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Academy Trust FAQs

Answering the frequent questions school staff may have about a multi-academy trust

1. What is a Multi-Academy Trust?

A Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) is when 2 or more Academies (schools) come together in partnership. In the case of the University of Portsmouth Academy Trust (UPAT), we’re looking to form a cross-phase MAT covering children and young people aged 3 -18 years. 

In phase 1, we’re focussing on the primary schools by bringing together 3 schools all with a similar vision and ethos. Each school will keep its own name and the MAT will be known as University of Portsmouth Academy Trust (UPAT).  

  • Academies are publicly funded schools, independent of the local authority, held accountable through a legally binding funding agreement with the Department for Education (DfE). Staff are employed by the academy trust.
  • Multi-academy trusts (MATs) are groups of academies that have come together to form a charitable company, with a single group of ‘members’ (who have an overview of the governance arrangements) and a single board of trustees. Even as part of a MAT:
    • individual schools remain as separate entities, with separate names and DfE numbers
    • individual schools still receive separate Ofsted judgements and performance tables are still based on individual schools

MATs are set up as charitable companies and are accountable directly to the Secretary of State through the regional schools’ commissioners.

2. Who will be responsible for running our school?

The MAT will have an overarching Board of Trustees which may include some individuals drawn from the current schools’ Governing Boards. The Trust Board will ensure that each school has a Local Governing Board (LGB) and propose to delegate certain powers to them. The Local Governing Board will continue to work as part of the Leadership of the school.  

The Trust Board are the accountable body who are responsible and accountable for a range of compliance, finance, and performance outcomes. The Trust is governed by several documents including:

  • Memorandum and Articles of Association – This is a legal agreement provided as a model document from the Department for Education and sets out the ‘rules’ of governance for the Trust.
  • Scheme of Delegation – The Trust has developed, in association with the founding schools, a Scheme of Delegation which sets out levels of responsibility and delegation across the Trust.
  • Funding Agreements – Each academy, and the Trust itself, is bound by a Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State.  This document again sets out rules by which the Trust and its schools must operate in order to gain funding.
  • Academies Financial Handbook – All academies and trusts must also comply with rules set out in the Academies Financial Handbook which is a condition of their Funding Agreement. As stated in the Handbook: “it provides an overarching framework for implementation of effective financial management and control.”

In terms of operational management of the schools, the Scheme of Delegation states Headteachers will continue to manage their schools as they do now. The Trust will agree a budget with each school and it is down to the Headteacher and its Local Governing Board to manage that budget and achieve financial and performance outcomes set by the Trust; very similar to the way in which the school currently operates. The Trust and CEO will only intervene if the school is not performing as it should from a student outcomes and financial point of view.

3. What is involved in becoming a Multi Academy Trust? 

The Governing Board is considering forming a MAT. Each school will complete a period of consultation with parents, pupils, staff and the wider community; the results of which will be fed into a report to the Department for Education. In terms of wider activity the Trust will work with the schools to complete a range of tasks including Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE), financial processes and systems, and legal work.

4. Would the school change its name, logo or uniform? 

The school is not required, and has no plans to change its name, logo or uniform.

5. How will being an Academy affect staff? 

Currently, the employer for staff is the local authority. After conversion all staff will be employed by the Multi Academy Trust.  Staff are legally protected to transfer under the same employment terms and conditions, including pensions.  

Their continuity of service is protected, and all staff will be consulted in accordance with the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE).

6. How are the students affected? 

The students will not notice any immediate differences. They will be in the same uniform, in the same classrooms, with the same teachers.  We will continue to strive for outstanding education for all our students. Over time the students may notice some changes and improvements in the way that they learn, resulting from greater training opportunities for staff and innovative learning opportunities.

7. Will we get more money as part of a MAT? 

The school will receive the same amount of per-pupil funding as part of a MAT as they would have previously as a local authority maintained school.  All funding comes directly from the Government to the MAT which controls the overall budget and then distributes the money to each of the schools within the MAT.  

Each school does not have more money but, as a group of schools, the MAT can enhance the economies of scale and choose to share services that benefit all the schools within the MAT. We have already completed work to identify savings for the schools and will continue this work.  As the MAT grows joint-procurement and opportunities will become available to find better value for money for its schools.

8. What are the risks of becoming a MAT?

Some stakeholders involved in any conversion situation may be concerned about the financial arrangements which will be put in place in case these adversely affect their own school, about the degree of independence their school will have in managing and recruiting staff and in setting a curriculum, and about the way that leadership and governance will function within the MAT.  

The way to ensure that these possible concerns do not place any of the schools involved at risk is to set up the MAT in a mutually beneficial way with a strong and positive ethos in place, and to ensure that it is well-run. There has been a great amount of collaborative groundwork done by representatives of all the schools involved in this MAT to ensure that all of the schools agree with the structure for the MAT and its Scheme of Delegation, which defines how the leadership and Governance of the MAT will operate.  

From the beginning it has been clear that all of the representatives have been determined to preserve the independence and unique character of their schools, and to make sure that key decisions on staffing, curriculum and the use of resources will be made so as to benefit the students and families of each individual school, as well as the local community as a whole.  It should also be noted that there are risks in not becoming a MAT. In the future, any school could be influenced to become part of a broader Academy chain. We believe that creating a local MAT, under local direction, offers the best opportunity to sustain vibrant, successful local schools. 

9. How will admissions to the school be affected? 

Each school in the MAT will be its own admissions authority. They will continue to adopt clear and fair admission arrangements in line with the admissions law and school admissions code.  The LA will continue to be responsible for making sure there are enough places locally and will coordinate the admissions for all schools. Parents will continue to complete one application per child for each school place. The proposed MAT has no intentions to change the current admissions arrangements for our schools. 

10. Does becoming part of a MAT change the relationship with other schools? 

No. Each Academy within the MAT will continue to collaborate and share best practise and expertise with all other local schools and the wider community. 

11. Will Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) responsibilities change? 

No. Responsibilities as part of a MAT in relation to SEND will be the same as they are now as this is a legal requirement. A child with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) can still nominate an Academy as their school of choice. 

12. Will there be any changes to staff conditions as a result of the conversion? 

No. The only change to staff contracts as a result of joining the new Trust from 1 September 2021 will be the change of employer to University of Portsmouth Academies Trust. All other terms and conditions remain the same and continuity of service will not be affected.

13. Will staff be forced to move to different schools/roles within the Trust? 

No. All staff will transfer on their current terms and conditions. Contracts for new staff joining the Trust will include working across different schools. If any members of staff are interested in other roles and opportunities within the Trust, we will seek to accommodate wherever this is possible without negatively affecting teaching and learning, but it is important to note this will only be actioned where there is a benefit to the school/Trust and the member of staff in question

14. Will there be staff redundancies or a restructure? 

We are all acutely aware of the pressures school budgets face and the impact this has had on staffing previously. Whether schools are local authority maintained or part of an academy trust they will always need to be financially sustainable as well as being able to provide a broad and balanced curriculum.  

Schools are always at risk of restructure or redundancy where there is a need to address issues in a staffing structure. The conversion of a school to an academy does not increase the risk of this.  Opportunities for schools in a Trust could increase due to the ability to redeploy staff into different roles both centrally and within other schools where opportunities present themselves.

15. What is the process for recruiting a full-time Chief Executive Officer?

UPAT are currently reviewing recruitment options to support the appointment of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). This is a critical appointment for the Trust and we are therefore looking to work with a specialist organisation to support the process. Our plan is recruit as soon as is practically possible, which will be driven by candidate availability and notice periods, but we envisage the appointment to be made and a new CEO in post by late 2021/early 2022. In the interim period, Polly Honeychurch (current Headteacher at Cottage Grove Primary School) will continue to lead as Interim CEO. Polly has an extensive background in school leadership, as well as a close working relationship with the three schools.

16. How big is the Trust planning to grow? 

UPAT have considered a phased approach with the vision for an all-age Trust. UPAT will engage with schools over the next 12 months to identify those who would pose a suitable fit with our vision and ethos. The balance of a local MAT with the resource opportunities a larger group of schools provides is an important consideration.  

Allowing schools to retain their independence and freedom is important to us and part of our vision for the Trust. A hub model will also be considered as the Trust grows which may look at geographic location of schools or their phase (or potentially both) to ensure schools retain a local sense of community.  

We have therefore considered the following timeline and growth model:

UPAT Future GrowthSept 2021 April 2022May 2022 Sept 2022Sept 2022 April 2023May 2023May 2023 OnwardsPhase 13primaryschools.FurtherrefinementofTrustcentralofferandreviewingcontractopportunitiesfromSeptember2021.EngagementandconversionactivitieswithPhase 2schools.Phase 2minimum 5primary schools.Minimum2furtherprimaryschoolstojoinUPAT.Engagementwithhighlightedsecondaryschools.Phase 3development.Engagementwithminimum3furtherschoolstojoinUPATbetweenSeptember2022 and April 2023.UPATtoincludeprimaryandsecondaryphases.Phase3minimum 7schoolsmixofprimary,secondary and post-16.Potentialfor10schoolsinUPAT.UPATtoincludeallphasesearlyyears,secondary and post-16.UPATtoreviewgrowthmodeltounderstandcentralservicesandsupport to all schools.PotentialtoconsiderhubmodelbasedonlocationofschoolsandtotalpupilnumbersacrosstheTrust.

Contact

If you have any questions or feedback about the formation of University of Portsmouth Academy Trust or the academisation of the schools, please direct these to:

Lesley Millard, Project Manager, GLK Solutions

Tel: 07921 645 756

Email: lesleymillard@glkgroup.co.uk