Joining the Morris Education Trust
A multi-academy trust is a single charitable company which operates a group of schools. Multi-academy trusts are ultimately accountable and responsible for the performance of all schools within their trust. In the case of the MET, each school continues to have a local governing body to which key functions are delegated. We have developed a model which will see a strong local body providing that ‘critical friendship’ to the Headteacher. Half the governing body is elected (from parents and staff) and therefore continues that local accountability to key stakeholders. Our vision is for local schools to have strong, flourishing relationships with their communities and therefore the remainder of the body would be drawn from this community.
Multi-academy trusts provide a mechanism through which the school system can be developed, particularly where there are existing strong schools with the capacity and desire to collaborate and partner with other schools. There are many reasons why a school may wish to join a multi-academy trust. As a single legal entity, a multi-academy trust allows schools to achieve strong collaboration and accountability to drive up school standards. A multi-academy trust can provide a clear, consistent strategy and vision across a group of schools working together, and can also negotiate contracts and services that achieve better value for money than if schools operated individually.
Clearly it is important that schools discuss options and challenge rationale in order to make positive choices about the kind of partnership that you wish to work with. Here are some key questions that Governors and schools should consider:
- Why is your school interested in joining MET and what do you hope to achieve?
- Do the values, vision and ethos of MET match your own philosophy and ambitions?
- How will joining MET benefit the achievement and progress of pupils?
- How are resources shared across MET?
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions.
Who is part of the Morris Education Trust?
The Morris Education Trust (MET) became formally constituted as a multi-academy trust on 31 October 2016. The Trust has been built on the successful track record of Impington Village College and Impington International Sixth Form (IVC), identified in 2017 as a consistently high performing school and one of the strongest non-selective schools in the country for student progress.
The Trust has established a teaching school alliance (TSA), called the Morris Teaching School Alliance. Morris TSA is working closely with other alliances in the area, CASSA, Anglian Gateway and the Lark to establish a new network of TSAs, called ‘Nucleus’ to work with primary, secondary and special schools across the Eastern region.
Witchford Village College (WVC) joined the MET in April 2017 and is working closely with key staff from across the Trust in order to secure improvements.
The Trust was also successful in its application to the DfE to open a special free school for children with autism, The Cavendish School. This will cater for Cambridgeshire children from Year 3 to Year 13 who currently cannot be provided for in the state sector in the county. It is set to open in September 2021.
In addition MET has been approved as an academy sponsor which means the MET has been judged to have the capacity and capability to support schools needing more specific and dedicated improvement.
Who makes the decision whether a school can join the Morris Education Trust?
The crucial starting point for any new partnership is whether the MET is the right fit for your school. We want to work with schools who believe in what we stand for, and share our vision, values and ethos. For a school to join the Trust their governing body as well as the MET Board would have to be clear that it is the right move for all parties. ‘Due diligence’ (by both parties) has to take place as well to scrutinise the finances, estates and education of each prospective school. All decisions regarding multi-academy trusts have to be approved by the Regional Schools’ Commissioner, in terms of capacity of the Trust and whether the school is making the right decision to join a particular Trust.
How much independence do schools within the Morris Education Trust have?
We expect schools to retain much of their independent character and their pre-existing identity if they choose to. The MET has no desire to impose a central way of running a school, but it does expect joining schools to share common values so that they are natural partners. All schools within the Trust will have degrees of autonomy that are established and developed through the ‘Scheme of Delegation’. This document identifies the decisions to be made by the Principal/Headteacher and his/her team, and those which need the authority of the CEO or the MET Board. These are usually in line of the scale of the decision.
The MET has overall priorities which are very much developed with input from Headteachers/Principals, whilst each academy will have its own locally developed priorities. Personnel policies, for example, are adopted across the Trust (because, legally, it becomes the employer). These are developed in discussion with the Heads and in consultation with local union/association representatives. However other decisions such as approach to teaching and learning, uniform, behaviour policy and the allocations of teaching will be decided locally.
How will MET support improving the quality of education in a school?
It is our belief that all schools are capable of improving; indeed this is a necessity to ensure progress is continuous! Our school improvement framework, Excellence as Standard, has been developed by colleagues within MET as a model to evaluate and support schools (regardless of phase/setting). In practical terms, leaders will be working day-to-day in their ‘main’ school; however, we recognize that collaboration is the key to improvement and we are already ensuring staff across our two schools support each other’s work. A key benefit of joining MET is no longer will a leader feel isolated. It is highly aspirational and we will always work with the Headteacher of a school to find the best way to develop a school further.
MET wants to be a mixed-phase/setting Trust and therefore is developing capacity to support all types of school. Its CEO, Robert Campbell, is a National Leader for Education and has already successfully supported two Suffolk schools (one secondary, one primary). In the case of the primary school this helped it secure a ‘Good’ judgment in its Ofsted inspection in July 2016. He sits on the NAHT’s National Executive and has very significant knowledge and understanding of primary and special education, alongside his track record of working as a Headteacher in both primary and secondary schools
How do the finances of a multi-academy trust work?
The Department for Education has a master funding agreement with the MET, and supplemental funding agreements with each individual school. The MET receives the allocated funding for the whole trust and distributes the appropriate budgets to each school. Some funds are retained centrally to develop and provide core services around IT, finance and management. As a Trust we are guided by very strict financial controls through the Academies Funding Handbook and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) acts as the Chief Accounting Officer with the Chief Operating Officer its Chief Financial Officer (CFO). As is standard practice, MET retains 4.8% from individual school budgets to support core services and to ‘de-delegate’ the remainder to schools. For new schools joining the MET, the impact on your budget will depend on your circumstances. Needless to say because the MET gets funding for education; therefore money will always be prioritised for teaching, resources, provision and learning for students.
What are the implications for staff?
All our staff in the MET are highly valued. If a school chooses to join the Trust, all employees will transfer over to the MET on existing pay and working conditions. Crucially this means that current contracts of employment will remain in force for all existing staff through the TUPE process (the Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment Regulations 1981). Being a MET employee will offer excellent staff development, training and career prospects. We are about to develop and consult on a new strategy for supporting and developing our staff called ‘Professional and Performance Development’. It will aim to empower staff and create a flourishing culture across the Trust.
What role do parents and the local community play in relationship to the MET?
Parents and the local community continue to be part of the lifeblood of all schools within the Trust. We chose the name ‘Morris Education Trust’ to be bold in our intention to uphold the village college ethos, and Henry Morris’s vision for schools to be ‘the place where life is lived itself’. For each school, parents (and staff) will continue to be elected to the local governing body and the Trustees will appoint community representatives as additional Governors, strengthening the relationship to the various local bodies.
How are HR, IT and other support services provided?
MET has worked hard to ensure that IT is now managed centrally. There are clear and obvious benefits for a central IT system, not least of which because it facilitates stronger communication between schools and is easier (and more effective for costs) to manage and support. Each school retains IT technicians on site to answer and handle daily queries.
The IT Director and HR Director form part of the Trusts key personnel along with the Business Support Manager and Finance team. These key personnel ensure that central functions are implemented for each of the schools within the Trust and provide support and expertise as and when required.
Does the Trust have a common software application for finance and other areas?
All Academy Trusts are rightly expected to follow strict financial standards. The MET will be accountable as a whole for its finances and therefore using common systems for this area is important. For legal reasons, it will also be the single employer, even though staff will work in different, named schools, and therefore will ensure that it adopts similar approaches and policies to recruiting, inducting and developing staff.
There is a central MET finance office that is responsible for the whole of the Trusts finances. The Trust is subject to an external audit, carried out by a firm of auditors/accountants who will also carry out internal audits within each school/academy. In addition, the Financial Controller will carry out further quality assurance of financial matters to ensure the Trust runs along the lines expected by the DfE/EFSA.
What is the legal process for joining the Morris Education Trust?
In order for the business of running a school to transfer from the single academy trust to the Morris Education Trust, the following steps are taken:
- the single academy trust, the MET and the Secretary of State will enter into a deed of novation and variation, which will transfer the responsibility for complying with the existing funding agreement to the MET and vary the existing single funding agreement to a multi-academy trust supplemental funding agreement
- the employment of the staff of the school will transfer from the single academy trust to the MET in accordance with the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (‘TUPE’)
- the assets and contracts of the school will be transferred from the single academy trust to the MET under a commercial transfer agreement (it may sometimes be necessary for the local authority to be a party to this agreement)
- the MET will need to be given use of the school land and buildings, usually either by way of a 125 year lease with the local authority or the transfer of the freehold of the land, as applicable.
The process above is merely an outline, and within each step there are numerous detailed activities including consultation. The process described takes a minimum of four months but may be considerably longer depending on particular circumstances of the school. For example if a school is not currently an academy then the process of conversion is likely to be longer. The MET can offer guidance, information and support for schools interested in joining the Trust.
Joining a multi-academy trust is a big decision. If you are interested in working with us then please get in touch. A website can share certain information, but talking to us directly will tell you much more about how we might be able to work together to build a partnership.
It’s important that the Morris Education Trust is the right fit for all our schools. We welcome the opportunity to discuss ideas, share with you what we are currently doing, and talk about your needs. Please contact us here.