What is an academy?
Academies are classed as independent state schools, which have the freedom to determine their own policies on such things as the curriculum taught, school hours, term dates and staff pay. Primary, secondary and special schools are all able to apply to convert into an academy and are accountable to the Secretary of State – not the local Council. Academies are managed by their own Academy Trust, i.e. Watergrove Trust, and are not the responsibility of the council. Academies are given directly the money what would have been given to the Council so academies can choose how to spend the money.
What is the Watergrove Trust?
The Watergrove Trust is a small multi-academy trust consisting of four partner schools, Wardle Academy, Kentmere Academy, St James' C of E Primary School, and St Andrew’s C of E Primary School and Nursery. Under its 3 Year Plan it would hope to expand to a maximum of six schools. The Watergrove Trust recognise that one model of leadership and governance does not fit all schools, therefore we commit to a common set of values that do. As a small Trust we are able to ensure that the children remain at the heart of all our activity. We are accountable to them and we take our responsibilities seriously, ensuring that all of our support is measured, effective and demonstrates value for money. You can learn more about our Multi - Academy Trust, here.
Is an academy like a business?
No. An academy is a charitable trust which cannot make a profit.
Will becoming an academy change the status and ethos of the school?
No. Becoming an academy would not change the status or the ethos of the school.
Will the school change its name?
Not necessarily. It would have to register at Companies House.
Will the admissions policy change?
Only in as much as the Watergrove Trust becomes the Admissions Authority, and not the Local Authority. The criteria for admission remains the same. The school’s admissions policy complies fully with the Code of Practice. The local governing body reviews the policy annually to check that it is absolutely transparent, fair and fully in line with statutory requirements. Sometimes this leads to minor adjustments in the wording to ensure clarity.
What will happen to the land and buildings?
Ownership of the land and buildings converts to the Trust with their management delegated to the local governing body.
Will any Headteacher receive a pay rise as a result of converting to academy status?
Or any member of the Senior Leadership Team?
No. Senior Leadership pay scales reflect job weight, like those across the whole school (which is not the same as workload). If job weight substantially changes, the pay is reviewed.
What about governance? Will there still be elected parent governors? Can staff still be elected to become governors?
Yes. The Board of Trustees is legally responsible for setting the strategic direction of the Trust and managing the performance of its partner schools. The Trust delegates responsibilities to governing bodies within schools for ensuring standards, the quality of teaching and learning, and the quality of student care and guidance. Parent governors are elected onto each local governing body and the Trust recommends the election of at least one staff governor, although governors are present at meetings in their own right and they are not representative of any other body.
Will there be any changes to the curriculum?
The academy would not be required to follow the National Curriculum, but whilst the National Curriculum serves well the range and diversity of the needs and aspirations of young people in the school, there is no reason to change. The academy’s commitment would be to a broad, differentiated and relevant curriculum that challenges all our young people, enables all to progress in learning and to experience success and to become everything that they can be, and are meant to be.
Will our school be required to support another school?
No. The focus will be on improving standards within our own schools. Over time the Trust envisages that schools will acquire the strengths and be given the opportunities to support other schools if they wish, but their primary objective must remain the continued improvement of the pupils within their care.
Would there be any change in the length of the school terms or of the teaching day?
No. We have no plans to change either the length of terms or the structure of the school day, and no change would be made on those issues without consultation with students, parents and staff.
Will there be a new uniform?
Do we know the precise financial benefit to the school for converting to academy status?
No. The government is clear that becoming an academy should not bring about a financial advantage to a school. However, academies have greater freedom on how they use their budgets, alongside the other freedoms that they enjoy. Schools will gain additional funding from that proportion of current Local Authority expenditure relating to service provision in different forms on which the school, as an independent school, would not draw.
What are the rights of pupils with statements of SEN and children in the care of the Local Authority in admissions to academies?
Academies are required to follow the special educational needs and disability (SEND) Code of Practice and relevant regulations. Local authorities (LAs) retain responsibility for pupils with statements of SEN and education, health and care (EHC) plans in academies on the same basis as for pupils with statements of SEN/EHC plans in maintained schools. Regarding children in public care, the academy must similarly comply with the relevant provisions of the School Admissions Code, giving highest priority to looked after children in the over subscription criteria, i.e. statemented children are outside the admissions criteria, looked after children have highest priority within those criteria.
What are the advantages of proposed partnerships?
Together the schools have more buying power than each one independently. Together they have opportunities to share each other’s facilities. Together they have the opportunities to share staffing. Together they can offer more training for their staff. Together they have the advantage of supporting their schools with the best services available and are not reliant upon local authority services. Together they can consider sharing new staff, such as the future employment of a family worker, or education welfare officer. Together they can remove the need to have their headteachers overly focussed upon issues such as building repairs, finance problems, staff management problems, as a central team will support the headteachers with these issues, allowing them the freedom to concentrate on the quality of the teaching and learning within their schools.
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. Academy schools are independent of the Council. The Council has no authority to investigate complaints. All academy schools should have a complaints procedure and parents/carers are advised to request a copy. In summary, the route for academy complaints is;
- To the appropriate staff member or Headteacher at the school.
- To the Chair of the individual school governing body.
- To the Chair of the Wardle Trust (as set out in the academy’s complaint procedure).
- Contact with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). The ESFA is the funding body for academies, and represents the interests of the Department for Education.
Does becoming an academy change the relationship with local schools and the community?
No. Academy funding agreements state that they must ensure that the school will be at the heart of its community, collaborating and sharing facilities and expertise with other local schools and the wider community.
As an academy, will it still work with the Local Authority (LA)?
Academies are independent of the Local Authority (LA). However, we value the strengths that exist within some elements of the LA and would wish to continue working the LA, other local schools and local partners.
A school’s strength is reflected in the quality of its staff. What will happen to them?
If a school becomes an academy, the staff of the school will be transferred to the Watergrove Trust. This requires a statutory process known as TUPE, the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, which protects employees’ terms and conditions of employment when a business is transferred from one owner to another. Employees of the previous owner when the business changes hands automatically become employees of the new employer on the same terms and conditions. Their continuity of service and any other rights are all preserved. The staffing establishment would be transferred ‘as is’. The Trust would mirror the pay scales, terms and conditions set out in the national arrangements for teachers, and for Associate Support Staff. The Trust would continue the current practice of using Local Authority pay scales as benchmarks and passing on nationally agreed annual increments. Existing staff would not be expected to work across both sites, unless they specifically requested to do so.
What will happen with regard to staff pensions?
If you are a teacher in the current school, your pension will continue as part of the teacher’s pension scheme, with the Trust continuing with the same employer responsibilities as the predecessor school. Associate Support Staff will usually be members of the local government pension scheme and the Trust will secure ‘admitted body’ status with the local pension authority to protect the pension rights of employees and take on employer responsibility, both for contributions and administration of the scheme.
Does the Watergrove Trust recognise my length of continual service in local government in terms of entitlement to sick pay, annual leave, maternity/adoption leave, redundancy and pensions?
Yes. The Watergrove Trust recognises employment as a continuation of service in local government for the purpose of entitlements to occupational schemes for sick pay, annual leave and maternity/adoption pay and leave. However, Councils have the discretion to choose to recognise service for this purpose when new employees transfer directly from academies. Rochdale LA currently does not, therefore any staff leaving the employment of the Trust may have to build up their entitlement again. Pensions & redundancy payments remain unaffected in both situations and length of service continues to count.
How old is the Trust?
The Trust was first formed in 2013.