Potential Academy Conversion
Chessington School has worked closely with the Every Child, Every Day Academy Trust (ECED) since 2018. ECED is a small, local multi-academy trust that also includes Grey Court and Hollyfield secondary schools. The Governing Body is proposing that Chessington joins ECED, which would involve Chessington becoming an academy.
On this page, you can view the consultation document and a more detailed Q&A document.
Proposal to become an academy and join Every Child, Every Day Academy Trust (ECED)
The Governing Body of Chessington School is proposing that the school becomes an academy school within the Every Child, Every Day Academy Trust (ECED) with whom it has worked closely since 2018. The Governing Body would welcome your feedback about this proposal before it makes a final decision.
The consultation closed on Friday, 9th October 2020. The responses are being carefully considered by the Governing Body and will inform their decision about whether to proceed.
Rationale for the proposal
Chessington School has worked in partnership with the Every Child, Every Day Academy Trust (“ECED”) since 2017/18. ECED includes two other secondary schools – Grey Court School in Ham, Richmond, and Hollyfield School in Surbiton, Kingston. Since 2018 Mr Ali has been working with senior leaders at ECED in areas such as curriculum development, assessment and tracking of pupil progress, safeguarding and well-being. In September 2019 Mr Ali became the interim Chief Executive of ECED as well as the Headteacher of Chessington. The schools have been working together as a family of schools and have seen benefits already such as staffing, development of curriculum and financial savings.
Joining the trust enables Chessington’s governors and leaders to plan for the future within a secure partnership with Grey Court and Hollyfield. It allows Chessington’s teachers to share best practice that will improve the teaching at all three schools. Extensive joint medium term planning and collaboration in areas such as staffing and training is more difficult while the other schools are within ECED and we are a maintained school within Kingston Council.
Both Grey Court and Hollyfield are high performing schools, with Grey Court having been judged as ‘outstanding’ at its last two Ofsted inspections. We believe that all three schools would benefit from Chessington joining as it provides greater collective staff expertise that can be shared and developed for the benefit of each school and all of our pupils.
Implications of the proposal
If Chessington School does become an academy within the Every Child, Every Day Academy Trust it would:
- Retain the values and ethos that are long established at Chessington School;
- Retain the name ‘Chessington School’;
- Retain the same uniform, school day timings, and continue to set the school year within the context of local schools;
- Retain the admissions criteria used to determine who is offered places; and
- Retain the existing staff (including Mr Ali as Headteacher), who would transfer their employment to ECED.
There would be no change to the ethos and values of Chessington School, nor to our expectations of students and staff. All pupils at the school would continue to attend the school.
Since 2010, government policy has allowed and encouraged the conversion of schools to academy status. Of the approximately 3,300 secondary phase schools in England, just over 2,500 are academies (77%). Within Kingston, Chessington is the only secondary school that is still maintained by Kingston Council while all of the others are academies (nine chose to convert, and one opened directly as a free school academy). Within Richmond the only secondary schools still maintained by Richmond Council are faith schools (one Church of England and one Catholic). Within the parts of Surrey closest to us all secular secondary schools have converted to academy status.
What is an academy?
An academy is an independent state school, funded directly from central government. When a Council maintained school becomes an academy they gain some additional freedoms and responsibilities (such as regarding employment terms and conditions). The more detailed Question and Answer section below, includes more information about the differences between a community school and an academy. Further information about academies is also available on the DfE website (www.education.gov.uk/academies).
How can I have my say?
You can have your say by:
- Completing the online questionnaire available on the school website (www.chessington.kingston.sch.uk) (paper copies are available from the school office);
- Writing to the Headteacher at the school address;
- Attending the meeting for parents that will be held online at 6pm on 28 September 2020 (a GoogleMeet meeting link will be sent to parents in advance).
- Staff at Chessington and ECED as well as other local stakeholders are also being consulted.
The consultation closes on Friday 9 th October 2020. Please share your views before then.
What happens next?
Governors will consider all responses to the consultation before they make a decision about whether to become an academy and join ECED. If the proposal proceeds, it is anticipated that Chessington would become an academy on or after 1st January 2021. If the proposal does not proceed, Chessington would remain a community school maintained by Kingston Council.
Questions and Answers
This document has been issued by Chessington School as part of the consultation about whether the school should become an academy within the Every Child, Every Day Academy Trust (ECED).
What is an academy?
1. What is an Academy?
An Academy is an independent state school, funded directly from central government rather than through a local authority. A charitable company limited by guarantee (the Academy Trust) is responsible for the academy, and the Academy Trust signs the Funding Agreement (the contract) with the Secretary of State as part of the establishment of the academy.
Legislation requires that an academy has the following characteristics:
- That it offers a balanced and broadly based curriculum;
- That it provides education for pupils of different abilities; and
- That it provides education for pupils who are wholly or mainly drawn from the area in which the school is situated.
2. How is an academy different from a community school?
An academy has several differences to a community school, including:
- Admissions – an academy is responsible for setting and implementing its admissions policy and for prioritising applications. An academy must continue to operate within the requirements of the national School Admissions Code in the same way as maintained schools, including full participation in the local coordinated admissions scheme administered by the local authority;
- Land and Buildings – the land and buildings of the school are leased to the Academy Trust for 125 years at a peppercorn rent from the Local Authority and the academy would be responsible for the land and buildings (and reliant on the Secretary of State for capital funding);Land and Buildings – the land and buildings of the school are leased to the Academy Trust for 125 years at a peppercorn rent from the Local Authority and the academy would be responsible for the land and buildings (and reliant on the Secretary of State for capital funding);
- Curriculum – an academy has to offer a broad and balanced curriculum for pupils of differing abilities, including Maths, English, and Science, but it does not have to follow the National Curriculum; the Funding Agreement requires that an academy teaches Religious Education;
- Employment – the Academy Trust becomes the employer of school staff, rather than the local authority. Academies also have freedom to set new terms and conditions for future staff;
- Funding – the academy receives its existing school budget and also its share of the funding that is retained by the local authority for maintained schools; and
- Governance – ECED (which is a charitable company) would be responsible for all the schools within the Trust. Local Governing Bodies provide local governance, and support and challenge to the Headteacher and leadership team, and include parents and staff.
Some of these responsibilities are already held by Foundation and Voluntary-Aided Schools Voluntary-Aided schools, for instance, are already responsible for their admissions, own their land and buildings (often through a Diocese) and employ their staff directly.
3. Does Ofsted inspect academies?
Yes, in exactly the same way as for maintained schools.
4. How can the Secretary of State intervene in an academy?
The Secretary of State has the ability to terminate the Funding Agreement for each of the schools within the Academy Trust if specified situations, predominantly if a school is eligible for ‘special measures’ or ‘requires significant improvement’ following an Ofsted inspection, student performance unacceptably low, there has been a serious breakdown in the governance or management of the academy, or the safety of pupils or staff is threatened. In this situation the Secretary of State would be able to enter into a Funding Agreement with another Academy Trust to take over the governance and management of the academy.
5. How would the academy be governed?
Every Child, Every Day Academy Trust (ECED) is already an Academy Trust. The Academy Trust signs a Funding Agreement (the contract) with the Secretary of State for each school within the Academy Trust.
ECED has a Board of Trustees that is legally responsible for all of the schools within the Trust (technically they are the legal Governing Body for each school).
Each school within ECED has a Local Governing Body to provide local governance, and support and challenge to the Headteacher and leadership team, and include parents and staff.
An Academy Trust also has a small number of Members. These Members have a similar role to ‘shareholders’ in a private company limited by shares (although there is no dividend), with the ability to appoint some of the Trustees.
Chessington School has been an Associate Member of ECED since spring 2018.
6. How would parents become part of the Local Governing Body?
The same process as for the school currently. When there is a vacancy, applications are sought from the parents at the school, which may outline particular skill sets that would be useful to the Local Governing Body. If there are the same number or fewer applications than vacancies then those individuals who applied are appointed. If there are more applications than vacancies, the parents vote to decide who becomes a governor.
7. Do academies receive extra funding?
Academies receive their funding direct from the Government rather than via their local authority. The budget is calculated in the same way as now, with a few (fairly small) technical changes for areas such as rates. The academy financial year runs from September to August.
8. Would there be changes to the number of pupils admitted to Chessington?
9. Would there be changes to the admissions criteria?
10. What are the safeguards for vulnerable pupils?
Under the terms of the Funding Agreement (which is the contract between ECED and the Secretary of State), an academy has to act in exactly the same way as a maintained school in relation to Special Education Needs, behaviour, and exclusions.
11. Who is responsible for deciding if a student needs an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan?
The local authority would retain the legal responsibility for leading this process, and for determining whether Chessington is named on the EHCP.
Land and buildings
12. What happens to the land occupied by Chessington?
As a community school, the land is currently owned by Kingston Council, who would grant a lease to ECED. The local authority would retain the freehold title to the land. ECED would become responsible for the land and buildings in accordance with the lease.
13. How does an academy access capital funding?
Academies receive some capital funding, called Devolved Formula Capital, according to the same methodology as maintained schools. This funding is provided directly to the academy. Whereas Chessington School currently relies on the local authority for funding for more substantial works, whether these are for repair / maintenance or for improvements, academies are generally reliant on central government.
What could change in the future?
14. What could change in the future?
If Chessington remains as a maintained school, changes in the future could originate from central government, the Kingston Council, or the Governing Body. The Governing Body already has the powers to propose changes to the school day or year, curriculum, or how the budget is spent. Kingston Council could propose changes to the admissions number and policy, and support staff terms and conditions.
If Chessington converts to academy status, ECED could propose changes in the future. Many of these changes would require formal consultation with parents and/or staff and their Unions. The Trustees could decide some changes, while others would require the agreement of the Secretary of State. At all times, and on all issues, the Trustees’ are required to act in the best interests of the academy.
15. Who is being consulted?
The consultation document has been issued to parents and staff at Chessington, Kingston Council, local schools, the local MP, and the Trade Unions recognised by Kingston Council.
16. Will the Governors listen to the views from the consultation?
Yes, every response will be considered. Responses might include arguments for and against the proposal. The responses will help the Governing Body consider the relevant issues before it makes a decision about whether to proceed.
Questions and Answers – second document
Issued Friday, 2nd October 2020
This document details questions that have been asked already during the consultation. It is issued in addition to the consultation document and Q&A document that were published at the beginning of the consultation.
1. Why is the school considering this now?
School evaluated academy options in 2017/18 and selected ECED as the most appropriate one to join. We became an Associate Member with a Memorandum of Understanding when it became apparent that conversion and fully joining ECED was not possible due to our financial position at the time. Since then the relationship with ECED has grown with greater collaboration across a range of areas, which included Mr Ali becoming the interim (part time) CEO of ECED as well as being Headteacher of Chessington. We believe that the school has seen real benefit from working with ECED and that the relationship has been an integral part of the improvements that we have made educationally and financially at Chessington in the last couple of years. But there is still more to do. This proposal is about cementing our place within ECED so that we have a family of schools to collaborate with to continue our improvement.
2. Is this an appropriate time to be considering this change given Covid?
The Memorandum of Understanding with ECED was for two years (i.e. to 2020) so we need to consider this now. As well as ECED, the Council and the DfE (through the Regional Schools Commissioner) want to know our intentions. While a number of things, including this, were paused during the summer term while the school was largely closed, the school is now fully open and there is no reason that the process cannot proceed.
3. What are the benefits to Chessington of joining ECED?
We have already benefited from working with ECED. As a small local trust, Chessington has had and would have a strong voice within the trust. Collaboration has provided opportunities for staff to collaborate and broaden their experience – which has impacted our curriculum planning, schemes of work and how we teach our pupils. Being part of a family of schools aids recruitment and retention of staff as they can see opportunities to continue to learn, develop and grow within the trust. Working with ECED has supported our pupil recruitment and growing reputation. Working with Hollyfield has supported sixth form progression for our pupils and that collaboration would support the development of our own sixth form in the future.
4. Were other trusts considered?
Yes, Governors considered other trusts and carefully evaluated them to consider the benefits to Chessington and their cultural fit with our school and community. ECED was the trust identified as the most beneficial match.
5. Could we achieve similar synergies if we linked closely with other council maintained secondary schools rather than ECED?
We are the only council maintained secondary school in Kingston. There are no secular coeducational council maintained secondary schools in Richmond or in the areas of Surrey that are closest to us. So while we could collaborate with other council maintained secular secondary schools, these would not be local to us – which reduces the benefit and impact of the collaboration. We believe that formal collaboration within an academy trust is the strongest family of schools that we could be part of.
6. Could Chessington create a new single academy trust?
While legally this is possible, it would not get approval from DfE. Their policy clearly favours schools joining multi academy trusts.
7. Is ECED looking to grow and include more schools as 3 schools is still small for a multi academy trust?
ECED intends to remain a local trust. We understand that it would be interested in other local schools joining, and is particularly interested in forming links with primary schools that feed into the secondary schools to embed collaboration between primary and secondary.
8. Could ECED be taken over by/merge into a larger MAT? Could a school within it move between MATs?
At a school level, if an academy becomes eligible for intervention (most often, but not only, after an ‘inadequate’ judgement in an Ofsted inspection) then the DfE is able to require the school to be transferred to another academy trust. The DfE does not have those powers for individual schools otherwise. If the school is not eligible for intervention, it could only transfer to another academy trust if the trust it is leaving, the trust it is joining and the DfE all agree to the transfer – so a school itself cannot ‘force’ a transfer.
For a whole academy trust, the trust could decide to transfer all of its schools to another academy trust (so merge into it), which would require the agreement of the existing trust, the future trust, and the DfE. The DfE does not have the legal powers to force a trust to close (its powers are vested primarily at school level), but it may encourage a trust down that route if it believes the trust would be unable to function effectively in the future.
The best way to be in charge of your own destiny is to continue to provide high quality education.
Implications for the school
9. Would joining ECED help or hinder our aspiration to have a sixth form?
Potentially it could support this aspiration. It may be that being part of ECED would enable us to overcome the challenges of setting up a sixth form, and collaborate to establish an educationally and financially viable offer.
10. Would the daily experience of pupils change if we join ECED?
The day to day timetable and offer would not change, but behind the scenes students would benefit from the increased staff collaboration and the increased opportunities for students that come from being part of a trust.
11. Would the admissions policy change?
12. Would the curriculum change?
No. We would look to expand curriculum choices as pupil numbers grow, and our desire to have a sixth form is well known.
13. What services does the school receive from the Council that it would lose if it converts?
How would it replace those services? Would they cost more and/or be lower quality? The Council provides certain statutory duties for Chessington, several of which (such as safeguarding and SEND) would remain. The Council’s school improvement role would cease, and the school would source that as part of ECED in the same way as their current successful schools do. Other Council services are already traded – i.e. the school has the choice whether to buy from the Council or from other providers and we make those decisions based on quality and cost.
14. How would the academy cope in the event of an emergency (such as a fire) if it is not maintained by the local authority?
All of the other secondary schools in Kingston are academies. They continue to work closely with the local authority to collectively provide high quality education for our community. That relationship continues irrespective of the legal status of the school – we are all on the same team!
So if an emergency arose, any local school would work closely with the Council. For a number of issues the Council may still have statutory responsibilities – such as if there was a safeguarding concern. For emergencies that are covered by insurance, such as a fire, the school would continue to have adequate insurance in place and the process would be the same as now; in addition, the local authority retains the legal responsibility for providing sufficient school places and so would need to work closely with the school to secure alternative accommodation if the school building was unavailable.
Implications for staff
15. Do staff automatically transfer to ECED? Would staff who did not agree with academy status also transfer? Would Mr Ali remain the Headteacher?
In short, yes to all three questions. All staff who have a permanent or fixed term contact of employment with the Governing Body of Chessington School that extends to or beyond the transfer date would have a right to transfer their employment to ECED. That includes Mr Ali who would continue to be the Headteacher. If a member of staff did not want to work in an academy then they would be able to refuse to transfer, but this would legally mean that they were resigning. Our understanding is that staff choosing not to transfer is extremely rare and we hope that no staff at Chessington would not wish to continue to be part of our journey of improvement.
16. Would staff be required to relocate to other ECED schools?
No, the contract of employment of our staff states or implies that their place of work is Chessington. So if we joined ECED we could not just relocate a member of staff to Grey Court or Hollyfield. What being part of a trust does offer is the ability for staff to gain greater experience if they wish to – by working with or at another school perhaps for part of their time, for example to gain sixth form experience.
17. How long does TUPE protection last?
TUPE applies to the contract of employment, so it lasts as long as you hold that contract. It is not ‘time limited’. Kingston Council as current employer could propose changes now, and would have to follow a process of consultation before any changes could take effect. A future employer would have the same rights, but the proposals would generally need to be unconnected to the transfer (i.e. if government funding reduced and so a restructure was necessary).
18. Would there be shared posts with other ECED schools?
In the future new posts could be shared so that people spent time in (or worked with) more than one school if that was appropriate.
19. Do academy schools find it harder to recruit and retain staff?
Staff want to work at a school with a positive culture and reputation, with high quality and supportive colleagues, and where they share the values, ethos and expectations of the school. We believe that we would continue to be an attractive place to work if we remain as a community school – but we believe that joining ECED could make us more attractive because of the broader development and career opportunities that there can be within a multi academy trust.
Process and timing
20. Is consultation of 4 weeks normal?
The Academies Act does not set a prescribed timeframe. 4 term time weeks provide sufficient time for individuals to consider the issues and respond.
21. What is Mr Ali’s role in the process given his dual roles as Headteacher of the school and Interim CEO of ECED?
The relationship with ECED has evolved, organically and in good faith, since the school became an Associate Member in 2018. It is essential, however, that the decision making at Chessington around this decision is procedurally correct. Accordingly, Mr Ali is not involved in the discussion or decision about whether Chessington joins ECED – the non-conflicted other Governors can ask him for information (in his role as Headteacher) but he will not be present for the discussion and decision. Similarly, Ms Hammond and Mr Tan will not be involved as a result of their relationships with ECED.
22. If the decision is to convert, is 1 January realistic? Or is it likely to be after that?
The consultation document talks about conversion happening on or after 1 January – 1 January is the earliest possible date. Whether it is 1 January or later depends upon when decisions are made by the Chessington Governing Body, ECED trustees, and the Secretary of State. It then also depends on how long the implementation takes (such as legal work and integration into some ECED systems such as their finance and banking arrangements).
23. Does ECED provide high quality education? Would SEND provision, or support for disadvantaged pupils, be neglected as part of ECED?
Yes, ECED provides high quality education. Grey Court has received an ‘Outstanding’ judgement at its last two inspections and Hollyfield is judged as ‘good’. Both schools have strong outcomes and progress data, including for disadvantaged pupils. SEND provision and support for disadvantaged pupils would certainly not be neglected as part of ECED.
ECED stands for Every Child, Every Day – that is their moral purpose and it is as inclusive as it sounds. The commitment to SEND and to disadvantaged pupils is exceptionally strong. Grey Court hosts part of Strathmore School (a special school in Richmond) on its site and has an additionally resourced provision for pupils with speech, language and communication needs within the school.
24. What is the financial position at ECED?
The 2018/19 accounts are available publicly from ECED or Companies House. One of Mr Ali’s priorities in 2019/20 was to improve financial management and control across the trust, using experience gained here as a result of the challenging financial context of Chessington. Academy financial years run from 1 September to 31 August, so the 2019/20 financial year has recently finished. The external audit of the figures will take place in the next few weeks, and that is clearly of considerable interest to the Governing Body. Governors will examine the financial situation very carefully.
25. Do ECED schools follow the national curriculum?
Implications of not joining ECED
26. What are the implications if the school decides not to join ECED?
Chessington would remain a community school that is maintained by Kingston Council. The Governing Body could explore whether to join an alternative academy trust, and the Council and/or Department for Education could encourage this approach if they wished to (but they could not force the Governing Body unless Chessington becomes eligible for intervention).
27. Could the relationship with ECED reduce/fall apart if we do not join? Would Mr Ali remain Interim CEO of ECED if the school does not join?
We cannot speak for ECED, but if you collaborate for two years in good faith and then one party decides not to strengthen that, then there is a chance the other party would seek other partners instead. It seems unlikely that ECED would wish Mr Ali to remain as Interim CEO for too long into the future if Chessington has decided not to join.
28. Would Mr Ali remain as Headteacher here if Governors choose not to join ECED despite Mr Ali being in favour of joining?
Mr Ali’s commitment is to the school and its pupils. If Governors decide not to join ECED Mr Ali would need to look for other opportunities that could bring similar benefits to the school and its pupils.