Frequently Asked Questions

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Would our school lose its identity, ethos and traditions?

No.  Each school will retain its own individual identity whilst being part of a Catholic Multi-Academy Trust and thus benefiting from the mutual support for the ethos and traditions of Catholic education.


Would the name of the school change?

The term “school” would be replaced with the term “Academy” so they will become known as Catholic Voluntary Academies rather than Catholic Voluntary Aided Schools.


Does this mean that we would need to buy a new uniform?

No.  Any changes to the uniform would have to be proposed to, consulted upon, and then approved by the Governing Bodies of the individual schools.


Do you intend to change the school curriculum?

Our schools would continue to offer a broad and balanced curriculum, however, an Academy is not bound by the prescriptions of the national curriculum and Governors are conscious that this freedom could offer an additional safeguard from an increasing secular agenda which may not accord with Catholic teaching.


Do you intend to alter the length of terms or the school day?

There are no plans to change the length of terms or change the timing of the school day in the first instance, however a some alternations may be made in the future to accommodate shared staff training.


Does this mean that children at St Bede’s, St Benedict’s, St Joseph’s and St Paulinus would automatically transfer to Sacred Heart and pupils from other primary schools will be disadvantaged?

No.  The Governors of Sacred Heart School will continue to be their own admissions authority and places will be allocated according to their published admissions policy. The admissions policy will be in line with the code of practice.


Does the formation of a Catholic Multi-Academy Trust mean that only Catholic children will be admitted into the schools?

No. Although the CMAT is designed to support Catholic education, all the schools in the Trust welcome applications for children of other Christian traditions, other faiths or no religion.


Who would run the CMAT, what would the Governance arrangements be and would there be representation from each school on the Governing Body?

The Trust will be a legal entity registered at Companies House.  It will have an overarching Trust Board of Directors.  However, each Academy within the Trust will retain its own local governing body and will be represented on the Board of Directors by its Chair of Governors and Head Teacher.  In addition, two elected parent Governors from across the Academies in the Trust are required to serve on the Board of Directors.  The Bishop will also appoint “Foundation Directors”, in the same way he appoints Foundation Governors at the moment.  The Board will delegate via a Scheme of Delegation certain functions to the Local Governing Body and Head Teachers of each school.


The Trust Board of Directors will be responsible for:

  • ensuring that each Academy in the Trust follows the national codes for appeals, admissions and special needs. 
  • managing any shared projects that develop across the Trust
  • authorising the annual Trust statutory accounts that must be submitted to Companies House. 


The individual Academy Governing Bodies will

  • retain responsibility for the day to day management of their Academy
  • deal with the recruitment of staff
  • retain responsibility for curriculum planning
  • be responsible for admissions


What is the relationship between the Multi-Academy Trust Board and the individual school governing bodies: who tells who what to do?

In the model documents much of the decision making is delegated to the Academy Local Governing Body.  The Trust will have the statutory duties on standards and finance.  However, if an Academy finds itself in difficulty the Trust Board can take back or reduce the decision making powers.  A strength of our schools is that they are all distinctive and rooted in their local parish communities.  All decisions should be made as close to grass roots as good governance allows.


What about OfSTED?

Academies are still subject to Diocesan Section 48 and OfSTED inspections, and will remain accountable to the Diocese and to the Secretary of State for Education.  The Trust Executive Committee will receive regular reports from each of the Academies on attainment and financial management.


How will this affect budgets?

Each Academy within the Trust will receive its own funding and is responsible for managing its own budget and maintaining its own financial health, however the Board may also seek agreement from all of the schools to share certain services and costs which will in turn free up funding in individual academies. The Trust Board will retain oversight and accountability of all the funding that comes into the CMAT.  The funding for maintained schools is routed through Local Authorities who “top slice” the funding to construct and deliver a set of support services across all their maintained schools.  Because the funding for Academies comes straight to them the Academies themselves will be able to decide which of the support services they commission and where from. 

Receiving funding directly from the DfE would mean that all five schools could receive additional funding called the Education Services Grant. There are some services that we will may buy back from the authority out of this additional funding, however, the remaining additional resources would provide the Governing Bodies with an opportunity to prioritise spending for each individual school. 

In addition, the CMAT model will enable our schools to share resources and services more effectively and to provide consistent and continuous support for young people in keeping with our ethos and mission.


Is the real reason for this to save money?

The primary reason for converting to a multi-academy trust is to preserve the high quality Catholic education in the area, however there are potential savings and it is expected that additional funds for the schools will be available after the conversion.


Will the school buses still run to the schools and how will they be funded?

The arrangements for transport to Catholic Multi-Academy Trust schools are the same as the current arrangements to Voluntary Aided Schools. 


Do you intend to change staff pay and conditions?

No.  The Bishop has directed that the current Teachers’ Pay and Conditions (Burgundy Book) and the Support Staff Pay and Conditions (National Joint Council) will remain.  All existing staff will be covered by TUPE – Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations.


Will the creation of the CMAT affect Sacred Heart School’s involvement in Trust4Learning?

As part of the conversion process, the new academy will continue to remain an associate member of Trust4Learning and will continue the excellent collaborative work with the existing Trust schools for the mutual benefit of all members of the trust.  Our commitment to partnership working with other schools, organisations and communities will remain.


Will Sacred Heart School retain its Science Specialism?

Academies are in exactly the same position as other schools regarding specialist status.  Sacred Heart will therefore remain as a Specialist Science College


How will converting to an academy affect SEN support?

The excellent SEN provision in all the schools will continue with the added benefit to pupils of a more seamless transition between the primary and secondary sector.


What changes will there be on a day to day basis?

There will be very little change to the way the schools are run on a daily basis.  However, the increase in revenue will enable us to maintain, and improve our high standards.


Why not wait until all schools are forced to become academies?

It is the Government’s vision that the majority of schools in England will over time convert to Academy status and will cease to be “maintained” by their Local Authority. Local Authorities are adapting to this new climate by selling services in packages.  So even remaining as we are, a Voluntary Aided (VA) school, under the Local Authority would look different in the future than it does today.

Under the Diocesan model governance of our schools would remain largely unchanged as the majority of governors would be appointed by the Diocese and there would be staff and parent governors as now.  The only difference would be the establishment of an overarching Multi-Academy Trust Board.

A number of other elements would remain unchanged.  An Academy would still be bound by the statutory codes for Special Educational Needs and Admissions.


What is the process of change?

The process of becoming an academy is comparatively straightforward taking between 6 to 9 months.  The stages in the process are:

  • Registration of interest with the Department of Education
  • Consultation with all those with an interest in the school, but particularly staff, parents, unions, the parish, wider local communities and other linked organisations.
  • Consideration by each school’s Full Governing Body, who will determine if they wish to take the next step of seeking Diocesan permission to apply to the DfE for an Academy Order.
  • Application to the Diocesan for permission to convert to an Academy.  If this is successful the Governing Body applies to the DfE for an Academy Order.  At this point each school will name each of the other schools who are to be part of the CMAT.  This is the most complex and demanding part of the process as during the application stage legal work will be undertaken to establish land ownership and transfer information and to ensure continuity of service provision for HR, payroll, etc.
  • Completion will take place approximately one month prior to the establishment of the Trust when the final legal documents and the funding agreement will be signed.


Once the conversion process has started can the school pull out?

The Governing Body of each school can call a halt to the conversion after the consultation period, prior to applying for the Academy Order or before signing of the academy funding agreement.  The Diocese of Middlesbrough requires a minimum of three schools to commit to convert and form a multi-academy trust.  A school that chooses not to convert would remain as a Voluntary Aided school, however, they could also decide to delay conversion and join the multi-academy trust as an academy at a later date.