Academy Conversion to Romero Catholic Academy Trust.

Introduction

Romero Catholic Academy Trust is one of three Multi Academy Trusts established by the Catholic Diocese of Salford to serve the schools in the north of the Diocese. Our geographical area includes Diocesan schools within the local authorities of Lancashire, Blackburn with Darwen and Calderdale.

The Trust includes some schools with directive academy orders but most are voluntary convertors who have taken the decision to become an academy to work more closely within a family of school to achieve the best outcomes for our pupils and to support each other. There are currently no schools judged inadequate by Ofsted within Romero Catholic Academy Trust.

The purpose of the Trust is for a family of schools to work together to improve the outcomes and experiences and future life chances of our children and young people.

Effective governance is essential for the function of the Trust’s schools. The professional group of directors, with a wide and relevant skill set and who are approved by the bishop, support our schools. In addition, local governing boards play a very important role providing scrutiny and decision-making at an individual school level. However, fundamental to the success of our schools are the headteachers and their staff. We believe that headteachers are central to thriving and successful schools and that they need the autonomy to fulfil their role. Indeed, our headteachers say they now have more autonomy and support within the Trusts than they did within their local authorities.

School improvement is at the heart of all schools. Fundamentally, Headteachers and their staff are responsible for school improvement and they are supported in this by the Trust’s core school improvement provision which is based on support and quality assurance of the school’s own self-evaluation and priorities. The Trust’s school improvement team (known as Challenge Partners) will also work with the headteachers and CEO to commission any additional support a school requires and ensure that this support has impact.

The Trust must ensure that schools are run in a financially secure manner and therefore we provide a finance team to support heads and school business managers to deliver value for money, to make savings thought economies of scale and explore new funding streams so that more money can be used for the education of our children and young people.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Will the school’s name change?
The Bishop controls the name of schools in his diocese and Bishop John requires school’s legal name to include the words: ‘Roman Catholic’ and ‘Voluntary Academy’ (e.g. St Basil’s RC Primary, a Voluntary Academy). Money is provided to replace any signage and letter heads. There is no requirement or expectation that the Headteacher will be called ‘The Principal’. The school’s uniform would not need to change as a result of joining Romero CAT.

Will all schools have to have identical or similar structures?
There is no ‘template’ of staffing, curriculum, or teaching style. This will be a decision for the governing body and the headteacher. The school’s ethos and culture will be the responsibility of the governing body and the headteacher.

How will the Trust be funded?
The Trust takes a management fee of 1.5% of the school’s budget in the first year to fund the support. The headteacher’s are responsible for setting the management fee and they are proposing to increase the fee each year up to 3.5% (2.5% in Year 2) to fund the additional services they want for the schools. The management fee will only be taken from the money allocated to schools based on its pupil numbers (for academies, this is called the General Annual Grant or GAG). SEND, Pupil Premium, Sports Premium or any other grants awarded to schools are not part of the management fee and remain wholly with the school.

What does the management fee cover?
The management fee pays for the CEO, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), HR support, the School Improvement Lead and governance services (including clerking). It also covers the legal team and administrative support, office space, overheads (including the Trust’s website) and cost of the external audit. As the number of schools increase along with the management fee, additional support and services will be provided including support for IT, premises, educational psychology services and health and safety. An additional document outlines the incomes, expenditure and support provided.

What happens to a school’s reserves?
All funding is the responsibility of the Trust however, schools will retain all their budget apart, from the management fee, including school reserves. Schools will not be responsible for the financial deficit in another school. The CFO will provide additional support to school business managers and provide additional assurance to the Board and the Accounting Officer that money is being used appropriately. As a Limited Company and Charity, the Trust must publish audited accounts each year.

Who is responsible for the running of the school?
The day to day running of schools remains with the headteacher with support and challenge from the governing body. The Trust is very clear that headteachers are responsible for their schools. Legal responsibility for the schools lie with the Headteacher and Board of Directors. However, through the scheme of delegation, key responsibilities are apportioned to the governors.

Who appoints staff to the school?
The Board is the employer of all staff in the schools. The appointment of senior posts, including the headteacher and deputy, will have the involvement of the Board, usually through the CEO, who works with the governors. The appointment of the key Catholic leadership posts (Headteacher, Deputy, Head of RE and Chaplain) will continue to have the involvement of the Diocese. For other appointments, the schools will be responsible using their own established scheme of delegation. The Trust will provide support with recruitment process, removing an administrative burden from schools.

What happened if the school’s performance is a cause for concern?
The Trust, through the CEO meets with the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) annually to review the performance of all the schools in the Trust. There is an expectation that being part of an academy trust will improve schools’ performance. As is now the case, robust actions plans would be agreed and support and challenge for rapid improvement would be put in place. The trigger for serious concern from the RSC is primarily Ofsted judgements.

How will conversion affect Ofsted Inspections?
Academy schools are inspected in the same way as all schools. During inspection, the lead inspector will want to speak to the Chair of Governors and the Trust representative (usually the CEO) as part of the evidence gathering on the leadership and management of the school.
Schools that become academies are treated by Ofsted as new schools. Schools that are subject to directive Academy Orders will not be inspected for three years after conversion. Schools that become academies in the Trust, and were most recently judged good or outstanding, are treated as new schools for inspection purposes and are subject to a full section 5 inspection as their first inspection; this will normally take place within three years of the school becoming an academy.
Section 48 Inspections will take place in Trust schools as they do now.

What terms and conditions will school staff working under in an academy trust?
Teachers and support staff remain under their current terms and conditions (ie Burgundy and Green Book) and The Trust follows current and future school teachers pay and conditions and national agreed public sector pay. Pensions remain unchanged as they are now and are underwritten by government. The main teacher and support staff unions are recognised and part of ongoing consultations on policy. Staff transfer to the Trust on the same conditions as their previous post and maintain their existing rights and benefits (this is known as TUPE).

Will staff be forced to move to other schools in difficulty?
Although staff are employed by the Trust, their contract will specify the school they are working in and they will not be forced to move to another school.
It is possible that a member of staff is a joint appointment but this will be agreed in advance between the schools and the employee and be part of their contract.
Being within the Trust may allow staff opportunities for professional development in other schools and in so doing improve talent development and succession planning, but this will only be done with the agreement of all parties.

What are the advantages of being in the Trust?
After conversion, the school will not be reliant on local authority for support, instead the Trust will provide that support and challenge. Schools will be supported to work together to raise standards. There will also be access to a Trust-based Catholic Initial Teaching Training Hub which will provided trainee teachers, professional development courses and support for schools in the areas they need. The Trust can operate more flexibly and decisions taken more quickly using the CEO and the Central Team to react more quickly than is possible with a Local Authority.

As a part of a multi academy trust, schools can access capital funding more easily. This will be managed for schools by the CFO, working with school business managers.

Will the school remain part of the Salford Diocese?
The Articles of Association make it clear: the school and the Trust remain within Salford Diocese. The Members of the Trust (which includes the Bishop) are also the Trustees of the Diocese. The schools joining the Trust will all be from the Catholic family of schools and have the commitment to the liturgical life of the school and the centrality of religious education. In relation to current governance structures for VA schools, joining a Catholic Academy Trust significantly strengthens the relationship between the school and the Diocese of Salford.

What is the timeline for conversion?
The diocese has produced a flowchart outlining the process for schools considering conversion:
https://www.dioceseofsalford.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Flow-diagram-to-Conversion.pdf
The timing of the process is determined by the governors although the diocese and the trust can provide support for this to.

 

Documents

Considering Academy conversion
Flow Diagram to conversion
Salford MAT initial advice

For further information on academy conversion, please contact Des Callaghan, Trust CEO, dcallaghan@romercat.com