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AVENUE PRIMARY SCHOOL
PROPOSAL TO CONVERT TO ACADEMY STATUS AND JOIN EKO TRUST
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS FROM PARENT CONSULTATION MEETINGS
Consultation meetings were held for parents and carers at Avenue Primary School on the proposal to convert to academy status and join Eko Trust. The meetings took place on Tuesday, November 14th, 2017.
The meetings were introduced by Denis Shea, Chair of Governors, Also present were: Hafise Nazif, Headteacher; Kay Scoresby, Jimeko Green (afternoon meeting), Seema Mangoo (evening meeting), Governors; Jane Moon, Deputy Director of Education & Skills, London Borough of Newham; Rebekah Iiyambo, CEO Eko Trust, Kai Muxlow Chief Finance Officer Eko Trust; Philip Cranwell, Project Manager.
It was explained that notes would be taken of the Q&A to be published on the school website and also that translators were on hand to help if necessary.
This document is a summary of the questions asked at the meetings and the answers given. Where helpful, additional information has been provided in response to the questions raised.
Parent Meeting 2.15pm
This is a proposal from the governors -you. What guarantees do we have that it will work and what is the contingency plan?
The Governing Body has a statutory responsibility and authority to determine what is right for their school within the framework of relevant legislation, regulation and guidance. They are proposing converting to academy status and joining Eko Trust because they believe it is in the best interests of the pupils and staff. Governors have thoroughly investigated options including researching other multi-academy trusts.
There are no guarantees in the same way that there are no guarantees of the future if we continue as a LA maintained school. If it did not work out, there are cases where the Secretary of State has removed a school from one trust and ‘re-brokered’ it to another trust. There are also a few examples where a trust has shut-down. There are, equally, plenty of examples of local authority maintained schools failing. That is why the working group of governors and Headteacher investigated the Trust’s governance, leadership and management so diligently. The contingency plan is to do nothing and remain as we are. Governors and the Headteacher are concerned that the status quo is no longer an acceptable one.
The financial pressures that individual schools are facing and the changing role and funding of the local authority, including the shift of control away from the local authority towards central government, will undoubtedly increase both the challenge of retaining and recruiting high-quality staff and securing adequate support for school development. In turn this makes the challenge of sustaining and improving pupil outcomes and school performance even tougher.
These inter-locking pressures are faced by every publicly funded school in the country with the back drop that, under current government policy, if a school under-performs either in terms of public examination or test results or Ofsted judgement, they will be forced to become an academy with little control over the identity of the sponsoring multi academy trust.
We therefore prefer to proactively choose to convert to academy status and join Eko Trust for all the reasons set out within the consultation documentation and presentation.
Will you move teachers around to get better results?
No, teachers and other staff will continue to work at Avenue, and their contract of employment naming their place of work will transfer across from the London Borough of Newham as the current employer, to Eko Trust who will be the new employer.
However, there are three circumstances where staff may work in another school. First, is when a job at another Trust school is advertised and an employee applies for and is appointed to that role. Second, when a staff member voluntarily agrees to a secondment or temporary placement. Third, there may be new posts created in the future that are Trust-wide and any staff member appointed to such a post would be expected to work across schools.
What is an academy?
Academies are state-funded schools which receive their funding direct from the central government rather than through a local authority. Schools can no longer become a standalone academy but must either join an existing multi-academy trust (MAT) or form a MAT with other schools. If a school underperforms, they can be made to become a sponsored academy which means the school has little choice over the multi-academy trust they join or their role within it.
What will happen to teachers and staff?
Instead of being employed by the London Borough of Newham, teachers and other staff would be employed by Eko trust. When a school becomes an academy, staff are legally protected to transfer under the same employment terms and conditions. Staff will benefit from working in partnership with colleagues from other schools in the Eko Trust, sharing ideas, best practice and joint training to enhance professional development.
What will happen to our children?
Children will remain in the same school; have the same uniform, the same classrooms with the same teaching staff. However, in time the children may notice changes and improvements in the way that they learn, resulting from the greater training opportunities given to teaching staff to innovate and improve the children’s education. In particular, they will benefit from the sharing of excellent practice in teaching and learning between the partner schools. They will also have wider opportunities to learn new skills and experience new activities.
Why is the consultation period only 4 weeks?
Consultation will run from Monday 6th November until Friday 1st December. The Academy Act does not specify the length of consultation, but four academic weeks is standard practice for academy conversions. (NB Following the meeting governors decided to extend the consultation for a further week so that it now closes on Friday December 8th and will therefore last 5 academic weeks)
The purpose of consultation is to present the proposal, the reasons for it, the benefits and risks, and gather feedback from stakeholders.
The Academies Act 2010 states that:
“Before a maintained school in England is converted into an Academy, the school’s governing body must consult such persons as they think appropriate.
The consultation must be on the question of whether the school should be converted into an Academy.
The consultation may take place before or after an Academy order, or an application for an Academy order, has been made in respect of the school.”
The Governing Body believes that the planned consultation is robust and comprehensive. Moreover, the consultation plan was agreed with unions at a meeting prior to the start of consultation. It includes publication of the proposal, stakeholder meetings, publication of meeting Q&As and a consultation survey
accessible by all staff and parents.
The survey data will be an important part of the consultation report to be considered by the Governing Body. The Governing Body will carefully consider the survey data alongside the reasons and benefits of the proposal.
Parent Meeting 6.00pm
Why are you guys doing this?
As governors, we have to check the school is doing the best it can. When looking at the best way forward for our school we looked at different options and think this proposal is the best strategy for our school, for all the reasons given in the consultation proposal and presentation We think it is important that schools work collaboratively, to ensure quality and also accountability. The Trust looks at the results of all the member schools and continually strives for improvements. The Trust also ensures that Headteachers have the resources in place to support them.
What is wrong with the current model and could this new model be reversed?
There are are real challenges facing all LA maintained schools in terms of financial pressures, funding cuts, national staff shortages, cuts to the Local Authority which have resulted in reduced support for schools. In times of difficulty, governors have to ask, “who can we ask for support” and we believe that being part of Eko Trust will bring us the support, challenge and mutual accountability that all schools need.
In terms of whether this new model can be reversed – no, it cannot. Once a school converts to academy status it cannot return to Local Authority maintained status. It is also quite hard to leave a multi academy trust once a school has joined, as it requires the consent of the Secretary of State for Education and the identification and consent of another multi academy trust. This is the key negative of the proposal, which is why the governing body has been investigating the Trust’s governance, leadership and management so carefully.
Can you describe the consultation methodology? When was this decided?
Governors have been investigating different strategic options for more than a year. This has involved researching local multi-academy trusts. At the governing body meeting on 19th October, 2017 governors resolved to commence consultation on the proposal to convert to academy status and join Eko Trust. Consultation began on Monday November 6th and was planned to run until Friday December 1st, a period of four academic weeks (NB Following the consultation meetings governors decided to extend the consultation for a further week so that it now closes on Friday December 8th and will therefore last 5 academic weeks).
Invitations were sent to parents and staff on Monday November 6th inviting them to attend today’s meeting. There has also been a consultation meeting with unions. All stakeholders have received a consultation proposal document and a consultation survey.
After the close of consultation, the Governing Body will meet again to consider the outcome of proposal and make a final decision.
How are the results of the survey analysed?
Once consultation surveys are completed, they can be returned to school in the locked ballot box provided (there is one for parents and one for staff). The ballot boxes will then be opened at the close of consultation in the presence of union representatives and parent governors. There will then be a count and an analysis of comments. A report will then be written for governors to consider at their GB meeting in December.
How will you reach parents who have not been able to attend this meeting? Do parents have follow up consultations?
All parents will receive the Consultation Document to explain more about the proposal. Also the Q&A from these meetings will be published on the school’s website. They will also receive a Consultation Survey. There will not be a follow up consultation meeting like this one, but the school will organise drop-in sessions when parents can visit the Headteacher. An interpreter will be arranged on request. (A letter explaining this was subsequently sent to parents and carers 48hours after this Consultation meeting)
Is the parent voice important to the decision makers? Will we be listened to?
The Governing Body will take into account the views of all stakeholders when making their decision and consider their views alongside the reasons and benefits of the proposal. The whole point of consultation is to listen to stakeholders and understand their views. No final decision has yet been made.
How about you give us, the parents a ballot with a simple “yes” or “no” response? We want some form of voting system.
The methodology used is Consultation Surveys and to give stakeholders a wider option, we also include “don’t know” and “maybe” as well as “yes” and “no”. It
is not a referendum. A decision will not be made until after the close of consultation so that views all can be taken into account.
It’s a shame our results were poor, but surely there are other measures rather than selling off the school? Why have you not considered other local schools, we could learn from them?
The school is not being sold off. At the moment, as a LA maintained school, we receive our funding from the central government via the Local Authority. As an academy we would still receive the same per pupil funding but it would come directly from central government rather than through the LA. We would retain control of our own budget, as do each of the other schools in the trust. One of the advantages of being part of a multi -academy trust rather than an informal partnership of schools, is that it brings accountability. If one school in a trust is underperforming, the other schools will help and support because it is in the interest of the whole Trust for every school within it to achieve. Governors looked at the other MATs in Newham but found Eko Trust to be the best fit for Avenue.
We hear about academies failing. If it does go ahead and it fails, what is your plan?
Schools can fail whether they are academies or LA maintained schools. As a Trust, we are not planning for failure We look at all the risks and make sure that all the schools in the Trust are doing as best as they can and provide the resources to help them achieve.
You said that the school will become an academy because it isn’t doing well. Isn’t this a dictatorship? If we can’t go back, this is all about how much money you can make out of people.
Governors and the Headteacher want the best for Avenue Primary School. It is their responsibility to achieve the best outcomes for children now and plan into the future. They believe the best option is the proposal to join Eko Trust. It is not about making money. The school will receive the same amount of funding as an academy and will retain control of its budget. Each school within the Trust contributes a small agreed percentage to a Trust Central budget and this is used for the commissioning of trust wide services. The Trust does not have shareholders and cannot pay dividends. Any surpluses must be retained to be spent in ways consistent with the charitable objects. The Trustees and Trust Members are unpaid The driver behind the proposal is to benefit from working in partnership with other schools and particularly from the support, challenge and accountability that this will bring.
Avenue is a large primary school. Eko don’t have a record of dealing with larger schools (Avenue is around 900 pupils with the other schools being around 400 plus Eleanor Smith Special School with around 80 pupils)
It does not make a difference – it is Avenue staff who will be teaching Avenue children but with the support of the other member schools and within the Trust.
If a child isn’t making progress, will they be asked to move to another school?
No. As with all children in the School it is about looking at the reasons why a child is not making progress and consider the provision that the child may require.