Your Questions Answered
Worcester Diocese – Diocesan Multi- Academy Trust (DoWMAT) – Frequently Asked Questions.
1. Why should we consider becoming an academy? In March 2016, the government published a white paper ‘Education Excellence Everywhere’, which defined its plan for all schools to become an academy by the end of 2022. It is incumbent on governing bodies to look at the options for their school and decide what will support their school best in the long term. We appreciate that this is not an easy decision. The Diocesan team are ready and willing to help in any way that we can.
2. Are all academies the same? No. There are many different types of academy. For example, some schools have become academies independently, others have joined together with other schools to form a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) whilst others have joined larger groups and organisations, often known as academy chains. Different academies have a variety of school improvement and governance arrangements. However, the preferred option at the moment is for schools to join a multi-academy trust.
3. What models are open to us as a church school? This depends whether you are a voluntary aided or voluntary controlled school. All church schools are welcome to join with other schools, including non-church schools but the governance must reflect their status:
a. Voluntary aided schools – these must have a majority of members and directors who have been appointed by the diocese. This is the same model as their present governing body. If there are any VA schools in a MAT, then the board of directors and members must reflect this model.
b. Voluntary controlled schools – these must have up to 25% of members and directors appointed by the Diocese. If there are any VC schools in a MAT, then the board of directors and members must reflect this model.
The Diocesan Multi Academy Trust will be a voluntary aided model.
4. Does this mean that all schools in the DOWMAT will have to become voluntary aided? Absolutely not. All schools will continue with their own structure of governance in the form of their local governing body (LGB). If you are a community school or a VC, then that is what you stay. (Unless you decide to become a VA!)
5. Do we have to join DOWMAT? No. Governing bodies can decide who they would like to become a partner with.
6. So why should we join DOWMAT? The diocese believes that this is one way that schools, particularly small schools, will be able to make a smooth transition.
a. There will be no need to co-ordinate your move with another governing body (or two).
b. Your local governing body will stay in place (assuming that it is effective) and will make decisions that are relevant to your local community.
c. We will take care of all the back office functions, which used to be hosted by the LA but are now outsourced. This will free up leaders to concentrate on the teaching and learning.
d. We will offer far more school improvement; this is key to our strategy. We understand how many schools, good and outstanding ones, know that they are not getting enough information and support to enable them to become even better.
e. We understand and celebrate your Christian vision and values. We will ensure that these remain central to all the decisions that are made.
7. Do you really have the resources available to support schools? Yes. We already have partnerships with other agencies that are experienced in providing services to academies. We are not the first Diocese to go down this route and are benefitting from their experiences. At present these are on a consultant basis. We are starting small so that we can grow services that are fit for purpose. Many of Worcestershire schools are tied into Liberata etc for the next year or so. We will pay their bills out of the 5% and ensure that they deliver what they are paid to do. Our vision is that as more schools join the DOWMAT, we will be able to either tender for services or set up our own in house ones. This is not about making a profit, this is about delivering high quality services that schools use and appreciate. If there is money left in the pot, we will be looking to reinvest in teaching and learning not in fat salaries.
8. Will we lose our headteacher? There is no intention by DOWMAT to remove or replace head teachers. It will be the duty of each LGB to deliver a budget plan that does not run into deficit. If this looks likely, then the DOWMAT team will work with the LGB to ensure that this doesn’t happen. It will be the decision of the LGB to work out how savings can be made. If this means sharing staff, then we will work with the school to ensure a high quality education for all pupils. In five or ten years’ time, the staffing model may look different to how it looks now, but this won’t have been imposed by DOWMAT. We believe in partnership and dialogue.
9. Will a move to academy status mean a new name for the school? No, although you can if you would like to.
10. Will a proposed new academy have a new uniform? No. Parents will not need to buy a new uniform unless the LGB decides to do this after proper consultation.
11. Will a proposed new academy still be open to the community? Yes. There will be no change to the current provision.
12. Will the school hours be any different as an academy? Although it is highly unlikely that the school day will be changed, it is the decision of the DOWMAT Board to decide this as they have the power to do so. This decision is usually delegated to the local governing body of an academy, so there is no real change from our authority in this regard. As is the case now, parents would be consulted prior to any change in school hours, although no change is envisaged.
13. Will pupils’ education be disrupted by a transition to academy status? No. When an academy is approved to go ahead, it will do so with minimal disruption to the staff and students. Most of the changes will take place behind the scenes with support from a dedicated team from the Diocese, who have gone through this process before with other schools.
14. If we move to being an academy will this change what is taught? We would be expected to continue to offer the full range of National Curriculum subjects. OFSTED continue to inspect academies and their handbook for inspection is the same one as used in any other school. The academy would be expected to strive to be outstanding in both the statutory OFSTED (section 5) and the Church School (section 48) inspections. In other words, there may be no change in what or how pupils are taught.
15. Would there be an increased emphasis on religion and Christianity in a DOWMAT academy? Church schools, as with all schools, are required to teach RE and to hold daily acts of worship. There is an expectation that RE is well taught and that it prepares students well for their life in 21st century Britain. All church schools have to undergo a SIAMS Inspection every five years which reports on how effective and distinctive the school is as a church school.
16. How is an academy funded? In maintained schools, including church schools, all revenue funding goes directly to the Local Authority. The Local Authority (LA) takes a proportion of the money from the school budget to provide essential services to the school and the rest is delegated under the Local Management of Schools. Schools can, and do, buy additional services from the LA and other providers. As a result, schools currently depend upon the local authority for many services such as school improvement, HR, finance, etc. This has led to a dual system where the LA has taken the lead on school effectiveness whilst the Diocese has focused on the distinctive and inclusive characteristics of the school.
Academies receive a similar level of per-pupil funding as maintained schools, plus funding to meet additional responsibilities that are no longer provided for them by the Local Authority (LA). With DOWMAT, the money that would have been provided to the LA to run the school is provided directly to DOWMAT. DOWMAT does retain some of the budget (5%) in order to provide services to the academy. Local authorities fund their core services in a similar way.
17. Does this improve on current funding arrangements? Converting to an academy should not be detrimental financially, although there may be the potential for some financial gain. However, any decision is not motivated by money. Funding is available to cover the costs of the conversion process itself, which is provided by central government once the decision to convert has been approved. On a day-to-day basis, schools are charged less to belong to the MAT and we will also have opportunities to support other schools and to benefit financially from doing so. In addition, the MAT Board has access to capacity funding from the Department for Education as well as opportunities to bid for capital funding on an annual basis.
18. What are the Terms and Conditions for staff? On conversion to academy status teachers and staff employed by the Local Authority will transfer with the same terms and conditions, via a formal TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) process. In addition, conversion will not affect any union memberships.