Academy Conversion Consultation FAQs
Academy Conversions Consultation Letter 9/5/2023
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why is Stoberry Park considering academisation?
The Governing Board and Senior Leadership Team (SLT) want to achieve the very best for the pupils in our care. Following investigation of potential Multi Academy Trusts (MATs), we feel that Stoberry will be a stronger school if supported by a successful, collaborative MAT, than working in isolation and supported by Somerset County Council.
What impact will this have on my children?
Very little will change on a day-to-day basis. Uniform will stay the same, the staffing at the school will stay the same and school buildings/premises will be the same, if not better under a strong MAT. ACE has developed an excellent curriculum over recent years, which would be implemented at Stoberry, in a manner personalised to our school and our unique context.
Why have the Governors selected ACE?
The Governing Board and SLT have investigated and met with a number of MATs. All staff and Governors have had the opportunity to meet with two MATs that we were particularly interested in and ask questions. ACE have developed a particularly strong curriculum over the last few years, which is one of the main attractions. We also feel that ACE aligns extremely well with our values, ethos and principles; this is particularly important to us.
ACE focuses on curriculum and pedagogy (what we do and how we do it in the classroom). As an Academy they aim to make absolutely certain that they are at the forefront of high quality curriculum design and excellent teaching practice. This is in addition to support for finance, HR, Health and Safety and compliance that is above and beyond what is currently provided by the County Council.
ACE schools also all retain a full-time Headteacher and a local Governing Board. There are not 'Heads of school' as there are in so many other Academies and the local Governance Board retains control of aspects of the school, which is not always the case.
What are the potential negatives?
As part of an Academy, we would lose aspects of financial control. This means that we will need to bid for funding for specific projects and will plan staffing etc. in conversation with the funding team from the Academy, who will have overall control. This is a question we have already pursued by talking to leaders of current ACE schools and really paying attention during our visits. The schools do not feel vulnerable financially; they are well staffed, their buildings and grounds are well-maintained and looked after and there is clear evidence of capital investment in projects and developments beyond what we currently experience as a maintained school.
As one of the founding schools of the ACE Somerset hubs, we will be instrumental in the creation of this hub of the Academy. This could be seen as a strength, or a potential weakness. Initially, as the hub develops there will be fewer local schools to work alongside, but we know that there are a number of like-minded schools, with very similar ethos and educational outlook that plan to join.
Why an academy in Devon?
This is one that we have agonised over. The question is between an academy that is local, but does not necessarily align with educational principles and values as well, or a more distant MAT that aligns better. For us, it is about finding a MAT that aligns brilliantly with the education we want for our children. Out of all the MATs we have looked in to, ACE aligns best with our educational principles, values and ethos. The fact that like-minded schools in the local area – Wells, Glastonbury and Street areas – are also looking to join the MAT means that there will be a local ‘hub’ of like-minded schools.
Are there other local schools that are already part of ACE?
No, there are currently no other local schools that are part of ACE; however, there are a number of schools in the Wells are that are interested in collaborating to create the Somerset ACE hub.
Won't this mean a rebrand and therefore additional cost?
There may be aspects of re-branding, such as school signs etc. but these will be very limited. One of the appeals of ACE as an Academy is that the individual schools very much maintain their own identities. They keep their uniforms, logos, values and other aspects that make them stand out as their school.
Will there be an Equality Impact Assessment produced?
Yes, this is a process that the Governors and school SLT will complete as a part of our due diligence process. As soon as it is completed, we will share it with parents and all other stakeholders.
Will the conversion definitely go ahead?
No. We are now entering a period of due diligence, where both sides will find out more about each other. If at any point, we do not feel that ACE is the right MAT, we can withdraw from the process.
Is it possible to leave the Academy if we are not happy?
Once we join the Academy, leaving it can be a very long, difficult process, so it is very important that we get our Due Diligence process right to ensure that ACE is the right academy for us.
How much is this going to cost?
The school receives a conversion grant direct from the Department for Education, meaning that there should not be any impact on the school’s budget from academisation.
Why are you consulting if the decision is already made?
The Governors and SLT are consulting to allow parental and community opinions to be considered as we move through this process. It was important to be clear what our intentions were before beginning consultation, otherwise we would have been unable to answer questions with specific detail.
How long does conversion take?
This depends – academisation can take anything from approximately 6 to 18 months. Once we are content that ACE is the right MAT for Stoberry, we hope to convert as soon as possible.
Will this affect which children can attend the school?
Academy status does not change the nature of the school in terms of admissions. The school will continue to be open to all children and not be selective in any way.
With the Blue School's Academy status, would it not make sense to work with them?
The Blue School is a Single Academy Trust and does not have approval to become a Multi Academy Trust. We already work closely with the Blue and are looking for ways to work more closely together in the future. Being part of a MAT would not get in the way of this work. One of the other attractions of ACE as an Academy is that they are purely made up of Primary Schools; meaning that Primary outcomes and improvement is their sole focus; this is not the case in most MATs.
What has prompted the want for this change?
Going forward, the intention of Government is that all schools will become part of MATs. The Labour Government started the MAT conversion process, so, should there be a change of Government, this drive is unlikely to change. The level of support for a school within a MAT can be far greater than that available from the Local Authority, as there is a much smaller group of schools to focus on and provide this work for. We believe that Stoberry can be a stronger, more effective school as part of a MAT, it is that simple. (Mr Shakesby - I have always been anti-MAT in the past and had remained so until I visited ACE schools and saw what they have achieved through collaboration and fantastic school improvement support).
What do we mean by stronger?
When we talk about Stoberry being 'stronger', we believe that, by joining ACE, we will gain access to an excellent curriculum, which will make our learning even more effective. The quality of school improvement support offered by ACE is excellent (we have had conversations with many of the leaders at the schools that have joined and been supported by ACE) and has significant impact on all aspects of a school's work. We are always going to want to improve and do better - when we are talking about children's lives and life chances, we should always be striving to learn and improve our own practice and believe we will be able to do this more effectively as a part of ACE.
How would joining a MAT affect children with SEND?
The funding for children with significant SEND will still be provided by Somerset Council through the current EHCP (Education Health Care Plan) process. This means that the funding that is currently in place will continue and the processes for gaining additional funding will also remain as they are.