Aurora Academy FAQ’s

Would the Academy still be accountable to the Local Authority?

No, Academies are independent of the local authority and the Academy would report to the Department for Education. For multi-Academy trusts, such as AAT, each Academy within the Trust would have an individual governing body in this case known as a Local School Board.

Who runs an Academy?

The academy trust (in this case, AAT), governing body (where part of a multi-Academy trust) and the Headteacher have responsibility for managing the Academy. In order to determine the ethos and leadership of the Academy, and ensure clear responsibility and accountability, the sponsor (in this case AET) appoints the majority of the governors. The number of governors on an Academy governing body is not prescribed, but the expectation is for the body to be relatively small.

How are Academies accountable?

The academy trust is accountable to the Department for Education through the requirements of the Funding Agreement. The Funding Agreement requires the academy trust to publish proceedings of its meetings. As charitable companies, academy trusts have to ensure that their accounts are independently audited and then the accounts filed with the Education Funding Agency (part of the Department for Education) and at Companies House. The Department for Education want academies to be at the heart of their communities, and expect them to be established in consultation with local stakeholders. Academies are still subject to the same OFSTED inspection arrangements as other state-maintained schools.

What is different about Academy governance?

Academy trusts are set up as charitable companies independent of local authorities to give them a broader scope and responsibility for ethos, strategic direction and challenge in order to raise and maintain high standards of education. They are governed by a board of directors and in the case of multi Academy trusts there is also a governing body for each Academy.

Who sits on an Academy’s governing body?

Like other state-funded schools, Academies also have stakeholder governance. They all have parent representation and the Academy Headteacher in an ex-officio capacity. Academies may also have staff governors (either elected or appointed) and may include community representatives. The academy trust has a duty to act in the interests of the Academy and not the sponsors.

Why AET (set up by Mosaica Education) as the sponsor?

As a proven leader in educational innovation and delivery in the US for 15 years and with a growing international portfolio, Mosaica is keen to establish a platform in England in order to demonstrate the educational impact of marrying the best in English and American education. That is why it has set up AET and AAT to operate the academies.

Are the Aurora Academies Trust still keeping the same Governing Body?

There would be some changes to the constitutional make up of the Governing Body – the Governing Body would be replaced by a Local School Board accountable to Aurora Academies Trust.

Would the Headteacher and staff be the same?

The current Executive Headteacher, John Greenwood ,will be leaving Oakwood at the end of August to return to his permanent post at Shinewater. The Trust has appointed an interim Head Teacher, Rita Douglas, to be in place for September until December 2012 to provide continuity during the proposed change and also to allow time for a recruitment campaign to attract a new Headteacher/Executive Headteacher to be in place for Jan 2013.

When a school converts from a local authority maintained school to an academy, the existing staff are entitled to transfer under the same employment terms and conditions through a legally compliant process. Therefore, all staff would transfer to the Oakwood Primary Academy. A series of consultation meetings is already underway.

Education transformation would be achieved through innovative curriculum design, improved pedagogy and an extension of the continuous professional development programme.

When would the new Academy open?

The Academy would open in September 2012.

What happens if the Academy doesn’t go ahead?

Oakwood Primary School would stay open in its existing buildings and under the control of East Sussex County Council.

What would be different about the Academy?

There would be a number of significant differences resulting from working with school staff both before and after September 2012.

The main differences include:

  • More opportunities – to make sure every student achieves the very best that they can, Aurora Academies Trust’s focus would be on working with the Academy’s senior leaders and teachers to raise achievement through the curriculum innovation, online assessment programmes, increased attendance and individualised paths for personal growth and development.
  • More choice – the proposed Academy’s partnership with other primary Academies within Aurora Academies Trust as well as with Mosaica Education schools internationally, means the school would be able to share resources and experiences. The Academies would be working with partners both locally and internationally, meaning that pupils would enjoy a wider range of learning and leisure experiences at school.
  • Improved teaching and learning – Aurora Academies Trust would look at how things could be done differently and better and would make some changes immediately in the winter term of 2012/13. They would concentrate on improving standards throughout the school at a rapid pace, and improve the quality of teaching and learning through the introduction of a comprehensive staff training programme and online assessment.
  • New Headteacher – From the end of August, the current Executive Headteacher, John Greenwood will return to his main headteacher position at Shinewater Primary School. A new interim Headteacher has been appointed from September 2012.

Furthermore the new Academy would:

  • Raise aspirations – through the introduction of a new philosophy and ethos, based on Mosaica Education’s proven philosophy used internationally, to bring educational improvements to schools, pupils and communities worldwide. All pupils would have individualised paths for personal growth and development, with a focus on pupil self-awareness and self-esteem.
  • Increase Parent engagement and involvement – regular community events would be held where parents and other members of the local community are invited to see what the children have been learning, chat with staff and become more engaged in their child’s education.
  • Have better resources – there would also be some improvements to the physical environment carried out by the Department for Education ready for September 2012.

Would the uniform change?

Aurora Academies Trust currently has no intentions to change the uniform or current school logo and branding.

How can I make my voice heard?

Throughout the consultation period, you can fill in the questionnaire which can be downloaded from this website, attend the Academy consultation event on 20th June at Eastbourne Academy, email us or contact us through the website, or write or leave a telephone message. Afterwards, you might want to consider getting more involved in school life.

Would the Academy follow the National Curriculum?

Yes, the proposed Academy’s core curriculum would follow the National Curriculum.

What about collaboration with other schools?

As well as transforming the life chances of pupils enrolled in them, Academies can help drive system-wide improvements through collaboration with other schools. Many established Academies have developed positive links with schools in their area and are keen to offer support to them, or to learn from them. Aurora Academies Trust’s expectation is that the Academy would work collaboratively with neighbouring nurseries and children’s centres, primary, secondary and special schools.

How would places in the new Academy be allocated?

All pupils who attend Oakwood Primary School would transfer to the Oakwood Primary Academy unless they choose not to.

Would the Academy select children according to their ability?

No – the proposed Academy would be a comprehensive and inclusive school, open to pupils of all abilities. Academies are not allowed to select children by their academic ability. The Academy would retain the same admission arrangements to those which apply to all maintained community schools in East Sussex.

I have children who have been offered a place Oakwod Primary School in September 2012 after the Academy would open. Would they be given places at the new Academy?

The Academy would continue to be a local school for children and families from the local community. All those students allocated a place at Oakwood Primary School for September 2012 will automatically have a place at the Academy.

What about children with SEN?

Academies must adhere to the SEN code of practice and statutory guidance on inclusion. An Academy’s independent status does not affect parents’ rights to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability).

Do Academies receive more money than local authority schools?

Academies receive the same level of per-pupil funding as they would receive from the local authority as a maintained school, plus additions to cover the services that are no longer provided for them by the local authority. However, Academies have greater freedom over how they use their budgets to best benefit their pupils. Academies receive their funding directly from the Education Funding Agency (EFA – part of the Department for Education) rather than from local authorities.

Would parents have to pay towards the cost of education at the Academy?

No – Academies receive their funding directly from the Department for Education and are funded at a similar level to other maintained schools, so that parents and carers do not have to pay for their children to attend. Academies are allowed to charge for certain activities (such as school trips) in exactly the same ways as maintained school.

Would free school meals continue to be available?

Yes – all pupils that are eligible for free school meals would still have that entitlement.

1.    Can you explain the curriculum that you are employing?
Aurora Academies Trust (AAT) recognises that the curriculum needs improving and further developing, through partnership with teachers and school leadership teams at each school.  AAT will provide a curriculum that is data driven and which incorporates a child-centred approach.  This will be supported by a Continued Professional Development programme that is tailored to meet the needs of  all the  staff so that they may teach to optimum effect.

2.    Will you still be inspected by Ofsted?
Yes, the School is still fully accountable to Ofsted.

3.    What will happen to the Nursery provision?
The existing level of Nursery provision will continue as before once the Academies have opened.

4.    What will be done differently  to ensure continued and rapid improvement at the schools?
AAT will be building on current best practice and focussing on what  can be done further  to benefit the pupils as this is the reason for being here.  AAT will have a single-minded focus on improving the quality of  teaching and learning to achieve its objectives, but staff will be responsible for improvement too. AAT believe that staff’s professional development is key to improving all of the schools and will support this as a priority.

5.    In Aurora Academies Trust’s materials there is a lot of talk about preparing children for university and the world of work.  Will this be the focus of teaching and learning to the detriment of other, more creative endeavours?
Absolutely not. AAT will focus on providing a child-focused environment which will both ensure that key skills – such as mathematics and literacy skills – are accessed by all pupils, but also that the creative side of children is nurtured and supported. The curriculum and learning experience will be global, rich and varied with breadth and balance across subjects.

6.    Will school hours and term dates change?
No. The hours and term dates for 2013-2014 remain the same.

Consultation

7.    It feels as though the consultation process is a foregone conclusion and there has not been significant consultation up until this point in time.  Why is this the case?
The consultation process is a genuine consultation and is a statutory requirement through the Academies Act 2010. The process will result in a formal report which will display all responses to questionnaires and will report on consultation events.  The report will be considered by the Department for Education (DfE) before the Secretary of State gives the approval to continue to open the Academies in September.
It was only possible to commence consultation once the formal order had been given by the DfE that these schools could commence to the next stage of becoming an academy. The first action of the project team once the project started was to set up a consultation process, including producing websites, leaflets, letters, press ads and arranging events. Future surgery style events have also been planned.
However, a letter was also sent out by the Chair of Governors for each School in November 2011 indicating that the schools had all been ear-marked for Academy conversion.
Anyone with concerns, queries or messages of support for the proposals is strongly encouraged to either fill out questionnaires available from the school reception desks or on the consultation websites.

8.    Will we be able to have further consultation/conversations in 6months to 3 years to hold you accountable to the Schools’ results?
Yes, all parties at both the schools and AAT are very happy to do so.

Funding

9.    Will the Academy cause any further cost to parents?
There will no financial cost to parents. Provision will be free of charge.

10.    Will there be funding for SEN provision?
SEN funding will be provided on the same level and in the same way as it has been in the past.

11.    Is Aurora Academies Trust a profit making company?
No. Profit making companies are not able to run academy schools and no profit can be made from the operation of academy schools. AAT is a not for profit organisation.

Admissions

12.    Will admissions change for September 2012?
No, all children admitted to the Primary Schools for September 2012 will automatically receive a place at the academy for September 2012.

13.    There has been bad press relating to academies excluding children who are underperforming and being selective as to those children they accept. Please comment.
AAT will not exclude children on the basis of ability, nor will it select on this basis. Not only is this something that AAT would not support or accept, it is also not permissible under the terms of the agreement AAT would have with the Department for Education.

School Leadership and Staffing

14.    What will be done to ensure that a permanent Headteacher is found for each of the Schools?
Leadership will be a key focus of AAT. It is recognised that having a stable senior leadership team in place as soon as possible is a key priority. Having said this, it is also recognised that the current Heads are offering a great quality of leadership to their schools.

15.    Will there be an Executive Head acting across multiple schools?
AAT will review the needs of each school and determine a leadership structure that will best support the needs of the schools.

16.    Teachers’ terms and conditions should be protected and are of the utmost importance in protecting the rights of teaching professionals.  Can the Academies Trust alter terms and conditions and do they intend to?
There is no intention to make any changes to national pay, terms and conditions.  As former teachers and head teachers, the Aurora Academy Trust leadership team – Tim McCarthy and Helen Kavanagh – understand the importance of safeguarding the working conditions of teaching staff.
In addition to this, Aurora fully intends to maintain the Schools’ use of the HR support offered by East Sussex County Council to ensure continuity in this area.

Other

17.    Will the schools have a new uniform?
No, the Academies will keep the exact same uniform as they would have done irrespective of the academy proposal.

18.    What will be AAT’s Free School Meals policy and provision?
The academies will have the exact same Free School Meals policy and provision as the existing Primary Schools.

19.    What is your approach towards Child Protection?
The Child Protection policy will continue as before in the existing Primary Schools. There will be a Child Protection Officer and a dedicated Governor with the responsibility for Child Protection.