Below I have organised the questions which were raised by our informal consultation and added other frequently asked questions that have occurred with other schools.
Teaching and Learning
What impact does academy status have on special educational needs (SEN) provision?
A: Birches Head
Will Birches Head continue to expect high standards?
A: The freedoms afforded an Academy to innovate and deviate if needed from the National Curriculum will allow Birches Head to continue its journey yet further. We already are recognised nationally for innovation and personalising to the needs of our students and this will allow the Leadership Group and Governors of Birches Head to really tailor provision that we know will get the best out of our young people.
Will exams change?
A: We already have certain freedoms but as said, this will allow us to tailor provision to keep us at the forefront of educational provision. Exams will not change unless they do nationally but we will be able to explore certain avenues that may appeal whilst remembering that we serve the community and have a reputation to keep!
Will the conversion process affect Teaching & Learning?
A: The only impact we expect to see is a positive one with the power to innovate yet further and deliver a curriculum that continues to inspire and is tailored to our students.
Will there be more money in the school if we convert?
A: Some. The purpose of this is not to amass money but to use the opportunities that any extra funding gives to tailor the curriculum to best meet the needs of our learners.
How stable is the funding in the future?
A: There are no guarantees on this but we will continue to budget based upon our existing money and not on the ‘extra’ we would receive. This money will be used to develop effective practice and support learning in school and in partnership with the community. If the funding changes then we will, as we would have anyway, continue to budget prudently.
Will there be any changes to staff pay and conditions if the school becomes an Academy?
A: Under the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) Act (known as TUPE) staff will transfer to the Academy on exactly the same terms and conditions of employment as they currently have.
Will my terms and conditions remain unchanged forever?
A: Once the transfer has taken place the Academy may consult at any time with staff and their trade union representatives on changes to terms and conditions. We do not anticipate the need to make any changes to terms and conditions in the immediate future but are obviously mindful of the shifting economic climate. It is important to note that any changes because of this would have been looked at regardless of us being an academy
Will pension arrangements change?
A: No. Teachers will remain in the existing Teacher Pension Scheme. Support staff will also remain in the Local Government Pension Scheme although this would be a defined section of the Scheme specific to the Academy. It is not anticipated that this will mean any changes to employee contribution rates or benefits.
What about the future?
A: Academy status or not, we would have to respond to shifting financial futures. This will not be changed if we convert. We would still need to operate a prudent budget and have a staffing structure that reflects this. Our aim will, as ever, be to get the best results for our students.
What other services will we need to buy in?
A: There are certain legal, accountancy services and other services that we will need to buy in but these will not be at the expense of standards. If we work with other schools, we would be able to negotiate favourable rates.
Will parents still have a say?
A: We are a co-operative. As such we have a parent’s member group which everyone is welcome to join, a Trust Forum with representation from the parents member group. We want to have a Governing Body for Birches Head so views will be represented through this. As a Co-operative Converted Academy our Governing Body would have parents on this as now. We will also continue to quality assure what we do through parent consultation as now.
Will admissions procedures or admissions policy change as an Academy?
A: No. Admissions procedures will remain in line with the nationally agreed Admissions Code of Practice. Currently, as a Foundation Trust school we publish our admissions policy and consult on this in line with Code of Practice. This would not change.
Do you intend to introduce academic selection?
A: No. We fully intend to remain an all-ability comprehensive serving our local community and the surrounding area.
Is the Governing Body confident it can recruit Academy Trustees who have the skills and time to carry out the role?
A: As a Co-operative Foundation trust we already have Trust Governors and established partnerships. We will ensure that the right people are on the trust. As a Co-operative Conversion Academy we would be committed to ensuring there are representation from our current partners, trust member groups such as parents and community members. It may present an opportunity to broaden the net of what we do but we would remain committed to the voice and workings of a Governing Body.
Will Birches Head have the same term dates as the other schools in the area?
A: Whilst there is the freedom to set our own dates for terms we would wish to remain aligned with other city schools as this would have terrible knock on effects with families, staff and relations with other schools
Will there be any changes to catchment or admissions?
A: We will still operate under the local agreements for admissions and for the catchment of the school. This would only change if there were a significant shift in demographics locally that forced a change. Any such change would be done through the LA
What say do parents have if they are unhappy about the way the school is running?
A: Academies are not part of the local authority and, therefore, if parents are not satisfied or are unhappy with the outcome, they cannot complain, as they can now, to the local council to ask them to intervene on their behalf. We would seek to ensure that the Governing Body of the school remain key in how we self evaluate and run. Parents will still be represented at Governance level and we will continue to have a complaints policy that involves governors
Will there be additional costs to parents?
A: No, we will remain as we are. There will be no change in uniform or anything to incur any additional costs that do not already exist. If we change the name of the school we would provide the badge.
Would we merge with another school?
A: No. The conversion route to academy status allows good schools with capacity to improve to convert as a single school.
We like the name Academy – could we change our name?
A: Yes – but we would consult regarding this and gather a view from all stakeholders