Academy

Academy

On July 1st 2015 Bitterley School became an Academy. We chose this route as a community because it was the right move for our context. We became part of the Bishop Anthony Educational Trust (BAET). We were the first school to chose to become part of the BAET as a partner school.

Academy Conversion – FAQs

This FAQ document will be developed on the website throughout the consultation period. If you would like to put forward a question please email it to admin@bitterley.shropshire.sch.uk

What is an academy?

Academies are classed as independent state schools. This is enabled by the Academies Act 2010. An academy has more freedoms. For example:

• freedom in tailoring the curriculum to suit their need

• greater control of their budgets

• freedom to spend the money local authority currently spends on their behalf

• “Becoming an Academy gives professionals greater scope to innovate and raise standards for the children in their school, while remaining clearly accountable for the outcomes they deliver”

Who can become an academy?

The Government has expanded the academies programme and has issued an invitation for all schools to consider taking up the academy freedoms. Any school which is performing well can now submit an application to become an academy.

How do we apply to become an academy?

The Governing Body applies to the Secretary of State for Education.

Who makes the final decision as to whether we apply to be an academy?

The Governing Body. Our application can be turned down at any stage and we can withdraw at any stage during the application process. However, once formally agreed, by which we mean the Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State has been signed, the decision cannot be reversed. We need to understand the views of our parents, staff, children and our local community before we can make this decision.  The Governing Body is committed to retaining all the positive elements of our school that we have worked so hard to develop.

Who decides which schools convert to an academy?

The decision for any school to become an academy rests with its Governing Body. Before a decision is taken on academy status, stakeholders which include parents whose children attend the school in question will be consulted on their views and opinions.

Who runs an academy?

The academy is run by an Academy Trust. This is a legal body which operates as a charitable organisation and a company limited by guarantee. The Trust has a formal agreement, or contract with the Department for Education. One option for Bitterley School is the Diocese Multi Academy Trust (MAT), the Bishop Anthony Educational Trust. Other options have been examined at length.

Are there different types of academies?

Yes. Schools can convert on their own, as ‘single converters’ or alternatively convert as part of a group of schools. We refer to these group arrangements as Multi Academy Trusts (MAT), Umbrella Trust and Loose Groupings. Dependent on the type of group arrangements the school may still be governed at a local level. The amount of governance (decision making) kept at a local level and the degree of individual autonomy for the school will vary dependent on the nature of the grouped arrangement.

For example, a Multi Academy Trust decides the amount of individual autonomy given to each school in the group, whereas in an Umbrella Trust each school is an individual legal entity and will retain its own governance.

Will it make any difference to my child’s education which of these models he/she attends?

No. All academies are there to improve the quality of your child’s education. However, with any application for admission you are encouraged to look at information on your preferred school. If necessary speak to the Headteacher and arrange a visit.

Will the name of the school change?

No. The school would continue to be called Bitterley Church of England Primary School.

Will the uniform change?

No.

Is there a financial benefit or loss for the school?

The school would receive direct funding for the proportion of Government grant held back by the Local Authority that provides wider educational services in addition to the core funding it already receives by way of formula funding grant and currently used to provide centrally procured services. Currently, we do not think there will be a significant financial benefit or loss to the school.

Would the admissions arrangements change?

Although the academy would have control of its own Admissions Policy, the Governors are committed to ensuring that Bitterley Primary School maintains its inclusive nature. All academies are bound by the national code of practice on admissions and we would work with the Local Authority on co‐ordinating the admissions process with parents on an annual basis. Bitterley Primary School would be responsible for an appeals process broadly as it is arranged now.

Are there any rules relating to admissions that academies have to follow?

Yes. Academies have to follow the law for school admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as if they were a maintained school.

What are the educational advantages in converting?

Many of the responsibilities of the Local Authority would pass to the school. Academies have the freedom to determine their own curriculum and are not tied to following the National Curriculum. This freedom would allow our staff, as professionals, to devise a curriculum that is best suited to the needs of particular pupils. Currently we are very happy with the curriculum that we offer. However, we may need to change it in the future. We will always ensure that the curriculum that we offer meets the needs and interests of our children. Academies have to deliver “a broad and balanced” curriculum, but the academy does have the freedom to arrange learning within the school day. Academies offering primary provision have to implement the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) as set out in section 40 of the Childcare Act.

With increased autonomy and independence we can also be more selective about the educational initiatives we become involved with, the partnerships we choose to develop and the way we allocate our resources to meet the needs of our children. In addition we can ensure that educational provision is appropriately suited to the needs and requirements of our local community, making use of the significant resources that exist in our locality.

What will it mean for my son/daughter? Will my child have the same teachers?

There would be very little evidence of any visible day‐to‐day changes to children, parents and staff. The intention is that the change of status will allow us to keep developing the school the way that we have been doing.

Will Bitterley Primary School still be inspected by Ofsted?

Yes. Primary academies are inspected by Ofsted using the same framework and time scales as for maintained schools.

What are the safeguards for vulnerable children?

Under the terms of the Funding Agreement, the contract between the Academy Trust and the Secretary of State, an academy has to act in exactly the same way as a maintained school in relation to Special Education Needs, behaviour and exclusions.

My child has special education needs. How can I be confident that they will be given the same level of support, attention and care?

The Academies Act 2010 requires Academies to follow the same statutory framework for special needs as local authority schools. Schools will receive funding for children with statements of special educational needs in the same way, whether they are academies or local authority schools. If children have statements with an enhanced package of support, both types of school will get additional funding directly from the local authority, again, in the same way.

Where children have special needs, but do not have a statement, once again, academies are required to have regard for the Code of Practice on SEN, in exactly the same way as local authority schools.

What would be the impact on free school meals?

There will be no change to free school meals. The application process will remain the same and Bitterley School would continue to make every effort to encourage families that are entitled to free school meals to apply for them. ‘Universal free school meals’ for KS1 has been introduced at Bitterley from September in line with Government policy and would continue after conversion.

Would the relationship with the Local Authority change?

The school would continue to work with the Local Authority on common issues and would remain part of the local school networks that work in partnership to develop the outcomes for Shropshire children.

What support does a Local Authority provide to an academy?

The Local Authority would retain numerous statutory duties, including ensuring sufficient school places, transportation and appropriate provision for special educational needs. As an academy we can choose to purchase any additional support we may need from a range of providers including the Local Authority.

Can a school change its admission arrangements as soon as it becomes an academy?

No. The admissions arrangements will have been set as final in the April preceding conversion. However academies can consult in the future on changing their admission arrangements in line with the requirements in the Schools Admissions code.

Who deals with complaints about schools that have converted to academy status?

Parents/carers who have a complaint about their child’s academy school will need to contact the academy directly.

In summary, the route for academy complaints is;

1) To the appropriate staff member or Headteacher 2) Contact the Academy Trust (this should be set out in the academy’s complaint procedure) 3) Contact the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA). The YPLA is the funding body for academies, and represents the interests of the Department for Education

How would Parent Governors be appointed in an academy?

Currently, when a vacancy arises, applications are sought from parents at the school and if necessary an election will be held. This system would continue after conversion.

What does the conversion process involve?

The Governors recommended strategic direction is to join the existing Hereford Diocese Multi-Academy Trust (MAT). This means much of the legal work of becoming an academy has already been done e.g. establish an Academy Trust as a company by registering with Companies House.

The school will need to:

Formalise its relationship with the preferred Trust insurance for educational services as appropriate.

Manage the transfer so that it is seamless to the children and does not negatively impact the teaching and learning of the children.

How long will it take?

The government says this can be as little as three months – including school holidays. Most schools should be able to convert in around five months (it may take longer if there are complicated issues).

Can we withdraw from the conversion process?

Schools are able to withdraw right up until the point that they sign the funding agreement. Once this is signed there is a legally binding agreement between the Secretary of State and the Academy Trust. This decision cannot be reversed or cancelled for 7 years. If after considering all the feedback from the consultation and the experience of the conversion process so far the governors still feel that becoming an academy is the best way forward for the school then the funding agreement is signed at the end of the conversion process.

Who is being consulted?

The Governors would like to hear the views of all interested parties. The school has distributed information to parents, staff and other stakeholders. The Local Authority has been kept informed throughout the process. The school has also informed other local primary and secondary schools, community partners and the multi‐ agencies we work closely with.

How can I communicate my views about the school converting?

You can write with your views, or ask any further questions to admin@bitterley.shropshire.sch.uk

This FAQ document will be developed on the website throughout the consultation period.

Where can I obtain further information?

The Department for Education website has further information, and links to other sources of information about academies:

www.education.gov.uk/academies

The anti‐academies alliance has also produced some useful material. The website is ‐

http://antiacademies.org.uk/

The Independent Academies Association is a very useful website that gives more in depth information about Academies

http://www.iaa.uk.net/

From this website is a very informative document (Becoming an Academy) that gives readers a Head Teachers perspective on why they felt becoming an academy was the best option for their school

http://www.iaa.uk.net/?wpfb_dl=10