Multi-Academy Trust and Academies: Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ covers questions both about schools forming a MAT and about converting to academy status. Please note, Ryburn is already an academy, as we converted in 2014, so many of the answers below apply here already. This information is not intended to replace the informal conversations and formal consultation that takes place during the conversion process.

If your question is not answered below, you can ask here.

What is an academy?

An academy is an all-ability school that is directly funded by central government and independent of direct control by local government. Academies are inspected by Ofsted under the same framework as maintained schools. Academies are self-governing. 

What is a multi academy trust?

A Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) is a charitable company limited by guarantee which is formed to oversee a group of schools who are academies. The MAT is the employer of staff and holds the land and buildings of each academy in Trust. 

Who Are together learning trust?

Together Learning Trust are a group of schools who already have strong partnership arrangements who want to come together to formalise the relationship for the benefit of them all and their pupils and constitute as a MAT.  The schools proposing to join Together initially are:

  • Bolton Brow Primary Academy, Calderdale
  • Honley High School, Kirklees
  • Meltham Moor Primary School, Kirklees
  • Netherton Infant and Nursery School, Kirklees
  • Ryburn Valley High School, Calderdale 

How does Governance work?

There will be a Board of Trustees who are ultimately responsible for the work of the trust and the academies. However, they devolve much of the responsibility to the individual academies and their respective local governing bodies. Each academy has its own governing body who work with the academy Headteacher to check that the academy is making good progress and add additional challenge and scrutiny to the work of the school. Each governing body has parent/carer and staff representatives. The academy Headteacher is always a governor for the time they are employed in that role. The governing body will set the vision for the academy in line with the overall commitment of the multi academy trust. The governing body also draft the academy spending plan and improvement plan for approval by the Trust Board. The governing body has delegated powers from the Trust Board including the management of finance and property and the appointment of staff.

Why does our school have to join a MAT?

If schools are judged by Ofsted to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ they do not have to join a MAT if they don’t want to.  Some are choosing to join MATs because of the benefits this brings but good and outstanding schools all have different reasons for joining or not joining a MAT.  Schools which are judged to be ‘Inadequate’ or have been judged as ‘Requires Improvement’ twice will receive an academy order from the Department for Education and will have to make arrangements to join a MAT as soon as they can.

How long does it take to set up a MAT?

An application is completed and sent to the DfE and once approval is given for the MAT to be created (could be a couple of months).  The MAT Company can be set up very quickly (within days), however the Together Learning Trust MAT will not be operational until all the 5 schools in the MAT have converted to academy status.

How long does academy conversion take and how will the process affect the day-to-day running of the school?    

This will usually take 3-4 months with support from specialist project managers. Together Learning Trust has services in place to ensure smooth transition and will use experienced support to minimise any impact on the school community.

What is the role of the MAT Chief Executive Officer?

They are the Accounting officer for the trust and the strategic support for schools. The CEO is the key contact for the Regional Schools Commissioner and the DfE and acts as the point of first contact to ensure schools are not distracted from their core purpose of teaching and learning.

The priority for our school is the education of young people. How will you ensure that the MAT and academy formation does not distract us from this?

Part of the work of the MAT, once formed, will be to carry out ‘due diligence’ exercises which will make clear which schools need extra support to convert and not be distracted and which schools can move quickly through the process.  It’s important that all schools are open about the amount of support they might need to enter into and go through the process.

What is the main motivation for joining a multi academy trust?

  • To shape the provision to meet the future needs of our children, families and communities based on a local and collaborative proposal of working together and building on existing good practice 
  • Schools will remain in charge of their own destiny as the government has a goal to encourage all schools to be academies or working towards academy status by 2022 
  • The Local Authority (LA) capacity is disappearing. Pooling the resources of a number of schools means we can re-create some of the services once received from the LA 
  • To develop the expertise of all staff to further improve effectiveness and outcomes for children 
  • To generate financial efficiencies to invest back into the classroom for the benefit of the children 

What parents and carers need to know?

  • The school is not proposing to change its character and will continue to look, feel and be the same as it is now 
  • The School Leadership Team and Governing Body will continue to run the school daily as they do now, and parents will continue to be represented on the Governing Body 
  • The name of the school will not change, and the school will not change its admissions policy 
  • Children with special needs will continue to receive additional support in the way they do now 
  • Our local schools will continue to work very closely together for each other as well as your children, and will be provided with more support to help them become even better 
  • The multi-academy trust arrangements will share some central services across the schools which will help them be more efficient and make sure that funding is focused on teaching, learning and support for children 
  • The multi-academy trust will work very closely and co-operatively with local partners, including other schools, community groups and organisations, and the local authority. 

Is an academy/mat like a business?

No. A business makes profit for its shareholders. An academy is a charitable trust which cannot make profit. 

Who makes the decision to become a mat?

The governing body. The Department for Education then approve the request.

Are academies/mats bound by the same rules and regulations as other schools? 

Academies and MATs are required to follow the law and guidance on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions.

Will the academy/MAT follow the National Curriculum?

Yes, but it will have more freedom to try different things in the curriculum and make sure that what is taught is relevant to our pupils and their specific needs. It must be broad and balanced.

Does becoming an academy/MAT change the relationship with local schools and the community? 

No. Academy funding agreements state that academies must ensure that they will be at the heart of the community, collaborating and sharing facilities and expertise with other local schools and the wider community.

As an academy/mat, will it still work with the local authority (LA)?

Academies are independent of the local authority. However, we wish to continue working with the LA, other local schools and local partners.

What about funding? 

The Department for Education via the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) meets the running costs for an academy. Academy funding is calculated on a like-for-like basis with local authority schools. Therefore the academy will have a similar budget to that of its predecessor maintained school. With greater freedom to procure services from other providers and to realise cost efficiencies across the network, the academy will be able to make more efficient use of resources to support school improvement. Like other schools, an academy cannot run at a loss or agree a deficit budget, i.e. it has to break-even.

How will the school be accountable financially?

An academy/MAT is governed by the rules and regulations for charitable trusts and company law, e.g. we will be required to produce and file accounts and trustees cannot be paid. There will be robust systems with an audit conducted by an external independent auditor.

What functions would remain the statutory responsibility of the LA?

  • Home to school transport
  • Education psychology, SEND statementing and assessment
  • Monitoring of SEND provision
  • Prosecution of parents for non-attendance
  • Assigned SEND resources for pupils/students with rare conditions needing individually tailored provision
  • Provision of specialist facilities for a student who is no longer registered at a school

Who will be responsible, and pay for assessments of pupils/students with additional needs?

The LA retains the same statutory responsibility for students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in academies as they would for a maintained school. We would continue to work closely with the LA to ensure that our SEND pupils are well provided for and to ensure that the LA meets their statutory commitments with regard to pupils. 

Does it cost anything to become an academy/MAT?

Yes. There are legal, financial and project costs associated with becoming an academy/MAT. The government gives each new converting academy £25,000 to contribute towards these costs.

Who will own the school building and land?

The local authority will be required to grant a 125-year peppercorn lease to the academy trust.

Will the staff stay the same? 

When a school converts from a local authority-maintained school to a new academy, all permanent staff are entitled to transfer to it under the same employment terms and conditions. The process of conversion assumes ‘as is’ for staff and that they continue to teach the same classes as previously.

Will you consult with staff, community and parents?

Yes, we will consult with all key stakeholder groups during the transition phase. This will include the sharing of our plans for the new academy trust and an opportunity to gather feedback and suggestions, as well as addressing any questions or concerns. A clear consultation will take place. 

Will the school remain non-selective? 

Yes - academies are non-selective schools. Academies/MATs are required to follow the law and guidance on admissions, SEND and exclusions as if they were maintained schools. It is the aim of the trust to ensure that our academies provide high quality, inclusive education for all local children.

Will the school need to change its name?

We will not change our name unless there is a compelling reason during consultation to do so.

Can the academy/MAT work with the council and other schools?

Yes. Where possible and appropriate, the academy will buy back services to /from the local authority. The academy can work with any schools it wishes if this makes a difference to the education of the children.

Will there be a new uniform? 

No. Uniform will be the same as it is now.

What date would the MAT open? 

The proposal subject to approval from the Department for Education is for all schools to open on the 1 January 2019 as an academy part of Together Learning Trust.

How can I find out more about academies/MATs?

Visit the website for the Department of Education and search for Academies or Multi-Academy Trust on the home page.