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Academy conversion – FAQs’

Last Updated: 7th May 2021

Background to academy conversion:

What is the background to the academy conversion?

Following Lightwoods Primary School’s Ofsted inspection in February 2020 where it was judged ‘inadequate’, a Directive Academy Order was issued by the Regional School Commissioner who works for the Department for Education (DfE). That Directive was then communicated with the Local Authority and the school governing body.

The DfE decided that Lightwoods would join Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust on 8th June 2020. The Trust then started to engage with the school to begin our standard process of converting to an Academy.

How was the decision made?

Lightwoods was directed to become an academy by the DfE, due to the inadequate Ofsted judgement it received in February 2020. There does appear to be some confusion however around the selection of the sponsoring Trust.  This is undertaken by the DfE and is not subject to appeal.
 

Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust – about the Trust and its procedures:

What experience does the Trust have of working with a school in an Ofsted category like Lightwoods?

As a Trust, we have a lot of experience in improving standards in our schools. The 2019 data for our four schools, where this is available show that:

  • Shireland Collegiate Academy had the best overall data in Sandwell at KS4 over 3 years.
  • Thorns Collegiate Academy is currently the most improved secondary school for both Progress 8 and Attainment 8 in the Black Country area.
  • Holyhead Primary Academy moved to 5th from 58th in the Local Authority combined reading, writing, and mathematics indicators at Key Stage 2.
  • Tameside Primary Academy has shown a 50% improvement in terms of its Key Stage 2 indicator.

What is the Trust’s model for primary school improvement?  What specialist staff does the Trust employ to provide this support?

We have a Primary School Improvement Team made up of five members of staff at the Trust. This team will work with Rob Matthews and Wendy Jackson at Lightwoods.

Our job is to take the pressure off the Leadership Team at the school so that they can concentrate on the school itself.

What will the school receive for the 5% of its funding that is retained by the Trust?

The aim is for the Trust to do as much of the ‘heavy-lifting’ as it can for its schools, enabling the staff to concentrate on the day-to-day running of the school and looking after their pupils.

The schools within the Trust also receive:

  • A central-based Finance Officer to work with them
  • A Governance and Compliance framework
  • An established Primary Education Team to support them
  • Staff health and wellbeing services
  • A technology structure aimed at reducing workload and creating efficiencies including:
    • An online Portal structure
    • A suite of Microsoft Technologies and training
    • A dashboard reporting system to help understand what is going on at your school and help to make better decisions

Will Lightwoods continue to have its own governing body?  What role and responsibilities will it have?

We have a Standards and Performance Committee (SPC) in each of our schools as part of our Governance structure. In many respects, the SPC acts like a traditional school governing body. The SPC monitors how the school is working and connects the Trust Board and Trust Central Team with the school.

An SPC is made up of two parent governors, one staff governor, three community governors, and one co-opted governor. The SPC meets three times a year and each member receives induction and training.

We also have a Family Forum in each of our schools. These enable the families and the local community to influence the quality of provision, education, and care of their children. The Family Forums feed into the SPC and are held three times a year.

Future changes:

What are the timescales of changes?

We are on track for Lightwoods to join the Trust on 1 June 2021.

How will Lightwoods look and feel different in 2 years’ time?

Schools are inspected in their third year after joining a Trust and becoming an academy.

We aim for Lightwoods to be at least ‘good’, if not ‘outstanding’, by the time the school has its inspection in 2024.

Does the Trust impose its own primary curriculum or does each school develop its own curriculum?

We have a core curriculum that all of our primary schools follow, called Excite, Explore, Excel (E3L). Lightwoods will be able to make use of the curriculum resources and support that we have for E3L.

20% of the curriculum can be tailored by the school to cater to their own children however they feel is most appropriate. The school can introduce their own passions, interests, and localisation into the teaching.

The Trust encourages a wide use of technology in its schools. How will this be developed at Lightwoods?

Yes, we will support Lightwoods to incorporate technology into their teaching and learning.

Technology allows schools to level the playing field for all pupils and be flexible about learning, both in school and at home.

We believe technology should be used in the most subtle and effective ways possible to support and enhance learning. Using technology does not mean pupils will be sat in front of a laptop all day.

Technology can never replace outstanding teachers or members of support staff but used well, it is very effective in helping pupils to learn.

Will there be changes to the length of the school day and term dates due to conversion to an Academy?

It is not our intention at this point to change the school day at Lightwoods.

However, The Department for Education are currently consulting on models to change the school day in response to the pandemic recovery. In the event that the DfE chooses to impose a national structure, all schools would have to change.

Will children still get 2 hours per week as a minimum of high-quality physical education?

Yes, there will be high-quality physical education for pupils at Lightwoods.

Can we have an assurance that the Infants school site will remain where it is, and not move elsewhere?

Nothing is moving anywhere. There was an issue in the land transfer for the piece of land that the lower school is based on but that is now resolved.


Uniform

Will the Trust change the Lightwoods school uniform? Why? When?

Yes, the school uniform will change to match our family structure that we have within the Trust.

The uniform will be black with a green highlight and will be introduced from September 2021.

We work with CC Uniforms for the branded items of uniform. All other items of uniform can be purchased from anywhere you choose as long as they fall within expected standards/colours etc.

What help will there be for parents to meet the cost of the new uniform?

The Trust will pay for a sweatshirt or cardigan for each pupil for the first year.

Will girls be permitted to wear green tights to add a bit of colour to the predominantly black uniform?

Yes, girls may wear bottle green tights as part of their uniform if they wish.

Schools branding and values:

Will the school Tree logo be removed entirely and replaced, together with other associated tree links? (class names etc)

No, however, the logo will change as we have a family structure for all our school logos. The new Lightwoods logo will fit into this structure but continue to incorporate Lightwoods colours.

The links to nature and trees will be retained where we can through the school website and other materials as we appreciate the strong connection and heritage that the Lightwoods community feels to its surroundings and location.

Additional information regarding Uniforms

To make the transition easier for families and to make sure that everyone can get the most out of the uniform they have already purchased, we can confirm that there will be a 12-month grace period where pupils may wear either black or grey trousers/skirts to school up to the end of the 2021-2022 academic year. From September 2022 we will expect all Lightwoods pupils to be wearing the full black uniform. We will still be giving each Lightwoods child one new black sweatshirt or cardigan free of charge before the start of the academic year in September 2021.

We are also looking into initiatives that we can implement across the Trust to make sure that we approach uniforms in an environmentally and financially-conscious way in the future, for example introducing recycling schemes or uniform ‘amnesties’ where families can get good-quality, second-hand uniforms from other families in the Trust who no longer need them.

How will the free cardigans/sweatshirts and ties be delivered to parents?

What we have done before is we have delivered them to the schools and the school distributed them to families.

We will confirm the process as soon as we can.

Will girls be permitted to wear green tights to add a bit of colour to the predominantly black uniform?

Yes, girls may wear bottle green tights as part of their uniform if they wish.

Teaching and Learning:

Does the primary Excite, Explore, Excel (E3L) curriculum still cover the National Curriculum?

Yes, we deliver the National Curriculum completely and then go beyond that. The core of our work is the National Curriculum and then we expect all of our schools to wrap-around that more work on arts, technology and outdoor learning.

We have had our E3L curriculum in place for around four years. This year we agreed to sell E3L to Hodder, one of the top three publishers in the country. Hodder are now publishing our E3L primary curriculum as their primary offer to all the schools they support across the country. They have about 8,000 schools who use their curriculum and our primary curriculum will be in lots of primary schools around the country.

E3L is sequenced so that if an Ofsted inspector came in, they could easily see why topics are covered by specific year groups and then that knowledge and those skills developed in subsequent years.

Teachers do not have to do any mapping or source teaching materials as they are all provided. This is complemented by online resources that families can use at home with their children to reinforce what they have learned in school. Children can also access the resources themselves away from school.

What opportunities will there be for children to be involved in sports, the arts and other extracurricular activities?

Music and the Arts

We believe that participation in the Arts levels the playing field for our children. It allows them to have an outlet and finds special interests and talents.

For 10 years we have developed a strong partnership with the Birmingham Hippodrome. This relationship has allowed visits to our schools from people across the Arts spectrum including ballet dancers and actors. The Hippodrome also work with us on a Saturday school that produces high quality performances, and we have the Hippodrome Education Network embedded at schools across the Trust, running workshops and interactive sessions for all ages.

We also host the National Youth Orchestra summer school on the Shireland campus.

The Department for Education recently approved funding for the Shireland CBSO School – a new non-selective and non-fee paying specialist music school in West Bromwich to be run by the Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust in collaboration with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). The Shireland CBSO School will open for Year 7 and year 12 pupils from across the region in September 2022. The school will be the first in Britain to be established in collaboration with an orchestra and marks a radical new approach to music education, innovatively addressing the much-publicised decline in the position of the creative arts in many schools.

Every child will be given the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, with tuition delivered in partnership with Sandwell Music Service, and to participate in choirs and ensembles as well as regularly attending CBSO concerts at Symphony Hall.

Passport to Success

Our Enrichment Team runs the Passport to Success scheme. The scheme was set up for parents and carers of our students who attend schools within our Trust to recognise outstanding contributions to school and family life and the local community.

Being part of the Passport to Success will:

  • Further develop your understanding of your child’s school life.
  • Support your involvement in your child’s education.
  • Give you opportunities to learn new skills.

Passport to Success scheme is here to support you and give your family access to activities you would not normally have access to. Collect stamps when you do an activity and when you have enough, you get a reward! At the end of year one when your passport is complete, there will be further years to engage in the activities at a creative and independent level.

The Enrichment Team support building links with external organisations and getting activities into schools. This saves the individual schools time in organising these activities and the size of the Trust makes it attractive to organisations to work with us, giving your children access to more opportunities than they might otherwise have.

Sports

We expect children and schools to compete at a national or international level. We have a close relationship with West Bromwich Albion Football Club but would look to establish new partnerships around any specific interests within our schools. We want to expose our children to new experiences and widen their horizons through challenging perceptions about sport.

Support:

What support will there be for staff?

We will thoroughly train Lightwoods staff on delivering the E3L curriculum as well as the foundation curriculum. This training has already begun in the school and we will also focus on upskilling staff where needed.

As part of the Trust, staff will have the opportunity to share, collaborate and learn from others across the Trust.

We have a Central Trust team who are there to do the ‘heavy lifting’ for school staff so that they can focus on teaching and running the school on a day-to-day basis. The Central Team also fulfil and support ‘back-office’ functions such as HR, Finance, Governance and Operations.

School life:

What difference will being an academy make to my children on a day-to-day basis?

When Lightwoods joins the Trust in June, you will immediately see new signage put up around the school with the new school name and colours. We will also start to involve the school in Trust-wide activities and opportunities, many of which are organised by our Enrichment Team via the Passport to Success scheme.

From September children will have their new uniform and they will also begin to be taught the E3L curriculum, which covers the National Curriculum and much more besides.

Future communication and consultation:

What further opportunities will be given to parents to engage in during the conversion process?

We will keep you up to date and get your feedback on issues where we can, but some things will follow existing processes and procedures and unfortunately are not open to consultation.

We want to work with you to help Lightwoods to move forwards as a school and your support is incredibly important in making that happen.

When the school formally joins the Trust, you will be invited to join the Standards and Performance Committee and Family Forum.

We have introduced this frequently asked questions section on the website that we will continue to update based on feedback and questions that we receive.

We will also update you on where we are with the conversion process and other important information via the school’s weekly newsletter.

Background to academy conversion:

Why did Lightwoods not get another inspection before academisation?

The moment a school gets an inadequate judgement, and that report is sent to the local authority, it then goes to the Regional School Commissioner who manages the West Midlands region. Immediately a process starts where a sponsor is found for an inadequate school. At this stage, the school nor LA (Local Authority) can stop this process. An additional inspection prior to academisation has only happened a couple of times in the entire history of academies in this country and is not the usual course of action.

Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust – about the Trust and its procedures:

What will the Trust consult with families on?

The Trust will consult with families on fundamental changes to the school and or where there is a statutory requirement to do so, for example changes to the school day. However, as mentioned elsewhere, this is not something that the Trust as looking at doing.

We tend to work with our Family Forums that we hold three times a year to gather opinions. It is our opportunity to ask families what they think and share ideas that will benefit our children.

Can you commit to an outstanding rating in two years?

Lightwoods will not be inspected until its third year as an academy. The Trust believe it will be at least ‘good’ when it is next inspected.

‘Outstanding’ ratings are more difficult to achieve with the new inspection framework. In the previous inspection framework 20% of schools were outstanding. On the new inspection framework, less than 5% of schools are outstanding because the inspection is now about more than just raw results, it is also about the children’s experiences and sequencing of the curriculum.

We push for all our schools to be outstanding.

Is Tinywoods preschool included in the academisation?

Yes.

Have you adapted your academy conversion model to incorporate the impact of Covid? If so, how?

We have changed the way we view several processes in schools, but not necessarily the academy conversion model.

For example, we have more focus on outdoor learning and changing our environments to make sure there is an external play space. This will help us to have a blended approach and be more flexible, should we have to deal with further lockdowns or school closures in future.

We are good at remote learning, and we have also looked at this provision in terms of how it can be measured and how we can make sure there is a blend of physical and online tasks.

We have had a huge push on wellbeing during the pandemic, not only for staff but for students and families as well. We realise life is different for a lot of people in many ways and we want to be as supportive as we can for everyone in the Trust.

Dan Donaldson, who is our Family Support and Enrichment Manager, plays an important role in family support and his work has been refocussed to help families move through this period with support from us.

Teaching and Learning:

Can we see the curriculum?

Anyone can see our curriculum and its resources via Hodder Education:

eduu.school - Supporting remote and in-school learning for teachers, students and parents (hoddereducation.co.uk)

What opportunities will the link with the CBSO (City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) lead to for our children? Is there an annual event that our children will be invited to attend for example?

We are opening a secondary school in September 2023 with the CBSO, based at the Providence Place building in West Bromwich. This will be a specialist music free school.

It will not have a local intake and will take students from across the borough with modal points or key partner primary schools. We will admit children who have a real aptitude for music.

The CBSO will work with all our schools as we develop this partnership with them, in the same way that the Hippodrome already do.

What modern technology will be introduced into the classroom? Will children be using computers and tablets in KS1 (Key Stage 1) and KS2 (Key Stage 2)?

We believe in supporting the curriculum and children’s learning using technology. This means we use computers and tablets etc in all key stages in a measured way.

We use technology to enable youngsters to learn in a much better, more real, and personalised way. A lot of the resources that we use are online.

Children will not be given their own device to take home.

Will outdoor learning be encouraged? When will forest school restart?

We are extremely passionate about outdoor learning and forest school, particularly post-Covid.

As soon as we can, we will be pushing outdoor learning and forest school. We have several staff who are forest school coordinator trained and we are trying to establish a structure across all our schools including into secondary. We hope to have this back up and running by September.

What will happen to credit that parents have for before and after school club? Can they get this money refunded? What will happen to it after 1 June?

Either the local authority will decide to refund any unspent credit to families, or this will be rolled forward, and we will apply it to families’ accounts with us.

Will there be a range of after-school activities available?

We have a whole variety of things that happen on a Saturday and during all the holidays. Dan Donaldson is our Family Enrichment Manager and helps organises all these activities.

You will find that these activities will be reintroduced as we acknowledge their positive impact not only on the children but in supporting working families as well.

What will the relationship with the Birmingham Hippodrome mean for the children?

We helped the Hippodrome to establish the Hippodrome Education Network (HEN) and they have worked with all our primary schools.

All our schools have some element of Hippodrome involvement on a regular basis. They come in to support performances, run arts activities and bring other partners into schools. For example, we have had the Welsh Royal Ballet in schools, and we now host the National Youth Orchestra on the Shireland site.

You will see the Hippodrome at Lightwoods and increasingly, the CBSO. We expect to be able to start the Hippodrome programme from September 2021. Children will also have the opportunity to go to the Hippodrome to perform and watch performances.

Future changes:

Will the school slogan be removed?

‘Together, we grow’ will be included in a prominent place on the website homepage.

Will catering suppliers be changed and/or improved?

We are going through a review of catering for the whole of the Trust, and we have included Lightwoods in that. Hopefully, this will mean that there will be an improvement in the quality of school meal provision.

We cannot confirm the timescale for any changes as Lightwoods do have some contractual liabilities around the catering service that they currently have. Those liabilities will transfer to the Trust when Lightwoods joins, so we will be tied into any contracts until their end date.

Food and drink are especially important, and we want all our children to have high quality meals at school.

It may be that we can work with the current suppliers to improve the quality until new suppliers can be brought in.

We will take environmental issues into account when considering new suppliers, including carbon footprint.

Staffing:

How long will current teaching and support staff have their terms in conditions protected under TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment)?

Forever, because they are on the same terms and conditions as the Trust. Our non-teaching staff are on the same terms and conditions as Lightwoods non-teaching staff. Our teaching staff are on teaching pay and conditions that the Lightwoods teaching staff are on as well.

The only change is that we have an enhancement that allows us to pay people for doing discrete pieces of additional work like project work, which the local authority does not do.

This does make us unusual in relation to other Trusts. A lot of multi-academy trusts change the conditions of service, patterns of holidays, the working day etc. We keep it as close as we can to other local authority schools around us because families have children in both types of school.

Is there a cap on how many newly qualified teachers (NQTs) or trainee teachers you have in each of your schools at any given time?

We do not have a cap, but NQTs require additional support so we would never recruit an NQT if we did not think we would be able to give them the support that they need to develop and ensure children have the best quality of teaching. We always look carefully at the staffing when we are recruiting to decide on whether a school could accommodate another NQT at that time.

We will always be sure that any new member of staff is the right person for the children before we would appoint them, regardless of whether they are an NQT or not.

Most of our schools might have two NQTs depending on the size of the school. We do not ever say there is a cap because sometimes you will receive a fantastic application from an NQT who would be an asset to the school.

Future communication and consultation:

What do the children know about the Trust taking over? How and when will they be told about the logo and uniform?

They know part of it from Mr Matthews presenting to groups of children already, but we will increase that discussion and as soon as we get past 1 June, we will be in school and talking to the children.

How can you become part of the Family Forum?

We will get a letter out to all families to be invited to the Lightwoods Family Forum. Parents will have the opportunity to nominate a core of families to attend, however we do not have a limit on the number of families who can attend the meetings. The minimum number we expect would be about 8 or 9 families, but we have had 20 people attend from one of our schools.

It is also a community forum, so we invite members of the public to join the meetings as well as it is important for the children to see people from their local area to help build their aspirations and for the community to share their views on the school.

Family Forums take place three times per year.

How can we contact you?

If you have any other questions or concerns that you wish to speak to us about, please do not hesitate to contact the school or the Trust itself. We are here to help and support you.

Please contact the Trust by email in the first instance: info@shirelandcat.org.uk

You can also find out more about the Trust on our website: www.shirelandcat.org.uk