A. GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT ACADEMIES
1. What is an academy?
Richard Cloudesley is currently a maintained school, which means we receive money directly from the local council and operate under the direct control of the Local Education Authority (LEA). Academies are schools that are state-funded and state-governed, but as they receive money directly from the government rather than the local council, they are not under the direct control of the LEA. They therefore have more independence over what they teach, how they operate and how they spend their budget.
2. What is a multi-academy trust?
A mulit-academy trust (MAT) is a group of two or more academy schools working in a legally agreed formal collaboration called an academy trust. The MAT is the legal employer for all staff and determines a number of common practices and procedures across the MAT, whilst still encouraging each academy to have its own individual identity. MATs are usually run by an Executive Head Teacher (or similar title) with a Head Teacher or Head of School in each member academy. Schools wishing to convert to an academy must now either set up their own MAT or join an established one, as they can no longer set themselves up as a stand-alone academy.
3. Where are the other local academies and MATs?
The Bridge School became part of The Bridge London Trust on 1 May 2017. The other special schools in Islington – New River College and Samuel Rhodes are still maintained schools. There are five established academies in Islington.
4. What is the position nationally on academies?
The Labour government introduced the first academy schools in 2002. At the time, academies were only for long-term, under-achieving secondary schools in inner city areas, and for brand-new secondary schools in areas where there was a shortage of high achieving schools. They were sponsored by charitable organisations such as religious bodies, or by entrepreneurs and companies.
The Conservative-led coalition government moved quickly after the election in 2010 to offer academy status to all good and outstanding schools and introduced the free schools programme. A free school has the same legal status as an academy and is funded in the same way.
The Government has repeatedly said that it hopes all schools will become academies.
As of September 2017, 6704 schools have become academies and a further 1219 had applied for conversion. Of the current academies, 318 are special, 4205 are primary, and 209 are secondary schools. This represents around a fifth of all primary schools, two thirds of all secondary schools and a third of all special schools.
4. What is the position of the local authority on academies?
Position statement on the Islington Community of Schools (ICOS) issued to all schools in Autumn 2016 (The next iteration is not due until November 2017, when the next stage of development of ICOS the will be set out following consultation:
"There is currently no clear evidence that academisation as such leads to improved outcomes for children and their families or that MATs lead to greater efficiencies in the use of resource or an increased budget. Conversion also carries significant costs and has the potential to distract from the core business of improving quality and standards.
Therefore, in its role as indicated in the White Paper, as ‘champion for all parents and their families’ the local authority will not seek to actively encourage further academisation in its maintained schools, other than where this is likely to have a demonstrable impact on improving standards and quality or it is a logical development of an existing arrangement that will benefit one or more schools .Where the local authority is of the view this is the case it will work closely with schools and the Regional Schools Commissioner and the Regional Board."
5. Would the school receive more money as an academy?
Academies receive the same level of per-pupil funding as maintained schools receive, but they also receive an additional amount which would have been retained by the LEA to pay for some of the services they provide for all schools under their control. However, from this ‘additional’ money we would still have to purchase some of the services which we currently receive from the LEA. The government states that becoming an academy should not bring about a financial advantage or disadvantage to a school. The main change is that academies have greater freedom over how they use their budgets. As an academy we would, therefore, have more freedom to buy the services we need from a range of providers and obtain best value for money and the best quality services. We do believe that the greater flexibility and the ability to innovate would mean there is likely to be more resources to invest in the school for the benefit of the pupils. We also believe that as a member of a MAT we will have greater influence over provision of services from providers than we would as a standalone school.
6. Do all academies in a multi-academy trust have equal influence? If so, how is this guaranteed?
There are different structures of MATs, but most have a lead school. In the case of this proposal the lead would be The Bridge School. The benefit of joining The Bridge London Trust now, is that it is still developing, and as an early, or founder, member we would have more influence over the shape of the whole MAT and how it is run. Once a MAT is well established many of the practices and policies will have been set and then applied across the schools.
7. What are the common practices and procedures that can be shared across a MAT?
There is no intention with this proposal to make each of the schools operate in entirely the same way, or to be clones of one another. Each school will retain its own identity and culture. However, in order to be efficient a MAT will have central policies that are drawn up with all schools in mind. For example, the behaviour, assessment, teaching & learning policies.
8. Is The Bridge London Trust currently sponsored by an organisation or a company? What does sponsorship mean exactly? Are sponsors eligible to join the Board of Directors? Can different academies within a MAT be sponsored by different bodies?
The Bridge London Trust is not sponsored. Sponsored academies are those that have struggled in the past and have been sponsored to help raise standards.
9. What services are currently provided by the LEA to Richard Cloudesley School? Post-academisation, what happens if Richard Cloudesley School wants to maintain services that are not currently provided by The Bridge London Trust?
Richard Cloudesley currently has its budget top-sliced by the LEA and in return gets access to its central services, for example admissions, special needs and attendance support. In addition, we also buy a range of traded services, such as governor support, HR and payroll. Academies are still be able to buy in these services.