We’ve done our best to keep a list of questions that we think we might be asked and ones we’ve been asked the most.
To reveal the answers, click on the PLUS signs.
Who we are?
We are an academy and free school sponsor; a not-for-profit charitable trust created and supported by EdisonLearning. We have the experience to improve, support, manage and operate schools.
The Collaborative Academies Trust (CAT) is the ‘not-for-profit’ trust of EdisonLearning Ltd formed to act as an academy sponsor.
The main sponsor of CAT is EdisonLearning Ltd established in 2003 in the UK and a wholly owned subsidiary of EdisonLearning Inc established in 1992 in the USA.
EdisonLearning Ltd has worked with over 250 schools in the UK involving 80,000 children and as a global company EdisonLearning has supported the education of more than one million students from the age of 4 to 19 years old. The company currently serves partners with more than 500,000 students in 25 states in the USA as well as the UK and Abu Dhabi.
All the Trust’s primary schools are non-selective and non-fee paying.
If Kingsthorpe College is over subscribed then it can allocate up to 24 places, 10% of the intake to the students who have demonstrated particular aptitude in the visual or performing arts. It is non-fee paying.
What school improvement package would the school be offered?
The Director of School Improvement will ensure a tailored package.
School Improvement Advisers and other colleagues work regularly in your school, all intellectual property developed and owned by EdisonLearning available to trust schools free of charge, a valued and tested methodology for school improvement, school self evaluation and Ofsted update and support service.
How would the trust support the school in raising standards in Literacy, particularly writing?
This would be for the Trust to decide with member schools and funding available. Solutions come in a number of forms including staffing across the Trust, reading and writing packages, advice, curriculum materials etc.
How would the trust support raising standards in Maths?
This would be for the Trust to decide with member schools and the funding available. Solutions come in a number of forms including staffing across the Trust, numeracy and software packages, advice, curriculum materials etc.
Would there be anyone fulfilling the School Improvement Partner (SIP) role from within the trust or its partners?
We would provide this service or equivalent service as part of the school improvement package to schools. We are also happy to work with SIP arrangements if appropriate.
The SIP role is used in Northamptonshire and Essex trust schools. Babcock provides a rather different type of service for the trust in Somerset.
If a new headteacher was appointed (and it was their first headship) what support would be given?
We would expect to provide as much support as the governors and the new Headteacher required. It is important not to stand in the way of developments the Headteacher would wish to drive but at the same time, any new Headteacher is likely to need good support from those who have been there before.
There is additional support through Executive Headteacher meetings attended by all Headteachers and trust supported meetings with the Headteacher and Chair of Governors. There is a termly team around the school meeting chaired by the trust.
How could the trust support with retention of quality staff?
The potential to work across schools, build a reputation for what we do, work on trust projects, involve staff in international research or school visits, offer staff benefits and incentives etc is something with great potential to attract, retain and develop staff. We expect to negotiate this package with member schools.
What advantages are there for Trust members from the association with EdisonLearning?
Please see our ‘Benefits and Features of Trust Membership’ document
Would existing staff be TUPED across to CAT?
Staff are protected under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE) for as long as they remain at the school.
Would the trust make any changes to pay and conditions?
We will be honouring the national teachers pay and conditions and pension arrangements for as long as they continue to exist. We also ensure the Local Government Pension Scheme arrangements stay in place for non teaching staff and their pay and conditions are preserved. We would do everything we can to retain and reward good staff.
Would the trust support with recruitment?
We would be able to advertise on the trust website and provide advice to recruit from the widest possible field. Staff appointments will continue to rest with each school with appropriate professional advice from the trust for Headteacher, Deputy Headteacher and Assistant Headteacher appointments.
Will the structure of the staffing stay the same?
This would depend on the ‘predecessor’ school. If the school was good and everything worked well within the school’s affordable budget then any changes may be minimal. If not the process of conversion gives potential to change things. The staffing structure is considered by the trust each year with the budget setting process.
Could highly effective teachers be traded between member schools?
Yes…but only with the agreement of the Headteachers and staff involved and with the approval of the trust. It is also possible to have trust staff who are able to work across different schools.
Could teachers be seconded to other schools without the consent of the Headteacher or member of staff?
Who is the employer of the school staff?
The trust becomes the employer of the staff.
What would be the level of local autonomy?
The governance structure of the trust and the memorandum of articles give a great deal of autonomy to ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools in the Trust and the scope for different levels of intervention dependent on need where schools might be struggling. Schools would not all necessarily work together, or be expected to, but the potential for school to school support from a group with a similar set of ideals and mind set is huge. For schools that are improving and clearly able to demonstrate a high level of autonomous capability we would expect just that to happen and support both the governing board and the leadership and staff of the school to excel. Where there are concerns over the performance of the school the trust must act to ensure the quality of education is not put at risk.(See ‘ Governing Bodies’)
Will the school have to change its name or signage
No … unless a re-branding exercise was felt to be helpful. The trust would expect signage, letter headings, website etc to make clear the membership of the family of schools.
How will the voice of the school’s headteacher and governors be represented in the Trust’s work?
Through the structure of the trust we expect the views of constituent member schools to have a strong voice in the running of the trust. This is through the governance structure, the membership of the board, the CAT Executive meeting of Headteachers and any working groups representing special, primary and secondary sectors.
Will you be selecting students?
We operate a non-selective policy with admissions arrangements for our primary schools. These are the same as the admissions policies for the local authority schools that they replace. We are committed to the education of local students on a comprehensive basis.
If Kingsthorpe College is over subscribed then it can allocate up to 24 places, 10% of the intake to the students who have demonstrated particular aptitude in the visual or performing arts.
What would the membership of the governing board look like?
Upon joining the trust, school governing boards may continue with their current membership and exercise their full range of functions and responsibilities. They should expect to designate at least one trust governor and ensure the support of the trust in training and gathering expertise as needed. The responsibilities will include, with trust support, performance management of the Headteacher. These arrangements will remain unless the school is deemed to be at risk of failing its students as judged in anticipation of or as a result of an Ofsted inspection. If this should be the case then the trust, as part of its responsibility to take action, may exercise the right to reconstitute the governing board and appoint the majority of its members to ensure that the apparent weaknesses can be effectively addressed.
In Somerset a Regional Board has been established to deliver the trust’s vision and values across the region. It also provides regional overview, scrutiny and challenge of academy education and financial performance.
Would a trust representative sit on local governing boards?
What percentage of the budget would the trust retain?
We currently passport between 95%-97% of all general annual grant to schools. The amount of retained grant is dependent on the board of trustees and any changes to the amount distributed to schools is agreed in advance with the school’s governing body and headteacher.
What would the retained money ‘buy’ for the school?
A range of products and services, school improvement support and advice etc (See ‘Building success’ tab.) The level and nature would be determined by the trust and schools but could and should develop into a range of services that are useful to the member schools and can harness the purchasing power of a group of schools to get better value than before.
What 'back office' support would a sponsored academy be offered? – in regard to Finance, HR, Land, Premises and Health and Safety?
It is possible as a collaborative trust that schools could support each other and make savings. However, we have a range of individuals and partner companies who have worked with us before to supply finance, HR, legal, buildings, land, health and safety, etc advice and support. They are all keen to work with CAT and we would expect to negotiate with schools a better and more cost effective service where that was necessary. We provide HR and payroll service through a partner organisation.
Could trust schools combine together to purchase/ procure goods and services?
Absolutely. This makes great sense and would be an exercise undertaken by the trust to present to schools.
Will EdisonLearning be making a profit from their involvement in the academies?
Academy trusts are ‘not for profit’ and are subject to law and scrutiny through audit and their funding agreements with the Department for Education (DfE). As such, sponsor companies, as charity trustees, are prevented from benefiting financially from their involvement as sponsors. EdisonLearning and the trust have signed a legal tripartite agreement with the DfE to ensure this is the case.
What support will be offered to a school in regard to the legal process of converting to academy?
For schools working to join the trust the legal support would come through specialists who have a track record in Academy transfers. We have worked with several firms and the legal advisers would be procured to give quality service and VFM. There would be no cost to the school budget. We also provide business manager support and experienced project managers to help steer schools though the process of conversion.
How would the conversion be ‘project managed’?
The Trust would appoint an external consultant to support the conversion process and work with lawyers to support all legal work. Any additional work bespoke to the school’s needs would be procured separately.
How would stakeholder engagement be managed?
We would work with the school to identify the stakeholders and determine the best strategy…for them and the project. Be assured that issues would not be allowed to go unnoticed as this could undermine the academy once opened.
How will any Private Finance Initiative (PFI) issue be managed?
This has been managed several times and lawyers are used to working this through with PFI companies and the Local Authority (LA) to whom a lot of responsibility rests as they have the contract with the PFI company (which will remain). There has been some national news recently about some academy projects being delayed owing to PFI contracts but many of these issues are resolved and give a background to solve any future negotiations. Much will depend on how co-operative the LA is as essentially this is its responsibility.
What happens if a sponsored academy goes into an Ofsted category?
The sponsor is required to take swift and decisive action which is not any different from a community school. Academies are still monitored and inspected in the same way as ordinary schools.
What happens if a school goes into an Ofsted category before the transfer to Academy status?
We would need to do everything possible to support the school, and particularly those in their final year (6, 11 or 13) and make sure the transfer to being an academy did not disrupt their education.
What if a school wants to leave the trust?
This is a long term commitment and should be treated as such. It is a ‘marriage’ and it is important that schools choose to work with sponsors of a similar mind set and values to make the relationship successful. There should be no intention to ‘leave’ at the outset. The Regional Schools Commissioner would determine whether or not a school could leave a trust.
What are the implications of the school being at or below floor standards in attainment or progress?
The Trust would have the responsibility to take action to improve the school. This could be in a number of ways but would involve a range of measures to ensure the school would improve and has the capacity and skills to do so. Staff from the trust would be involved in both brokering and providing support and working with the school.