Formal consultation on the option of becoming an academy and joining Scholars’ Education Trust.

Over the last twenty years there has been considerable energy put into researching what makes for the best educational outcomes for young people.  Out of that research has come some large government initiatives like Every Child Matters, and the pupil premium.  Time and time again, the work done has shown the significant impact of successful, purposeful and effective cooperation between schools in raising attainment for all.

The last two years, and the Covid pandemic especially, has shown us even more clearly how important it is for organisations to work together and support each other.

This is a great school, with fantastic students, inspiring staff and brilliant outcomes.  We want to be nothing short of exceptional, because, as I have said to many of you in person, nothing short of exceptional is good enough for my children, your children, or any of the children in our community.

And so, as a great school, with big aspirations and lots to offer we have been exploring how we could work more closely with other great schools, for the benefit of all.

Governors have been exploring the benefits, advantages or disadvantages of converting to become an Academy and joining the Multi Academy Trust (MAT)  called Scholars’ Education Trust (SET).  The research into whether academisation and joining a MAT is right for the school started in November 2021.  This has given the Governing Body time and information to support its decision-making process.   We have been in formal due-diligence with SET since April 2022.

This is a matter that schools up and down the country have been thinking about since the Academies programme began in 2010. As of January 2022, 45.5 percent of all schools are academies (79.8 percent of secondary schools and 38.6 percent of primary schools). Many of these academies are part of a Multi Academy Trusts (MAT) with other academies. This enables them to work in close partnership, learning from and supporting each other, and sharing resources to enable them to make the most from their budgets. There are 1,197 MATs in England with two or more schools. Over half of all pupils in England attend an Academy. In April 2022 the Education White Paper also reaffirmed the government’s intentions that all schools are part of strong trusts.

It is our proposal that the School should join SET, formed of five other academies within the Hertfordshire area.

We believe this would bring the following five, significant, advantages:

  1. Working in collaboration with other strong schools to secure better education opportunities and outcomes for all students.
  2. Working in collaboration with other strong schools to recruit, retain, train and develop the very best teaching and non-teaching staff.
  3. Working in collaboration with other strong schools to find efficiencies, economies of scale and savings in operational costs so that more money can be invested in children’s wellbeing and education.
  4. Working in collaboration with other strong schools to provide leadership, security and direction during difficult times and periods of change.
  5. Working in collaboration with other strong schools to ensure the highest levels of safeguarding of children’s physical and mental health.

This process of due-diligence has and will operate to the following timeline:

On the 31st March the school began a process of due diligence with SET, by:

  • A presentation to, and open meeting with, all staff
  • A special newsletter to parents and carers:  a link is here
  • An open letter to all feeder schools and local secondary schools: a link is here
  • A letter to Hertfordshire County Council (HCC): a link is here
  • A letter to Herts for Learning (HfL): a link is here

On the 4th May 2022 the school wrote an open letter to  all trade unions and professional bodies represented in the school workforce: a link is here

On the 11th May 2022 the  Governors of the School published a formal consultation on the proposal to convert to Academy status and join SET, by:

  • Creating this consultation webpage
  • Sending  a letter to all parents and carers: a link is here
  • Sending a letter to all staff: a link is here
  • Holding an open meeting for all parents and carers, at the school in M9, on 18th May 2022, at 6pm.
  • Sending an open letter to the local papers and online media outlets: a link is here

We seek your views and questions on this formal consultation.

We would strongly encourage you to share your views and ask questions by:

  • Contacting us via this special email address setconsultation@hemelschool.com, and/or
  • Writing to us at SET Consultation, The Hemel Hempstead School, Heath Lane, Hemel Hempstead, HP1 1TX, and/or
  • Completing the online survey send to you by letter on the 11th May 2002, and/or
  • Attending the open meeting for all parents and carers, at the school in M9, on 18th May 2022, at 1800hrs – please book a place via setconsultation@hemelschool.com

The closing date for consultation is Wednesday 1st June 2022 at midnight.

Shortly after the school will publish the findings of consultation with all stakeholders.

In explaining what this might mean for our school, we have tried to anticipate stakeholders questions and answer them below:

Has the school already decided to join SET? No, we are entering a period of due-diligence, open discussion, stakeholder engagement, discovery and sharing.    We are looking at ‘fit and feel’.  We are under no commitment and any decision will be collective. 
Has the school already decided to join a MAT though? No, SET is the only one we are speaking to.  This is about exploring what might be possible with them, nothing more, nothing less.
Do SET currently run any other schools in Hemel Hempstead? No.  MATs come in many flavours – we have chosen one that thinks, works and cares like us.
What do SET think we would bring to their trust? They say:  “We are looking for a school to bring added value to that school improvement piece.  It would be about identifying what you could bring. We would be wanting to work with you as a school with strong outcomes which can add capacity.”
Do SET share our values? They say:  “SET has to share vision and values with the schools coming into our trust. We have to get along and be in sympathy with.  We want a broad and balanced curriculum, including the arts, sport and performance.  We do not believe in selection. We are community schools focussed on collaborative working and peer review.  We have aligned finance, catering and management systems which saves money, so it can be spent on children’s education”
Will SET insist that our school changes everything to ‘their way’ of doing things? They say:  We continue to operate as a family of schools; in a family everyone has the same tradition and phraseologies, but everyone is slightly different. We do not want to be homogenous.  We want to understand differences and cohorts and be flexible.  The children should be getting the best possible range of opportunities. There is a focus on being local, national and global citizens, an ethos of ecoschools, sustainability and new technology.  We are an outward looking trust.”
Are we being forced into this, by the government or Ofsted? No, this is entirely our choice.  We are not being brokered, or converted, or anything else.  We have been researching and planning for this for over a year.
Why is it just us doing this? It is not just us, totally independently, but also excitingly, another great school in Hemel Hempstead is also going into their own process of due-diligence with SET.
Will a child’s teachers change? No.
Will a child’s curriculum change? No.
Will a child’s examinations, or examination boards change? No.
Will the school day or the holidays change? No.
Will the staff at the school lose any rights, or benefits they currently have?  Will there be redundancies? No, in fact they may gain some more and have access to even more and better training and development and there will be no redundancies?

 

Will the school get more money? No, we will not get more, but by centralising services we would spend less on those and therefore be able to spend more on your child and their education.  Most schools joining a MAT realise around 5% more spending, which in our case would be around £400,000 per annum.
Will the school still get its rebuild? Yes, the new sports, technology, English, science, food and art facilities will still be built.
Will the uniform, school name, or school badge change? No.
How do I know due-diligence is being done properly? It will be done by us and SET together, supported by educational lawyers Winckworth Sherwood LLP, and shared with you at every stage.
How can parents, students, staff and the community have their say? There will be a formal parent/carer, staff and student consultation, and unions will be fully included.    We will be writing to local feeder primary and secondary schools inviting their views.
Will it impact how the school is governed? Yes.  SET has a CEO, who is the executive (professional) line manager for all of the headteachers.  The CEO and headteachers meet fortnightly. The trust then has a non-executive board (lay volunteers), which is like a governing body.  Our standards, pay and resources committees would go as the trust runs them centrally.  There is a local governing body (LGB) in each trust school, which includes a member of teaching staff, a member of support staff, and a parent governor.  Recruitment to the governing boards at SET are done on a skill basis only, so our existing governors could join if there is a vacancy and they meet the skills audit; they would not automatically join the trust board.  The chairs of the LGBs and the CEO meet monthly.