Dear Parents/Carers, staff and community partners,
Over recent months our school has been exploring the benefits provided by converting to academy status and joining a multi academy trust (MAT).
Informed by this exploration, we have applied to the Regional Schools Commissioner seeking agreement to become part of EQUA Mead Academy Trust (EMAT). This is a decision we are excited about and one which we strongly believe will provide new opportunities for our school, our staff, our children and our families within the community we serve.
EMAT will be a multi academy trust formed by a merger of two existing local trusts EQUA and The Mead – both of whom we have long standing relationships with. This merger is planned to complete during the current academic year. EQUA and The Mead both provide a high standard of education and have a well-aligned set of values that reflect those that are important to us.
We will be joining EMAT as part of a local group of schools that will include North Bradley, The Grove, Southwick and Studley Green. The John of Gaunt School within Trowbridge is already part of this trust. We feel this is a particularly exciting opportunity to work closely with schools with whom we have strong and positive associations.
Through an initial phase of exploration, it is clear that there is considerable synergy between our school’s vision and values and those of EQUA/Mead. We prioritise the importance of our local community and strive every day to do the very best for all children in our care. A principle evident in the work of EMAT.
Our school is a Church of England School and we are committed to gaining feedback from all stakeholders, parents/ carers and the wider community. We think it’s important that everyone can ask questions and explore the proposal in more detail if they wish.
The Governing Body will now conduct a formal consultation process and as part of this process we are launching a listening exercise to gather viewpoints on the proposal to convert to academy status.
This consultation period will run from Wednesday 24th January 2024 and conclude at midday on Wednesday 14th February 2024. It will include an on-line survey Consultation on-line survey a questionnaire which can be collected from the school reception and a drop-in session taking place on Monday 5th February between 3.15 – 4pm and then again between 5pm and 6pm, at our school in the downstairs library area. This event will be attended by representatives from EQUA Mead along with senior leaders and Governors from our school. It will provide the opportunity to ask questions and share feedback. No booking is required – just come along, everyone welcome!
As a valued partner of the school we invite your feedback and will ensure you remain informed of the outcome of the consultation.
Bellefield Primary and Nursery School Governing Body
Frequently Asked Questions
Who are EMAT?
EQUA Mead Academy Trust (EMAT) is a future merger of two local trusts (EQUA Multi Academy Trust and The Mead Multi Academy Trust) both of whom our school has long standing relationships with. They have proven experience of delivering an excellent education for all children and we are excited by the expertise they can bring to our school, but also by what we can share with them.
Why does the Governing Body want to join EMAT?
Joining EMAT will allow our school to develop in a sustainable way, within a family of like-minded schools.
Our reasons include:
- Increased opportunities and resources for children through collaborative working
- Enhanced and targeted school improvement support
- Economies of scale securing greater financial security
- Governance support, capacity and opportunity
- Improved staff recruitment, retention and development
- Central services that support the Headteacher and leadership team eg HR, Health and Safety, Finance
- Behaviour and inclusion expertise and support
Bellefield Primary and Nursery School and EMATs vision are closely aligned and we will be joining with a small group of other local schools with whom we have strong and supportive relationships. This will give us a unique opportunity to help shape this growing trust.
A commitment to cross-phase working (Early Years/primary/secondary) across the trust will facilitate a smooth transition across key education phases finally into post 16 study for children and young people
With diminishing capacity within the Local Authority we believe a trust is better able to cope with change and uncertainty both in the context of the education landscape and financially. There will be a Trust-wide collective efficacy by streamlining functions, supporting the schools to focus on their core business of teaching, learning and safeguarding.
What will change for your child?
If we proceed, you and your child are unlikely to see any change in your day to day experience of school. Children will be in the same class in the same classrooms with the same staff.
What are the benefits for our children?
By being part of a trust that adopt a founding commitment of equality for all children and a belief in the benefits of collaboration, we will be able to offer a much greater range of opportunities, both educationally and through enrichment activities.
All children and young people will have potential access to a wider curriculum through increased cultural capital opportunities and further collaboration in sport, the arts and learning outside the classroom.
A highly effective Improvement Team with experienced primary, secondary, special educational needs and child welfare specialists will ensure our provision is the best it can be, while a sharp focus on meeting the needs of disadvantaged children and young people, and those with additional needs and special talents, will ensure inspirational learning for all.
Will our school lose its individuality?
The identity and ethos of our school will not be changed as a result of academisation. EMAT celebrates the fact that each school is unique.
The school will continue to have a governing body; all children on roll at the school will continue; times of the school day, term dates and the school's Church of England status will remain the same.
Will school uniforms change?
No! The special identity of our school is very important.
Will the movement of staff be affected?
We anticipate that in the future some staff might welcome the opportunity to experience a different school if they wish, but there will be no changes to the conditions of employment of existing staff.
Will teachers’ pay be affected?
All teachers are currently paid in accordance with the statutory provisions of the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) and stay within the legal framework of other relevant legislation that affects all employers, for example, legislation on equality, employment protection and data protection. This won’t change following academisation.
Will support staff pay be affected?
All our support staff are paid in accordance with the Wiltshire Local Government Pay Scales and Local Government Pension Scheme. This won’t change following academisation.
Will the school name change?
The name of the school will not change.
The Consultation Process
Why do we need to consult?
Section 5 of the Academies Act 2010 (the ‘Act’) requires the school’s governing body to consult with “such persons as they think appropriate” about whether the school should convert into an academy.
The process is generally flexible and schools have broad discretion as to how it is carried out. However, a formal consultation process is recommended, which provides key stakeholders with all necessary information as to why conversion is being proposed and the changes that will occur due to conversion. There is no statutory requirement to consult with any specific party, however the government recommends that this should include staff members, parents and carers and involve pupils and the wider community.
How long do we need to consult for?
Consultation may take place before an application is made for academy status but must be completed before a funding agreement is entered into with the Secretary of State. The consultation is about listening to the views of interested parties and ensuring their questions are answered. There is no specific time for how long consultation should continue for, but this should be long enough to allow interested groups to have a fair chance to respond and ask questions.
How will the consultation process be conducted?
Consultation for conversion to academy status will be conducted in the ways below:
- A letter to all parents/carers, staff and community stakeholders opening the consultation period and inviting their input
- An online feedback form – Consultation online survey
- A paper questionnaire accessible via the school office
- A drop-in session on Monday 5th February 2024 between 3.15pm and 4pm and again between 5pm and 6pm in the school library
Our formal consultation period opens on 22nd January and will remain open until midday on 12th February 2024.
What happens after the consultation closes?
Following the consultation period, the Governing Body will consider all of the feedback and views received and will then make the final decision on whether to complete the process. We will write to parents/carers and staff to inform you of our decision.
Key Facts about Academies
What is an academy?
Academies are state-funded schools but they are independent of Local Authorities (LA’s) meaning they are not run by councils. Over half of pupils in England are already educated in academies and there are three types:
- o Converters – formerly LA schools that chose to become academies;
- o Sponsored – previously underperforming LA schools in need of support, and/or judged ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted, where the law requires them to become academies; or
- o Free schools – brand new schools established to meet a need for good school places in the area.
If trusts have greater freedom, how are they accountable?
This freedom does not mean academies are not regulated. The department’s National and Regional Schools Commissioners and their teams, together with the Education and Skills Funding Agency, provide robust educational and financial oversight of all academy trusts.
Academies are still subject to Ofsted inspections and ratings in exactly the same way as LA maintained schools. In fact, academies are subject to greater accountability than council-run schools.
What are multi academy trusts?
Multi-academy trusts are charities that have responsibility for running a number of academies. They cannot, as charities, be run for financial profit and any surplus monies must be reinvested in the trust.
By working in partnership with each other, the schools within a trust can share staff, expertise, effective teaching practices and work together to deliver the best outcomes for pupils.
While other types of school partnerships can be effective, the key difference with academy trusts is that there is shared accountability for standards across the trust; all schools within the trust support each other and the trust is accountable for them all.
Why is the Government's focus now on supporting schools to join strong trusts?
Joining a multi-academy trust remains a positive choice for schools. They enable the strongest leaders to take responsibility for supporting more schools, develop great teachers, and allow schools to focus on what really matters – teaching, learning, and a curriculum that is based on what works.
Multi-academy trusts have the capacity to provide high-quality training and evidence-based curriculum support for already great teachers, freeing them to focus on what they do best – teaching.
What is the curriculum model in an academy?
Academies are required to have a broad and balanced curriculum that promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental, and physical development of pupils and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities, and experiences of later life. The curriculum must include English, Maths, and Science; Religious Education; and Relationships education and Health education. Academies are required to take part in the same pupil assessment arrangements and to report on the achievement and attainment of pupils in the same way as all other state-funded schools.
How does the funding work?
The MAT will receive the General Annual Grant from the Secretary of State calculated as the equivalent to that which would be received by a LA maintained school taking account of the number of pupils at the academy. Capital funding is also available, channelled through the Academy Trust. Every academy trust must abide by the requirements of and have regard to the guidance in the Academies Financial Handbook.
What is the admission policy of an academy?
Academies are required to provide education for pupils wholly or mainly drawn from the area in which the academy is situated. Academies must have admission arrangements that clearly set out how children will be admitted, including the criteria that will be applied if there are more applications than available places. Academies are required to provide education for pupils of different abilities (i.e. they may not select pupils by ability).
Proposed consultation questions for online survey/questionnaire. We would recommend that there aren’t too many questions – suggested below.
Academisation consultation questions
As a valued partner of the school we invite you to share your thoughts with us with regards the proposed conversion to academy status by joining EQUA/Mead Academy Trust (EMAT). All feedback will be considered and we will ensure you remain informed of the decision at the conclusion of the consultation.
- o Date:
- o Name (optional):
- o Email address (optional):
- o Please share any feedback or comments regarding the proposal to move to academy status?
- o What is your association with the school?
- Staff member
- Community partner
- Other. Please state:
- o Based on the information above are in you in support of our proposal to move to academisation?
- I require further information and will attend the drop-in session
Please note the drop-in event taking place on Monday 5th between 3.15pm and 4pm and again between 5pm and 6pm in the library at school will provide the opportunity to gain further information and ask any questions. This event will be attended by representatives from EQUA Mead along with senior leaders and Governors from our school. All welcome – no booking needed!