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Maritime Academy Trust - Frequently Asked Questions

Multi-Academy Trust: Frequently Asked Questions

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 directly from central government. 

Previously academies have tended to replace schools which have poor results or otherwise needed to improve. However, under the Academies Act 2010, all schools are able to become academies. There is now a drive from the Department for Education for Outstanding schools to lead Multi-Academy Trusts. 

What is a Multi-Academy Trust?

A Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) is a group of academy schools overseen by an educational charity. The Maritime Trust is currently made up of three schools (Brooklands, Millennium and Timbercroft) who have been working in partnership for several years. They are overseen by a charity trust board that is made up of governors from the schools within the partnership and other trustees who have been specifically recruited because of their skills. Rather than being funded by and accountable to the local authority, a MAT is directly funded and accountable to the Department for Education. Academies are still part of the community and serve children and families in a particular area and retain the same responsibilities as any maintained school as part of the learning community. Outstanding MATs also help to support other schools. The trust is accountable for all of the schools that are a part of it, and through Schemes of Delegation decide which powers are retained by the Trust and which are delegated to individual schools. 

What does the national educational landscape look like?

Academies first began under Labour and subsequent governments have expanded the process. Roughly 68% of secondary schools are now academies and that number is increasing. The focus is now on the academisation of primary schools, which is currently roughly 15% and increasing. All new schools must be academies via the free schools process, with the local authority playing no part. The government recognises the value of a self-improving school system in which groups of schools work closely together to continuously improve. And with the constant reductions in school funding, the cost-savings of schools maximising economies of scale together is significant. The future will be every school being part of a Multi-Academy Trust. 

Why are we considering becoming part of a Multi-Academy Trust?

Nightingale is a good school. This has been recognised in our most recent Ofsted inspection. However, Nightingale is also a vulnerable school because we are small. In becoming part of a successful MAT, such as Maritime, we will help to secure improved results for our children, financial efficiencies and greater opportunities for staff in their professional development, collaboration and growth. The direction of the Department for Education policy is for all schools to become academies and become part of a multi-academy trust. The governing body of Nightingale has met and made the decision to begin the consultation period to join the Maritime as we believe this is the group that will enable Nightingale to retain its individuality and its ethos. This is very important to us. This is also an opportunity to shape, control and future-proof our school. 

As an academy we would have greater control over our school budget and greater autonomy over our curriculum. Over the next few years there is going to be a tightening of budgets and we need to prepare for any potential cuts to funding. By being part of a MAT we can secure greater opportunities for financial savings.

As we know from experience, collaborative working with other schools can provide an improved educational experience for our students through various areas including teaching and learning, an enhanced and engaging curriculum, staff development and progression opportunities. 

The local authority is supporting our decision to become part of a Multi-Academy Trust. 

Would the admissions arrangements change?

As a community school Nightingale’s admissions arrangements are set by the Local Authority, and the LA also decides which pupils should be offered places at the school. We are committed to these principles and the current admission arrangements would remain in place. If for some reason the academy wanted to change its admissions arrangements in the future, consultation would be required and would still comply with the Admissions Code. 

Will Nightingale change?

Nightingale is a good school and we want this to continue. We therefore do not intend to change Nightingale except in ways we think will improve the school even more. For the children and the families who come to Nightingale, it is unlikely that they would see much, if any, change to their day-to-day school lives. Academies have much more freedom than that of other state schools over the finances, curriculum, length of terms and school days. However, we do not intend to take any such steps at this stage and would engage with parents/carers, staff and students if we ever did intend to make such changes in the future. 

Do academies have to follow the National Curriculum?

Academies do not have to follow the National Curriculum. However, at Nightingale we have developed our own curriculum centred on using a ‘core text’. We are happy with are curriculum and satisfied that it meets the needs of our children. 

Would academy status affect SEND provision at Nightingale?

No, SEND services would stay exactly the same and we would continue to provide SEND services as we do now.

What would the changes mean for staff?

Staff would not notice significant changes in their everyday working lives. They would experience the benefits of partnership work. Terms and conditions for existing staff would remain the same and pensions would transfer (including pension contributions). The change will come when one day their employer is the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the next day their employer is the Trust. Professional development would further expand and there would be a greater range of opportunities for advancement across the trust. 

Has the Department for Education or the Local Authority put pressure on the school to convert?

There has been no pressure to convert. This decision was made by the governing body of Nightingale school after careful consideration. 

Would other schools join us and who will make the decision to allow other schools to join?

There is the hope for the Maritime MAT to grow over time. However, any decision on additional schools joining the MAT would be made by the Board of Trustees. It is expected that other schools will join as time goes on. Any school that joins the Maritime MAT would be expected to abide by our vision, ethos and governance structure. They will also be expected to fully contribute to and learn from the other schools in the partnership. 

Would Nightingale have to change its name?

The school will continue to be called Nightingale Primary School. It will not have to change its name. 

Will Nightingale have to change its school uniform?

It is important within the Trust for each school to retain their own identify. This includes maintaining the current uniform, name and vision.

Can an academy be closed?

Academies are still subject to Ofsted inspections. Any school which is not making satisfactory progress or does not meet expected standards is at risk of intervention. 

If the school is no longer part of the local authority, then who are they accountable to?

The trust would be accountable directly to the Department for Education and our accounts audited by the DfE’s Education Funding Agency and external auditors, and we would be overseen by our Regional Schools Commissioner Dominic Herrington, as well as continue to be subject to Ofsted inspections. 

Is the Maritime MAT the only primary academies in Greenwich?

No; there are several groups of schools who have either converted to become academies or they are in the process of becoming an academy.

Who runs a MAT?

Nick Osborne is the CEO of the Maritime Multi Academy Trust. He is the strategic leader and does a large amount of work behind the scenes. He would also be the Accounting Officer directly accountable to Parliament. 

Each school would continue to have its own Local Governing Body. 

The Maritime Trust would be above the Local Governing Body. This groups functions as one board of governors overseeing the other local boards. They would be the main decision-making group and accountable for all schools within the trust. The trust consists of seven trustees, specifically selected for their skills, tasked with ensuring the excellence of all schools and delegating powers to the local governing bodies. As with governors, Trustees receive no remuneration for their function and serve as volunteers for the trust.

Above the trustees sit the members. The trust is a registered charity and the members sign the Articles of Association which transform the group of schools into a charitable trust. Members function as founders and shareholders of the Trust, but absolutely no financial benefit would be obtained. The members create the charitable trust because they believe in the vision, values and methods of the MAT. The members are responsible for appointing the trustees and ensuring the success of the Trust at an annual general meeting. 

Who will run Nightingale Primary School?

Roy Coleman was appointed by the governing body to be the Headteacher at Nightingale Primary School. He will continue to be the Headteacher and will be the day-to-day lead at Nightingale Primary School. Mr Coleman will be able to access a supportive group, including the CEO and the other Headteachers from the MAT to support him in improving Nightingale further.

A lot of news reports I’ve seen are about failing schools being forced to be taken over as academies. What does this have to do with Nightingale?

A school that is failing, or ‘coasting’, can be taken over by a sponsor and turned into an academy with the aim of the sponsor driving improvement in the school. But what does not make for dramatic news is that outstanding schools are able to start their own Multi-Academy Trusts and lead on school improvement in their group. We want to make this move because we are in a strong position and we want to maintain what has made us that way. By joining a known Trust, we would be able to keep everything great about Nightingale and continue to make improvements that work for Nightingale without some other Trust taking over in the future. Like local authority schools, academies can also perform poorly. But in any type of school, the success depends on the Leadership & Management in charge. 

What is our Local Authority’s (Royal Borough of Greenwich) position on academies?

Greenwich Council knows that there are currently a number of schools in the Borough that have converted to academies and Multi-Academy Trusts and that these decisions are taken by the governing boards not the local authority. Greenwich also recognises that it is not the type of school that makes a difference to children, but the leadership in the school that makes the difference. Nine of thirteen Greenwich secondary schools are currently academies. At the moment there are at least three groups of Greenwich primary schools in three separate Multi-Academy Trusts and another group will be formed before September.

Greenwich supported the Maritime Trust and worked with it during the process of formation because of the strength, capacity and expertise its leadership, teaching & learning. 

What process have the governors gone through in deciding to begin this process and will we definitely become an academy?

Nightingale board of governors voted earlier in the year to move forward with the process of becoming part of a MAT. This is not a decision we have come to quickly, this is the result of the evolution of everything we have been through on our journey to become a better school, and a vast amount of research and training undertaken by governors and meetings with education specialists. At the end of the consultation period, Governing Body will analyse the consultation responses and then have a final vote on whether to join the Maritime MAT. We will update you with the result. 

Can schools withdraw from the conversion process?

Schools are able to withdraw right up to the point that they sign the Funding Agreement. Once this is signed there is a legally binding agreement between the Secretary of State and the academy and the termination process would require a long notice period. 

What is the timescale for conversion?

The entire process from start to finish generally takes 3-5 months, with conversions being official on the 1st of the month. It would be a smooth transition in which children, staff and parents are unlikely to perceive any change, and no disruption to the normal running of the school. If we convert and join the Maritime MAT, the date would be determined with the Department for Education and we would let you know when it is confirmed.