Frequently Asked Questions

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1. Why did we change our existing schools?

In the four years leading up to conversion, our schools continually increased the amount we worked together. For example:

  • The headteachers met regularly to share experiences and support each other.
  • The schools worked together on aspects of joint school development.
  • The schools had joint training sessions for staff each year.
  • There were been some opportunities for children to work together in workshops.
  • Networks of subject leaders were been formed to allow them to share ideas and share development plans.
  • There was been some shared governor training.
  • There was been some shared development of school policies.

This showed us that there was much to be gained from working together and we believed the time is was right to:

  • Develop a single cross school improvement programme, including the appointment of a highly experienced independent advisor.
  • Enhance existing moderation and assessment by implementing rigorous cross-school systems.
  • Identify both common and individual school weaknesses that can drive a robust programme of mutual development and support.
  • Create opportunities for better sharing of skills and people across the schools through shared funding.
  • Re-design our administrative and management systems to remove duplication and deliver economies of scale.
  • Exploit best practices in data analysis and comparison to inform all school evaluation and development plans.

We believed that in order to make these changes, we needed to change the way we were structured and governed. The Multi-Academy Trust was a good way to make these changes a reality. As a result we believed it would deliver:

  • Higher standards of teaching and learning in all classrooms.
  • New opportunities for children to work across schools and access learning opportunities.
  • Enhanced confidence and morale in staff.
  • Greater opportunities for career development.
  • Greater visibility of the strengths and weaknesses of each school.
  • Stronger governance across the schools.
  • Increased efficiency and effectiveness of school administration and business management.

In Summary:

Under the proposals:

  • Each school will remain focussed on delivering excellent teaching and learning within its local community.
  • Each school will continue to have its local Head with less administration and more time to focus on the teaching and learning within the school.
  • Each school will continue to have its local governing body.
  • All schools will work together on projects to improve education and learning in all schools.
  • All schools will share administration and support in order to reduce costs and improve effectiveness.
  • A Joint Management Board will exist to provide oversight of the performance of each school and ensure effective investment in improvements across all schools.

2. What is an Academy?

An Academy is a state school that is run by an Academy Trust. The Academy Trust enters into an agreement with the Secretary of State for Education that sets out its responsibilities and accountabilities for the effective running of the Academy. The Academy is funded directly by the Government and is no longer run by the Local Authority. The Trust is given charitable exemption, which means it must operate much like a charity.

3. What is a Multi-Academy Trust?

A Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) is when 2 or more Academies come together in partnership. Our Governing Body believed that the best option for the future was to form a local primary school partnership of three schools to establish a MAT. Each school kept its own name and the overall partnership is now known as the Saturn Education Trust. Each school converted to an Academy. In the future, it will be possible for other Academies to join the Trust. Through partnership the Saturn Education Trust will support member Academies in:

  • developing and sharing best practice in teaching, learning and curriculum
  • creating a skilled, motivated, expert workforce
  • ensuring high standards through mutual challenge of performance
  • making optimum use of their resources.

4. Who is responsible for running our school?

The Saturn Education Trust has a Board of Directors including individuals from the Local Governing Bodies of all three schools. The Trust Board delegates many powers to a Local Governing Body (LGB), which has a role similar to that of the previous School Governing Body. These powers are agreed by Governors from all three schools.

Each school is run by its Head. Governors and Headteachers from all three schools agreed to appoint an Executive Headteacher to lead the Trust’s operation, to be accountable to the Trust Board for the performance of all three schools and to provide appropriate support to Heads.

5. What are the implications of not formally being VC or VA schools?

The change is only in name. The Academies continue to have ‘foundation’ governors appointed by the local Parishes. There has been no change to the curriculum and ethos as a result of the name change. The Diocese of Salisbury will continue to be involved through their inspections.

6. How does being an Academy affect staff?

All staff at all the schools are employed by the Saturn Education Trust. Staff were legally protected to transfer under the same employment terms and conditions, including pensions. Their continuity of service was protected, and all staff were consulted in accordance with the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations.

7. How were the children affected?

The children did not notice any difference, as they are in the same uniform, in the same classrooms with the same teaching staff. We continue to strive for an outstanding education for all our children. 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 pupils’ learning.

8. Do we get more money as an Academy?

Academies receive the same amount of per-pupil funding as they would receive from the Local Authority as a maintained school. They also receive additional funding in the form of the Education Services Grant to cover the services that are no longer provided for them by Dorset County Council and to cover the costs of Academy status.

All funding comes direct from Government to the Multi Academy Trust which, through individual school participation on the Board of Directors, then controls the overall budget. Each school does not necessarily have more money, but as a group the schools are better able to control that part of the budget currently “top sliced” by the Local Authority.

9. What were the risks of becoming an Academy?

The change to Academy takes a school out of Local Authority control, but does not exclude the school from Local Authority support. For example, Academies can continue to receive finance, HR, behavioural support and other services from the Local Authority and where these represent ‘best value’ the MAT would use these services. Where the MAT feels that others can provide better services or better value the change to Academy increased the freedom to make these changes.

There were risks associated with not changing to Academy status. At some stage in the future, any school might be influenced to become part of a broader Academy Chain. We believe that the ability to create a local MAT, under local direction, offered the best opportunity to sustain vibrant, successful local schools.

10. How are admissions to the schools affected?

The schools are their own admissions authority but are required to follow clear and fair admission arrangements in line with the admissions law and the School Admissions Code. The Local Authority continues to have responsibility for making sure there are sufficient places locally and coordinates the admissions process for all schools. This means parents still only have to complete one application per child.

11. Does being an Academy change the relationship with other schools and the community?

No. Academies must ensure that they continue to be at the heart of their community, collaborating and sharing facilities and expertise with other schools and the wider community.

12. Have our responsibilities in relation to Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and exclusions changed?

No. Responsibilities as an Academy in relation to SEND and exclusions remain the same.

16. Can a child with a statement nominate an Academy as his or her school of choice?

Yes. Schools with an Academy status can retain the admissions criteria they previously used. These arrangements and related processes must at all times comply with the School Admissions Code.