The Multi Academy Trust landscape has been around since around 2010 and put simply was designed to place schools and school leaders at the heart of school improvement. Our frequently asked questions are designed to answer the main questions that staff and parents/carers ask when talking to us and others about Trust life. They are not exhaustive so please do feel free to contact us if you have any questions that are not covered in this section.
Do governors lose control upon conversion? How can you address the concern regarding loss of control?
It is common for governing bodies to be concerned about losing control.
DCAT supports the governance model that includes Local Governing Bodies and we request that the LGB continues to be made up of parents, staff and foundation representatives, ideally including the parish priest. LGBs within DCAT operate as extensions and local advisory committees of the Board of Trustees.
LGB members are appointed by the Board of Trustees for a term of four years. Governors may continue beyond one term of office. The Trust’s current scheme of delegation recommends nine LGB members, although this is not a hard limit and LGBs that are larger are acceptable in certain circumstances, e.g. where they operate over more than one academy, the academy is large or where the academy sits within multiple parishes.
The scheme of delegation sets out the responsibilities of the Local Governing Body, and much of the current responsibilities of a maintained academy governing body remain with the academy LGB. In the case of a federation or VA academies, DCAT becomes both the responsible body and employer (and therefore takes on the employment liability of the staff from the Governors of the federation).
What support would DCAT put in place should an academy go into Special Measures?
DCAT has experience of converting and managing an academy in Special Measures.
The support provisioned includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Additional DCAT senior officer time allocated to the academy; this is usually a minimum of one additional day per week
- The provision of a significantly elevated Academy Improvement Partner support. The exact allocation will depend on the academy situation; the default is one day per fortnight
- Provision of a Teaching Academy Partnership in addition to the AIP support as above. The nature of this support will broadly depend on the requirements of the academy and the reasons it was placed into Special Measures
- Undertake external reviews as appropriate (e.g. Governance, Safeguarding, Pupil Premium)
- The Regional Schools Commissioner [RSC] will usually allocate a senior Department for Education adviser to visit the academy three times per year. This is to both provide assurance of improvement and to review the Trust’s progress.
- Liaison with stakeholder groups (e.g. Parents/carers, the RSC, DfE, Ofsted/allocated HMI).
The exact support provisioned would be decided based on the detailed Ofsted outcomes.
How does DCAT link geographically distant academies?
Trust members of staff regularly visit all academies – typically weekly. Where possible, academy-based staff are encouraged to visit other academies to experience and share best practice.
The Trust hosts regular termly meetings for Headteachers, Safeguarding Officers, Business Managers and Chairs of Governors. Other groups who also meet regularly include Assessment Leads, English Leads and Maths Leads.
How can DCAT ensure small academies are given due consideration?
Two-thirds of academies in the Diocese are classed as small. The Trust is in conversation with many of these who are wishing to convert to academy status. The model being developed is for small, rural academies to form a hub in which they share staff and resources and achieve economies. This is similar to that of a federation but within the overall family of the Trust.
Finance and Operations
Beyond the academy’s current service agreement with the Diocese, will there be any additional benefits?
DCAT benefits from a very close working relationship with the Diocese and is headquartered within the same building in Church House, Hove. This allows a considerable amount of cross collaborative working with the Diocese, both within the education team and the wider organisation.
DCAT operates a group partnership agreement with the Diocese, has an elevated Service Level Agreement and, where needed, will commission additional work from the Diocese on behalf of the academy at nil or significantly subsidised cost.
The Regional Academies Commissioner and Ofsted have made it clear to the Diocese that it is being assessed based on the DCAT academies, and this ensures continued elevated support.
Are finances controlled and managed locally by the Academy Business Manager or by DCAT?
The Trust is responsible and accountable for the funds; it is delegated for the academies within the Trust. The Trust must meet its statutory and regulatory responsibilities as an exempt charity, Limited Liability Company and as a custodian of public funds.
The budget is prepared by the SBM (or equivalent member of staff) with any required support from the Trust. It is then presented to the LGB who will recommend the budget to the Trustees for approval.
In normal operation (e.g. provided financial delegation has not been removed) the LGB is responsible through the academy and Head/SBM for the monitoring of the academy’s budget. The Trust monitors the academy’s budget remotely and analyses returns made by the academy in line with its requirements under the Academies Financial Handbook and Charities SORP, in addition to the relevant Trust policies.
The Trust operates an optional centralised finance function for academies to choose to buy into should they wish. This function replaces the role of Academy Business Manager with a bought in service and has proved to be very cost effective. It is, however, down to each academy to choose whether to subscribe to this model and typically will form part of the academy’s succession planning for SBM staff.
The variance of staffing costs and pupil numbers has a huge impact on an academy’s sustainability. How would DCAT work with the academies to maintain and increase capacity?
If academies convert to academy status, the admissions authority would become the Trust. Subject to legislation and consultation rules, this allows a degree of flexibility in setting the PAN at a higher or lower level to suit the academy. Should the Trust believe the PAN should be increased and that there is sound educational and financial model to justify a change, it would work with the academy to complete the necessary consultation as required.
What proportion of the academy’s budget would be paid to DCAT and what would the academies get for this money?
DCAT academies pay an amount which is based on a percentage of the General Annual Grant. The percentage is not due on any other source of funds, including Pupil Premium, Higher Needs Top-up Funding or any other grant or self-generated income.
For all academies, the amount paid is on a sliding scale based on the academy’s phase and current Ofsted rating, as this fairly accurately determines the level of support required. The current management charge is between 3 and 6% of the academy’s General Annual Grant.
In return for the percentage top slice, the Trust replaces a number of services that the academies would currently purchase from the Local Authority or other providers. These include access to the Trust’s Centre staff and, in particular, the Head of Improvement, Academy Improvement Partnerships and the Centre finance team. Services provided include, but are not limited to, the Diocesan Partnership Agreement, Academy Financial Support, Payroll, Human Resources, Audit and Accounting, Legal Advice Support, Safeguarding, provision of the RPA insurance, leadership support through a Teaching Academy Alliance.
Beyond operational ‘economies of scale’ for consumables, what are the other financial benefits to joining DCAT?
Led by both the Trust and the individual academies, procurement is undertaken to establish Trust-wide contracts to enable the Trust to achieve and demonstrate Best Value.
Recent examples include the provision of a Trust-wide payroll solution, which achieved savings of some £60,000 per annum across our academies, along with a separate Trust-wide Human Resources/advisory solution at a saving of some £15,000.
The Trust is currently in the process of procuring a Trust-wide IT solution. This will, in particular, save primary academies significant IT capital and ongoing expense.
The Trust purchases comprehensive insurance through the DfE-backed RPA scheme, which represents a very significant saving for academies in East Sussex and replaces almost all insurance products purchased through the Local Authority.
There are many other examples of the financial benefits which can be discussed at a presentation, although the Trust believes that the benefits of academisation are primarily education-focused and any decision to academise should not be made based purely on financial benefits or incentives.
How much is the grant given to academies to academise and what can it be spent on? When does it get paid?
The current conversion grant is £25,000. It is paid to the Trust by the DfE once the Academy Order has been issued. The Trust uses this grant to fund conversion-related expenditure, primarily legal and project management costs, although some IT licencing costs are included. Upon completion of the conversion, any unspent funds from this grant are provided to the academy.
How will the Trust support academies in securing and maintaining standards through educational developments from both government and research?
The recruitment, development and professional motivation of teachers is fundamental as they are the single most significant resource in pupils’ progress throughout their time in the academy. It is by working alongside teachers’ natural desire, skills and potential that pupils achieve and maximise their potential.
The Trust is developing relationships with Teacher Training Programmes at both The University of Brighton and Sussex University to support and recruit teachers in the initial stages of their career. Once employed by the Trust, each teacher in all of our academies will be very clear about the next steps in their development, how they move forward and where they can access the expertise to achieve their aims.
Staff who are realistically ambitious for leadership and have the skills to match will be targeted and a leadership route mapped out for them by the Headteacher. This may include opportunities to lead at Trust-wide level.
Would DCAT restructure the staffing in the academy on conversion?
Any decision to restructure would be unrelated to academy conversion. It is the responsibility of the leaders within each school to undertake any restructure they deem to be necessary. This decision is normally based on the financial viability of the school and can be supported by the Trust if necessary.
How will DCAT use the academy’s expertise within the Trust?
DCAT is keen to provide opportunities for staff to work beyond a single academy, as part of its recruitment, retention and development model. DCAT has a number of examples of staff, both teaching and support, who have developed their own career by working across multiple academy sites.
Recent examples include: the provision of a reading programme from one academy to multiple academies as a trainer establishment; safeguarding; Human Resources; analysis; and use of assessment data and Leadership and Management.
Are there any changes to the performance management process?
Staff performance management is delegated to the academy Local Governing Body (LGB). There is therefore very little visible difference. However, the Trust will be actively involved in the Headteacher performance management and monitor the process within each academy.
Under-performance is managed with robust yet supportive plans to ensure staff have every opportunity and resource to improve. The Trust has partnered with Ellis Whittam, a well-respected employment law firm, to provide unlimited education specific HR advice and, where needed, the Trust will also provide support.
What is DCAT’s strategy for succession planning?
The Trust seeks to identify emerging talent from within its family of academies. These staff will be given opportunities within the Trust to retain and develop them further. Recent examples include enabling assistant and deputy headteachers to provide additional leadership capacity for the host academy as part of their CPD programme.
What does moving to DCAT mean for staff?
Staff transfer on existing terms and conditions. Staff will be employed by the Diocese of Chichester Academy Trust upon conversion of the academy/ies to academy status.
Staff see no change to their terms and conditions and no material change to their roles or responsibilities.
DCAT recognises the relevant national education Trade Unions.
New staff, e.g. those appointed post-conversion (not those that transfer), are appointed on DCAT contracts that follow the relevant sections of the ‘burgundy book’ (for teaching staff) and ‘green book’ (for support staff).
What is the impact of joining DCAT for pupils?
In short: life in all of its fullness. This includes improved outcomes for pupils. Everyone in the academy will make the pupils’ education their first concern and will be appropriately accountable for achieving the highest possible standard in work and conduct. There will be systems in all academies for dealing with incidents that fall below those standards and the Trust will support all academies in their tenacious and unrelenting insistence that everyone meets the highest of personal standards.
Academies will not be expected to use these standards and systems in their entirety unless it is in a position that necessitates this. ‘Good’ academies will develop their own values and will base their decision-making and drive upon them.
Attainment and progress, along with other key indicators, will be monitored centrally. Academies needing intensive support will run a six-week programme of data analysis that leads to targeted support for any pupil not achieving as well as they are able.
Irrespective of the phase or stage of academy development, the Head of Improvement [HOI] is a vital key partner in each academy’s development. The HOI will work differently to a SIP or any other previous adviser title you have worked with.
The Trust, through the HOI, will set targets with you which will be challenging and then work with you to achieve them. Each academic year, we will undertake a transparent and shared evaluation of each academy’s strengths and weaknesses. This will form the basis of the annual level of relationship between the academy and the Trust, which will be reviewed and planned at our Academy Improvement Meetings.
How does DCAT demonstrate that it promotes and achieves the best outcomes for all pupils?
The Trust supports improvement in all academies. Specific examples can be provided at a presentation if requested.
Where weakness or potential under-performance is identified, the Trust will take swift and effective action to ensure that resources are in place to improve. The Trust works closely with the Department for Education [DfE} and the Regional Schools Commissioner [RSC], alongside multiple Teaching Academy Alliances to ensure that resources for improvement are available.
The Trust is ultimately accountable and answerable for the education and outcomes of the pupils within the Trust.
Will pupils who are falling behind or not meeting expected levels still get the same level of support that they currently do?
Yes. Academies are delegated the ability to deploy staff as required. Pupils eligible for additional funding (e.g. SEN or Pupil Premium) continue to receive this funding.
How else does DCAT support all pupils to be the best they can be?
The Trust considers that its role is to develop and enable the academy leadership to ensure all pupils can achieve their maximum potential.
It fulfils this objective through providing appropriate support and challenge to academy leaders by provisioning appropriate personnel and services to support the Headteacher and other members of staff, both internally through its Head of Improvement and externally through other partnerships (e.g. Teaching Academy Alliances, academy-to-academy support and specialist services). Additionally, the Trust provides robust governance structures to ensure accountability at all levels, with a focus on the pupil’s experience and outcomes.
Will any of the subjects taught change or will it stay as per the current national curriculum?
The Trust delegates curriculum policy to each academy. As an academy, there are greater freedoms within the curriculum and the Trust would encourage a broad and balanced curriculum that supports ‘life in all its fullness’ for pupils. To note, the Trust would be cautious of too much deviation from the National Curriculum.