MAT – Questions and Answers

Multi Academy Trust: Perins School and Sun Hill Junior School

Questions and Answers

Why is this change being forced on Sun Hill Junior School?

Sun Hill Junior School was inspected by Ofsted on the 4th and 5th October 2016 and rated “inadequate” in all areas. A major consequence of the Ofsted inspection is that Sun Hill has now been formally placed under a “Directed Academy Order” by the Department for Education (DfE). This order requires Sun Hill to become an Academy and be “sponsored” (i.e. taken over) by an existing Academy Trust as soon as possible. There is no choice in the matter.

What is an Academy?

An Academy is a school run as a charitable Trust (which is registered as a company) rather than the local authority.  It is funded directly by government through the Education Funding Agency. In exchange for taking on a whole range of risks and responsibilities that are currently managed by the Hampshire County Council (such as financial, technical, personnel and legal issues), as well as responsibility for all the buildings and assets, the Trust has various freedoms and flexibilities over the way it organises and manages teaching and learning.  The school still falls under the Ofsted inspection regime and is required to complete the appropriate educational attainment information that is published annually.

What is a Sponsor?

An Academy Sponsor is the term for the Academy which has been approved by the Department for Education to support an underperforming Academy, or a school under a “Directed Academy Order”, which requires that school to become an Academy.  The Sponsor has a number of key responsibilities including setting up the local governing body and appointing the leadership team. Thereafter, Sponsors are responsible for performance, finance, fostering innovation and boosting aspirations.

What is a Multi Academy Trust?

A Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) is a Trust that is responsible for a collaboration to improve and maintain high education standards across a number of schools. The MAT has overall responsibilities for governance and is responsible for the performance of each individual school, although each school still has its own local governing body. A master funding agreement with the MAT is supplemented with funding agreements for each individual school. All staff are employed by the MAT.

So what is actually happening?                   

Sun Hill Junior School is in the process of becoming an Academy. Perins is currently a Standalone Academy Trust (SAT) and will convert to a Multi Academy Trust (MAT).  Once both these processes are completed, Sun Hill will join the Perins MAT and the tasks of maintaining the improvement of pupil learning at Sun Hill and engaging with parents and the wider community will fall to the Perins MAT rather than Hampshire County Council.

How long is the process of conversion?

The process of joining forces will take about six months, with the planned start date of full operation of the MAT being 1st September 2017.

What is happening now?

Now that the Department for Education has appointed Perins as the Preferred Sponsor for Sun Hill Junior School, using the grants provided by the Department for Education, Perins will commission a thorough programme of due diligence of finances, premises, staff, systems, contracts, historical agreements, leases, etc. before finally confirming the operation of the MAT from 1st September 2017.

Who will be looking after Sun Hill Junior School between now and September 2017?

Until 31st August 2017, Sun Hill will be maintained by Hampshire County Council. The Council will be responsible for ensuring the school is adequately staffed and financed and that the plans for improving teaching and learning are carried out.  The Council will liaise closely with the management teams at Sun Hill and Perins during this period.

What is happening to Sun Hill Infants School?

Sun Hill Infants School is not affected by these proposals and will remain a school maintained by Hampshire County Council.

Once Sun Hill Junior School becomes an Academy, will it have a different Admissions Policy?

No. Pupils from Sun Hill Infants School will still be able to move seamlessly from the Infants School to the Junior School.

Why has Perins School applied to be the Sponsor?

Perins was approached by the Department for Education and invited to apply to become the Sponsor of Sun Hill. Having experienced sponsorships by large, regional Trusts, the Department for Education’s preference is, if possible, for the Sponsor to be a local Trust, for context, community and commitment reasons.

Why did Perins respond positively to the approach from the Department for Education?

Sun Hill Junior School provides a significant number of Year 7 students to Perins. Perins governors recognised that, although there are risks for both schools (e.g. time involved in the process of conversion; need to recruit appropriate staff at Sun Hill Junior School to continue to drive forward a dynamic improvement programme), both schools also stand to benefit from joining forces within the local community, supporting students as they move through transition from junior to senior school. At a time of tightening budgets, governors were also aware that there could also be benefits for both schools around, for example, resources and premises management.

Governors also believe that the schools will be able to build on the existing strong collaboration between us. We can further develop a shared culture and ethos, ensuring a seamless transition for our students from junior to secondary school. We will develop opportunities for staff at both schools to gain cross-stage experience, as well as share resources, knowledge and expertise. We can ensure consistency of policy and planning across the key stages. And, most importantly, we can work together as a community to offer all our students from the age of 7 through to 16 the best possible teaching and learning opportunities.

Furthermore, if Perins had not been ready to respond to the approach from the Department for Education, the terms of the “Directed Academy Order” placed on Sun Hill Junior School meant that another less local Academy might have to be approached to be their Sponsor; such a move was not considered to be in the best interests of community cohesion.

A new Head Teacher has only recently been appointed at Perins. Surely, adding more to his workload will put unnecessary strain and undermine his plans for developing the school?

No. Governors at Perins are aware that the school is at a critical stage in its own development and that the focus of the Perins Head Teacher, Senior Leadership Team, and staff must remain on maximising the potential of all students at Perins.  Nevertheless, they recognise that Perins has a responsibility to support its local primary school, and that there could be benefits for all involved.

As the process will largely be managed by the Department for Education and Hampshire County Council, with Perins input, governors are confident that the Head Teacher’s time (supported by the Senior Leadership Team and a new Head Teacher at Sun Hill) can be managed appropriately so that the focus on Perins’ students and the quality of their teaching and learning will not be affected.

What happens to the staff at Sun Hill?

All existing Sun Hill staff will be transferred with their existing pay and terms and conditions of employment. There will be no impact on pensions.

Governors at Perins share the desire of the parents and staff at Sun Hill for a new Head Teacher to be appointed at Sun Hill as soon as possible, as the current interim arrangements cannot be extended beyond Easter. Perins is already closely involved in this recruitment process and is committed to ensuring that the right appointment is made. Moreover, they are hopeful that, now the uncertainty over the future of Sun Hill Junior School has been removed, it will be easier to fill other vacancies in the staff structure.

How much of the budget of the schools will be diverted to pay for the costs of this process: would the money be better spent on teaching and learning?

None. Funding for the process is provided by the Department for Education. It does not come from the budget of either school. Money will be available to support the process, to cover any costs related to legal or accounting advice. Any monies not spent will be transferred into the school budgets. As a Multi-Academy Trust, there may be other grants related to development and capital funding which can be applied for in future.

What makes those at Perins think that they are capable of running a Junior School?

Since converting to an Academy in 2011, the leadership and governors at Perins have demonstrated the financial and performance management skills necessary to grow and develop the school such that it is now nationally recognised. These skills will be retained in the MAT.

Moreover, for many years, there has been a collaborative and supportive relationship between Perins and its main feeder schools, including Sun Hill. The Head Teachers meet regularly and Perins currently provides Sport, Creative Arts and English/Maths/Science support to the other schools, broadening their cross-curricular options and enabling them to offer specialised teaching which is not normally available in the junior environment.

Most importantly, though, the management of teaching and learning at Sun Hill Junior School will remain the responsibility of the new Head Teacher (and staff) at Sun Hill and the local governing board.

Once the change has taken place, who will I take my concerns to?

Your link to your school will not change.  If you or your child need to raise an issue on any aspect of teaching, the curriculum or pastoral care, then it will be dealt with locally.

Will my child cease to be an individual in this new, much larger organisation?

No. Perins is committed to providing a rich, rounded educational experience for all the students, in the belief that everyone is entitled to high levels of individual achievement, care and support. The Perins ethos focuses on making sure that every student has the opportunity to progress and develop, preparing them within a safe and secure environment to face the future.

What role will parents play in the new organisation?

The basic structure of a Multi-Academy Trust is laid out explicitly in Department for Education regulations. There will be the Perins Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) comprising six members, responsible for setting the MAT’s strategic vision, approving the annual accounts, and appointing the members of the new Trust Board and most of the directors/governors of the new Local Governing Boards. A new Trust Board will be established, responsible for overseeing the day-to-day management of the schools. Each school will have a local governing board responsible for managing teaching and learning. These local governing boards will be appointed by the Trust Board and have appointed staff and elected parent representatives.

What chance is there for me to become a governor?

The local governing boards will comprise individuals appointed because of the contribution they can make to developing and improving teaching and learning and deepening the special culture and ethos expected by the MAT. There will also be a number, yet to be decided, of parent governors who will be elected by ballot.