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Individual Parental Questions:

Q - Can a school choose to leave Multi Academy Trust?

A - It would be very difficult to leave the trust after joining; this is why both the joining school and the trust go through a rigorous due diligence process beforehand.

Q - Today the chronicle posted an article stating that because of inappropriate spending from 2 member schools, 12 schools in the academy trust have lost their funding. What is there to safe guard EHP from this happening? Furthermore, as a 'good' school, what is to say that EHP will receive as much of a budget as the schools that need to perform better? If this happens students at EHP will start to suffer.

A - Thank you for your questions. The first one is one I will pose to the trust schools because like you I have seen the news headlines about the schools being handed back. I will happily forward you their response and pop it onto our FAQ. In terms of budget, each school will continue to receive its own individual budget rather than going to the MAT in one big pot. In order to afford some economies of scale (Finance, HR, IT support for example) and other central support and curriculum services, the school will then pay a per pupil sum to a central pot.  In many ways we already do this but we pay the local authority for those services and we pay for our curriculum advisors.  I hope this helps.

Response from NPAT CEO: EFA learnt lessons from TEFT and other Trusts and have tightened their own monitoring systems now, making this kind of issue unlikely in other Trusts.  NPAT has a very small and transparent central team, and financial expenditure is monitored closely by the EFA and by external auditors who scrutinise all accounts twice a year.  Heads also have a handle on this as they are directly involved in Trust expenditure through the HT Operational group. 

Q – Why change?

A - I truly believe it is the direction of travel in education and we could be in danger of being left behind and losing control over our own destiny and identity. The Trust we are consulting on joining has been established for a few years with a proven track record of successful collaboration whilst retaining their own specialisms, strengths, personality and uniqueness.  It is a Trust committed to doing extra ordinary things for extra-ordinary children . As a result it commits its partner schools to ensuring pupils access such things as :

  • Increased participation in Intra and Interschool sports events
  • REAL PE experiences for all pupils through support from Lings Primary School
  • Performing Arts experiences within school and in other venues
  • All pupils having a period of free instrumental music tuition at some time in their primary school
  • Drama for Learning experiences
  • Expanded extra-curricular clubs
  • Improved ICT capability with support from Simon de Senlis Primary School
  • Access to Royal Shakespeare Company opportunities through Lings Primary School
  • High quality training  for staff to improve standards in English and Maths
  • The Trust has undertaken many varied and exciting collaborative projects and so I do believe it could add to what we already endeavour to do.

The following questions were raised by parents at our parent information sessions, which took place on Wednesday 1st March 2017:

Q - Would a failing school affect other schools in Multi Academy Trust?

A - All schools in the trust would be asked whether they have capacity to support a failing school. No school will be forced to share staff. This could be an opportunity for staff that are looking to progress further to remain in the trust. Headteachers have regular meetings to discuss vacancies and whether there are staff within the trust to fill them.

Q - Can NPAT remove local Governing Bodies and create just one for the whole trust?

A - The plan is to keep local Governing Bodies; however if a school was failing and Governing Body failed to make any significant impact on improvement NPAT would have the right to remove the Governing Body. All schools would be involved in such a decision.

Q - Would there be more strain on the Headteacher?

A - The Headteacher will attend regular meetings to ensure EHPS has an equal say in and can make positive contribution to the Trust. She will be involved in Trust decision making, accountability and school reviews and checks. There will rigour and high expectations, which is a good thing for the school. There is a huge network of support within NPAT.

Q - How many schools is NPAT planning to take on?

A - Around 12 to 15, depending on school sizes, which would enable the trust to take advantage of economies of scale.  A certain amount of pupils would trigger additional funding element as well as capital grants.

Q - How will NPAT be managed once it takes on more schools?

A - The trust has a CEO, a COO, an Education Director and School Business Manager support. The trust is currently looking at restructuring its Board  , possibly have smaller committees. At this stage EHPS would be part of the discussion and decision making.

Q - Does EHPS see any cons of academising?

A - Parents and pupils should not experience great change but leadership and staff will inevitably be asked to work differently at times.  We believe we share such commonality differences in opinions will be rare but occasionally a decision may be made that school voted against.

Q - Are staff on board?

A - Staff were reassured after a meeting with NPAT, not many people are worried.  Change can be unsettling for individuals but Staff trust the Leadership to do the right thing for the school.  The Leadership Team look forward to embracing a new future with strong collaboration to support further school improvement.

Q - Will we give NPAT our budget?

A - Our budget will come directly from the DFE and we will give an amount to NPAT to afford central services.  Currently, the local authority retains a top slice.

Q - Will staff be forced to go and support a failing school?

A - All NPAT schools will be asked if they have the capacity to offer members of staff, job shadowing and leadership support, but there will be no obligation to say ‘yes’ if we feel we would seriously suffer as a school.

Q - Are the staff in favour?

A - They are currently also being consulted.  For some months we have joined NPAT for training and meetings.  Staff can see the direction of travel on the government agenda.  But they also see the value of collaboration to support school improvement.  The staff also appreciate that opportunities for pupils will be even further enriched.  Opportunities for staff professional development could also be a real bonus.

Q - Will school policies change?

A - Mostly no, although there will be some agreed policies used across the trust.  These will always be in line with statutory requirements or best practice.

Q - Will we notice a difference?

A - We hope it will be positive differences in terms of increased opportunities for pupils across the curriculum and particularly in the Performing Arts, PE Sport and IT.

Q - Will the SU be funded by NPAT?

A - The SU will continue to get its place funding from the Local Education Authority.

Q - What if you don’t agree on something they plan to introduce?

A - There is always an opportunity to discuss these things at Headteacher level.  We all have a voice and an opportunity to give our opinion and persuade others.  We like NPAT because we have such a shared ethos, so we hope disagreements will be extremely rare.  However, from time to time we will need to accept that majority vote.  We feel EHPS will have more influence on policy and practice than we would remaining with the local authority.  We are helping the shape the future of NPAT with other like-minded colleagues.

Q - Will you still be inspected separately?

A - Yes and our data / results will continue to be our own.

Please see questions and answers below regarding Academies in general and NPAT.

What is an academy?

Academies are independent, state-funded schools, which receive their funding directly from central government, rather than through a local authority.

The day-to-day running of the school is with the head teacher, but they are overseen by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts and may be part of an academy chain.

These trusts and chains provide advice, support, expertise and a strategic overview.

Weren't academies all about improving failing schools?

They were once. The policy, which originated under Labour, aimed to improve struggling schools, primarily in deprived areas.

And this continues under the sponsored-academy model, where failing schools are taken over and run by an academy trust.

But it has changed radically to embrace all types of schools - successful or otherwise.

All schools - primary as well as secondary - have been invited to convert to academy status, with priority being given to the best performers.

EHPS would be a “Converter “ Academy.

Who oversees academies?

Academies, like all schools, are inspected by Ofsted. Regional School Commissioners were introduced in 2014 to approve academy conversions and monitor standards at academies and free schools in their area.

What is a Multi- Academy Trust (MAT)?

A multi-academy trust (MAT) is a single entity established to undertake a strategic collaboration to improve and maintain high educational standards across a number of schools. A group of schools form a single MAT which has overarching responsibility for their governance.

The MAT is accountable for the performance of each school in the group, although each can still have their own governing body which operates subject to delegation of power from the MAT.

Are you setting up a new MAT or joining an existing one?

We are seeking to work with an existing MAT called Northamptonshire Primary Academy Trust (NPAT). Our school already knows the schools well, we have worked with them on previous projects, share their ethos and commitment to being the best we can be. We were particularly attracted to the group because they all continue to be themselves, celebrating their uniqueness, retaining their ability to innovate and focusing on sharing best practice for school improvement.

When was NPAT set up?

Northamptonshire Primary Academy Trust was officially created in November 2012 when the five founder schools converted to become academies.  The schools had been working together throughout 2012 before this point.

Were the other schools listed in NPAT forced to turn into an academy?

No.  Northamptonshire Primary Academy Trust was created by Weston Favell, Abington Vale, Lings, Headlands and Ecton Brook with the shared vision of achieving excellence in the schools through collaboration.  All the original NPAT Schools joined of their own accord and at the time of conversion all schools were either Satisfactory, Good or Outstanding. Simon de Senlis Primary School joined recently as a Good School and in January Rectory Farm Primary School joined them as a Sponsored Academy.

Will you still be assessed by OFSTED as an academy?

Yes.  Academies are subject to the same inspection process as maintained* schools.  *maintained schools are schools maintained by the Local Authority

How does the application process for new starters (admissions) work?

The application process would work in exactly the same way as it does presently.  Initially, the Local Authority would continue to process school applications.

Will the uniform be kept the same?

There are no plans or expectations to change the uniform. If the school were to change the uniform, this would involve a consultation process between parents, children and staff.  This may happen whether or not the school was an academy.

Is it just the school governors who make the final decision on becoming an academy?

There will be a full consultation with the school community, unions and other stakeholders in which all opinions, concerns and questions will be heard and taken into consideration.  Ultimately the Governing Body will then make the final decision.  The Governing Body consists of representatives of parents, staff, community and Local Authority.

What happens if the governors don’t agree?

A vote will be held by the Governing Body with a majority decision carried.  Governors have been researching and discussing various options over the last year.

How much are you going to deviate from the curriculum / SATs etc?

The school will continue to offer a rich and varied, broad and balanced and still undertake National Assessments and Tests.

What would be the working relationship with the other seven schools?

East Hunsbury would be an equal partner and would have representation at various levels of the MAT structure.

Academies often specialise – how does this affect the curriculum?  Would there be excessive focus on one area at the expense of another?

It is more common for secondary schools/colleges to offer a specialism.   EHPS will continue to offer a rich and varied, broad and balanced curriculum in line with the National Curriculum. We will continue to be committed to Inclusion and value the Performing Arts, PE and Sport.

Is there anything that you have to change to become part of NPAT? E.g. operationally?

We are committed to ensuring that parents and students will not notice any operational differences day to day.  One of the key reasons for becoming an academy is the benefits around working closely with seven schools, sharing resources and cost savings through purchasing as part of a group.  The school would therefore adapt its administration to respond to the different ways that academies are funded and held accountable.

What are the negatives and risks of becoming an academy?

The Governors have looked and continue to look very closely at the risks and opportunities associated with becoming an academy and believe the benefits of joining Northamptonshire Primary Academy Trust significantly outweigh the risks.  Northamptonshire County Council has stated that by 2020 they expect all primary schools to convert to academy status. 

Who are NPAT accountable to?

Northamptonshire Primary Academy Trust are directly accountable to the Department for Education (DfE) in the same way that other Multi Academy Trusts and sponsors are.  The schools remain  accountable to OFSTED.

Regarding finance – how does a failing school affect the allocation of funds to EHPS ?  Could they get some of our funds?

The school would be funded directly from the Education Finance Agency (EFA) and would pay a relatively small contribution to Northamptonshire Primary Academy Trust to fund training, administration and the oversight from the Strategic Director.  The school will benefit from economies of scale, the enabled collaboration and increased access to areas of school expertise. EHPS would continue to set its own budget and therefore would not be liable to divert funds away from EHPS for the other schools.

Where is the final decision made whether to academise?

There will be a full consultation with the school community, staff, unions and other stakeholders in which all opinions, concerns and questions will be heard and taken into consideration.  Ultimately the Governing Body will then make the final decision.  The Governing Body consists of representatives of parents, staff, community and Local Authority.

Are the results e.g. SATS presented as a trust or as individual schools – do you get your own individual OFSTED rating?

All SATs results, OFSTED reports and league table information will be presented as an individual school in the same way it is at present.

Would holiday dates on the working day change a result of academisation?

There are no plans to change the existing holiday arrangements. The County Council are less likely to use us as a Polling Station as we will hopefully be able to say no.

Is there a maximum number of schools that can be in a trust?

There is no published maximum figure although all schools that join new sponsors or MATs have to be approved by the DfE and can be stopped from taking on to many schools.

Is NPAT wanting to expand further?

Northamptonshire Primary Academy Trust may take on additional schools in the future but there are no firm plans as to numbers.  NPAT position is that they do not intend to become a large group and want to focus on delivering quality of teaching across their schools. NPAT approached us to be part of their MAT.

Do NPAT vote to accept us?  Who here votes to join NPAT?

The Directors of NPAT have already agreed that they would like East Hunsbury Primary School to join the trust by way of a vote.  At EHPS, the Governing Body will hold a vote, following the consultation.

Things change – does the success of NPAT depend on the current leaders in place?

We believe that any school’s success is linked closely to the quality of leadership at the time and therefore feel it is important that we always develop leadership in our school.  We believe that working with NPAT gives us the best opportunity to retain our existing leaders and develop future school leaders.

Is it inevitable that EHPS would have to become an academy at some point?

We believe so.  All political parties are committed to continuing the academy programme and the Local Authority has stated that they expect all schools in Northamptonshire to be either academies or free schools by 2020.

Rita Arundel -Headteacher
Darren Coniff – Chair of Governors