A Multi-Academy Trust MAT is a single charitable company which operates a group of schools. In this case, each school will continue to have a local governing body to which certain functions will be delegated under the Scheme of Delegation. The MAT will ultimately be accountable and responsible for the performance of all schools in the trust. Funding for the schools within the MAT will continue to be allocated on an individual academy basis.
Why would a school want to convert as part of a Multi-Academy Trust?
A MAT, as a single legal entity, allows schools to achieve strong collaboration and to use this collaboration and accountability to improve and maintain school standards. Having the MAT as employer of staff also allows flexibility around sharing resources to meet the needs of the individual schools involved. The MAT can also provide a clear, consistent strategy and vision across a group of schools working together. MATs can often negotiate contracts and services that achieve much better value for money than if each school was to negotiate individually. As Local Authority services are disappearing, a MAT provides central services to its members, for example to support SEN or Human Resources.
Which MAT is it proposed that we join?
We are in discussions with the Lighthouse Schools Partnership. LSP currently includes six schools in Portishead and Portbury. They are a partnership of strong schools and already have established economies of scale and a strong offer of services including strength in staff training and development. We have considered a number of options and are attracted by the ethos and governance structure of this Trust. The maintenance of each school’s own distinctive ethos and individuality is central to LSP’s culture. It is also a mixed MAT of community and Church of England schools so appropriate for the schools in our locality.
If we join the Lighthouse Schools Partnership is this effectively a takeover?
LSP already exists and was set up in September 2016. The Trustees of LSP are committed to redesigning their structures and re-thinking their MAT concept to recognise the needs of a larger Trust. So this is effectively a relaunch. Their ethos, however, will remain the same and each school in the Trust will be an equal member. We feel that we will have a significant voice in shaping the context of this MAT.
The new concept of how LSP will be run is that it will have local hubs. So just as the schools in Portishead work closely together to fit the services of the MAT to their own needs so we will be setting up a hub in our community. This is an important attraction of the Lighthouse model as we will continue to operate with significant autonomy and local control.
Will the structure of the Governing Body change?
The composition of the Governing Body will be maintained as it is now.
What will be the future responsibility of the Governors?
In a MAT the Board of Trustees has overall responsibility for educational standards and the business operations of the schools. The LSP operates a model of earned autonomy so in practice the work of overseeing standards in each school will be delegated to the school Governors. As each school will also have its own budget, the Governors will have to take responsibility for planning and spending funds at school level. This means that the overwhelming majority of decisions are taken at local school level. This is not the same in all MATs and is one of the reasons why we are engaging in discussions with the Lighthouse schools.
What is a Mixed MAT?
Lighthouse Schools Partnership is a MAT which includes both community schools and Church of England schools. The MAT’s Articles of Association are the ones agreed between the DfE and the Church of England. 40% of the Members and Trustees are approved by the Diocese. The LSP has written a Memorandum of Association with the Diocese to make clear how their relationship works. CofE Members, Trustees and Governors have a special duty to safeguard the church ethos of CofE schools. All Trustees and Members have a duties to every school in the Partnership for maintaining the best provision for learning.
The LSP is very proud of its status as a Trust for both community and church schools. The links with the Diocese benefit all schools as the Diocese runs a strong education Directorate which will support any school in the Trust. The Diocese sees community schools as ‘extended family’.
Conversion and Consultation
Has the decision to convert to Multi-Academy Trust status already been taken?
The legal process to becoming part of a MAT has started with a special resolution of the Governing Body. This has triggered a full consultation across the school community. A final decision to join a MAT will only be taken once the consultation has been concluded. It is feasible that the Governors could reverse their current thinking and they will be carefully considering the responses to the consultation.
If the Governors decide to convert when would it happen?
We will be discussing this with the Regional School Commissioner’s office (and, as is required for CofE schools, with the Diocese). It may take up to a year to complete this process (though we hope it can be concluded sooner). In the meanwhile, we will begin to collaborate in formal arrangements with other schools to share services and opportunities.
Who are we consulting with?
We are consulting with parents and carers, staff and their representatives, the children, the Local Authority, other local schools, local community groups and, as a CofE school, the Diocese of Bath and Wells and parish churches.
Have members of staff been consulted?
We are consulting with the staff.
Do the school leadership and governing body have the capacity and expertise to take on the additional responsibilities of academy status?
The governing body and school leadership has experience in leading a successful school. By operating as a Multi-Academy Trust, the non-educational functions can be shared with other schools. We have chosen our partners so that we can share leadership with people who have a strong track record and similar values to us. The point of joining a MAT is to collaborate and share. We will have support from the Trustees and Executive team in the LSP, and will benefit from the expertise of its central team.
Why do we need to change?
In the current financial and educational climate, where the landscapes of education are rapidly changing, we feel that we would like to be in control of our own destiny and make a positive choice about the partner schools that we would wish to work with. Remaining as an local authority (LA) school or trying to work in isolation are not attractive options. The support and improvement resources that the LA is able to offer to maintained schools has been much diminished,and no longer meets the school's needs. The LSP provides access to high quality resources that will support the school's continued improvement and success. The Governors feel that the opportunity to become an equal partner in a locally based trust directly benefits our children.
What about Due Diligence?
A full process of due diligence will be undertaken where schools will share information to fully inform the decision to work in partnership as part of a MAT.
The schools have signed up to a Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement to safeguard any information that is shared between schools as part of the due diligence process ahead of joining a MAT.
What will happen to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) Deficits?
Each school will be responsible for their own LGPS deficit recovery, the details of that will follow once they are known from the Avon Pension Scheme.
Terms and Conditions
Will staff terms and conditions of employment change?
There will be continuity for staff already employed by the school. Other staff will join through a TUPE process. Lighthouse Schools Partnership employs their staff on terms equivalent to or better than those set out in the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).
Who receives the funding for an academy within a MAT?
Under a MAT structure, the general annual grant (GAG) in respect of each academy is received by the MAT and would be under the control of the Trustees. In Lighthouse Schools Partnership this is then passed on to each school who will set their own budget.
Who would be responsible for setting and agreeing the budget?
Financial responsibility for all schools within the Trust would sit at MAT level and statutory accounts have to be drawn up for the MAT as a whole. However, there is a Scheme of Delegation that charges each Local Governing Body with setting and monitoring its own school budget.
What percentage of the budget would be taken by the MAT?
The LSP Central Services Charge (sometimes called the top slice) is currently 4%. This covers a range of services including MAT finances, HR, Governance support, CPD offer, Estates and IT support. The current offer is set out in the LSP’s Shared and Central Services document. As the services offered by the LA decline more service will be offered within the Central Services Charge. It is also anticipated that the level of the charge may increase to 5%.
Anything over and above services included within the top-slice can be negotiated and paid for separately. Within LSP some schools already buy more service as a traded offer.
Changes and Continuities
Will our school ethos change?
The LSP values the differences and character of each school. Although we will collaborate even more our own ethos will be protected by guarantees in the Scheme of Delegation. The school leadership, governors and staff are committed to preserving our school's unique character, ethos, vision and values.
Will the name of the school change?
We will not be changing the school name.
Will the school change its uniform?
We will not be changing the school uniform.