Dawnay Future Question and Answers
Questions and Answers from the Parents' Meeting on 28th February 2018
The presentation focuses on the positive reasons for change, however there are risks with change and joining a MAT, can you highlight these risks?
The governors recognise that there are risks with joining a MAT, these are increased if moving to a MAT is forced upon a school. The Dawnay Governors have spent significant time and resources investigating and evaluating a selection of MAT’s to put forward a preferred option. The due diligence process which is about to commence will ensure as much as possible that the ethos and value of the chosen MAT is aligned with that of the school and will bring many benefits in supporting training and central services. It is the firm belief of the Governors including the Head that the risk of not moving to a MAT is likely to be far more damaging due to the uncertainty in future provision of LA support available for school improvement and development.
As part of the process of joining a MAT will ownership of the assets of the school transfer to the MAT?
The ownership of the school building and land will remain the property of Surrey County Council. The proposed process will likely see a leasehold agreement for a set term, usually around 125 years.
If the MAT relationship is unsuccessful what are the exit options?
A MAT agreement is a long term arrangement and therefore significant due diligence and research has and must been done to increase the opportunity for success. There have been cases when schools have changed MAT where relationships have been unsuccessful. The DfE would be involved in this process.
There is some confusion around the MAT which we will join as both GLF and The Oaks are discussed interchangeably. Can you clarify?
The MAT which the governors are proposing to join is The Oaks. The Oaks has a contractual arrangement with GLF for all central support services and will give the Dawnay the influencing ability of joining a small MAT with access to support services only found in larger MAT’s. In addition to the contractual relationship between GLF and The Oaks Richard Evans, the CEO of The Oaks is currently also the Head of Education for GLF and a former primary head, further strengthening the primary support for The Oaks. The Oaks remains an independent Multi Academy Trust with its own Board of Directors accountable to the Department of Education. Head Teachers and Local Governing Bodies retain their autonomy, ethos and staff while benefiting from the expertise and support found in a larger organisation. http://www.oaksacademytrust.co.uk/association-with-glf-schools/
Will we pay top slice to The Oaks and to GLF?
If the Dawnay joins The Oaks MAT there will be only one top slice to The Oaks. The top slice replaces the money currently given to Surrey for services and covers a range of services, including access to specialist staff in areas such as school development and improvement, business management, finance, HR, IT, behaviour support, recruitment and bulk-buying discounts.
National research shows that there is no significant evidence that joining a MAT will result in improved academic results. What are the drivers for change for student outcomes?
The MAT’s which the governors have focussed on have strong evidence of school improvement and were chosen for this reason. The proposed MAT has robust teacher training and development resources which directly impact the student outcomes. They are primary led and have a teacher training college attached. We have had the ability to pilot this recently at the Dawnay where the Oaks and GLF provided key support to recruit both an interim head at short notice and cover for deputy head maternity cover. Parents must be aware that historical LA support for school improvement/development was funded by National Government. These funds were reduced significantly last year and will cease entirely at the end of this financial year. Accordingly, as external input is a vital part of any and all school’s development, we have chosen a MAT that procures services from GLF, who has a proven track record for having the capacity to deliver, high quality, robust and well-resourced central resources that have positive outcomes for pupils.
If the governing body has been reviewing the future of the school for 18 months, why have parents not been consulted before now?
It is the role of the governing body at all times to look at the changing landscape in education policy, financing and to ensure that the school can realise its vision for the future. Over an 18 month period significant information gathering, school visits have taken place leading to the point where the team are able to put forward a proposal. Official parent consultation for academisation has not yet begun but is imminent once the due diligence process is completed, this session is to provide parents and teachers with background information to help stakeholders understand the reasons proposed for change.
How can the parents and teachers be reassured that the Oaks is the best solution for the school, is there transparent decision making?
The governors have published the list of criteria (parent mail 27 Feb) against which the shortlisted MAT’s were rated. Evaluation against these criteria was based on data provided by the MAT and as a result of school visits by governors and teachers to MAT schools. The Oaks was chosen with a significant majority due to these criteria. The Governors will look at providing more information on the evaluation process.
Did we consider the Dawnay becoming an Academy in its own right?
This was one of the considerations, however the main drawback to this was financial viability. As a rule of thumb a MAT would need to have approx. 2000 children to be financially viable.
Do all Governors agree on the options for the future e.g. Status quo vs MAT vs Co-op?
All governors were unanimous in their decision that the best future for the school would be to join a suitable MAT. The governing body believed the most suitable MAT would be The Oaks.
When consultation takes place on the proposed changes will we engage feeder schools?
It is both a legal responsibility and the wish of the governors to engage all stakeholders in this proposed change to ensure the best decision can be made and any questions addressed. Feeder schools are an important stakeholder, as are parents, teachers, LA etc.
Have the teachers been involved in the decision?
There is a teacher Governor on the Governing board and also the Head teacher sits on the governing board.
Comments from Mrs Hemmings: In order for good teachers to be successful they need to have good leadership, back office and operational support so their focus can be on teaching and getting the best outcome for our pupils.
She encourages all parents to do their own research into the political and economic situation leading to this need for change.
I can see from the presentation and the discussion that there is a need for change, but how do we ensure that we engage parents who haven’t been able to come to this evening to make them aware of the full picture?
The presentation slides and the questions asked will be sent to all parents. In addition the next coffee morning will be an open forum for questions with the Head and Governors. We will look to set up a forum or method for you to send in any questions and have visibility to ongoing discussions and questions.
How is the funding different if we join a MAT?
Currently the school funding comes through the LA and the school receives the central government funding minus a top slice paid to the LA for services. Any services the school requires which are insufficiently provided by the LA must be paid for out of the school budget.
Funding in a MAT comes direct from Central Government; the school then pay an agreed top slice to the MAT for central support services.
This is an extremely important decision for the school which ultimately sits with the Governing body. How can we be sure that this group of people will represent the best interests of the school?
The Governing body for the Dawnay is a very dedicated team constituting of a high number of parents. The Board has two Governors elected by parents, another four Governors / associate members are also current parents. The other Governors are ex-parent governors, teachers and experienced professionals co-opted for their knowledge. Whilst a lot of their strategic work goes on in the background there are opportunities to meet and engage with the governors, such as the next coffee morning, and we encourage parents to come along and air any concerns and questions.
Will the decision not to join the Howard Partnership trust affect the children moving up to the Howard School?
No, there are legal boundaries in place to ensure that admissions codes are not affected by MAT membership.
Teachers are the most affected by such a change, as we saw at Eastwick moving to a MAT resulted in the loss of many teachers from the school. Will teachers be given enough notice of the decision to allow them to plan their career?
The governors recognise that it is the teachers which make the Dawnay a great school and enthuse and teach our children each day therefore their support for this change is key. They along with the Head teacher will engage all the teachers through the consultation period and it is hoped that the benefits to the school and the teachers will be apparent and any concerns can be worked through before a final decision is made.
The deadline of Easter was mentioned in the presentation as a final decision – what is this deadline, can we extend the consultation?
The deadline in the presentation was proposed as a milestone when results from the consultation would be evaluated and a decision made by The Oaks and The Dawnay if they want to proceed with the application to join in a MAT. It was felt that 3- 4 weeks was enough time to gather feedback, however as this is an area of concern the governors will review.
Is it possible to have a forum to ask questions to the Governors through the consultation period?
The Governing body have set up a dedicated e-mail account for this purpose.
All questions relating to the future changes of the school can be sent to this mailbox and will be reviewed and answered by the Governing body. The Q&A’s will be posted on the Dawnay website and be regularly updated to include new questions generated through email and other forums. Where we have several similar questions we will provide a grouped response.
Future Options for The Dawnay - Additional Information
This document is intended to provide information which will answer many of the questions put forward in relation to the circumstances and actions which have led to the proposal for The Dawnay to join The Oaks. Hundreds of hours of work have gone into exploring the options for The Dawnay and then carrying out research and investigations into specific organisations. It is therefore impossible to give anything but a brief overview here, but it is hoped that it will be of assistance.
Membership of the Full Governing Board (FGB)
We thought it might assist, by way of introduction, to give details of the current membership of the FGB:
Fiona Ball Parent Governor
Lawrence Bate Co-opted Governor
Annette Di Giovanna Co-opted Governor
Serena Hemmings Staff Governor
Kate Hargreaves Co-opted Governor
Anne Henderson Co-opted Governor
Alan Jenkins Local Authority Governor
Louise James Staff Governor
Andrew Rourke Parent Governor
Steve Wade Co-opted Governor
Chris Watney Co-opted Governor
June Hughes Clerk
Marie Booth Associate Member*
William Prosser Associate Member*
Kayleigh Hewitt-Lee Associate Member*
Alex Fox Associate Member*
*A person selected by the FGB for their skills, who sits on the GB and/or Committees can express views and opinions, is able to vote solely on Committee items.
The School's FGB is predominantly made up of parents of current and former pupils with a wide variety of backgrounds and experience e.g. Lawyer, specialist teacher, finance, and marketing
Within the FGB the majority of members have no links to any Multi-Academy Trust (MAT). Two members of the FGB volunteer as Trustees on other MATs, they are not employees. No member of the FGB, had or has, any undeclared links to the MATs which the Governors considered as suitable partners for The Dawnay. The interim Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher have experience both in maintained and academy schools, which provides valuable insight into the relative merits of the two systems. The FGB feels that there is sufficient challenge and diversity to ensure, if any individual bias did exist, it could not distort decision making. All potential conflicts of interest are declared by members of the FGB. To the extent declarations of interest raise concerns, they are escalated to the Local Authority for guidance.
Considering the Future Direction of The Dawnay – The Main Challenge
One of the key roles of the FGB is to keep under review how The Dawnay can continue to provide the education, outcomes and opportunities we all want for our children, not only in the short to medium term but also in the medium to long term. It was considering these issues and how to achieve further school development in the context of ever dwindling real term resources and support which ultimately led to the decision to explore academisation. This is not simply a decision about maintaining the status quo, it is about the opportunities that exist and can be created for The Dawnay and its pupils. While the challenges could be met by the school this would place demands on the time of the leadership of the school distracting them from the core purpose of creating the best learning environment for each child.
The FGB wrote to parents on 28/03/17 outlining the future financial challenges facing schools, to read the full letter please follow this link: http://www.dawnay.surrey.sch.uk/attachments/download.asp?file=1019&type=pdf
There will be an ongoing real term reduction in funding figures for the school. In February 2017 the Institute for Fiscal Studies published a report that concluded the Government spending plans would result in the ‘biggest real-term fall in school spending per pupil for at least the last 30 years’. In 2017 The Government drastically reduced funding to Local Authorities for school improvement services (improvement interchangeable with development in DfE terminology) and on 31/03/18 funding for Local Authority school improvement support ceased entirely. Any National funding to support improvement now goes directly to Teaching schools to provide school to school support for those school identified by the Regional Schools Commissioner as in need.
Against this background responding to National Educational changes, the continuous need for school improvement / development, a shortage of teachers creating difficulties in recruiting, the need to offer high quality CPD (Continuous Professional Development) for staff and real term reductions in funding are just some of the challenges maintained schools such as The Dawnay face. All of these are critical to the experience of the children in the school and the staff who are dedicated to working with them. Our experiences over the last year have indicated that some MATs have a greater level of capacity to provide ongoing support in exactly these areas.
To compare with the previous position; Surrey County Council outsourced its school services, including improvement services to a private company called Babcock 4S many years ago. We have and continue to ‘buy back’ a number of services from Babcock such as HR, payroll, catering, and HT recruitment We could also now ‘buy back’ school improvement services from Babcock, the cost of this would be approximately £1,300 for 1 ½ days for one consultant with this money coming directly from the school budget. A significant number of the Education consultants employed by Babcock 4S have left to go and work within MATs.
A further challenge that we have faced over last few years is the financial costs of staff recruitment. Recruitment agencies have seen the commercial opportunities in the shortage of teachers. Agencies are actively recruiting staff, including newly qualified teachers leaving College. As more teachers come via an Agency schools are faced with ‘finder’s fees’ of around £5,000 a teacher; again, this comes from the existing funding pot.
The facts of the funding, recruitment and continuous development, along with the positive support we have experienced with recent recruitment needs, opportunities for staff CPD, staff work/life balance, access to high calibre school improvement support and the greater efficiency the MAT model can offer, have convinced the FGB that academisation will support the ongoing capacity of the school to deliver for its children, staff and community.
Considering the Future Direction of The Dawnay – The Process
The key stages in the investigation leading to the point of deciding that academisation is the best option and then shortlisting one MAT are provided below to give a further detail of the investigations and discussions which went on:
- In the Autumn of 2015, as part of its cycle of work, the FGB delegated the lead to a working party of four Governors to review the Strategic plan and Vision for the school, the brief also included the best method of reaching our aspirations for the school
- In Spring of 2016 the government made the announcement that the intention was to force all schools to academise. Although, this force element was removed from the final statute, the political desire was not lost. During 2016, the working party, which included staff and parent governors, began to consider the effect of academisation. The working party undertook initial fact-finding activities on local MATs and other options. Alongside this initial phase of work the FGB agreed the vision and values of the school and the non-negotiables that the school would seek in any partnership or working arrangement.
- In Spring 2017 the FGB concluded that to establish the most effective way of ensuring the school was able to fulfil and achieve its vision in the short and long-term, it would have to consider a variety of ways of working and the types of partnerships this could involve. This included looking at federating, remaining a maintained school, stand-alone academisation, co-operative partnership and joining a MAT.
- By Summer 2017, and after investigations, the federation and stand-alone academisation had been discounted. The former was not considered a workable solution to the school's ongoing needs and the latter would not be permitted by the Department for Education. Visits to the management of various MATs and schools within the MATs were carried out by the working party and a visit to a school which is a member of a Co-operative also took place.
- In Summer 2017, it was agreed that further investigations into suitable MATs to consider would be undertaken. In July 2017, Chair of Governors and the Headteacher, met with teaching staff to advise of above work to date and possibility of joining a MAT.
- In Autumn 2017, the FGB agreed the timeline to select a preferred path. The main options were retaining maintained status, joining a co-operative trust or joining a MAT.
- In October 2017 advice was taken from the Local Authority on its capacity to support the school. Around the same time, the shortlisted MATs and Co-operative Schools Network gave presentations to the FGB over two meetings. The presentations were based on criteria set out by FGB and the Governors took the opportunity to ask further questions.
- In November 2017, the FGB agreed that joining a MAT was the preferred option and that the Co-operative model was not appropriate for The Dawnay, see section below for more details of the evaluation of the co-operative model. It was further agreed that all of MATs under discussion were credible options and that further information needed to be gathered.
- In December and January 2018, the FGB continued investigations based on various agreed criteria and gathered further information. Meetings with MATs took place to discuss top level financial matters and additional visits to schools within the MATs were arranged. On 24th January 2018 FGB agreed, having conducted and reviewed all information gathered, that The Oaks was the preferred partner and that further due diligence work with them should commence. For further clarification The Dawnay has never been rejected by any MAT.
Co-operative Evaluation Summary
The Co-operative model was of particular interest to the FGB as an alternative to the more common and widely publicised MAT model. The decision not to pursue the Co-operative model was made as a result of investigations with local schools, presentations from the Co-operative Schools Network and understanding the structure. Conclusions were:
- The school would need to create its own network. The Effingham Learning Partnership (ELP) may have provided a similar opportunity, the current reality is that most of the schools in the ELP have already academised and consequently this was not a possibility.
- The school would still need to buy all services from current sources and therefore could not benefit from increased buying power.
- Any network set up would be driven by the Headteacher, so distracting them and the rest of the senior leadership team from maintaining and improving high quality teaching in the classroom.
- It is widely recognised in Education that high calibre, well researched support and CPD delivered by specialists external to the school is key for the continued development of teaching and learning. Until a new cooperative trust was established and possibly even beyond, we would need to purchase these services creating further pressure an already stretched budget.
- It was clear that in the absence of a strong established Co-operative in the immediate locality, this model would not give sufficient support to the senior leadership of the school in delivering its vision.
This model would allow the FGB to retain full power and autonomy, however the Governors concluded this did not provide sufficient reason to pursue this option given the weight of the above issues.
MAT Assessment Criteria
The FGB set certain key success criteria as a measure of the suitability of MATS. Evidence for the evaluation was gathered from a variety of sources and through a variety of methods including provision of data from MATs and observations from visits to MAT schools by Governors. Given the variety of sources of information, the fact that some was given in confidence and the duties owed by The Dawnay Governors to other schools and MATs, it is simply not possible to provide all the material which was put before the Governors. The key criteria are set out below and examples of sources of information applicable to each criterion:
- High aspirations for academic achievement, enabling each child to develop their academic potential (e.g. publicly available results)
- Personalised provision, considering children’s stage not age, enabling education for all within cross age teaching (e.g. publicly available results for certain groups of pupils and discussions with schools and MATs)
- The school’s ability to engage fully in the local community (local and professional) (e.g. publicly available information from MAT and school websites, location of schools etc)
- The PRIDE principle i.e. the extent to which the stated values of the MAT match with The Dawnay, and the provision in place within each MAT (e.g. publicly available information from MAT and school websites, presentations by MATs, school visits)
- Level of autonomy for individual schools (e.g. MAT websites, schemes of arrangement, discussions with MATs and member schools)
- The capacity to ensure sustainable school improvement (e.g. presentations from MATs, discussions with schools, publicly available results)
- The ability to recruit, retain and support staffing (e.g. presentations from MATs, discussions with schools and MATs)
- Financial viability and sustainability (e.g. presentations from MATs, discussions with schools and MATs)
- The level of top slice and the services provided for in this (e.g. meetings and discussions with MATs)
The decision was about choosing the best partner for The Dawnay and within this it was felt The Oaks had many strengths including the following:
- School improvement record. OFSTED reports and academic performance of schools in The Oaks and in GLF were considered as was commentary from school staff and governors working within the Trust.
- Capacity to support improvement. This was, in part, based on the school's experience of working directly with The Oaks, specifically the speed of response and relevance of experience of people providing support.
- Primary focus. The Oaks is a dedicated primary trust, run by a CEO from a primary background.
- Local Network. Through The Oaks’ network and GLF we have easy access to resources and school partners within practicable distances.
- Trustee Representation; all schools within the Trust currently have representation at Board level, if The Dawnay are able to have a place on the board, then there is the opportunity to help shape future direction and hold to account for the good of all pupils within the MAT. Trustees are only selected on a skills basis.
- Staff Development. The Oaks has a strong professional development offering, which The Dawnay already has already been given access to.
- Common Ethos. It was clear discussions with the Trust leadership and visits to the schools within the MAT that The Oaks' ethos was very similar to and compatible with The Dawnay's PRIDE principles.
- Teaching School. The Oaks works with the GLF SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training).
- Leadership Recruitment. The Oaks has a network of leaders within schools along with Associate Heads.
Naturally the FGB compared the MAT provision but to give details of this discussion and the comparative merits publicly would not be appropriate and the FGB has been advised against doing so.
The FGB shared the intention to look at MAT partnership options with parents before the formal consultation has started. The draft timeline for decision making that was shared with parents has been extended following parent feedback. Assuming The Dawnay and The Oaks are happy with the outcome of the ongoing due diligence, we expect the formal consultation period to start in mid to late May. This will give stakeholders sufficient time to research and ask questions, parents will be kept up to date with progress and dates through school communications.
Through a dedicated e-mail address all stakeholders can send in questions which, where appropriate, will be answered and posted, at http://www.dawnay.surrey.sch.uk/dawnayfuture , for all stakeholders to benefit from the information and comments held for consideration during consultation.
The FGB is working closely with the teachers, HR and representatives of the relevant Trades Unions of which staff are members to identify and address concerns well ahead of any final decision on academisation. This has included an offer to provide HR advice from within the school's service agreement with the Local Authority. A separate, confidential channel for staff to pose their questions has been established. This will continue through the due diligence and consultation period, as will the opportunity for staff to meet to discuss any concerns with the management team from The Oaks.
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