What is an academy?
Academies are classed as independent state-funded schools, which have the freedom to determine their own policies on such things as the curriculum, school hours, term dates and staff pay. They aim to provide a free, first-class education for pupils of all abilities through a fresh approach to school leadership, teaching and learning.

They offer a full, broad and balanced curriculum. This is enabled by the Academies Act 2010. Primary, infant, junior, secondary and special schools are all able to apply to convert into an academy and are then accountable to the Secretary of State rather than the Local Authority.

All academies are managed by their own academy trust (a charitable company limited by guarantee) and are not the responsibility of the Local Authority. Academy trusts are given directly the money which would have been given to the Local Authority, so academies can choose how best to spend that money on the provision of education.

What is a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT)?
A multi-academy trust is a single trust which runs more than one academy and is the statutory governing body of each of the academies that it runs. The multi-academy trust is a charitable company limited by guarantee, which means it may not make any profit, and because it is publicly funded it is subject to judicial review and to the Freedom of Information Act like any other public body/organisation. The multi-academy trust has a formal agreement (like a contract), with the Department for Education (DfE) which sets out the parameters in which it must operate. It must also abide by charity law, public law (being publicly funded) as well as general company law.

By entering into a MAT, the six schools will become part of one legal entity with, it is important to note, each school retaining its individual identity and a local governing board/committee. In practical terms there will be very little visible change in the way that the school operates. Each school’s values and ethos will also be maintained and our goal will remain to provide the very best education possible for our children.

What is Attenborough Learning Trust and why become an academy in the new trust?

The Attenborough Learning Trust will be a brand new multi-academy trust that will be set up by the founding schools to support and run the schools. Together our schools will establish the structure of leadership and governance and we will determine the way trust works and how it supports the  schools. This will be a new trust for Leicester.

Why become an academy in the new trust?

Being an academy gives a school greater freedom over their curriculum, budget and staffing. The multi-academy trust structure also gives us the opportunity:

  • to continue and further develop our programme of school improvement;
  • to build upon and share our successes as schools to help more children;
  • to further strengthen and improve our links with our communities and other local schools;
  • to use the increased flexibility to benefit all the children and the wider community of Leicester.

We can also see clear positive reasons for closer co-operation through:

  • improving the education resources and facilities that we offer our children and their families;
  • having open and honest challenge to each other that focuses on improving children’s outcomes;
  • being able to work more effectively and efficiently and buying resources and services more cost effectively;
  • sharing responsibility and bringing together our wider skills;
  • working together to better help and support our communities.

Geographically the founding schools are very close to each other. We have benefited from some collaborative working in recent years and we now wish to formalise and expand these opportunities.

It is our belief that each school within the multi-academy trust can bring a good deal to the other schools in the group through our collaborative approach.

How will the Multi-Academy Trust be governed and managed?

The new MAT will have a group of Members and a Board of Trustees.

The “Members” are like shareholders in a commercial company, they appoint the Trustees to run the MAT, and are the only people able to amend the Articles of Association of the Company (and for this they require consent from the Secretary of State).

The “Trustees” are those people who actually run, determine policy, and make decisions for the MAT.  They are the statutory governing body of each academy within the MAT. They do this by appointing the right individuals to be the executive leaders for the trust, eg; the Chief Executive and Chief Finance Officer for the MAT and delegating the responsibility for the day to day running of the MAT to them.

For the new MAT we will establish a structure of executive leadership that is appropriate for our schools and each of the schools within the MAT will have its own local governing board/committee.

What are the main responsibilities of the MAT once the schools have converted and the trust opened?

Typical activities include:-

  • Setting a strategic direction for improvement of educational progress and attainment.
  • Ensuring that the right infrastructure (people & resources, leadership & management) is in place to deliver the necessary changes to support the educational improvement.
  • Challenging progress in all areas of the trust and its academies’ operations whilst providing support and guidance aimed at promoting success.
  • Responsibility for the performance of the academies, including monitoring and where necessary establishing a plan of action to improve performance.
  • Setting up committees with a specific focus to monitor aspects of trust and academy life.
  • Leading involvement with parents and the wider community, to promote the MAT and support community engagement.
  • Ensuring value for money and good use of public funds and leveraging other finance and resources when needed.
  • Championing the MAT in the wider community in order to bring new resources to the schools and the trust, for example through holding events, arranging mentoring and building links with business.
What does the conversion process involve?

The conversion process for schools to become academies has been made as simple as possible for all schools. The key steps the school must take are all explained in the Department for Education’s conversion guide at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/academy-conversion-process and may differ according to the type of school and who owns the buildings and land.

The new MAT must be established following the legal requirements. The key areas of work are related to any legal transfers of land, buildings and assets and establishing appropriate leases, a financial review and budget setting, staff TUPE transfer (whereby all staff transfer with continuity of service, retaining as closely as possible their existing terms and conditions), transferring and establishing contracts for services, and establishing new policies and procedures at the MAT level.

In addition, activities to transition the governance structure from a single school governing body to a multi-academy trust model is also undertaken.

Most schools are able to convert in around six months.  For schools converting and forming a new MAT where they need to develop the new governance arrangements and undertake extensive research and planning it is typically more likely to take 9-12 months. It can also take longer where there are issues to resolve such as complications relating to land ownership.

When might this all happen if the plans are approved and the MAT goes ahead?

We want to take our time to get this right for all the schools joining the new MAT.

If our ideas and initial plans are approved, and following the detailed evaluation and consultation steps, the schools agree to proceed, we would anticipate the schools becoming academies within the new Attenborough Learning Trust in the spring term of 2019.

Will the schools be changing their names and uniforms?

No. Our schools value our individual uniquenesses as well as our shared vision and objectives. We have already agreed that school uniforms and names will not be changed.