required clarification. For clarity: Local Authorities have to retain a small "topslice" for central services and that this passes instead, in the academies system, to each academy trust.  The trust will need to spend this money on securing statutory services.
  • We will secure and formalise our established and successful partnership – by sharing resources and providing protection for an individual school as it is part of a larger organisation. This also leads to the reduction in duplication – for instance around policy development and/or the introduction of new initiatives and responsibilities;
  • Give us greater freedom in securing best value for money - by being able to make better use of the schools’ full funding entitlement to benefit from economies of scale and shared expertise and services, e.g. IT, SEN support, site maintenance etc. At present some of the funding allocated to the schools is retained by the Local Authority;
  • Improve and enhance our premises – with academy status we will have greater access to grants and wider sources of income to support building projects;
  • Create opportunities for increased local parental participation – this will be through the creation of Local Governing Boards, feeding into the strategic responsibilities undertaken by Trustees;
  • Enhance sharing of good practice, advice and support – this will be across all aspects of school life, e.g. teaching, support staff, leadership, administration; 
  • Facilitate continuing development of a rich and wide curriculum agreed by our Trustees - this means we choose the curriculum we want our pupils to learn as academies have more freedom over what is taught;
  • Improve retention and recruitment of staff – by being able to enhance professional development and career progression opportunities for staff across the Trust;
  • Support leadership succession planning across our schools and the Trust - this will help ensure stability for our schools and therefore pupils’ education;
  • Free school staff to focus on the core work of teaching and learning and supporting all pupils to reach their full potential – strategic, operational and transactional functions are undertaken at the Trust level.

 

Why convert, and why form a Multi Academy Trust?

As a maintained federation, Dawlish, Newport, Oakhill and Thorpe Hall Primary Schools already work as a stand-alone organisation, with a single governing body, executive leadership team and finance and operations team. This collaboration has been successful and has developed into a strong working partnership which we wish to secure and formalise by creating our own MAT. Over the past 7 years, Newbury Park Primary School has worked collaboratively with the Opossum Federation both informally and formally including; governance and leadership support, business support, finance and induction for early career teachers. Additionally, the headteacher of Newbury Park Primary School worked with the Opossum Federation previously when he was headteacher of Oakhill Primary School, now a member of the Opossum Federation. Connections between leaders, governors and some staff members are therefore long-standing and form a strong foundation upon which to build a new partnership.

 

Timeline

The formal consultation period opens on 23rd February 2023, and will remain open until 23rd March 2023 (4pm). The Governing Bodies and leadership teams of the Opossum Federation and Newbury Park Primary School place great importance on the relationship with families and communities and wish to seek your views. Responses may be made via the online response form; click here to respond to the consultation. Hard copies of the response form may be obtained from each school office for those who have difficulty accessing the form online; these should be submitted in the response box in the school office. All responses must be received by 4pm on 23rd March 2023.

We invite all parents and carers to attend an online meeting on the 6th March 2023 at 6pm to learn more about the proposal and/or to ask questions. The link will be sent via ParentMail, please contact the school office if you do not have a ParentMail account and require the link. We will also hold meetings with staff and pupils to ensure we engage them in the process.

Frequently asked questions have been addressed later in this document. If, having read the information, you have further questions, please submit them using the ‘Consultation Questions’,  click here to access the form.  This document will be regularly updated on each school’s website to include responses to questions received.

Following the consultation period, the Governing Bodies will consider all of the feedback and views received during the consultation, and will then vote to decide on whether to submit an application to the DfE.

 

What would the changes be?

As parents and stakeholders in our community, we understand that you will be interested in finding out what the changes would be and how things might affect you.

 

The key changes which would occur on becoming a part of Multi Academy Trust are:

  1. The Governing Bodies would unite to become one Board of Trustees; this board would hold strategic leadership responsibilities, including increased responsibilities for finance, the estate and assets;
  2. In addition, Local Governing Boards (LGBs) would be created, holding advisory responsibility and they would feed into the larger Board of Trustees which would set the strategic direction of the Trust and provide added scrutiny of each school;
  3. The Trust would become the employer of all staff but just as they do now, the Trustees (currently governors) would be responsible for staffing the schools;
  4. The Trust would take charge of all of the land and assets from the Local Authority, safeguarding the school in the future and ensuring the buildings and assets remain well managed and fit for purpose for the education of your children;
  5. The Trust would develop its own strategic vision for growth and continue to ensure excellence in the quality of education but would have a greater ownership over what is taught and how it is delivered, enabling the people who know your children the best to determine what they learn.

 

What would not change?

The schools would remain locally managed, that means that while the Trust can enhance what the schools do, there are a number of things which would not be changed. A few of these are set out below:

  1. Strategic decisions about how the schools are run, how the curriculum is implemented, how behaviour is managed. The act of becoming a MAT would not require any changes to be made to the curriculum. Any change would be driven in response to the needs of pupils, as it currently is;
  2. Staffing arrangements would be unchanged. If conversion to academy status occurs all staff currently employed would automatically transfer to the academy trust on their current pay and conditions;
  3. The local brand/logo of the school would remain the same. Day to day management of each school would remain the same, allowing the schools to continue operating as they do already. There wouldn’t be any expensive changes to uniform – so there would be no costly new uniforms required, and there would not be any other additional expenditure for families;
  4. School holiday dates, term times, school day times and all organisational decisions would be decided by Trustees and school leaders, as they currently are, to meet the needs of the community.

Further information about Academy conversion consultation can be found in the Appendix ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

Information about each of the schools can be found on their websites

Dawlish Primary School: https://www.dawlishprimary.co.uk/

Newbury Park Primary School: https://www.newburyparkschool.net/index.asp

Newport School: https://www.newport.waltham.sch.uk/

Oakhill Primary School: https://www.oakhillschool.org.uk/

Thorpe Hall Primary School: https://www.thorpehallprimary.com/

 

Appendix: Frequently Asked Questions

What is this consultation about? 

The governors of Opossum Federated Schools (Dawlish, Newport, Oakhill and Thorpe Hall) and Newbury Park Primary School are consulting on the schools’ proposal to form a Multi Academy Trust (MAT)

 

What is a Multi Academy Trust? 

A Multi Academy Trust (MAT) is what is normally formed when a number of schools join together as a single Trust with a Board of Trustees answerable to the Trust’s members. The Trust becomes independent of Local Authority (in this case Waltham Forest and Redbridge) control, with all staff becoming employed by the Trust; all assets are transferred to the Trust. No one school will be dominant, all will have equal weighting with Trustees and the success of the MAT depends on the success of all schools. Each school in the MAT will retain its identity keeping its own unique character, name, ethos, local governing board, uniform and local leadership arrangements (Headteacher/Head of School). 

Members of the Trust will be responsible for the strategic oversight of the Trust. They are the ‘guardians’ of the Trust, ensuring that strategic objectives are upheld. They appoint Trustees who determine the policies of the Trust, monitor the effectiveness of individual academies, manage central services and report to the Secretary of State. Trustees work to ensure each school within the Trust is performing to the best of its ability and it gets the support it requires.  Each school then has its own Local Governing Board. The responsibilities allocated to the various levels of governance within the Trust will be set down in the Scheme of Delegated Authority (SDA).

The Trust is the legal entity and it has one set of Articles that govern all the academies (each school) within it.

 

Are other schools also creating MATs? 

In Waltham Forest there are 77 schools. 33 are currently academies, operating within 19 different Trusts.

 

In Redbridge there are 79 Schools. 17 are currently academies and there are 3 different MATs.

 

Some MATs are in national chains; most MATs are locally based and geographically clustered.

 

2022 data indicates that, nationally, 39% of primary schools are academies. 55% of all academies (primary/secondary) are either single-academy trusts (SAT) or part of a multi-academy trust with fewer than 10 schools. The average size of a primary academy trust is currently 7 schools.

 

There is significant ambition from the government to have all schools across the UK join academy trusts.

 

Will other schools join us? 

We hope and expect that others will choose to join. These may be secondary and/or primary schools. Priority will be given to schools in our local region. Regional Department for Education (DfE) Directors may also ‘recommend’ schools join the Trust. Due diligence checks will be undertaken before any school joins.

 

Whilst we expect to grow, priority will be given to those schools sharing our ethos which means growth will be limited to like-minded schools. The focus of the Opossum Academy Trust will remain firmly on what is right for our pupils and not on simply growing an academy chain.

 

Do we need to get permission to convert to a MAT? 

We will need to obtain the permission (Academy Orders) of the Secretary of State for Education via the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). The ESFA requires the Academy Trust to prepare a business plan which sets out: 

  • the details of the change, including any potential issues/risks relating to the proposals and evidence of demand; 
  • when the change is to be implemented and how; 
  • the effect on other schools, academies and educational institutions within the immediate locality, and an overview of the responses to the consultation; 
  • the degree of Local Authority support and what the academy has done in response to any consultation responses from them; any indicative costings and an indication of how these might be met, including how the change will be sustained in terms of capacity and value for money; 
  • any suggested changes to the admission arrangements.

 

Do we need to consult? 

  • The Department for Education (DfE) guidance on making significant changes requires the schools to consult with key stakeholders, including the Local Authority. The key stakeholders are: staff; parents; local primary schools; local secondary schools; London Borough of Redbridge Council; London Borough of Waltham Forest. Information will be sent to other local groups.  
  • Every query/question will receive a response on-line and all objections detailed in the business case to the EFSA.

 

What changes do we need to make to become a MAT? 

The changes will be: 

  • Adopt Articles of Association and agree a Scheme of Delegation (SDA);
  • Adopt the MAT funding arrangements i.e. converting our current funding agreement into a Master Funding Agreement and entering into a Supplemental Funding Agreement on behalf of each academy school; 
  • Decide on the governance structure for our MAT;
  • Establish Local Governing Boards for each school in the MAT.

 

When will this happen? 

Subject to the outcome of the consultation and approval from the ESFA, we would hope to be a MAT for January 2024.

 

Will the governors’ role change when we become a MAT?                                     

Currently the Opossum Federation has one Governing Body, as does Newbury Park. In the MAT there will be three levels of governance: Trust Members, Trustees and Local Governing Boards. The SDA provides the framework for the delegation of authority and decision-making to each level. Every trust has members who have a similar role to shareholders of a company limited by shares. They:

  • are the subscribers to the memorandum of association (where they are founding members);
  • may amend the articles of association subject to any restrictions created by the funding agreement or charity law;
  • may, by special resolution, appoint new members or remove existing members other than, where there is one, the foundation/sponsor body and any members it has appointed;
  • have powers to appoint trustees as set out in the trust’s articles of association and powers under the Companies Act 2006 to remove trustees;
  • may, by special resolution, issue direction to the Trustees to take a specific action;
  • appoint the Trust’s external auditors and receive (but do not sign) the audited annual report and accounts (subject to the Companies Act);
  • have power to change the company’s name and, ultimately, wind it up.

The next tier of governance will be the Trustees. The Trustees should focus on three core functions:

    • ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction;
    • holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the
      organisation and its pupils, and the performance management of staff;
    • overseeing and ensuring effective financial performance.

The final tier of governance will be Local Governing Boards (LGBs).  

  • The LGBs will be responsible, through the school’s leadership, for the implementation of school and Trust strategy and policies within each individual school. The LGB focus (see below) is on standards, welfare, safeguarding and stakeholders – the core business of the school.

 

Role of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)                                                                                      

Provides overarching strategic leadership and direction for the MAT. 

This person is also the Accounting Officer and works closely with the Board of Trustees and the Chief Financial Officer. The CEO is the single point of accountability for the MAT and is responsible for the outcomes of all schools. The Board of Trustees will establish committees to look at areas such as Audit/Finance/Human Resources and Standards and the CEO will report to these committees.

 

How do the finances work?

All our schools face constrained funding settlements and rising costs over the next few years.  The way schools allocate funding has to change if schools are to remain solvent. As a MAT, the funding mechanism is one of the biggest changes. Between 80 – 85% of expenditure is on fixed costs such as staffing. There are other overheads such as premises, grounds and energy. When combined with staffing this takes allocated expenditure up to 90- 95% of funding. The Trust will pool fixed expenditure to maximise economies of scale and procurement efficiencies to make our money go further. Trustees will work closely with the CEO and CFO to ensure best value and the most effective use of funding. Non-fixed expenditure may be variable according to the needs of individual schools – this means one school may receive more one year, maybe for upgrading IT, with another school benefiting the year after. 

The Trustees will then redistribute the remainder to the schools. The Trust must act fairly and consistently with its distribution and the funds remaining can be spent by each school as long as they are within the guidelines of the Scheme of Delegation. For the MAT to be successful all schools have to perform well – this means all schools need to be championed by Trustees. Individual schools often organise their own fund-raising activities – monies raised will be kept by the school.

 

What happens to Terms and Conditions? 

The Trustees become the employer similar to the current situation where each Governing Body is the employer. Rules for conversion to academy status mean that Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations apply and all staff and will transfer on existing terms and conditions to the Trust as the employer. However, although academies are not bound by the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document, the Trust will honour the national teachers’ pay and conditions and Teachers’ Pensions Scheme arrangements and will also ensure that the Local Government Pension Scheme arrangements stay in place for support 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 or re-negotiation of contracts and conditions for staff who TUPE across; however, it may be necessary to iron out anomalies and promote equality through harmonisation across support staff contracts. The Trust approach to this will be based on its underlying values and will be 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.

 

How secure are jobs? 

Job security is determined by funding levels. If our schools are successful and continue to attract pupils, staff jobs will be secure. Effective use of resources – making our funding go further – will further secure jobs. 

 

One employer across a family of schools can allow for more effective use of staffing. There may be opportunities for staff to gain more experience by supporting another school. New staff will be employed by the MAT and may work in more than one school.

 

What changes will I see? 

There will be very little visible change as a direct result of forming the MAT at individual school level. The leadership, staff, uniform, premises and curriculum will all continue to be very much the remit for each individual school. The changes that we hope you will see will be a general continued improvement in the performance and running of the schools and the introduction of LGBs.

 

How will forming the MAT improve standards for our children? 

This will enable us to utilise the expertise of staff from schools in the MAT to accelerate progress for all our children. We will share specialist skills and knowledge across the MAT for the benefit of all. The talents of schools together become greater than the sum of their parts.

 

Opossum schools already work in a federation partnership; why become a MAT?

Formalising the relationship in a MAT enshrines the structure, people, policies and processes of all schools in a legal status, which we understand to be the government’s preferred model and ambition for all schools. Schools are increasingly being steered towards joining existing, larger MATs and the opportunity to create our own MAT is reducing. Converting at this time creates security for our schools to maintain their own unique cultures and autonomy to do what is right for the pupils in each of our schools. 

 

How does the admissions process work for academies? 

The Trust schools will all follow local authority admissions arrangements. Our schools are here to serve the local community. Admission arrangements clearly set out how children will be admitted, including the criteria that will be applied if there are more applications than available places. Trustees will ensure that the practices and the criteria used to decide the allocation of school places are fair, clear and objective.

 

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

All academy schools are inspected by Ofsted using the same framework and timescales as for maintained schools. As a MAT, each school will continue to be inspected separately and will receive an individual Ofsted report. Academy schools will still have to take part in national tests and in teacher assessments of students’ performance as they apply to maintained schools. The results of public tests are reported in performance tables in the same way as they are now. 

 

The MAT will introduce similar assessment and reporting cycles across schools. This will help increase the robust nature of self-review, making it easier to compare outcomes across the schools. In addition to OFSTED and the LA, academies also come under the gaze of the Regional Department for Education (DfE) Director.

 

How do I take part in the consultation? 

The Governing Bodies are consulting with all stakeholders and the wider local community. You are invited to submit your comments and views on the proposal via our consultation response form; click here to respond to the consultation. Hard copies of the response form may be obtained from each school office for those who have difficulty accessing the form online; these should be submitted in the response box in the school office. All responses must be received by 4pm on 23rd March 2023.

                       

Will staff have the opportunity to contribute towards a transparent consultation process?

Yes, meetings will be held with all staff members.

                                                           

Who will make the final decision in terms of whether to convert?

This will be made by the full Governing Bodies at the end of the consultation period.                                                                   

Have the schools already applied to the DfE in order to alert it of its intention to convert?

The conversion process involves several steps and processes, some of which can run concurrently. Whilst consultation is going ahead, leaders are in the process of gathering the due diligence that the DfE requires in order to begin the application process. This information will also be used to better inform the final decision. The process can be stopped at any point until the Funding Agreement has been signed.          

                                               

Will the children be told?                               

The priority is to protect our future so that we can continue to be great schools. If conversion goes ahead, the process and structure will be explained to the children. The last thing we would want to do is to make any of them feel unsettled.    

                                                           

If we were to become an academy and had day to day concerns/issues, what would we do?

Each school would still have a Complaints Policy. All issues and concerns would be managed in the same way as they currently are.         

 

Update to Frequently Asked Questions 3 March 2023       

 

Will staff be expected to move across schools to teach where needed? 

No current staff member will be placed in a school without their agreement.

ECTs are appointed to the organisation and are then assigned a school. Once assigned to a school staff may ask to or be asked to move between schools and we accommodate these requests where possible. We have never forced someone to move to a different school within the organisation and we would see no benefit in managing staff in this way. All staff contracted to their current school would retain their employment rights with that school. A real benefit of schools working together is that they do have the opportunity to visit other schools in our partnership as part of their professional development and to share good practice. 

 

Will staff salaries be affected in the long run? 

No, as we would adopt the School Teachers Pay and Conditions, staff salaries will remain set by nationally agreed pay awards,  as they currently are. 

 

Would staff lose their built-up entitlement to maternity pay? 

No, as all staff are contracted to their current school, they would retain their employment rights with that school.

 

Will staff be expected to work longer contracted hours than currently? 

No, as all staff are contracted to their current school so they would retain their employment rights with that school. 

 

Will any changes to the curriculum take into account local demographics of pupils i.e. religion?

There are no planned changes to the curriculum. The Newbury Park and Opossum curriculum have been developed from a National Curriculum base with consideration given to representation of our local communities. The curriculum includes the SACRE scheme of work for RE which is written locally to take account of local demographics. Any future development to curriculum will draw on expertise and experience from across the Trust partnership.

 

How much additional funding would there be? 

  • Exact figures are difficult to assess at this time but below is a list of potential opportunities open to Academy Trusts. 
  • Currently our funding is through the Local Authority (LA) who receive all of the funds for maintained schools. If we convert, we would receive our grant-maintained funding (GAG) direct from the DfE. This would mean that any grants or payments retained by the LA would come directly to the school and we would be able to make a decision on what services we want to purchase. 
  • We would benefit from being able to apply for the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) grants which are only available to Academies. These are linked to building improvement projects which would be a huge benefit to all of the school budgets. Some academy chains of a similar size to ours have claimed over 5 million pounds over the last 3 years. 
  • We may be able to qualify for School Condition Allocation (SCA) which would be an annual grant that is allocated to Academy Trusts with 5 schools or 3,000 pupils. The DfE calculates a Trust’s allocation based on census returns. This would be a significant increase on the current funding each school currently receives
  • Academies can also apply for energy efficiency funds to look at ways in which each school can improve their carbon footprint. With energy costs increasing we would benefit from applying for funding to be able to have a survey for each school so that we can develop an Estates Management plan. 
  • When considering increasing revenue for each school we would also benefit from savings achieved through linking contracts and economies of scale. The buying power of schools having the same contracts or contractors means there will be savings for each school. 

 

Percentage increase per pupil. How is this funding intended to be used? 

Any additional funding through economies of scale, tendering processes or through receiving our revenue funding directly from the DfE will be used to improve our schools. We already have a secure leadership structure in place so we would want to ensure we continue to fund school improvement initiatives.
 

What policies, new initiatives are being proposed?

While there will be changes to how the school receives funding and related accounting and premises management under different statutory regulations we are not expecting new policies and initiatives to be introduced at this point. We will however be able to streamline the policies we have for each school so saving the workload of leaders in writing and reviewing policies for each school. For example, we can look at having some generic policies for the following – Health and Safety, safer recruitment, tendering and procurement etc.


Are there any building projects in the pipeline for Newport School? 

We wish to develop the Sidmouth Site and the Caretaker’s House. 

 

What would these buildings be intended for? 

While we are aware we would not receive planning permission to build on the Sidmouth site we have a range of ideas on how to develop this space to promote the wider curriculum. Any plans would be shared with the school’s community. The ex-caretaker’s house brings complexities due to the size, design and location of the building. Preliminary advice has been to use the space for specialist provision or to provide administration services to free space in the main school building.   

 

Would there be any impact on children during their time at school?

No.


Could you please explain in detail what is meant by more local parent participation? 

It is our intention to ensure that parents are informed about what each school is doing across the Trust. We will circulate a Trust wide newsletter each term so parents know what projects each school is undertaking their successes and challenges. Parents will have a voice through the local governing boards which will also link with the Trust Board. We want to make sure that all stakeholders feel part of the Trust so there will be opportunities to visit the schools and to be part of wider consultations. 

 

Would there be any sort of PTA’s?

Currently, 2  of the Opossum Schools and Newbury Park have established PTAs. The other 2 Opossum schools engage parent support and involvement through project based activities such as uniform swaps, food banks and local community projects.


What changes are being proposed to the curriculum? Can parents be involved in the changes?

See above.


How are staff impacted and protected by the changes? Would there be an increase in salary and/or benefits?

There will be minimal impact on staff as all staff would retain their employment rights with that school. We would look to improve retention and recruitment of staff – by being able to enhance professional development and career progression opportunities for staff across the Trust.


Would there be increased staff levels? 

Staffing is determined by funding levels. If our schools are successful and continue to attract pupils, staff jobs will be secure. Effective use of resources – making our funding go further – will further secure jobs. One employer across a family of schools can allow for more effective use of staffing. There may be opportunities for staff to gain more experience by supporting another school. New staff will be employed by the MAT and may work in more than one school. 


Would there be more expertise staff for KS2 e.g. art/music etc. 

We believe becoming a MAT will enhance the sharing of good practice, advice and support – this will be across all aspects of school life and the curriculum. 


What happens to the existing governors? 

Some will become Trustees and others will be invited to join Local Governing Boards.


How are pupils impacted by the change short term and long term? Would there be a continuation of the current set up? 

We do not anticipate the conversion to a MAT to have an impact on the pupils as there will be very little visible change as a direct result of forming the MAT at individual school level. The leadership, staff, uniform, premises and curriculum will all continue to be very much the remit for each individual school.


Would there be any changes to school meals and menus?

Catering is a purchased service. When the contracts are up for renewal we would go to tender to source the best value contractor. All schools must ensure that the meals on offer comply with all statutory regulations and any contract agreed would need to evidence how they meet these requirements.   

 

What do you have like after school club?

Each school offers a range of school clubs to support learning and children’s interests. These are published on the school websites and are offered for families to sign up via Parentmail each term.

              

 

Responses to Consultation Questions 13 March 2023

 

Why now? With the Schools Bills shelved, the pressure on schools to join MATS is not as it was. Unless a school is failing it can’t be forced into a MAT. The federation sounds like it’s doing well. There is a general election on the horizon which could change the funding situation to schools. Why risk making a irreversible change now limiting the federation’s options?

Whilst this Schools Bill has been paused, it is feasible to assume that a new White Paper will be published in the next period. There is no indication that the academy agenda will be reversed (by either of the main parties). The current DfE position is for schools to join existing MATs rather than create new ones. We believe that this pause in policy provides a possible limited opportunity to create our own MAT. Creating our own MAT will allow the schools to continue to follow the values and practices we have developed.

 

Has the Federation explored other options, such as adding Newbury Park to the Federation? This is permissible in the legislation, would deliver benefits of collaboration and pooled resources at no risk. The partnership could be tested out, at no risk, since it can still be unpicked. A MAT could be considered at a later date when the political landscape is more certain.

The proposal is not focussed on organisational expansion but on formalising our existing 5 school partnership to secure, sustain and develop it for the future. The certainty or uncertainty of the political landscape is open to interpretation.

 

You said that MAT would provide "additional security", is that just funding security or are there additional security goals that the AMT will provide?

Security in maintaining the values, vision, ethos and curriculum we have developed. By forming a MAT together we are taking direct control of our organisation rather than being led by local authority policy and leadership. By forming a MAT we will set our own specific organisational goals and approach that aligns with our ethos. Primary aged pupil school application numbers are in decline in Redbridge, Waltham Forest and the many local authorities across London. School income is dependent on pupil numbers. For example, for some years Waltham Forest has had more than 20 forms of entry vacant, which has had a significant impact on school budgets. When we review Waltham Forest 2023 first preference offers many academies are over subscribed which indicates parental preference. If schools are not financially viable they are at risk of closure regardless of whether they are maintained or academies.

 

If the school forms this MAT now, does that prevent it from transferring to a larger MAT later on?

There would be nothing to prevent our MAT transferring to a larger MAT later only if we collectively chose to. We could not be forced into another MAT unless we were ‘rebrokered’ because we were failing.

 

These are all the things currently exists as a federation so why change the status?

Formalising the relationship as a MAT enshrines the structure, people, policies and processes of all schools in a legal status, which we understand to be the government’s preferred model and ambition for all schools. Schools are increasingly being steered towards joining existing, larger MATs and the opportunity to create our own MAT is reducing. Converting at this time creates security for our schools to maintain their own unique cultures and autonomy to do what is right for the pupils in each of our schools

 

I'm concerned that while you intend everything to stay the same, in the long term this is surely unlikely if you become a MAT?

A priority reason for considering this conversion is to maintain the culture, values and educational offer provided by our schools. This level of continuity could not be guaranteed if political direction required us to join a larger, existing MAT. No changes are planned to the daily experience in our schools but, as is the case for all schools, we regularly review, evaluate and develop with a view to improving outcomes for our learners. This cycle of review and development would continue as maintained schools or as a MAT. We are unable to comment on any changes which will be determined by future DfE directives or policy statements from the government.

 

if they stay the same then why change? it seems that Newberry park stand to gain the most

All the schools will act as “givers and receivers” of support and challenge at all levels. There is a “talent pool” across all the schools and a motivation to want to drive change to improve further.

 

Please give examples of what our children can benefit from? Access to what to enhance their education ? What can’t we afford or what are they missing out on now that an academy can provide ? More examples please? Not just ‘we will be stronger’

Greater buying power in terms of procuring specialist services to support pupils learning, particularly pupils with complex needs. The financial efficiencies and greater control gained will benefit all the schools and their pupils. Greater opportunities for collaborative learning of staff and flexibility to work across all phases.

 

Please clarify the difference / reasoning for becoming an Academy, then an MAT with schools in Redbridge? Is the intention that these happen concurrently? If so, why would we not wait to asses the performance and value of the seperate academy trusts before entering into a MAT?

Over the past 7 years, Newbury Park Primary School has worked collaboratively with the Opossum Federation both informally and formally including; governance and leadership support, business support, finance and induction for early career teachers. Additionally, the headteacher of Newbury Park Primary School worked with the Opossum Federation previously when he was headteacher of Oakhill Primary School, now a member of the Opossum Federation. Connections between leaders, governors and some staff members are therefore long-standing and form a strong foundation upon which to build a new partnership.

  • Academies receive their funding directly from central government – this means that academies receive more funding because none is retained by the Local Authority for the provision of central services.We have received an opinion that this point required clarification. for clarity: Local Authorities have to retain a small "topslice" for central services and that this passes instead, in the academies system, to each academy trust.  The trust will need to spend this money on securing statutory services.
  • We will secure and formalise our established and successful partnership – by sharing resources and providing protection for an individual school as it is part of a larger organisation. This also leads to the reduction in duplication – for instance around policy development and/or the introduction of new initiatives and responsibilities;
  • Give us greater freedom in securing best value for money - by being able to make better use of the schools’ full funding entitlement to benefit from economies of scale and shared expertise and services, e.g. IT, SEN support, site maintenance etc. At present some of the funding allocated to the schools is retained by the Local Authority;
  • Improve and enhance our premises – with academy status we will have greater access to grants and wider sources of income to support building projects;
  • Create opportunities for increased local parental participation – this will be through the creation of Local Governing Boards, feeding into the strategic responsibilities undertaken by Trustees;
  • Enhance sharing of good practice, advice and support – this will be across all aspects of school life, e.g. teaching, support staff, leadership, administration; 
  • Facilitate continuing development of a rich and wide curriculum agreed by our Trustees - this means we choose the curriculum we want our pupils to learn as academies have more freedom over what is taught;
  • Improve retention and recruitment of staff – by being able to enhance professional development and career progression opportunities for staff across the Trust;
  • Support leadership succession planning across our schools and the Trust - this will help ensure stability for our schools and therefore pupils’ education;
  • Free school staff to focus on the core work of teaching and learning and supporting all pupils to reach their full potential – strategic, operational and transactional functions are undertaken at the Trust level.

 

Why is the government so keen for schools to be come academies or form Multi-Academy Trusts?

A DfE spokeswoman states: "Multi-academy trusts have a track record of raising performance and giving schools strong leadership and more freedoms. That is why we consider it to be the best option for schools."

 

You say conversion to a MAT will create security - why is there insecurity now?

We are at the mercy of the decision making powers of the local authority and the government. 2 white papers have referenced forcing schools to join existing MATS. We believe it will not be long before the option to create our own MAT ceases.

 

The federation has been in place and working well, why the change now?  at what stage and when did this become a thing? we would like to see copies of mins from the meeting where this was discussed. 

We agree with you that we are working well and we wish to be stronger by securing our organisation by forming a MAt to develop all 5 schools.

 

You state that the partnership is working and that you have 'formally and informally' been working together, why not continue?

We do wish to continue but as equal partners in a newly formed MAT.

 

Why is the partnership being proposed with schools in Waltham Forest rather than Redbridge?

Why is MAT being considered across 2 different boroughs? 

Shared ethos, values, pedagogical approach and most importantly an embedded history of successful partnership working is what is important to us in choosing who we partner with not necessarily locality.

 

Is Newbury Park being brought in to form this MAT because the DfE won't consider MATs of fewer than 5 schools? If so, why could the federation not find another school in Waltham Forest to form the MAT?

Applications to form a MAT are stronger with a larger number of schools.

 

As explained by the panel during the presentation (6.3.2023), Newbury Park and the Opossum Federation have worked in a strong, but informal, partnership for a number of years. The relationship between organisations is positive and values and approaches are aligned. Additionally, the Head Teacher of Newbury Park was formerly the Head of Oakhill Primary School - now a member of the Opossum Federation. Mrs Strowbridge, Chair of the Opossum Federation Governing Body worked with Mr Fairclough at Oakhill as chair of their previous Governing Body.

 

As a maintained federation, Dawlish, Newport, Oakhill and Thorpe Hall Primary Schools already work as a stand-alone organisation, with a single governing body, executive leadership team and finance and operations team. This collaboration has been successful and has developed into a strong working partnership which we wish to secure and formalise by creating our own MAT. Over the past 7 years, Newbury Park Primary School has worked collaboratively with the Opossum Federation both informally and formally including; governance and leadership support, business support, finance and induction for early career teachers. Additionally, the headteacher of Newbury Park Primary School worked with the Opossum Federation previously when he was headteacher of Oakhill Primary School, now a member of the Opossum Federation. Connections between leaders, governors and some staff members are therefore long-standing and form a strong foundation upon which to build a new partnership.   

 

why can't NP join us then? 

This proposal includes Newbury Park as an academy partner.

 

What are the risks if we don't move to MAT?

It is becoming increasingly rare for the DfE to approve the formation of a new MAT over joining a pre-existing MAT. We risk losing the opportunity to create our own MAT and retaining our autonomy. We are also at risk if there is a change not only in government policy regarding whether schools must be in MATs or the requirements around converting. We are also at risk as to what extent the local authority uses it powers when allocating funding or applying their powers to claw back funding.

 

Statistically, how do schools perform in the years following conversion? Is there a dip in performance and when do things level out?

There is a wide range of statistical information in the public domain relating to academies and maintained schools and the broadness of the question makes a response difficult. For example a school subject to measures or repeated gradings of Requires Improvement will not necessarily improve simply by being converted to an academy. This we see with the rebrokering of schools into new academies. We see the statistical pupil achievement performance data as a reliable lens to look at when considering wider issues such as school structure, leadership, governance etc. Here is the link to the statistical information of our schools’ performances.

https://www.find-school-performance-data.service.gov.uk/school/103073/dawlish-primary-school/primary

 

https://www.find-school-performance-data.service.gov.uk/school/102812/newbury-park-primary-school/primary

 

https://www.find-school-performance-data.service.gov.uk/school/103048/newport-school/primary

 

https://www.find-school-performance-data.service.gov.uk/school/103069/oakhill-primary-school/primary

 

https://www.find-school-performance-data.service.gov.uk/school/103060/thorpe-hall-primary-school/primary

 

State schools perform better than Academies, so why are taking this route?

Academies are state schools. There is a wide range of statistical information in the public domain relating to academies and maintained schools and quantifiable data can be presented in a range of ways. For example school performance data changes when looked at via national, regional or local averages, e.g. London schools currently outperform all schools nationally.

Performance of schools is influenced by a range of factors. Currently, all schools in the proposed partnership have achieved in line with or above national averages.

 

Is it the right time to spend all this time and resources setting up a MAT, rather than spending these things on making up for all our children have lost during the Covid Pandemic?

The work of each school continues as usual, providing high quality learning experiences for children, enabling them to achieve well. Activities relating to this proposal are being undertaken predominantly by Governors and Executive Leaders. It is our intention that any conversion is seamless and, as no material changes will be seen, daily life in the schools will continue as usual.

 

Has there been any material impact on schools that have been part of a MAT for several years now? If so, how?

We suggest you look at the national data on this.  Partners such as the NGA (National Governors Association) in addition to the DfE often issue 'spotlight' review findings that you might find useful 

 

if the school forms this MAT, is this will not have a negative impact on the quality of learning?  how to be sure that this will not affect the financial management?

By forming our own new MAT we believe we will be able to ensure continuity to children’s learning and school experience, following the same systems and approaches with the same staff team as we do now. Forming our own MAT limits the risk of being required to join a larger existing MAT - which would almost certainly result in changes to policy and procedures.

The schools will continue to be managed financially by the same personnel, following financial regulations - which will be subject to enhanced audit and external scrutiny.

 

How would the MAT board or trustees be appointed/selected?

Who will the Trust Members be and how many? How will they be selected and will parents have any input?

MAT board and trustees are selected from a range of sources for example;  professional partnerships, education networks, local business, existing governors. In essence trustees are sourced in the same way as we co-opt governors. We need to look for the right mix of skills and experience appointed, for example:

−finance

−HR

−legal

−property/estates

−PR/marketing

−growth and change management

−educational expertise.

 

I'm worried that those local governing bodies have no actual say and could be removed if there was a change in leadership etc.

The Trustees set the Scheme of delegation, and Members approve the Articles of Association - any change in the makeup of a board/members is not a local decision but one taken by the 'board' and endorsed by the members - those changes require a change in the Articles; please note  the articles are set by the 'members' and that the DfE would have to be made aware of such change.

 

You mentioned that Trustees would be unpaid but could this change over time? Thanks

Would the Trust Members be paid a salary by the Multi Academy Trust or the schools?

No, there is no option to pay Trustees currently - ALL governance volunteers are unpaid and this is set in statute.

 

What governance will be put in place to ensure no financial mismanagement/transparency/ bullying/ high staff turnover as has been reported in other MATS?

Members of the Trust will be responsible for the strategic oversight of the Trust. They are the ‘guardians’ of the Trust, ensuring that strategic objectives are upheld. They appoint Trustees who determine the policies of the Trust, monitor the effectiveness of individual academies, manage central services and report to the Secretary of State. Trustees work to ensure each school within the Trust is performing to the best of its ability and it gets the support it requires.  Each school then has its own Local Governing Board. The responsibilities allocated to the various levels of governance within the Trust will be set down in the Scheme of Delegated Authority (SDA). All MATS have to have - an internal audit, an external audit and must file their accounts with companies house, the DfE and publish those online.  All charitable company accounts are public information regardless of the MAT

 

I'm trying to understand which trust or body will be responsible for the new MAT, are you setting up a new trust with the opossum federation schools + newbury park and making that official as a MAT to access additional funding, or is there a management body that or MAT that is going to take over the running of the schools as a group? Sorry, I don't seem to be able to pick this up from what you've sent out. Appreciate some clarity.

We are seeking to form our own MAT from Opossum Federation schools and Newbury Park to access additional funding and to secure our partnership as an organisation. No external  management body or MAT is going to take over the running of the schools as a group.

 

What is the current structure in terms of governors and chairman in the current state as a federation? How will this change if we become a MAT?

In the current structure Opossum has one governing body made up of 11 governors; 6 co-opted governors, 1 staff governor, the CEO, 1 LA governor and 2 parent governors. The governing board has a chair. If we become a MAT we will have additional tiers of governance.

The legal status of the schools that become part of the Trust.

Five Members will be appointed. A Board of Trustees will be appointed by the Members to have the overall responsibility for running the five schools. The Trustees will appoint a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who will lead, line manage and support the Head Teachers. The Trustees will appoint a Finance Director. Staff will be employed by the Trust not by the Council. Local Governing Bodies will be established under a scheme of delegation. The responsibility for the school buildings will transfer to the Trust.

Financial arrangements – Most funding will come to the school directly from Central Government (with top up place funding still coming from the LA), and some functions, e.g. Finance, HR, Site development and maintenance, will be managed centrally.

 

what is the proposed governance structure?

The application would be for Opossum Federation and Newbury Park to form a new MAT. The new MAT would have a governance structure of ‘Members’ (eyes on, hands off), Trustees (similar role to that of the current governing body) and Local Governing Boards which would create a new level of governance at school level with membership including parents who have a specific focus on the individual school. Please see the presentation slides (6.3.2023) for further information. Day to day leadership of the schools will continue to be the responsibility of current staff - no changes to this structure are foreseen or intended.

 

Who will the CEO and Trustees / Board members be?

The CEO will be the current CEO of the Opossum Federation. The Board members will comprise some of both governing boards, co-opted governors we hope also to be trustees. A MAT board and trustees are selected from a range of sources for example;  professional partnerships, education networks, local business, existing governors. In essence trustees are sourced in the same way as we co-opt governors. We need to look for the right mix of skills and experience appointed, for example:

−finance

−HR

−legal

−property/estates

−PR/marketing

−growth and change management

−educational expertise.

 

How will they be appointed? Who are they accountable to? If there are concerns in the leadership of the Trust where does it go?

The CEO position would  be held by the current leader of the Opossum Federation, who currently holds this post. Trustees and Members would be appointed if the application was successful. The membership of these groups would include members of the current governing bodies. All those responsible for leadership and governance are accountable to the Members and ultimately to the Department for Education/Secretary of State. Concerns about the leadership of the Trust would be addressed through the Trust’s Complaints or Whistleblowing policies.

 

Will the contract be visible for parents to view ?

Documents will be published in line with statutory guidance and regulations.

 

Also Academies are not accountable to parents or local authority.

That is correct, they are accountable to the DfE - however the Local Authority will remain engaged in the work of the academy/Trust. 

 

How would this MAT ensure communication around school finances are still available? Academies have now requirements to submit their financial information. Which seems would be a worrying move? How can we hold the MAT responsible in the future if there were any financial mismanagement ? We know this…

All MATS have to have - an internal audit, an external audit and must file their accounts with companies house, the DfE and publish those online.  All charitable company accounts are public information regardless of the MAT.

 

You say MATs are audited earlier, but how do you explain the Public Accounts Committee’s findings that it was categorical and evident that ‘parents had to fight very hard to extract even basic financial information’ in a 2021 report ?

We can't comment on specific cases - all MATs are accountable to the statutory document - Academy Trust Handbook

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/academy-trust-handbook

Academy Trust Handbook, also known as the Academies Financial Handbook

 

Many MATs have promised similar and parents and staff have not had their voices heard when promises were not delivered. How will this be different?

As the same leadership will be in place across our schools we are confident that this will not be an issue.

 

 

under TUPE, will there be any redundancies or reduction of headcount?

Will there be a restructure of staffing after the TUPE?

There are currently no plans for systematic change or re-negotiation of contracts and conditions for staff who TUPE across; however, it may be necessary to iron out anomalies and promote equality through harmonisation across support staff contracts. The Trust approach to this would be based on its underlying values and will be committed to doing everything it can to retain and reward good staff. Full union recognition agreement and acknowledgement of union duties will be given. Job security is determined by funding levels. If our schools are successful and continue to attract pupils, staff jobs will be secure. Effective use of resources – making our funding go further – will further secure jobs. One employer across a family of schools can allow for more effective use of staffing. There may be opportunities for staff to gain more experience by supporting another school. New staff will be employed by the MAT and may work in more than one school.

 

You mention staff working across the trust, so there will be staffing changes. TAs and other staff could be 'shared' between schools?

No current staff member will be placed in a school without their agreement. At Opossum ECTs are appointed to the organisation and are then assigned a school. Once assigned to a school staff may ask or be asked to move between schools and we accommodate these requests where possible. We have never forced someone to move to a different school within the organisation and we would see no benefit in managing staff in this way. All staff contracted to their current school would retain their employment rights. A real benefit of schools working together is that they do have the opportunity to visit other schools in our partnership as part of their professional development and to share good practice.

 

What happens when the current cohort of senior management and governor chairs retire?

All school governance volunteers and leaders should have a succession plan, or a 'five year plan' for the future of the organisation. Succession planning is regularly discussed when reviewing the Business Continuity Plan.

 

you state that teacher will be paid inline with current pay grades and that this will not change. please explain then how that will change under MAT as you clearly repeat there will be no change and that the teachers pay will be inline with said guidelines. seems misleading to me. 

No, as we would adopt the School Teachers Pay and Conditions, staff salaries will remain set by nationally agreed pay awards,  as they currently are. All staff would retain their employment rights.

 

How will this conversion stop our leaders don’t have 6 figure salaries?

Will terms and conditions for teachers change? How will chief executive and senior pay be scrutinised and limited?

who will decide the CEOs pay and reward? could the CEO just authorise their own pay and reward?  are the trustees rewarded on the financial  performance of the schools?

All our staff including leaders have their pay set in line with the statutory Schools Teachers Pay and Conditions regulations, published annually by the government. As all staff including leadership would TUPE on the same pay and conditions salaries would remain regulated in this way. The Exec leaders have to report pay to the DfE - any salaries above a threshold must be published on the Trust website

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-teachers-pay-and-conditions

 

Does this include expenses and benefits?

Please see above

 

How do we know the staff hired have the right qualifications?

The schools follow Safer Recruitment procedures when appointing staff.

 

Can you guarantee that current teachers pay and conditions will not be changed if you become an academy?

The Trustees become the employer similar to the current situation where each Governing Body is the employer. Rules for conversion to academy status mean that Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations apply and all staff and will transfer on existing terms and conditions to the Trust as the employer. However, although academies are not bound by the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document, the Trust will honour the national teachers’ pay and conditions and Teachers’ Pensions Scheme arrangements and will also ensure that the Local Government Pension Scheme arrangements stay in place for support 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. 

 

you talk about equality through 'harmonisation' of support staff and future staff to be more mobile. which means less staff covering more schools does it not?

No

 

TUPE would take place, can you assure that there will be no redundancies? also, those employees who have less than 2 years service, how would you protect their best interests?

We would ensure that staff employment rights are protected and that the TUPE process is conducted in line with statutory requirements and policy. We are happy to discuss protecting the rights of staff with less than 2 years service as part of the TUPE process.

 

How will my child’s classroom teachers time change spent doing various activities?

There will be no change to teachers’ pay and conditions. Teachers’ duties will remain as they currently are.

 

Is it true, as the FAQs suggest, that "this means we choose the curriculum we want", or does it centralise curriculum control more directly with the DfE?

Maintained schools are required to follow the National Curriculum - academies are not subject to that order. The Newbury Park and Opossum curriculum are founded on the National Curriculum statements and expectations. In common with a large number of schools across the country, our curriculum provision has been reviewed very recently, and continues to be adapted and developed each year. Any future changes to curriculum will draw on the experience and expertise of staff and professional development. All academy schools are inspected by Ofsted using the same framework and timescales as for maintained schools. As a MAT, each school will continue to be inspected separately and will receive an individual Ofsted report. Academy schools will still have to take part in national tests and in teacher assessments of students’ performance as they apply to maintained schools. The results of public tests are reported in performance tables in the same way as they are now. 

 

My child has a SEN agreement in place and Im wondering if or how that could be effected. She is very settled with the help that is part of her SEN agreement and it would be a big issue if any budget changes or restructuring were to cause any unnecessary changes. Negative impacts aside I would be keen to hear of any positive changes (i.e. increased budget) that could come about as a result.   

There would be no changes to an SEN agreement i.e. by converting to an academy. Statutory SEND rights remain regardless of whether a school is an academy or not.

 

How will the views of the community be gauged? Can there be a YES//NO ballot?

The views of community stakeholders are being gathered through this consultation. Responses can be made via the consultation response form which has been emailed to all parents and is available on each school website.

 

Important to note that the Labour position was about schools that were failing..

‘Labour’s stance on academies has softened in recent years, in part due to an acceptance that academisation is now all but impossible to reverse. Four in five secondary schools and two in five primaries are now academies. Phillipson and Stephen Morgan, the shadow schools minister, have made clear the dual system is here to stay. Although the party won’t force well-performing schools to convert, schools will still be allowed to choose to become academies. Morgan also said the party would protect the right of single-academy trusts to continue to stand alone. Labour would also retain the power to convert failing council-maintained schools, and would not scrap the free schools programme, as it pledged to under Jeremy Corbyn. However, the party has said it will try to bring the two sectors closer together.’ Whittaker, F. (2023)

 

SchoolsWeek 3rd March 2023

https://schoolsweek.co.uk/what-will-schools-policy-look-like-under-a-labour-government/

 

Is it possible to ask our Labour-led council about the likely incoming political positions at a national level?

Interested parties would be able to contact the council directly.

 

To the teachers unions support this move?

The NEU is nationally opposed to academisation. The NAHT supports the right of schools to choose.

 

Why are parents not allowed to questions??

All meeting attendees have been invited to ask questions via the chat. Parents, and other stakeholders, have also been  invited to submit their questions via the consultation form. Questions will be responded to on the school website.

 

Will you publish your meeting minutes where the decision was made?

Minutes of Governing Body Meetings are available to the public with the exception of confidential items, via the school office.

 

 

 

Do we as parents get any vote in whether this goes ahead at the end of the day or will the decision be forced upon us?

A decision will be made by the Governing Bodies of Newbury Park and Opossum Federation at the end of the consultation period. Governors will consider the responses received and ensure that all questions have been considered as part of their decision making process.

 

This is too rushed. When will parents be given a live meeting where we can have live responses? Who will be in the decision making meeting? Will parents be able to be involved in this or will it be filled with people who already support this?

A decision will be made by the Governing Bodies of Newbury Park and Opossum Federation at the end of the consultation period. Governors will consider the responses received and ensure that all questions have been considered as part of their decision making process. All decisions to date have been taken by governors which include parents.

 

But will you listen?

All responses will be reviewed and considered by the Governing Bodies.

 

what are the next steps?

The consultation remains open until 23rd March 2023. Responses may be made via the form, sent to parents by email and available on the school website. If the Governing Bodies decide to proceed, they will make an application to convert.

 

Can we have another meeting in person as this needs greater discussion.

At this point we do not intend to hold another meeting.

 

lots of us would like to respond to the answers in a two way conversation

All comments and feedback will be collated to inform governors decisions.

 

Concern over the rushed consultation - will an extension be considered?

This will be considered when governors meet.

 

why is the consultation so rushed? 4 weeks is not enough time. this needs to be extended to 8 weeks, this will allow parents to take a better informed decision.

The decision is taken by the governors not parents. We do not consider 4 weeks  rushed. 4 weeks  represents 10% of the school year.

 

Will the views of parents influence whether Federation will become an MAT or does the final say sit with the Federation?

The governors of both Opossum and Newbury Park will consider all responses and questions raised from the consultation and then make their decisions.

 

Please can we have a parent ballot - to see how many parents in each school agree and disagree with the proposals.

The DfE process on applying to be an academy is published online. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/convert-to-an-academy-documents-for-schools

 

Please can there be some clarification as to how the parent voice will be represented in the voting process. It seems that the confusion lies in whether the newly elected parent governors are actively in role yet, or whether they are not able to commence 'active duty' as they don't have a DBS and/or completed the induction process.

Parents and carers have been invited to complete the online consultation response form. Hard copies of the response form may be obtained from each school office for those who have difficulty accessing the form online; these should be submitted in the response box in the school office. All responses must be received by 4pm on 23rd March 2023.. Both the previous Opossum parent governors whose term of office ended in December 2023 have agreed to support the induction process of the new parent governors. Safeguarding must always remain our priority.

 

What impact will leaving the LA have on your employee contributions to staff pensions.

No impact.We will continue to make contributions to both Teachers Pensions and the LGPS schemes.

 

Are there any plans to close or reduce intakes for any of the schools in light of falling pupil numbers.

The local authority will still be in charge of the schools admission process.

 

how will you ensure pupils needs are put before profits?

i am against this proposal and believe this will put our children's education at risk as profits will come before pupils. I therefore strongly oppose this

An academy can not make a profit, any reserves will be for planned expenditure

 

You talk about surplus money going back to the LA, if schools are cash strapped, why/how is there surplus money,

There is no surplus money in the schools. We hold reserves that are used to provide additional resources to the in year budget. This could be for building works, IT uplifts, training programmes and more recently unfunded pay rises. We also hold reserves to ensure that the schools have sufficient funds if unexpected costs like the current term time holiday pay awards can be funded.

 

By way of introduction, I'm a Chartered Accountant and have undertaken Statutory Audits of Academies. 

Newbury park school has been rated 'good' by ofsted, it has a deficit of £140K (21/22) and only has reserves of £110K. Opposum already has two schools as part of its academy which are rated 'good' and therefore Opposum should be implementing a strategy to improve these schools as opposed to take on an additional school which has dwindling finances.

3 of the Opossum schools have not been inspected under the current Ofsted inspection framework. Thorpe Hall school was inspected in December 2022 where improvements were noted in many areas and the leadership and impact of the federation on the school was judged as positive. We want all our schools to improve despite the serious challenges we face; real terms financial challenges, rising costs, decreasing pupil numbers, staff recruitment as Outer London schools.  Newbury Park had a carry forward of £249,502.  You may be looking at the income/expenditure for the year, but the reason for the in year deficit was because carry forward from 19/20 was earmarked and spent within 20/21.

 

 

How would this MAT ensure communication around school finances are still available? Academies have now requirements to submit their financial information. Which seems would be a worrying move? How can we hold the MAT responsible in the future if there were any financial mismanagement ? We know this happens across many, many MATs

The MAT will have to publish its audited financial accounts on a yearly basis.

 

How would this MAT ensure communication around school finances are still available? Academies have now requirements to submit their financial information. Which seems would be a worrying move? How can we hold the MAT responsible in the future if there were any financial mismanagement ? We know this…

MATS are audited, they submit their accounts on Companies House.

 

The ringfencing of funds has been raised and is a good question.   Under a MAT can funding received for an excellent school be allocated to improve other schools in the MAT?  If so is this any different to how the Opossum Federation currently operates? 

A MAT and a Federation can choose either to Top Slice Funding or General Annual Grant (GAG) Pool. The DfE published updated statutory guidance in September 2023 that schools in a federation will receive individual budgets, noting that the local authority can allocate this as a single budget share to the federated governing body. Additionally, the federated governing body, upon receiving the delegated budget for all the schools in the federation, can allocate the budget to each individual school or pool all or part of the budget with the agreement of governors. Top-slicing is when the schools within a trust keep most of their own GAG funding, with central services funded by a small proportion of each school's GAG. GAG-pooling is when the trust holds each school's GAG centrally, and delegates smaller amounts of funding that each school controls.

 

As a trust with multiple academies, you can collect a proportion of the general annual grant (GAG) funding that each of the schools receives to form a central fund. You can use this fund to meet the costs of running any academy within your trust. When doing this, you must:

  • Consider the funding needs and allocations of each of your academies
  • Have an appeals mechanism in place for any academies that feel they've been unfairly treated by your top-slicing or GAG-pooling approach

 

The rules around top-slicing or GAG-pooling are set out in paragraphs 5.30 and 5.31 of the Academy Trust Handbook.

 

All our schools face constrained funding settlements and rising costs over the next few years.  The way schools allocate funding has to change if schools are to remain solvent. As a MAT, the funding mechanism is one of the biggest changes. Between 80 – 85% of expenditure is on fixed costs such as staffing. There are other overheads such as premises, grounds and energy. When combined with staffing this takes allocated expenditure up to 90- 95% of funding. The Trust will pool fixed expenditure to maximise economies of scale and procurement efficiencies to make our money go further. Trustees will work closely with the CEO and CFO to ensure best value and the most effective use of funding. Non-fixed expenditure may be variable according to the needs of individual schools – this means one school may receive more one year, maybe for upgrading IT, with another school benefiting the year after. The Trustees will then redistribute the remainder to the schools. The Trust must act fairly and consistently with its distribution and the funds remaining can be spent by each school as long as they are within the guidelines of the Scheme of Delegation. For the MAT to be successful all schools have to perform well – this means all schools need to be championed by Trustees. Individual schools often organise their own fund-raising activities – monies raised will be kept by the school.

Responses to Consultation Questions 21 March 2023

 

Alot of those benefits seem to be benefits the federation already have?

Formalising the relationship in a MAT enshrines the structure, people, policies and processes of all schools in a legal status, which we understand to be the government’s preferred model and ambition for all schools. Schools are increasingly being steered towards joining existing, larger MATs and the opportunity to create our own MAT is reducing. Converting at this time creates security for our schools to maintain their own unique cultures and autonomy to do what is right for the pupils in each of our schools and we are not subject to Local Authority priorities. 

All our schools face constrained funding settlements and rising costs over the next few years.  The way schools allocate funding has to change if schools are to remain solvent. As a MAT, the funding mechanism is one of the biggest changes. Between 80 – 85% of expenditure is on fixed costs such as staffing. There are other overheads such as premises, grounds and energy. When combined with staffing this takes allocated expenditure up to 90- 95% of funding. The Trust will pool fixed expenditure to maximise economies of scale and procurement efficiencies to make our money go further. Trustees will work closely with the CEO and CFO to ensure best value and the most effective use of funding. Non-fixed expenditure may be variable according to the needs of individual schools – this means one school may receive more one year, maybe for upgrading IT, with another school benefiting the year after.

 

How will each school in the MAT be stronger than in the current structure? 

Each school is able to be involved in forming the values, ethos, curriculum and delegating funds of the MAT. Currently as maintained schools we are subject to decisions taken at local government level and are not in control of our future.

 

Has the Federation explored other options, such as adding Newbury Park to the Federation? This is permissible in the legislation, would deliver benefits of collaboration and pooled resources at no risk. The partnership could be tested out, at no risk, since it can still be unpicked, and with much less upheaval than becoming a irreversible MAT. A MAT could be considered at a later date when the political landscape is more certain. 

We are not looking to add to the existing structure but to co-construct the MAT as a collective process. It is uncertain whether the formation of a new MAT could be afforded to our schools later down the line. The clear advantages of forming a MAT now, with like minded schools in terms of values, ethos, teaching structures, leadership alignment include:

  • Back office support to enable leaders to focus on instructional leadership; this impacts on developing teaching skills and curriculum expertise, particularly across the foundation and broader curriculum to further enrich pupils’ experiences;
  • Economies of Scale - therefore a reduction of individual school costs and more flexibility within the budget;
  • Challenge and Support - through common systems and policies, learning reviews, shared expertise, aspirational target setting.
  • Collaboration - greater collaboration between leaders, middle leaders, teachers and support staff across the systems, develops, embeds and secures the practice of moderation and provides strength and depth to an evidence-based approach to school improvement.

 

It is understandable that the presentations around this proposal have focused on what might be seen as benefits of forming a MAT, but it is equally important to consider and be transparent about changes that might not be advantageous – even if they are ultimately found to be sacrifices worth making. Could you share your research, presumably done as part of due diligence, as to what the schools would lose from no longer being local authority? (eg curriculum specialists, data analysts etc). Thanks

In Waltham Forest we currently do not receive any specialist curriculum support. The Opossum federation currently receives no school improvement offer from the LA and has not for some years. For many years our federation has purchased additional services externally not from the Local Authority. We receive no data analysts from the Local Authority. We are therefore unable to comment on the loss of “eg curriculum specialists, data analysts etc”.

 

In Redbridge, the provision for school improvement support has been very much reduced over the past few years. The statutory offer currently provides a termly half-day advisory visit to school and a moderation training session for teachers new to Year 2 and Year 6. The non-statutory offer provides some training opportunities at additional cost to schools in the LA e.g. curriculum advice and support.  Statutory SEND services at the LA are currently very stretched.

 

 

As part of due diligence, an honest assessment would need to have been made as to what is lost when a school changes status in this way. Are there benefits – such as curriculum expertise, or data analysis – that the schools lose access to when they depart from an LEA? What are the benefits of being LEA run?

 

You talking about cost savings to services currently provided by the LA by being able to outsource. What is the cost saving for buying in such services? Many teaching services e.g. Speech Therapy, Occupation Therapy are having a national shortage so is hard to find through the private sector. What would the MAT do in this instance? Would they have to buy the service from the LA?

The local authority does not routinely provide services, such as those noted, to schools. Services, including: data analysis, attendance and welfare support, school meals, clinical services including speech and language therapy & Educational Psychologists can all purchased by the school under a traded service contract. This means that the school uses its funding to access those services which may be purchased from the Redbridge/Waltham Forest Traded Services offer, traded services from other local authorities or from private companies. Our school leaders and governors seek a range of quotes and review services to assess quality and value for money before engaging/renewing contracts. For some years Opossum has for a significant period provided Services, including: data analysis, attendance and welfare support, school meals, clinical services including speech and language therapy & Educational Psychologists can all purchased by the school under a traded service contract. 

 

Services provided by the local authority, such as statutory SEN, moderation and safeguarding provision will remain available to the school as academies. Although Redbridge offers curriculum and school improvement support, Waltham Forest does not currently have comprehensive provision for this aspect of school development. 

 

A benefit of being run by the LA is that legal compensation and contributions to redundancy payments may be made by the local authority. As a MAT, the schools would be responsible for those payments.

 

The consultation meeting presented the advantages of forming an academy. I do not feel there was sufficient information provided on the potential disadvantages of forming the MAT. What are the risks and mitigations proposed to ensure it is successful should it go ahead? 

How will the schools ensure that parents and the community are given a balanced view of the implications of forming a MAT, including the potential risks as well as any potential benefits?

In what sense will forming a MAT give greater resilience to future risks? What are these risks?

 

Greater resilience comes from the benefits previously referenced. 

Becoming a member of a MAT does not, in itself, guarantee that school performance will improve.

Becoming a member of a MAT does not, in itself guarantee a successful/more successful Ofsted grading.

Becoming a member of a MAT does not, in itself, guarantee stronger teaching.

Becoming a member of a MAT does not, in itself, guarantee improved recruitment and retention.

All these measures require schools to engage positively with policies, procedures and professional development to ensure improvement and growth. The schools included in this proposed MAT have a history of working together to improve against a range of criteria. Since federation, the Opossum schools have shown improvement in pupil outcomes, stable leadership and maintained or improved inspection gradings. Creating this new MAT would enable the schools to continue to operate with continuity of practice. We would expect that all schools would be securely good schools as members of the MAT.

 

As it currently stands if we have a capital project we need to use the Local Authority building surveyors who charge a percentage fee on the total of the project. We will as a MAT be able to negotiate fixed fees and savings through  better procurement and tendering processes.

 

 

What is the commitment around parental representation in the governance of the academy? 

How would people be appointment to governance roles generally?

As an organisation we would be committed to ensuring representation on Local Governing Boards of parents. Parental engagement can have a large and positive impact on children’s learning. It should not be confused with parental representation on a board and neither should it be seen as a one-off exercise for organisations. Boards should ensure that their organisation is regularly communicating with parents and carers and that parental engagement is used by the board to inform their strategic decision-making. Communications with parents and carers should be clear in supporting them to understand the structure of the school, how it operates, and how they can support their child’s education. All boards should assure themselves that mechanisms are in place for their organisation to engage meaningfully with all parents and carers. Parents and carers should be able to use these mechanisms to put forward their views at key points in their child's education. Boards should aim to build productive relationships, not only with parents and carers but also with the local community to create a sense of trust and shared ownership of the organisation’s strategy, vision and operational performance. Boards should be able to demonstrate the methods used to communicate with and seek the views of parents, carers and the local community, including disadvantaged families or those families where English is not the first language. They should also be able to show how those views have influenced their decision making and how they have fed back to parents, carers and the local community. 

 

What governance will be put in place to ensure the panorama claims of corruption / non-disclosure / bullying / high staff turnover will not occur?

- being an Academy would open up more opportunities for insider corruption, what governance would be put in place to avid this and how will parents have transparency in this matter? 

This freedom does not mean academies are not regulated. The department’s National and Regional Schools Commissioners and their teams, together with the Education and Skills Funding Agency, provide robust educational and financial oversight of all academy trusts.

Individual academies are still subject to Ofsted inspections and ratings in exactly the same way as council-run schools.

In fact, academies are subject to greater accountability than council-run schools because of increased financial regulation’. 

https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2021/10/14/what-is-an-academy-and-what-are-the-benefits/

 

Is there any financial benefit personally to the senior management (including any indirect benefit like shares etc)? 

No

 

 Is there any financial benefit to the teachers or support staff?

We could look at offering a package that is currently limited by being Outer London schools where we must align our offer to these specific guidelines. 

 

Is recruitment and retention of staff improved under MATs compared to LA schools? What evidence is there of this?

Patterns of retention and progression in MATs 

Staff appear more likely to move within a MAT than to a school outside the trust. The main source of evidence on retention in MATs is NFER’s 2017 analysis of the School Workforce Census. It finds that “MATs have internal teacher labour markets that are somewhat distinct from the teacher labour markets in the local area outside of the MAT.” This conclusion is based on finding that one per cent of MAT classroom teachers and three per cent of senior leaders in secondary schools moved roles within the same MAT. Whilst this is recognised as a small amount of staff movement, it is “more than ten times higher than would be expected between any two schools that are not in the same MAT and are the same geographical distance apart.” Whilst this supports the view that MATs are taking conscious action to retain and redistribute staff, NFER report that this might be due to circumstance, for example that teachers may be more likely to know each other across MAT schools or that staff may be familiar with existing policies and ways of working. As these features of a MAT may also make job moves more likely, we cannot conclude these trends are the result of active workforce management. 

Size

Trust size appears to be important to the movement of staff in a MAT. Worth’s analysis of teacher and senior leader movement found that trusts with more schools also had higher proportions of staff moving from one school to another. Hill et al. also found evidence from qualitative research with leaders of academy trusts that size – in this case defined as pupil numbers – influences how workforce is managed: “several chains consider that a critical mass of around 1,200 pupils (the equivalent of around 6 primaries) is necessary to procure and manage support services effectively, organise succession planning and have sufficient scale to benefit fully from school to-school learning and cross-school deployments of staff and leaders.” This example cites pupil numbers as the key measure of size, however other analyses find that it is the number of schools that determines whether a trust can achieving scale for workforce management. 

Clustering 

Geographical clustering is the second factor that influences workforce movement. Worth’s analysis found: “For MATs of a given size, the proportion of staff that move to a different school in the same MAT is greater where the schools are closer together geographically.” Hill et al’s. paper also identified clustering as key to a range of different workforce management practices, including but not limited to staff mobility: “Of the 28 sponsored academy chains that responded to the survey, 22 see it as ‘absolutely essential’, ‘very important’ or ‘important’ for the academies in their chain to be in close proximity to each other…. These chains use geographical proximity to deploy their senior and middle leaders across the chain, to hold joint training and CPD sessions, coach and support leaders and develop shared practice among staff”. In an analysis of MAT characteristics, geographic clustering is found to be a feature of nearly three-quarters of MATs. This suggests that most trusts have the ability to deploy their staff strategically. 

 

PEOPLE POWER SIX WAYS TO DEVELOP AND RETAIN EDUCATORS IN MULTI-ACADEMY TRUSTS: Niblet and Andrews, June 2019

 

All schools are struggling to recruit. How/why would converting to a MAT improve the recruitment of teachers? 

How will becoming an Academy improve recruitment and retention of staff?

We could look at offering a package that is currently limited by being Outer London schools where we must align our offer to these specific guidelines. 

Please also see the response to the question above

 

Can you have your own pay structure and banding then if you are a MAT?

Yes but we would look to TUPE staff on the same School teachers pay and conditions. We could look at offering a package that is currently limited by being Outer London schools where we must align our offer to these specific guidelines. 

 

Will terms and conditions for teachers change? How will chief executive and senior pay be scrutinised and limited? 

Academy trusts are both charities and companies limited by guarantee and must operate to further the trust's educational charitable purpose. They are accountable to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), the Secretary of State for Education as principal regulator, and the communities they serve for the education they provide to pupils. Compliance with the Academies Financial Handbook (AFH) is a condition of each academy trust's funding agreement. The AFH sets out the financial management, control and reporting requirements that apply to all academy trusts. The AFH 2020 sets out the following requirements in relation to executive pay:

“2.3 The board of trustees must ensure its decisions about levels of executive pay (including salary and other benefits) follow a robust evidence-based process and are reflective of the individual's role and responsibilities. No individual can be involved in deciding their own remuneration.”

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/setting-executive-salaries-guidance-for-academy-trusts/setting-executive-salaries-guidance-for-academy-trusts

 

Im not sure how this will help with recruiting teachers?

if that (school teachers' pay and conditions) is the case how does being a MAT help?

We could look at offering a package that is limited by being Outer London schools where we must align our offer to these specific guidelines. 

 

Echoing other questioners: the thoughts on curriculum change, at times, seem to face both ways. There is the promise of freedom, brought by academisation, but also the reassurance that things won't change. If change is proposed, how would the curriculum differ?

 

You state "we choose the curriculum we want our pupils to learn as academies" as a benefit of becoming an academy. But also state there will be no changes to the curriculum. Please can you explain the discrepancy.

Maintained schools are bound by the National Curriculum, whereas academies have freedom to design their own curriculum. All schools in the proposed new MAT teach a  curriculum  founded on the National Curriculum, as it provides a strong base and clear progression. All the schools have recently completed extensive review and revision of curriculum and there is no intention, at this time, to make significant changes. Learning programmes are reviewed and developed each year and any future amendments will be based on pupil needs and professional learning.

 

You talk about the LA top slicing so they can strategies effectively for services. This is more important now as we all know more children with SEND attend mainstream schools.. an LA can strategise and provision for these possibilities accordingly . What guarantees would this MAT creation give to ensure fairer funding for ALL children who attend our schools ? 

Local Authorities hold statutory responsibility for SEND services in all schools. The Local Authority allocates funding for EHCPs and oversees their implementation and review. This would continue to be the case for our schools if a new MAT was formed. At local school level, SENCOs and school leaders manage the funds received. The Opossum Federation has, for many years, provided services significantly above those which can be funded by EHCP ‘Top Up’ funding; this includes commissioned Speech and Language Therapy and increased Educational Psychology service. SEND/Inclusion has been audited recently through both Local Authority themed audits and an Ofsted inspection. Feedback following each of these audit processes has been extremely positive. The processes and provision we have in place are working effectively and there are no plans to make changes to this service. 

 

Will SEND funding be ring fenced? 

Yes

 

How many governors are needed at each meeting to be quorate when discussions are held around forming a MAT?

The information is provided in this guidance. 

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/987336/Building_strong_academy_trusts_guidance.pdf

 

Have any votes around forming a MAT or proposing to do so taken place in governors meetings? Were they unanimous?

Governors have voted to consult on whether to apply to become a MAT, At Opossum the CEO abstained from voting and the remaining governors all voted unanimously. Governors at NPPS have also voted to consult on whether to apply to become a MAT. The Headteacher and one governor abstained from the vote and all other remaining governors voted in favour of consultation.

 

What percentage of governors need to vote in favour for a motion about the MAT to carry?

This is dependent on the type of governing body The information is provided in this guidance. 

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/987336/Building_strong_academy_trusts_guidance.pdf

 

Are the parent governors that are currently awaiting induction included in any quorum? i.e. are there only actually 9 voting members at present? (of which the majority have a work or family connection to the federation)

Please can there be some clarification as to how the parent voice will be represented in the voting process. It seems that the confusion lies in whether the newly elected parent governors are actively in role 

This question appears specific to the Opossum Governing Body. The Opossum Federation currently has no vacancies as all 11 places are filled. All 11 members, including parent governors, hold voting rights and required safeguarding procedures for new governors are complete.

 

What impact will leaving the LA have on insurance costs. 

The schools are currently insured via LBWF. We are consulting with the insurance team about this service if we become an academy. The DFE have also just announced that  Public sector schools can join the risk protection arrangement (RPA), an alternative to commercial insurance, which may save time and money.

 

Why can’t the Opossum Federation access these additional grants now? Why can only Academies do this?

Due to DfE regulations 

 

So there won't actually be more money, it's just that you can choose how to spend it? How would you spend it differently? 

The council has autonomy on the way that some central services are funded and how this is delegated to the schools. These decisions are made at the schools forum where they consult with school representatives on the amount of funding each school receives. They make decisions on how much to  retain centrally to ensure that the Local Authority fulfills its legal obligations and the costs of services that maintained schools cannot perform themselves. These services include preparing annual consolidated accounts and performance information; pensions administration; and health and safety and asset management responsibilities. We cannot put an exact figure on how much this equates to in each school as this funding is spread across all the schools in the local authority. Any savings that will be made if the schools academise will be put back into the school budget which we could use to fund additional expenditure on building programmes, extra resources for curriculum etc.

The council receives funding from the DFE based on the national funding formula. This takes into account a number of different funding formulas based on the makeup of the school. It is hard to compare schools directly as each school is different. This funding uses Average Weighted Pupil Units (AWPU),  Numbers on roll, Free School Meals, Social Deprivation, Additional Educational Needs, School factors (ie site specific) , Early years provision, High Needs Provision and Pupil Premium grants to make up the schools budget. There is also additional funding that schools receive directly from the DFE depending on grants from the treasury i.e. sports funding. We are also top-sliced at each school for the following: Services to Maintained Schools and De-delegation for School Improvement. This across all the schools in Waltham Forest is £47,102.  

 

The school also receives a small amount of capital funding which is based on pupil numbers. Most of the capital funding that is received by the local authority is retained centrally and is used to improve the school estate depending on need. There is a match funding grant that schools can access to increase their capital funding but this is sourced through a bid process. 

 

Proportion of schools spending more thantheir income (2014-15) Academies: l 44.1%primary Local Authority schools: l 32.7%primary

Financial audits of the Opossum Federation schools had outcomes of ‘substantial assurance’ evidencing competent management and fiscally astute leadership. 

 

For example - the statement that the LA takes some of the money from the DofE - how much? What benefits do the Federation currently get from the LA's use of that money? 

We are unclear of any benefits. 

 

Who decides the content of the 'continuing development of a rich and wide curriculum'? Lots of other questions to be sent via the form 

Maintained schools are bound by the National Curriculum, whereas academies have freedom to design their own curriculum. All schools in the proposed new MAT teach a  curriculum  founded on the National Curriculum, as it provides a strong base and clear progression. All the schools have recently completed extensive review and revision of curriculum and there is no intention, at this time, to make significant changes. Learning programmes are reviewed and developed each year and any future amendments will be based on pupil needs and professional learning

 

With so many schools in dire need of repair and health and safety concerns around RAAC (aerated concrete as seen on the news a few weeks ago), these grants are drying up so I'm concerned this won't deliver as a benefit

All the schools in Waltham Forest have had surveys completed to see if RAAC was used in the construction of the buildings. None of the Opossum schools have been identified.

 

Would the MAT plan to top slice schools' pupil premium funding and if so what proportion, and services would be provided?

No we would not top slice Pupil Premium.

 

Do you have a plan B for buildings work if bids for CIF funding (which is instead of the SCA, not in addition as stated on the FAQs) are unsuccessful? I understand the process is not very transparent, with bids from small MATs often rejected - see https://schoolsweek.co.uk/condition-improvement-fund-cif-rejection-most-bids/. ASCL also say that the CIF bidding process not often successful without costly experts to write the application submission which is another worry.

We would continue to use budgetary allocations as we currently do and apply to other funding streams and agencies. 

 

The presentation mentions "Informal conversations with Trusts re: possible satellite trusts"- please could you explain what this means and the implications?

This means exploration on possible alliances were explored. There are no implications for this statement. 

 

Where does the new MAT intend to have a headquarters?

All school staff, including leaders, will remain in their current posts. Working patterns and locations will not change. There is no planned headquarters.

 

If we become an academy is the school more likely to start to offer 30 hours free childcare at nursery?

We are keen to explore opportunities such as this

 

Also will academy status allow for nursery to have its own teacher? And enable more fave to fave interaction and feedback in the early years setting?

Nursery pupils are already taught by a teacher and current arrangements in relation to communication are not planned currently for review.

 

You say "One employer across a family of schools can allow for more effective use of staffing. There may be opportunities for staff to gain more experience by supporting another school.". What do you mean by effective use of staffing? Why can staff not support another school now. e.g. like the SENCO does?

Multi Academy trusts are charities that have responsibility for running a number of academies. They cannot, as charities, be run for financial profit and any surplus must be reinvested in the trust.

By working in partnership with each other, the schools within a trust can share staff, curriculum expertise and effective teaching practices, and work together to deliver the best outcomes for pupils.

While other types of school partnerships can be effective, the key difference with academy trusts is that there is shared accountability for standards across the trust; all schools within the trust support each other and the trust is accountable for them all.

https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2021/10/14/what-is-an-academy-and-what-are-the-benefits/

 

How will the MAT increase pupil numbers at the schools with low / declining numbers, which effects funding?

In Waltham Forest when comparing Reception 1st, 2nd and 3rd preference choices many parents are choosing local academies over maintained schools. While there is a decline in pupil numbers in parts of London some schools remain popular and are oversubscribed. 

 

I strongly object to the proposal because I attended the meeting and there were no clear reasons why the school wants to join MAT, it was said its good for the children but how? What benefits it would it bring that my child is not getting now?

Benefits have been outlined in the presentation and previously answered questions. 

 

Please can there be some clarification as to how the parent voice will be represented in the voting process. It seems that the confusion lies in whether the newly elected parent governors are actively in role yet, or whether they are not able to commence 'active duty' as they don't have a DBS and/or completed the induction process.

All feedback responses will be collated and shared with governors before a decision is made. Governors representing different stakeholders will vote. There are currently no vacancies on the Opossum Governing Body and 1 vacancy on the NPPS Governing Body. 

 

The website says there is additional funding for energy efficiency available to a MAT. What energy efficiency funds are available to academies that aren’t available to maintained schools?

The current grant available to maintained schools for energy efficiencies is the SALIX grant. This is a loan that is paid back over a number of years as the savings made by the project are  realized.  The DFE release energy efficiency grants which MAT can apply for on a regular basis depending on funds.

 

The FAQs state that there is no surplus money in the schools; reserves held are used to provide resources in the in-year budget for example for unfunded pay rises etc. But in the presentation & elsewhere in the FAQs, concern was mentioned about LA clawback of surplus budgets as a reason to academise. This is confusing; to what extent is this potential clawback a concern when reserves are generally committed? Is this a material risk to school finances under the LA?

In 2022 Waltham Forest changed the Scheme for Financing Maintained Schools. In Section 6  THE TREATMENT OF SURPLUS AND DEFICIT BALANCES ARISING IN RELATION TO BUDGET SHARES they changed the scheme to read

6.1.4 It is the LA’s aim that schools should be moving towards greater autonomy and should not be constrained from making early efficiencies to support their medium-term budgeting in a tight financial climate and should not be burdened by bureaucracy. Where a school is carrying excessive uncommitted balances, the LA will contact the school to discuss some level of distribution to support improved provision across the Borough. 

This is a clear indication that they could clawback reserves in well run schools to give to schools in deficit.

 

Please set out what proportion of the money saved by retaining the LA top slice you estimate will be saved? For which specific services will you be able to achieve better value for money?

The local authorities top slice £32.13 per pupil for central services. They also hold sums of money that are distributed through the schools forum which are hard to identify on a school by school basis.

 

 Redbridge Local Authority has a position of no academisation unless opted for by the community. Have you consulted with the Local Authority and what is their view on the proposal? 

 

Yes we have consulted with Redbridge local authority and are awaiting a response.

 

 

Under a MAT, what are the specific school/MAT improvement strategies, particularly linked to the improvements in teaching and learning, and the learning environment?

We believe becoming a MAT will enhance the sharing of good practice, advice and support – this will be across all aspects of school life and the curriculum. 

 

Will funding be specifically earmarked for the park/green space on Dawlish road near sidmouth park? For 5 years myself and other parents have asked the school, offered to fundraise/support but ultimately been fobbed off with various plans for the space that never come into fruition. Newport is a large school on a small site. It’s such a waste of what could be an amazing resource for the children and wider community.

Continued….The last plan was for The Hive education centre to transform and use the space, this was in collaboration with the council and Newport school. Will becoming an academy impact this plan? Will it no longer be supported if the school is no longer under the LEA?

 

Newport School receives no funding either through the Devolved School Grant or Capital for this site. Over the years the school has been able to apply for individual grants, some matched which have been useful for one of projects but the overall maintenance of the site has proven costly. To be able to use the site significant investment is needed to ensure it has the necessary services available for use by pupils e.g. age appropriate toilet facilities. The school has been in discussion with the Local Authority about a joint project and a draft service level agreement is under review. Regardless of the school’s status, be it maintained or academy, we have been advised to ensure the costs relating to the management and maintenance of the site (which is largely the responsibility of the school) are within the budget of the school. It is important to ensure the costs associated with adhering to clauses of the SLA are within the remit of the school’s budget regardless of its status. In addition, the site specification provides that there are financial risks that need to be considered before signing any agreement and we are seeking legal advice on this. From a contractual perspective, there would be no legal implications if there is a change of entity in the future. We would need to include a provision which permits the agreement to be novated in the event the conversion to a academy is successful the rights/obligations under the SLA are transferred.  

 

 

you mention access to more grants, what is the plan for these grants? eg what do the schools need that they don't currently have?

Having access to additional capital funds will allow us to develop the school estates as identified in each of the schools developments plans. Each school is very different in age and condition so each bid will be school specific depending on the need.

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