FAQs for Staff and Governors

Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions. If you do not find the answer you are looking for here, please email us at mat@cofesuffolk.org

Q: How are academies funded?

A: The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) calculates funding using a local authority (LA) formula for mainstream provision or place-led funding for high needs institutions. Most funding for academies comes from the general annual grant (GAG). Capital and pupil premium allocations are paid outside the GAG.

The financial year for academies runs from 1st September to 31st August.

Q Who is the MAT accountable to?

A: The MAT is accountable to the Secretary of State. As a company limited by guarantee, the MAT must prepare and file an independently audited annual report and accounts with Companies House.

Q How will the MAT be funded?

A: The MAT holds the funding agreement with the DfE and decides how much money to delegate to schools and how much to retain. Typically MATs retain between 5% and 8%. We plan to retain 5% of a school’s budget in order to provide cost-effective back-office services and schools will decide on their own spending priorities.

Q Could this percentage be increased by the MAT?

A: Any increase to the 5% would be due to an unavoidable increase in the cost of providing services to MAT Schools. Schools would be consulted on any proposed increase, and would receive good notice of any increase, and would have the opportunity to build it into their budget.

Q Will we receive any additional resources in terms of money or support?

A: The additional support will come from MAT central staff. The MAT has also been granted a Sponsor Capacity Grant from the DfE, and the Diocese has also committed to fund the initial MAT set up work. These are extra resources for the benefit of the whole MAT, but do not come directly to the schools.

Q How much say do individual schools have in their own budgets?

A: Individual schools will still set their own budgets with assistance from the MAT. Budgets will need to be signed off by the school’s local governing body, and then the MAT Board, prior to formal submission to the EFA.

Q Our school is running with a surplus budget. Will the MAT take this money from us?

A: Your surplus budget remains with the school to save or spend as they see fit (within a loose framework of due diligence guidelines that will ensure transparency and probity).

Q Can a school with a deficit budget convert?

A: Conversion with a deficit is subject to the DfE’s guidelines. A school with any size deficit would need to have a recovery plan in place and agreed by the DfE before they would allow its conversion.

Q How does capital funding work?

A: Capital works at MAT schools are funded by a combination of DFC (as in a maintained school) and the DfE Academies Condition Improvement Fund (CIF). DFC will be automatically calculated based on pupil numbers and paid once a year, whereas the CIF is accessed through a bidding process (which the MAT would assist with).

Capital funds will be held and administered by the MAT, just as the Diocese currently holds DFC for VA schools, but spending decisions will be taken at a local level. Voluntary Aided schools will no longer have access to the Locally Co-ordinated Voluntary Aided Programme (LCVAP), nor will they have the 10% liability towards capital costs that currently applies. The MAT can apply to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) for specific capital projects – as can individual schools. All this comes within the terms of the Funding Agreement.

Q What about the conversion grant?

A: The £25,000 conversion grant is made payable to the MAT. This can be spent on the legal and other costs of conversion of each school that joins the MAT.

Q What about LA services?

A: Schools already have freedom to purchase services such as HR and Finance from Schools’ Choice or other providers. Being part of the MAT widens this horizon but within a secure and transparent framework that releases the Headteachers, governors and staff of individual schools to concentrate more clearly on the core business of teaching and learning.

Some services – such as school transport, oversight of the provision of school places, co-ordination of admissions at age 5 and Fair Access Protocols – are retained as a statutory responsibility by the LA.

Q What about the money which the LA currently retains?

A: Most of the schools’ block of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) is delegated to schools though the funding formula, but some is de-delegated from schools to the LA for functions such as Trade Union cover, behaviour support, and the landlord’s part of property maintenance, as agreed by Schools Forum. This de-delegated sum is available to academies, which become responsible for providing those services themselves.

Q How will SEN funding work?

A: Special needs remains the responsibility of the Local Authority so the LA is obliged to deliver the same levels of support to academies as they do to Local Authority maintained schools. This includes access to high tariff needs funding as well as access to specialist provision via the same systems and procedures that maintained schools are subject to.

Q Does the LA still have responsibilities for academies within the MAT?

A: Yes, the LA still has responsibility for the following:

  • home to school transport, including transport for pupils with special educational needs (SEN)
  • education psychology, SEN statements and assessment
  • assigning SEN resources for pupils who require high levels of additional resource (this is a top-up to formula funding under a separate contract with the LA)
  • monitoring of SEN provision and parent partnerships
  • prosecuting parents for non-attendance
  • provision of pupil referral units for a pupil no longer registered at an academy.

Q Can’t we continue to use the same services as now?

A: We wish to ensure as much continuity as possible to start with and propose to continue to use Finance, HR, Payroll and Pensions from Schools’ Choice, for example, in the first instance. We may well seek alternative providers and other service provision but this will be in consultation with member Headteachers and governors.

Q For those services we have to pay for separately, will we have to use suppliers recommended by the MAT, or will our school be able to buy in services from elsewhere if they chose?

A: The MAT academies will be free to choose their own suppliers for services outside of the MAT’s core responsibilities, but will be expected to follow the MAT’s financial regulations on purchasing (i.e. like for like quotes above a specified value etc). The MAT will be able to broker relationships on behalf of its academies that offer reduced costs and a single point of contact.

In due course, it may be appropriate to consider whether there are any areas where jointly procured services might be beneficial to the MAT and its academies both financially and in terms of quality of service.

Q We work closely with our local schools. Can we continue to do so within a Diocesan MAT?

A: Absolutely. This is a fundamental aspect of our MAT’s philosophy. It will be important to maintain existing links with pyramid schools and families of schools. Our aim is for local hubs to develop within the Diocesan MAT so that local schools support and strengthen each other. Good and outstanding members of school staff will be encouraged to share their expertise across both these local hubs and more widely across the MAT.

Q Will all the schools in the MAT have the same policies?

A: We will aim to utilise the best practice from all member schools in revising both statutory and non-statutory policies and consulting on their wording before implementation across the MAT.

Q Will staff be able to work in other schools within the MAT? Will they have to?

A: Staff will have the opportunity to work in other schools within the MAT within reasonable travelling distance. Consultation will take place on any proposed changes in the light of the needs of schools within the MAT.

Q Is there still a need for a bursar in each school?

A: Individual staffing models will be specific for each school and led by need. It is envisaged that the MAT will be supporting, as opposed to replacing, the many and varied responsibilities of a school bursar.

Q Will there be a change in the salary scales our school employees are currently on?

A: Staff will transfer on no less favourable terms and conditions. Any necessary amendments in the future would only be following consultation with staff and unions.

Q Who decides the pay & conditions for each school?

A: As discussed above, your school staff would transfer to the MAT on no less favourable terms and conditions and any necessary amendments in the future would only be following consultation with staff and unions. No changes to terms and conditions will be made as a result of your school becoming part of our MAT. Of course, we all recognise that things can change in any school (academy or not) over time.

Q What will be the process for staff progression – performance management? Will there be other opportunities?

A: There will be a range of opportunities for staff training and staff progression, and we see this as a major advantage of schools joining the MAT. The MAT will be responsible for the performance management of Headteachers, and will work closely with governors.

Q What is the situation regarding teacher and support staff pensions once our school becomes an academy?

A: Teachers working in an academy fall within the scope of the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS), just as if they were employed in a Local Authority maintained school. Staff transferring from a maintained predecessor would simply continue their membership of the Scheme. As the employer, the MAT would be responsible for remitting contributions to the TPS and for all other administrative responsibilities that fall to employers who employ teachers who are subject to the teachers' pensions regulations.

The MAT will also ensure that the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) arrangements stay in place for non-teaching staff. As part of the conversion process, the LGPS scheme’s administrators will undertake an actuarial assessment to determine how much the MAT will need to contribute and the terms of that contribution. This may be higher than at present. In short, your school’s staff will not see any impact on their pensions because of the conversion to academy status. The MAT’s funding agreement requires it to ensure that all staff employed by it have access to the TPS or the LGPS (as applicable).

Q What about continuous service?

A: All previous service will count as continuous service when a member of staff transfers to the MAT.

Q If we convert will we lose our individuality?

A: We recognise that schools have their own unique identity, and we want to celebrate this. We see this as a key benefit of being part of our MAT. There is currently no expectation that your school’s uniform, name or its distinctiveness would be altered as a result of your school’s conversion, other than losing the term Voluntary Aided or Controlled.

Q What would be the timescale and process for conversion?

A: The DfE estimates that it usually takes between 4-5 months for a school to convert to an academy. Conversion can take place at any time during the year from the 1st of a month. Please see the flowchart at Annex 1 (below) for an overview of the conversion process. Should your school decide to join our MAT, we would work closely with your school through the conversion process, providing project management support to make the conversion process as seamless as possible for your school.

Q What would happen to the ownership of our school land and buildings if our school converted to an academy?

A: Church of England school site ownership is often complex and typically involves private trustees holding parts of the site, and the Local Authority owning others. In the case of each school a report on title would be commissioned by the MAT to establish existing arrangements. For church schools, the land and buildings remain with the site trustees, usually the Diocese. The playing fields are typically held by the Local Authority and a long lease (125 years) based on the DfE model lease would be granted by the Local Authority to the MAT.

Q What would happen if the MAT no longer wished to sponsor an individual academy?

A The MAT will do all that is possible to resolve any differences or difficulties that may arise with an individual academy. In the very unlikely event that it wishes to withdraw from supporting an academy, two years’ notice must be given, after which time responsibility for the academy then falls to the Secretary of State.

Q Can our school leave the MAT?

A Both sides should be committed to making the partnership work. At the moment there is no straight-forward process for an academy to leave a MAT. If there were serious issues, we would try to resolve matters with your school and the DfE. We all want what is best for the children in your school.

Q How would admission arrangements change once our school becomes an academy within the MAT?

A The MAT becomes the Admissions Authority for the academy. This means that the admission criteria can be altered (provided they are in accordance with the School Admissions Code). For church schools it would be possible to include some priority for church attenders. However, the MAT does not have a hard and fast policy on this and will not propose any change without consultation with the local governing body.
As far as the administration of admissions is concerned, academies will find themselves in the same position as VA schools are currently. For the main September intake, the LA continues to co-ordinate the process. All applications are received by them. In late January/early February, they send an electronic file to schools of all the applications they have received and the school ranks them according to its admission criteria and returns them to the LA. This is a relatively simple administrative process that only takes place once a year. The Diocese provides training for school staff in how to do it. The LA continues to send out offer letters to parents. For mid-year applications academies (just like VA schools) undertake all the administration themselves. Protocols have been established by the Diocese and full support and training is available to help with these processes.

Q How would admission appeal arrangements change once our school became an academy within the MAT?

A The MAT is likely to buy in appeal services from the LA given that there is an established, effective system already in place. However academies will need to prepare a Statement of Case in advance of the appeal and field a Presenting Officer (governor or senior member of staff) for the appeal itself. Again, the Diocese provides training on these responsibilities and has template Statements of Case which schools can populate quickly and easily.

Q Will we still have OfSTED and SIAMS inspections?

A Yes, OfSTED is responsible for monitoring academies and SIAMS inspections will continue for church schools.

Q What will be the process should our school’s results drop, or an OfSTED report identify areas for improvement?

A The MAT is responsible for overall school performance and will continually monitor standards, aiming to intervene before an OfSTED inspection if students were not making the required progress.
The MAT would support the school‘s action plan to improve outcomes for students and broker external support, if required. Equally, this is a two-way process and we would expect schools to notify the MAT of any issues.
It would also be the responsibility of the MAT to ensure that areas for developments listed in an OfSTED report and section 48 report are followed up.

Q Are there benefits of conversion in terms of educational outcomes?

A Evidence suggests that schools working together in formal partnerships leads to improved standards. Joining the MAT will give you increased opportunity to collaborate with other academies within our MAT. Secondary academies have shown an improvement already with GCSE results increasing an average of 11.5 percentage points – double the national average – on 5 A*-C grades.

Q Will staff still be employed by our school or will staff contracts be with the MAT if our school converts and becomes a MAT academy?

A The conversion to MAT status will involve a transfer of staff under TUPE. If your school joins the MAT, it will become the employer of the staff and all staff contracts will be with the MAT.
The MAT will be involved with appointments of senior staff (Headteacher/Deputy Headteacher), but we envisage other appointments being delegated to your school’s local governing body.

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