Click to launch Wyvern Technology College GCSE Art Showcase 2012
Wyvern Technology College Academy Conversion Debate
Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions in relation to academy conversion with responses provided by the governors’ working party
Questions about financial issues
· How will the funding change?
· How robust is the financial evidence that the college will be better funded as an academy in the long term?
· Can the college manage the funding complexities and what would happen if there was an over spend/deficit?
· How will the college ensure that it is able to access support services of a similar quality to those provided by the Local Authority (LA) given that the private market for such services is currently undeveloped?
· There is concern that the LA gives advice based on an understanding of the local community and that this may not be of the same quality should we turn to other providers.
· What information is there about the insurance costs the college will face as an academy to cover the significant risks posed by potential emergencies such as fire, flood, a problem with asbestos, pupil accidents and major crimes etc.
· Will the college’s insurance costs be higher either in the short or longer term once it moves out of collective insurance arrangements for the LA family of schools? Will this have an impact on the future costs of trips?
· What start up costs will the college face on transfer to academy status?
· What are the likely additional staffing requirements and costs (both in the short and long term) of running Wyvern as an academy compared to that of running the college currently?
Currently college funding comes from the government to the Local Authority (LA). Funds are then distributed by the LA to schools according to the Local Management of Schools formula funding much of which is based on a per pupil calculation. The LA retains a proportion of the monies for services that they provide for schools such as a) governor services and b) support to schools with low standards. If the college converts to an academy the funding will come from the government direct to the college. The funding received will have to cover all aspects of the running of the school including those services previously provided by the LA.
The government has already made significant changes to the funding of schools. For example secondary schools who had bid for and been granted specialism status receive additional funds. At Wyvern we are proud of the fact that we had achieved triple status for Technology, Humanities and as a Leading Edge Institution (this involves being awarded funds to support other schools). We anticipate that most of this funding will be reduced and possibly disappear altogether.
The government is in the process of considering a new national formula for the funding of all schools to even out historic anomalies. It is likely that as an outstanding school in a relatively advantaged area with fewer than the national average number of students entitled to a Free School Meal, the college will lose funding. Funds will be redistributed to support less advantaged schools and students across the country as a whole.
In terms of the future, the evidence and issues change frequently and as such it is not as robust as we would like it to be. We know there are no guarantees as to whether the college will be better off in the future. The future is very uncertain in terms of funding whether a school remains within the LA or if it becomes an academy. However given that the academy programme is a flagship education policy of this government, it is unlikely that Wyvern would receive less money than it would if it remained within the LA. Similarly we anticipate that we will be able to buy the additional services that we need from the funds available to us. In many areas such as personnel and building maintenance, we are likely to buy back services from the LA where these continue to represent good value for money.
There is a governor’s working party looking into all aspects of becoming an academy. This has included funding both currently and in the future and the working group received and interrogated documents from the Headteacher, other schools and the DfE. The group has agreed a comprehensive dossier for staff and governors which gives details about the advantages and disadvantages of becoming an academy.
In terms of managing the funding complexities, we have been doing that successfully since the inception of Local Management of Schools in the 1980’s. Every year additional issues come into play and the college has met all the challenges it has faced to date. There are excellent financial management systems. In addition, college staff and governors have considerable expertise in this area. We are at the stage in the college’s development when we believe that it would be prudent to appoint a Business Manager (regardless of whether we convert to academy status or not). This will involve some restructuring of the current support staff roles and responsibilities. This would allow for an additional senior leader to pursue funding streams and deal at a strategic level with decisions that could bring long term benefits to the college. Currently our staff team do not have the time to do this. The financial systems, accountability measures and strategic planning that are in place are robust so that we could continue to foresee and address issues thereby avoiding having a deficit or overspend.
The LA is keen to continue to sell its services to the college and we are reassured by their position. As stated previously, where the services provide good value for money we will continue our Service Level Agreements with the LA. The reason we might seek to look elsewhere would be if, in our opinion, we can get a superior service from an alternative provider. This is something that we will keep under regular review as the private market develops in the light of the number of schools that are converting to academy status. Certainly we would seek assurances from any provider that their service would be based on a clear understanding of the college needs in the light of our local knowledge of our community. College staff and governors will be the ones in the driving seat who determine the nature, extent and quality of the services we are purchasing.
The governors’ working party have been very keen to find out about the implications regarding insurance costs and issues concerning potential emergencies. We now know that there is an adequate grant to cover the insurance. Together with the fact that we intend to purchase the emergency service from the LA, the working party is reassured on this issue.
There is a one-off grant of £25,000 to cover the initial start up costs in the short term. Some establishments who have already converted have found this sufficient to cover the costs and others have had to add a relatively small amount (£5000) from their funds to this grant.
The working party have looked at the finances over the longer term and included in their deliberations the cost of employing a Business Manager. We believe that there will be sufficient funds to convert successfully and continue to maintain the current high standard of provision for students and make improvements in the years ahead.
Questions about curriculum and standards related issues
· What evidence is there that becoming an academy will further raise standards of teaching and learning?
· Will conversion bring curriculum changes?
· Will the examination ‘menu’ remain the same?
· What will change for the students?
To be completely frank there is no evidence that becoming an academy will raise standards of teaching and learning. However, as in the past the staff and governors will do their best to ensure that current standards are maintained and where ever possible improved upon as we ADVANCE. There will be opportunities similar to those that we have taken advantage of in the past to employ excellent teachers who are committed to doing the very best for the students in their care. We will continue to appoint support staff to the wide range of roles and responsibilities that enables the college to function so successfully. There is no reason for changing this approach.
There are no plans to adjust the curriculum or the examination menu at present but we are mindful of the fact that governments of whatever complexion bring in new initiatives. We will continue to keep up to date so that our students have the very best chance of progressing successfully to higher educational establishments or to work based opportunities.
We believe that the students are unlikely to see major changes and that as far as all of them are concerned, the college will continue to look for ways to meet their various and individual needs.
Staffing related issues
· Currently many staff engage in professional development activities with local schools. Will staff from a Wyvern academy still be able to join these teacher networks?
· What impact will conversion have on the staff of the college?
We are very aware that a number of staff particularly teachers are concerned about conversion to academy status. We respect their views and will continue to reassure them that it is not our intention to change their pay and conditions of service. The college has been awarded an outstanding judgement by Ofsted and it is our intention to maintain and sustain that categorisation.
We will need to continue to employ excellent teachers and to give them every opportunity to develop their professional skills as teachers, subject managers and leaders of the college. There is no reason why as an academy we will want to withdraw from successful local partnerships and networks.
· How will the decision affect the nursery?
The decision will not affect the Nursery at all.
· How will governance work? Does the existing governing body have the expertise or the time it will need to take on all its new responsibilities?
It is likely that academy trust members would come from the existing governors. Governors have a variety of experience and expertise and we can see no reason why this should change. Not all of them are totally enthusiastic for conversion. Nevertheless whatever is decided democratically by the majority we have a large group of people who have only the best interests of the students at heart.
Clearly conversion will bring new responsibilities and challenges both for individual governors and indeed the governing body as a whole. Governors are currently exploring the implications of academy conversion to their work. This will be discussed in full prior to making a decision. This is not seen as a stumbling block rather than as a new challenge.
· There could be cross campus issues such as access arrangements and how will be these resolved without the intervention of the LA?
We recognise that there are issues which may arise as has been the case in the past. However solutions will have to found to benefit all the students on campus from birth -16.
· Will there be changes to the admission policy? (There is concern that those students with SEN may be disadvantaged should there be a change to the current admission policy as overseen by the LA.)
The staff and governors are immensely proud and supportive of our inclusivity. There is no intention to change the admission policy or find any other ways of not taking and making appropriate provision for students in our catchment area.
· Should the college have a 5 year plan based on a needs assessment of the services needed in the future including details of how we can access such services outside the LA?
Our current development plan guides decision making. It is not a business plan as such and it certainly doesn’t cover the next 5 years. It does however outline the educational developments we intend to embed in the next 3 years. In the future we may consider that we need a 5 year business plan to support college advancement.
The 6 million dollar question
· What are the risks and opportunities involved in coming to a decision?
What one person sees as a risk, another can see as an opportunity so answering this question is all but impossible? However the headteacher and the governors’ working party have met many times to examine the issues in considerable depth and indeed will continue to meet up until the decision is made one way or another. Visits to schools and conversations with governors, leaders and Business Managers in other schools form part of our research. We envisage that the learning curve will continue to be steep.