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Multi Academy Trust Questions

MAT General questions


Q. There have been a number of scandals regarding MATs being mismanaged and senior leaders wasting money and giving themselves pay rises, whilst cutting other staff jobs and reducing their wages. Given that the MAT is envisaged to be a permanent arrangement into the indefinite future what safeguards will be put in place to ensure that this does not happen with our MAT, especially with regard to pay and conditions for ordinary staff and for the senior leadership team?


A. There will be members in place, with a board or trustees, each cluster of schools will have a local governing body.  A scheme of delegation will be in place clearly defining who is able to do what. There will be clear processes and procedures in place and changes will not be able to be made without following the procedures.

Q. What are the reasons for not continuing with the federation, the reason we (referring to schools in Dartmoor Federation) became federated was to avoid becoming a MAT, and one of the main reasons it was introduced was because the government were pushing for all schools to become academies - this is no longer the case so why convert now?


A. The landscape of education has changed. We are doing this now as we are able to choose our partners and who we work with. In the future that may not be the case.


Q. Why were staff not consulted before the decision was made to become a MAT? It is being presented as a done deal.


A. The process has been started, no formal decision has been made, this will be made by individual school’s governing bodies, once a consultation process has been followed. At any stage between now and the signing of the funding agreement, any school can choose not to join the MAT or convert to an academy.


Q. How will children’s outcomes will be improved as a result of the MAT?


A. There will be a wide range of support available to teachers within the MAT, using experience from other teachers will help teachers to get the best from the pupils. Dartmoor Teaching School Alliance (DTSA) will be a key part of the MAT helping teachers achieve the best for pupils.


Q. What is the timeline for conversion?


A. January 2018 (earliest). Church schools may slow things up. The Head Teachers board has already been consulted and may not need to be spoken to again but the church schools have a meeting in July. Conversion on the 1st of any given month. Shut the day before and open as a new business on first but we have to have systems and processes in place.


Q. Is there any possibility of return from MAT status to the LA if the MAT is not successful?


A. No once you convert to an academy you remain as an academy (QE School is already an Academy). There is no legal route back to being a maintain school. However, in rare circumstances, it is possible to move to another academy trust – this is known as an academy transfer.

Q. How will the MAT ensure that primary schools are not dominated by secondary schools – this has been a common outcome?


A. The MAT will consist of 17 schools, 4 secondary and 13 primaries. The vice CEO is a primary specialist. Okehampton Primary School is in fact larger than one of the secondary schools. All schools will be considered equal, irrespective of size.

Q. Will school improvement be done within schools or across the MAT – how will this work?


A. School improvement will be carried out in individual schools, as well as across the MAT. There will be opportunities to network and share good practice as well as access support if it should be required. Local governing bodies will monitor clusters of schools and the trustees will monitor the MAT.

Q. Why are you not specifically keeping to a Co-operative Trust model?


A. The co-operative values and ethos will remain; it will be co-operative with a small c not a large C.


Q. There are currently differences to Early Years Provision in the area.  Would the objective be to bring this provision in line so that an excellent level of pre-school care is provided across all school no matter their size?

A. In time this could be looked at and considered, although not from day 1.


Q. Concern about the Dartmoor Teaching School Alliance.  As a parent of a child in Year 2 at Okehampton Primary School, the full-time teacher is not in the classroom full time because they are part of the Teaching School Alliance and I am concerned that my child will lose good teaching.


A. By being part of a MAT, teachers will be able to work across the MAT, so when teachers are away from the classroom, a qualified teacher from elsewhere may be used to cover to ensure a high standard of teaching is received by the pupils.

Q. Looking at clusters of schools and SEN Provision, will there be one SENCO per cluster?


A. No decision regarding this has been made.

Q. Who dictated the curriculum; is that central government?


A. The national curriculum will continue to be followed by all schools within the MAT.


Q. Did anyone approach Clawton Primary School to join the MAT as surprised they are not part of the proposal?


A. Many schools within the area were spoken to regarding the MAT, formal expressions of interest were invited at the end of last year. There is room for growth in the future.


Q. What does reduction in role isolation mean?


A. The chance to share good practice with other staff doing the same role as others within schools. For example, SENCOs.


Q. How do you get wider curriculum choice?


A. Staff are part of an organisation that may be able to enable wider collaboration e.g. photography teacher employed to work across several schools.


Q. If no QE feeder schools are part of the MAT, how will we / they benefit from ideas you have talked about?


A. That is a decision for each primary school. We hope that they will see the benefit of the Dartmoor MAT and would want to join so the CLC stays together (Crediton Learning Community – the name given to all the partner primary schools and QE school in Crediton).  However - but it is up to them, and the work with CLC primary schools will continue regardless - however it is more and more difficult as there is no funding for learning communities from Devon anymore – as there used to be.


Q. Can schools join at a later date?


A. Yes, the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) is interested in growth and schools can join the academy trust on the first of any month subject to the relevant approval(s).


Q. How many could it expand to?


A. There is no minimum or maximum size for MATs. However, the RSC is keen to develop several MATs, geographically there is the opportunity to grow in Mid and West Devon.


Q. Is the RSC keen on cross phase rather than just primaries together?


A. Yes, the current RSC is extremely keen on cross phase MATs and believes there are many benefits from this model. The agenda recently changed and now cross phase is an important objective for the RSC, and we see real benefits in that for our young people.


Q. How will students receive a better education?


A. The design of the MAT, working with the Dartmoor Teaching School Alliance, will provide an environment for professional development of staff – this will then benefit students through improved learning experience. Also opportunities to work with other students across the MAT on projects and activities.


Q. What happens if our (referring to CLC school) primaries join an Exeter MAT and we lose students?


A. That could happen and we would see that as a shame because it would mean the CLC was less strong – so ultimately we need to show the attraction of the Dartmoor MAT and make it the MAT of choice for the CLC schools.


Q. What is the alternative if it doesn’t happen?


A. 1) We stay as we are.

     2) We join another MAT.


Q. Why is the CLC not good enough?


A. Unfortunately the CLC as a MAT alone is probably not big enough (in student numbers terms). Whilst there is no hard and fast rule on this, since this time last year the direction the RSC has encouraged has been for bigger MATs to form.


Q. Is it compulsory to join a MAT?


A. No, not at the present time. However, many schools are realising that the writing is on the wall and believe it is better to choose a MAT rather than be forced to join a particular MAT.


Q. We (QE Crediton) have more connections with Exeter, shouldn’t we look that way?


A. We are in at the start of the Dartmoor MAT rather than joining an existing MAT, but QE governors will look at other existing MATs as part of the decision making process.


Q. Is there a risk of losing flexibility, becoming more beauracratic in a larger organisation?


A. There is always that danger, but the model is designed to try and avoid that.


Q. Can’t the teachers just talk to each other?


A. There is a limited budget, in a MAT they can share resources more effectively.

Peer to peer support is more effective and there is ‘universal motivation’ for all the schools to put the resources in to enable effective collaboration.


Q. Are you (QE Crediton) still talking to CLC primaries?


A. The door is open; we are still talking to them.


Q. What about our (Tavistock secondary school) feeder schools?


A. Academisation is a matter for their own governing body and they make decisions based on what they think is best for their school. We hope some of our feeder schools decide to join us. Either way, the relationship with our feeder primaries will still remain strong. During the exploratory phase Kevin and Sarah visited all local schools and primaries. No feeder schools have shown interest.  Choice and ethos are important. Happy if they change their minds or show interest in future. The MAT might expand once it is set up and running. Admissions is separate, it doesn’t matter which MAT the primary school is in, parents have the right to choose which secondary school their children will attend.


Q. This is not an existing multi academy trust is it?


A. No, this is not yet an established trust. Some schools may covert before/after others. Not sponsoring or being sponsored. QE is already an academy, but a stand- alone one.


Q. Will the colleges remain cooperative?


A. Yes! All other schools except two are either already co-op or are church schools, thus the ethos and values are similar/equivalent. Cooperative ethos is in the published MAT vision statement.


Q. Will schools still be inspected in the same way?


A. Yes. Although the MAT may also come under scrutiny.


Q. What about terminology across the MAT?


A. All schools need leadership (HT/Principal) but some smaller (primaries) schools may need Heads of School and cluster Exec Heads overseeing several smaller schools, to protect them.


Q. What about present arrangements and the children in the schools?


A. The journeys for all schools should lead to the very best outcomes for every child. Elimination of direct competition between schools should improve matters further.


Q. Why have no primary schools local to Tavistock College opted to join?


A. Readiness. We currently work with 23 local primary schools. We will still work with them and some are already in other MATs. Dartmoor Federation is already set up to work like this, this is the next step. Teacher recruitment will also be positively impacted as it will be an attractive MAT.


Q. Can schools currently in sponsored circumstances in existing MATs join?


A. Yes. It is possible to move between MATs but there is no backwards journey out of academisation. Academies are about giving freedom to schools so they perform and achieve well.


Q. Would a MAT secure the survival of smaller schools?


A. The intention is to do the utmost to sustain education in communities. However, viability has to be a consideration for various reasons. There may be difficult decisions to be taken. No promises.


Q. What about INSET days?


A. These are not an additional holiday for staff. Likely that local agreements and arrangements will follow in due course. Importance of staff across the MAT having time to network and share practice.


Q. What about the school holidays?


A. Will try and align, for practical reasons. NB: schools have already published their dates up to and including 2019/20.


Q. How have the identified schools been selected and have their OFSTED ratings been considered?


A. Schools expressed a desire to explore forming the MAT last year. All OFSTED ratings have been reviewed and this forms part of the ongoing due diligence process prior to conversion/opening.


Q. If there is an Ofsted inspection and one school is inspected does that trigger an inspection for all schools.


A. Not at the present time. But Ofsted’s inspection criteria/guidelines could change in the future.


Q. Would there be SEN provision for clusters?


A. It depends on the size of the cluster - can't fully commit to an answer at the moment - strategic SEN oversight will need to be considered.


Q. Is there provision in EFA to cover the additional admin service?


A. No.


Q. Why do we (Holsworthy) not have a star for future growth?


A. At this time it is about capacity and we do not have capacity at the moment, but that’s not to say in the future we won’t have.


Q. Do PTFA funds stay in the school they are raised for?


A. Yes they do stay in the individual schools and are used for those individual schools.


Q. What form will the consultation process make when deciding whether to join the MAT? Will we get a formal point during the consultation where staff will have their chance to vote on the MAT proposal?


A. The process will give all stakeholders the chance to express their views on joining the MAT. The final decision will be made by the individual school’s governing bodies.


Q. What is the alternative sponsorship model that was referred to in the slides?  


A. This is when a school is given to another academy to be managed/run.


Q. Geographical determinism – we will all end up in an Okehampton hub? Will resources automatically migrate to the centre of this area?


A. This is not the intention.


Q. Are we narrowing, rather than expanding, our relationships with schools – we in fact liaise widely with other schools in our existing model.


A. No, by forming a MAT this does not mean we cannot work with schools outside the MAT. Working with other schools will continue to be encouraged.


Q. How does a MAT offer more in terms of collaboration than simply being part of the Dartmoor Teaching Schools Alliance?


A. All sectors of the schools will have the chance to collaborate, support staff, teaching staff and pupils.


Q. Do we have to join a MAT? If we are in RI (Ofsted judgement Requires Improvement)? If we are NOT?


A. No we do not have to join a MAT. This is a choice at this time.


Q. Does going in at the start mean we have more control over the MAT’s structure?


A. Absolutely, this is the chance to form, shape and build something new.


Q. If the sale of our land went ahead, where would the money be spent? Would it end up being spent on e.g. sports facilities in other areas within the MAT?


A. This would be up to the Trustees to decide where the money was best spent.


Q. Will we all fall completely in line – exam boards, specifications, timetables etc.? Who would then decide which exam board the MAT will follow?


A. This would be considered over time, but not from day 1.


Q. If the structure of this proposed MAT protects individual autonomy for all the schools involved (including their school governance), what happens when there is a conflict of ideas on key strategic decisions in the MAT?


A. The decision making process is defined in the scheme of delegation.

Q. There is a current push to grammar schools. Could an outstanding school become a grammar school?


A.  At the current time there is no plan for this to happen.


Q. Ethos – will it be diluted, if there isn’t ownership at school level?


A. No all local governing bodies will have ethos committees and all schools have signed up to the MATS ethos and values.



Specific school questions


Q. Will Okehampton have to make cuts due to the poor budget outlook at other schools?


A. As part of the due diligence process all school budgets will be scrutinised. All schools will need to remain financially viable and operate within a balanced budget.


Q. As a parent of two children, one who will be attending Okehampton College in September and the other child still attending Halwill Primary School which will not be in the proposed MAT, (I cannot see why they would not want to join the MAT), looking at how the schools will differ, is it too late if Halwill Primary decided to make an approach? 


A. Once the MAT is established, growth in the future will be possible.


Q. As a governor of North Tawton Primary School, how does it work when Ofsted visit – who is in the room in terms of Headteacher, Head of School, governor? 


A. The Head of School, Headteacher or Executive Head. Representatives from the local governing body, along with representatives from the trustees. They will also want to talk to the leadership team from the MAT.


Q. Will Okehampton have a new Head?


A. Okehampton currently has a Head Teacher role, as well as Daryll Chapman – the CEO of the MAT which is a separate role.


Q. QE are out on a limb geographically, have you looked at a Mid Devon MAT, Chulmleigh, Tiverton etc.?


A. The nearest 11-18 school is Okehampton. Chulmleigh, Tiverton & South Molton RP (Rupert Poole – Principal of QE School Crediton) is not aware of their thinking or plans – not heard anything.

Geography makes sense with CLC and the Dartmoor MAT – our nearest neighbour. Exeter schools have different challenges to rural issues.


Q. Will Tavistock College we still have Sarah Jones in charge?


A. Yes.


Q. We understand that Mr Fitzsimmons (current Executive Principal of Holswothy Federation of Schools) is leaving, what is happening with the head of the federation?


A. There will be a Primary Lead and a Head of School at Holsworthy Community College (HCC), as yet we are not in a position to go public yet. DTSA has the added attraction that it trains teachers and therefore going forward we are confident we can attract quality new teachers, who want to stay in the MAT as the chance of progression is greater.


Q. What will be the cost implications to QE to account for the management top slice given that we are in an academy already, unlike the other schools who are local authority controlled /funded?


A. The central recharge is still being decided, no figures have been agreed as yet.


Q. With widening the curriculum and sharing resources – could we lose our Sixth Form?


A. This is not the intention; the MAT will work to keep all schools/departments open as long as they remain financially viable.




Management of MAT questions


Q. How much management time has gone into planning the MAT? Is it possible to put a value on this?


A. A significant amount of time has gone in to planning the MAT, it is not possible to put a monetary value to this at this time. It is recognised that without this planning having taken place the process would not be where it is now.


Q. What are the planned management arrangements for the MAT?


A. Daryll Chapman is Designate CEO and Hazel Fox is Designate Vice CEO.


Q. In a cluster of 3 schools with an Executive Headteacher, who will make the decision to join the MAT?


A. The governing body.


Q. If the proposed MAT gets the green light, will each governing board of each school make the decision as to whether they will join the MAT and will each school consult with parents?


A. The governing bodies make the final decision to join the MAT, following a consultation period, during this time staff, parents, pupils and the community will be consulted with.


Amalgamated services questions


Q. What will happen to arrangements for cleaning in the new MAT?


A. Cleaning will continue within the schools as per the existing arrangements.


Q. Are there plans for other support staff, e.g. IT support? Are there plans to centralise services?


A. Initially some of the financial tasks will be centralised, others may follow in the future and will form part of the central recharge cost.


Q. Will we be able to group buy resources?


A. Yes and we will be able to apply for capital funding from the EFA and skills pots that are not open to maintained schools, allowing us to develop the MAT structures we already have.


Q. Will we be able to share resources with the other schools or possibly set up separate support centres?


A. Yes, this can be considered.


Q. Will there be shared HODs (Heads of Department – Head of Maths for example) across the MAT?


A. There are no current plans for this, it will be geographically impossible. There is the chance of support from an excellent head of faculty across the MAT and the ability to share good practice.


Q. Would e.g. all the science departments work together?


A. They already do to an extent because the DTSA fosters this through e.g. subject leads and the technical support that is on offer. The MAT will be ambitious for outcomes for all. Fine details not yet hammered out. Role of CEO will be to oversee.


Q. Are there plans to centralise finance and admin?


A. Some tasks will be centralised. This is still being discussed.


Q. What will/would happen if another school in the MAT failed OFSTED? How would support for this school amongst the rest of that MAT effect resources both in terms of staff and finances for us?


A. The CEO will have the responsibility for overseeing this, arranging support and allocating resources.


Q. How will collaboration help me as a classroom teacher?


A. It is hoped that you will have the chance to discuss ideas with peers, share good practice and get support from teachers of the same subject across the MAT.


Q. Is there an opportunity to buy / recruit our own children’s support services, e.g. Educational Psychologist (EP)


A.  Yes, definitely, this will be considered as part of the central recharge. It is hoped that we will be able to benefit financially from economies of scale.


Q. Is the geographical spread going to make it viable for the sharing of resources?


A. This could be challenging in terms of physical resources, but not insurmountable. But electronically documents will be able to be shared by using share-point or google docs/drive.