What does Multi Academy Trust status mean for us?

The Proposal

Fred Longworth High School converted to academy status in 2011. Since this date, we have continued to work closely with the Wigan family of schools and we have retained Local Authority terms and conditions for staff. Mindful of the national trend towards schools grouping together within Multi Academy Trusts, we have been considering Multi Academy Trust status for just over a year. It is vital that we find a way forward with this that is right for the school. We feel that a collaborative trust, with advantages outlined below, would be a good way forward.

The proposal is for Fred Longworth High School to convert to Multi Academy Trust status and for Bedford High School and possibly other schools to join the Trust. This collaborative approach creates an opportunity for us to shape the Trust so that it has advantages for both schools and for the young people of Leigh, Atherton & Tyldesley.

The two schools, each with its own Governing Body, will remain as separate schools, so that parents are still able to choose the school with the ethos that best suits their children. This is a vehicle for collaboration, not a merger of any kind. We always strive to improve and to provide the best possible education for our students and this will remain absolutely unchanged.

Advantages

  • We want to support other schools and to share our good practice, but want to do so without disadvantaging our own students. By working with partners, we can build capacity to be able eventually to provide support for other schools;
  • We would be able to take advantage of economies of scale when buying in services – increasingly important with tightening budgets. The money saved is ploughed into ensuring that our resources, including staffing, remain outstanding – pounds saved become education pounds;
  • Both schools would benefit from further opportunities to share good practice and, for example, to buy in training programmes that a single school cannot afford;
  • We could appoint specific members of staff to share. For example, if we want to appoint a school improvement officer, we could do so as a partnership where neither school would be able to afford this as a single school;
  • We would have access to a very large pool of expertise across the 2 governing bodies and the Trust;
  • We should be able to reduce fixed term exclusions by using one another’s inclusion facilities instead of sending students home for a number of days.

What will it mean for us?

The Governors and senior leaders of Fred Longworth High School are always seeking ways in which to make the school even better. We have a very stable Senior Leadership Team and Governing Body who have already taken the school into Academy status. We believe that this is the logical next step and that we can make a difference outside of our own walls whilst maintaining and developing the high standards within our school.

Students, parents and staff will not see any difference – just as when we converted to be an Academy in 2011. The revenue saved through economies of scale will, however, benefit students, as will the opportunity to work with other schools. We will also be in a strong position to “sponsor” any school that needs our help in the future.

The changes will be to the way the school is governed. The school will retain its own Governing Body. At the moment, this is held to account by a very small Single Academy Trust. The change will mean that the Trust is larger, bringing opportunities to bring extra skills to the Trust through increased membership. The Trust will oversee the achievements of both schools, only stepping in if absolutely necessary. This provides an assurance that both schools are accountable and can access support if necessary from a Trust that understands the schools and their community.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who will be on the Trust?

Governors and senior leaders are currently deciding upon who will be the “Members” of the Trust. These Members (who will be trusted friends of the school) will appoint the Directors of the Board of the Multi Academy Trust. They will make sure that the Trust Board has a varied set of skills. We want to work with people who have personnel skills, legal skills, deep knowledge of education and financial skills. They will be people who are prepared to give up their time to ensure that we continue to be successful and they will be committed to the schools.

Will my child continue to be taught by FLHS teachers?

Yes. As when we converted to Academy status, our staff will remain the same and students will not notice any difference in the classroom. We hope that this status will enable us to retain staff who might otherwise look elsewhere for promotion – there will be opportunities as the Trust takes on other schools to support.

Who will decide on the curriculum?

As now, the Governors and senior leadership of Fred Longworth High School will set and monitor the curriculum. Bedford High will retain its own curriculum, as decided upon by its Governors and senior leadership.

Will the Behaviour Policy or uniform change?

No. Our Governing Body and senior leadership always keep these things under review but we will continue to do so independently – each school has successful policies and practices that best suit their students and circumstances.

Will the Admissions arrangements change?

No. We became an Academy in 2011 partly to ensure that our Admissions criteria remained the same and we certainly don’t want to change it now! We will continue to serve our traditional catchment area, as will Bedford High School.

If my child sees no difference, what’s the point in making this change?

As far as students are concerned, everything will stay the same. What will happen, however, is that we will have more money to spend on them at a time when school budgets are under strain. They will also benefit from their teachers having access to extra support and training, and from teachers being able to find promoted posts within the Trust instead of being lost to the area.

What will happen if we do nothing?

Increasingly, schools are being encouraged to work together. In many Local Authorities, there are a number of multi academy trusts and there are already 3 operating in Wigan. More worryingly, however, there are big “chains” that are looking for schools to join their Trusts. These chains are not always successful and they certainly don’t understand the local context in the way that our schools do. We want to avoid either school feeling that they have to join one of these chains because of pressures on individual school budgets. If we don’t act now, we may have to do so in the future and find that potential local partners have already made other arrangements. This way, we take charge of our own destiny.