St George’s School and Pickwick Academy Trust
As you are aware St George’s School is on its road to converting to become an academy and join Pickwick Academy Trust.
Following a successful Academy Order application last term with support from the Salisbury Diocesan Education Board we are expected to join Pickwick on 1st December 2023.
Following the Department for Education guidance we are currently in our post academy order due diligence and consultation stage.
Multi Academy Trust Frequently Asked Questions answered.
What is an Academy?
Academies are state-funded schools but they’re independent from local authorities meaning they aren’t run by councils. They can decide on their own curriculums, term dates, school hours and much more. They’re still funded by the government, but they get to decide how they spend their money from how much they pay teachers to how much they spend on classroom equipment. Over half of pupils are already educated in academies
What is a Multi Academy Trust?
Multi Academy trusts are charities that have responsibility for running several academies. They cannot, as charities, be run for financial profit and any surplus must be reinvested in the trust. By working in partnership with each other, the schools within a trust can share staff, curriculum expertise and effective teaching practices, and work together to deliver the best outcomes for pupils. Maintained schools such as St George’s who want to join the Trust will need to convert to become an academy. St George’s School is converting to an academy and joining a Multi Academy Trust at the same time.
Why are schools joining MAT’s both locally and nationally?
Schools can use the strong collaboration and accountability afforded by the MAT to drive up standards and share best practice and services across the trust, replacing aspects of former local authority support.
Across the country Local Education Authorities are being eroded in terms of size and power.
The Government, both incumbent and alternative, has indicated that this is their preferred structure.
Schools that have converted to Academy status can now procure services from within a competitive and open marketplace potentially offering both better quality and value for money.
Why are we joining a MAT?
The Governors have explored the decision to academise three times over the last seven years. On two previous occasions the Governing Body felt that the time wasn’t right for St George’s to academise however in 2022 the Governing Body looked again at the decision for several reasons which included:
- Clear central Government agenda for all schools to be academies by 2030.
- Shrinking support from the Local Authority as more schools academise and Government spending priorities alter.
- Salisbury Diocesan Board of Education Policy setting out that schools do best as part of Multi Academy Trusts.
- The decision by other schools in our informal collaborative partnership locally to convert to academies and the impact this would have on the ability of the school to collaborate with others to continuously improve.
- Covid bringing into focus the pressures on the headteacher and their ability to lead on school improvement and financial security when external factors bring extra pressure to bear on a small rural school with little outside support.
- The desire to innovative, develop and contribute to a community of schools.
- The ability at the moment because of Ofsted rating, SATs results and financial position to be in a good position to choose a Trust rather than being forced in a particular direction.
Governors undertook a period of research to look at different models of Multi Academy Trusts before making any decision and have received support and advice from the Salisbury Diocesan Board of Education throughout the decision-making process.
What the governors learned through that process is that not all Multi Academy Trusts are the same!
Who are Pickwick Academy Trust?
Pickwick Academy Trust is made up of nine community and church primary schools across North and South Wiltshire, and North Dorset and is organised into two ‘hubs’:
The North Hub includes Aloeric Primary School, Corsham Primary School, Ivy Lane Primary School, and Queen’s Crescent Primary School.
The South Hub includes Ludwell Primary School, Winterslow CofE Primary School, Greentrees Primary School, Pitton CofE Primary School, and Gillingham Primary School.
Pickwick Multi-Academy Trust was formed in August 2017 because the four founding schools recognised the huge value of working together to drive school improvement and education innovation. Since then, they have welcomed five more like-minded schools into the Pickwick family. They are an outward-facing and inclusive Trust, which is committed to safeguarding the ethos, uniqueness, and identity of each of their schools, and the Christian distinctiveness of their church schools.
You can find more out about Pickwick Academy Trust here: https://www.pickwickacademytrust.co.uk/
Why have we chosen Pickwick Academy Trust?
Having made an in-principal decision to convert to an academy as part of a Multi Academy Trust the Governing Body was given permission by the Regional Schools Commissioner to undertake matching conversations and due diligence with three Trusts.
Governors had a number of things they were looking for in a suitable Trust which included:
- A collaborative education partnership model involving a community of schools supporting each other.
- A commitment to church school distinctiveness and the retention of the school’s individual character.
- Autonomy over budget and curriculum ensuring that the needs of the school and children are met rather than a one size fits all approach.
This process to identify a suitable Trust involved meeting with key Trust staff, visits to Trust schools, review of governance, finance, and teaching and learning documents. Following this process Governors unanimously chose Pickwick Academy Trust as the preferred choice for the following reasons:
- The Trust presents as dynamic, innovative, and collaborative with the children at the heart of everything they do.
- The focus of the Trust is exclusively primary.
- Clear alignment of ethos, vision, and child centred approach particularly on whole child development and importance of developing pupil voice.
- The Trust has a collaborative school improvement plan allowing for continuous development and innovation with clear levels of support from the central team.
- There is geographical proximity to other schools joining/already joined which means strong local collaborations will still be possible.
- The size of the Trust and its expansion plans are realistic and focused on local hubs.
- The Trust shows a clear commitment to church school distinctiveness and individual character of schools being retained – their model means local autonomy according to need over curriculum and budget. The Trust recognises the value of schools being unique and the benefit that can have in terms of sharing good practice across the community of schools.
- They have a strong local governance model which means local accountability is retained. · The school retains its financial reserves.
- Staff retain current terms and conditions.
- The potential for the school and staff to contribute positively to the Trust as well as benefit.
What benefits can an academy bring?
The Governing Body believe that joining Pickwick Academy Trust will bring numerous benefits to St George’s but most importantly the children. Some of those benefits are listed here:
- Opportunities for the pupils to learn and work across the Trust schools in collaborations involving sport, art, music and working towards becoming a Rights Respecting School.
- Improved standards of teaching and outcomes for children through moderation of standards and assessments across the Trust; peer to peer support and review for teachers across subjects and year groups; shared CPD and training for staff.
- Opportunities for pupils to be more involved in self-evaluating how school is doing and visiting other schools to identify examples of excellent practice to share with leaders and pupils back at St George’s.
- New education initiatives and research coming through the Trust’s work with Pickwick Learning, directly impacting the classroom experience for pupils and the development of the curriculum.
- Regular and dedicated support from Pickwick’s SEND lead together with collaboration opportunities across the academy schools to enhance and strengthen SEND provision for children who need it.
- Access to leaders across the Trust with a proven track record, capacity, and expertise in addressing school improvement priorities which ensures every child meets their full potential.
- Access to wider expertise, resources, and practice from IT support to building maintenance.
- Potential economies of scale for some shared provision e.g., catering, maintenance, IT meaning resources go further.
- Support for school leaders including preparing for Ofsted/SIAMS, HR, legal, GDPR, recruitment, policy development, Governor training meaning leaders are freed up to focus on teaching, learning, and safeguarding.
- Improved career progression and opportunities for talented staff allow the Trust to recruit and retain the very highest quality people – this ensures pupils have strong leaders, teachers, and teaching assistants to help them achieve their best.
Would the school change its name, logo, school day structure or uniform?
St George’s are not required, and have no plans to change its name, logo or uniform, there are no plans for changes to the school day either.
How are the pupils affected?
The pupils will not notice any immediate differences. They will be in the same uniform, in the same classrooms, with the same teachers.
Over time the pupils may notice some changes and improvements in the way that they learn and there will be greater opportunity for the children to work alongside others from other schools, such as School Council meetings and sporting events.
My child has special educational needs. Will the change to academy status mean any changes for her/him?
The Local Authority will continue to have overall responsibility for Special Educational Needs budgets. There will be no difference in the support given for individual pupils whether schools remain under Local Authority control or are part of a Multi Academy Trust.
How will admissions work?
Parents will apply to the Local Authority for a place at a school in the usual way.
Please contact the school office for further details:
Will there still be local Governor’s?
Yes! Pickwick operates with a Local Governance Committee (LGC). The LGC is a strategic body that has the best interests of the school and the local community at its heart. Its core functions are:
1. Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos, and strategic direction of the school
2. Holding the Head to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils
3. Providing support to monitor school expenditure.
How is an academy funded and does this improve on current funding arrangements?
The Trust is responsible for the overall financial management of the school. The annual school budget is agreed between the school and the Trust in line with the school’s priorities.
The MAT has staff that each school within the MAT is required to fund. Other than this contribution St George’s will retain control over the remaining budget.
The MAT will look at how all the funding available to the school is used and will suggest savings where its sees fit. By being a part of a MAT St George’s will likely benefit from economy of scale, a collection of schools has greater buying power for resources.
Are academies still inspected by Ofsted?
All academies are inspected by Ofsted using the same framework and timescales as for maintained schools.
Are we allowed a PTFA?
- The MAT will have no influence over the PTFA. All monies raised by the PTFA, or any other charity/organisation will go directly to St George’s and will not need to be shared with other schools within the MAT.