Combe Down Primary School

Combe DownChurch of England Primary School

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Academy Conversion FAQ's

 We announced on 15th April 2016 that we had begun the consultation process to enable us to convert to an Academy and become part of the Palladian Academy Trust with other schools in the local area - the conversion took place on 1st July 2016.

Below are some Frequently Asked Questions concerning Academy Conversion. 

What is a MAT?

A Multi Academy Trust (MAT) is governed by one trust and a single board of directors. There are representatives from each school on the Trust Board. The MAT would have local governing bodies for each of its academies, which would continue to work in much the same way as now.

What would our partnership with Ralph Allen look like in a MAT?

Representatives from all schools in the PAT would be on the Trust Board. The Trust Board would be responsible for policy and the strategic vision of the MAT. The Trust Board would delegate the strategic responsibilities for education, finance and premises to the local governing bodies of the schools within PAT. All schools will retain their respective Headteachers.

Will the name of the school change?

We will not be changing the school name.

Will the school change its uniform?

We will not be changing the school uniform.

Will term dates and school day times change?

We have no plans to alter the times of the school day or term dates, keeping these in line with most Bath and North East Somerset schools and South Bath schools in particular. However, we may consult with Palladian Trust (PAT) schools to align our INSET days to make it easier for parents.

Will the curriculum change?

We will have greater freedom and autonomy over our curriculum. This will enable us to continue to develop our curriculum over the next few years if we wish, the freedom to review any proposed changes by government and to decide whether they are right for the children at our school.

Will the admissions policy and criteria change?

We are part of admissions within Bath and North East Somerset and would remain so. This means we would adhere to the LA Admissions code i.e. we would not become selective.

If by becoming an Academy you will have greater freedom and autonomy over the curriculum and can review any proposed changes by the government, will you also be able to have greater freedom and autonomy over testing and assessment arrangements?

The Department for Education (DfE) lists the statutory guidance that applies to academies and free schools:
  • Assessment and reporting arrangements (Key Stages 1 and 2)
  • Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
  • Safeguarding
  • Exclusions
  • Alternative provision
  • Admissions (the School Admissions Code)
  • Sex and relationships education (SRE)
  • Special educational needs (SEN) / health needs

Whilst there may be autonomy over the curriculum, testing and assessment arrangements are statutory for maintained schools, free schools and academies

Will the school receive more money from the government?

At present Bath and North East Somerset retains a proportion of our funding to provide some central LA services. As an academy we would receive that money directly and will be able to choose who to buy those services from and how they should be best deployed for the specific benefit of children at our school. By becoming part of the PAT, we would be able to take advantages of economies of scale to maximise our resources.

Will the School Leadership Team spend more time running the business side of the academy instead of focusing on the teaching and learning?

Setting up and running an academy will require extra administrative work particularly in the early stages. However, much of this will be taken on between the administrative staff at Combe Down and the PAT schools, especially Ralph Allen School (RAS). The Senior Leaders at our school will continue to be fully focused on delivering high quality teaching and learning.

How will the school be accountable financially?

We will be governed by the rules and regulations for charitable trusts so, as part of the Multi Academy Trust, we will be required to produce and file annual accounts.

Will the school get support towards the expenses of academy conversion?

The school will receive a £25,000 grant from the DfE to cover the legal costs of the conversion.

What is the Local Authority view on academies?

Academy status offers schools an opportunity to develop a relationship with the Local Authority with the Local Authority becoming the commissioner and schools the providers of education. We envisage that we will continue to work very closely with the Local Authority.

Does the loss of the current role with the Local Authority leave us on our own?

We will still be in a position to buy in LA services as and when required rather than having to use them. Alternatively we can look elsewhere if we feel there are better service providers. As we develop stronger partnerships within the PAT, we will definitely not be on our own. We shall also continue working with schools outside the PAT as we do now.

What will be the future responsibility of the governors?

The key responsibilities will remain very much as they are at the current time as a foundation school:

  • Ensure the quality of educational provision
  • Challenge and monitor the performance of the academy
  • Manage the finances and property
  • Employ staff

Will the structure of the Governing Body change?

The structure will be maintained as it is now, with a balance of foundation, parent and church-appointed Governors.

Can you revert to LA control once you have become an academy?

The current rules from the DfE state that a school would be required to maintain its academy status for at least 7 years.

What support will there be for children with special educational needs?

SEND support for children with statements and Looked After Children will still be provided by the LA who have a statutory responsibility for this. They would continue to monitor us to ensure that we are doing all we should.

Do we need, or are we seeking, a sponsor for the school to become an academy?

As a school rated Good by Ofsted we do not need a sponsor; we will be a converter academy. As a charitable trust we would be entitled to receive donations to school funds.

Will the school still have Ofsted inspections?

Academies are subject to exactly the same system of Ofsted inspections as Local Authority Maintained Schools.

Has the decision to convert to academy status already been taken?

The legal process to become an academy has started, with a special resolution made by the Governing Body to make an application to convert, followed by an application to the Diocese for its consent and an application for an academy order. This in turn has triggered a full consultation across the school community. A final decision to convert will only be taken once the consultation has been concluded. It is feasible that the governors could reverse their current thinking if information came to light which made it not in the best interest of the children and the school to join the PAT.

If the governors decide to convert when would it happen?

We have indicated in our application a conversion date of 1st July 2016.

Who are we consulting with?

We are consulting with parents and carers, staff and their representatives, the children, the Diocese of Bath and Wells, the local Church community, the Local Authority, other local schools and any other interested parties.

Why do we need to change?

We don’t need to change at this moment. However, in the current financial and educational climate, where the landscapes of primary education are rapidly changing, we feel that we would like to be in control of our own destiny. The recent Government announcements have made it clear that all schools have to become an academy by 2022 so we want to be able to choose who we wish to partner.

The Governors feel that the opportunity to become an equal partner in the PAT directly benefits the children at Combe Down in the short and the long term.

Where can I find out more about academies?

There is a large amount of information available from the Department for Education and the Independent Academies Association websites.

Have members of staff been consulted?

We are consulting with the staff. Some information meetings have been held already.

Will staff terms and conditions of employment change?

Staff will transfer across under normal TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)) rules. Terms and conditions would remain the same. In the future we would have the freedom to enhance terms and conditions if it was thought appropriate.

Do the school leadership and governing body have the capacity and expertise to take on the additional responsibilities of academy status?

The governing body has a wealth of professional expertise which it adds to that of the school leadership. Ralph Allen School is already an academy and has the required knowledge to complement our current skills base.

Updated 1st July 2016