I write to inform you that Caedmon College Whitby (CCW) is commencing a consultation process regarding Academy status and I would like to inform you about why we have started this process, the type of Academy we wish to become and to give you some details about the consultation process itself so that your voice can be heard.
Our examination results and Ofsted reports are strong enough to allow us to convert to academy status, but we must carefully consider whether converting would be in the best interests of our students – both present and future. Currently, well over half of the schools in England have converted to become Academies and the Schools Commissioner recently said that all schools will become Academies in the next five years. Please take a moment to read this letter, which is also available on the College website (www.ccwhitby.co.uk), and if you wish to respond to our consultation, we would be very pleased to hear from you. Details of how to do this are given at the end of this letter.
Governors have thought long and hard about the advantages of creating an inclusive trust to involve all the schools in our area that would like to join – primary or secondary. They want to do this because they believe passionately in local people/Governors being in control of their own destiny and to realise the benefits of collaborative learning for everyone concerned. They would especially like to see an over-arching trust that creates a smooth transition for all Year 6 students into secondary education. Like all other schools in the area, we currently enjoy a good working relationship with the Local Authority and if we create an Academy, neither parties would see this changing greatly, as we both want the same thing – outstanding education for our students.
What does the consultation involve?
It involves communicating with students, staff, parents of current and future students, the local community and other College stakeholders, over a six-week period, ending on 1 May 2015.
Will CCW definitely become an Academy?
The Governing Body has submitted an initial application to convert to Academy Status and is working towards a conversion date of 1 October 2015. However, the College is not obligated to become an Academy until the contract between the Governing Body and the Department for Education (known as the Funding Agreement) is signed. The Governing Body has not even started to negotiate the Funding Agreement with the Department for Education as yet. The Governing Body will not sign a Funding Agreement until all interested parties have been consulted and their views considered.
What is an Academy?
An Academy is essentially an independent school which is funded by the state. It is independent of the Local Authority and receives its funding direct from Central Government. Previously, Academies have tended to replace schools which have poor results or otherwise needed to improve significantly. However, under the Academies Act 2010, all schools are able to become Academies. As CCW is a “Good” school, we can apply without being supported by another school and without a sponsor from industry or elsewhere. We would, in fact, be expected to support another school – something we have experience of doing.
What are the benefits of being an Academy?
- Academies are free from Local Authority control – the Governors are the employers and becoming an Academy would give us even greater freedom about how we conduct ourselves.
- Academies receive their funding from Central Government – this means that Academies receive more funding because none of it is retained by the Local Authority for provision of central services. The College would become ‘the customer’ and could go to different providers if it felt they were offering a better service; we would be in position to buy the best services available.
- Academies have more freedom over the curriculum taught – this means that academies do not need to teach parts of the National Curriculum which they do not consider appropriate for their students.
- Academies can set their own pay and conditions of service for their staff – they have the freedom to alter the pay and conditions of their staff (subject to normal employment law protections for staff) and therefore can provide staff with better pay and conditions than previously offered, should they choose to. It is the expressed intention of the Governors that no current member of staff will be worse off as a result of the conversion, should it go ahead.
- Academies have more freedom to undertake innovative projects – Academies are companies and so have greater freedoms.
What are the strong reasons for becoming a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT)?
- There are strong positive educational advantages of working within a larger group.
- The College will be able to draw on the experience of the other schools.
- Joint working arrangements with other schools helps to enhance the curriculum, share excellence, have joint training arrangements, etc.
- As part of a wider local group of schools, we would have increased opportunities to enhance standards and move the achievement of all the schools in the partnership to Good, and then to Outstanding, for the benefit of our students.
- As a MAT, we could agree a strong, shared strategic vision across all the schools in the partnership.
- Because a MAT is accountable for the outcomes of all the students in the partnership, it can be an excellent mechanism for ensuring that support and challenge is directed to where it is needed most.
- The MAT has flexibility about how much or how little power it delegates to individual schools; this enables tailoring to the individual circumstances of the partnership.
- The MAT is the employer of all the staff. This makes it easier to deploy staff flexibly, draw on a wider pool of opportunities for CPD, and develop a trust-wide approach to staff development and succession planning.
- The central funding agreement can make it easier to pool resources and achieve economies of scale in contracting.
Other issues regarding becoming an Academy
As an Academy, we would be directly liable for matters such as insurance, employment liabilities, pensions, health and safety and property maintenance. As mentioned above, Academies receive more funding from Central Government to help them to meet these additional costs, which would allow us to buy services from the very best providers; some services will probably be bought back from the Local Authority.
Will the admissions arrangements change?
As an Academy, we would deal with our own admissions but would still be bound by the National Admissions Code. If, in the future, the Academy wished to change its admission arrangements, consultation would be required.
Will the staff terms and conditions change?
If the College converts to an Academy, all staff currently employed by the College will transfer to the new Academy on their current pay and conditions. Although the Academy will have more freedom to amend those pay and conditions in the future, the Governing Body does not intend to take such a step for the foreseeable future.
Will CCW change?
Any good school is constantly looking at how it can improve and we are no different. However, in terms of the College’s ethos, values and character, I can assure you that nothing would change. We still would want to be ‘the best we can be’, we would not be looking to change our name, uniform or logo. Our school holiday patterns and school year would remain unaffected and the Governing Body membership would stay the same. For the students, it is unlikely that they would see much, if any, change to their daily routines. Whilst Academies have the power to vary the length of the school day, we have no intention of taking this step and would engage with parents/carers, staff and students if we felt there was a need to look at changes to any of these areas in the future.
The Consultation Process
There will be a number of opportunities for you to express your views about the move to Academy status. These are outlined below.
23 – 27 March – assemblies to College students explaining the proposed move to Academy status.
Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 April – open door sessions for any parent to book an appointment to see the Principal about the move to Academy Status. Please telephone the College and speak to Mrs Hunter, Business Manager and Clerk to the Governing Body, if you wish to book an appointment.
Thursday 16 April – 8.00pm at Caedmon College Whitby, main hall on the Normanby Site – public and open session for staff, parents and other stakeholders. All are welcome to this open meeting.
I would also welcome any comments from parents who wish to write to me personally on this matter; representations can be made in writing to me, the Chair of Governors, using the space overleaf to the College address or by emailing the Clerk to the Governing Body, Mrs Hunter, via email@example.com.
You may send in questions to this email address and we will do our best to provide you with an answer.
How can I find out more?
There is more information about Academies on the DfE website: http://www.education.gov.uk/academies.
The consultation process will end on Friday 1 May.
Finally, I am aware that there are uncertainties with any change. This is natural, but we are keeping a relentless focus on improving outcomes for every student who attends CCW – whether it is through ‘school’ or ‘academy’ status. This move is an opportunity for us to raise our expectations still higher so that we have even more students leaving us, well-prepared for the world around them, having achieved good results and a broad and balanced education.
Mr R P Simpson
Chair of the Governing Body
Caedmon College Whitby