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Merger Consultation

We are seeking your views on a proposed merger between Vale Academy Trust (VAT) and Faringdon Learning Trust (FLT). 

The Oxford Diocesan Board of Education (ODBE) are a party to this proposal as both the existing trusts contain former Voluntary Controlled Church of England schools, and the FLT trust contains a former Voluntary Aided School.

The proposed merger between Vale Academy Trust (VAT) and Faringdon Learning Trust (FLT) presents an opportunity to bring together two geographically local and similar sized, high performing Academy Trusts to create a larger, more resilient and efficient organisation that will be even better placed to support continued school improvement, staff development, effective operations and meet the educational challenges ahead of us.

At the centre of this proposal is an intent to secure the best possible educational provision for all current and future pupils and to retain the unique character of each school within the new trust, enhance development and career opportunities for staff and ensure the best use of funds and resources available.

Both VAT and FLT view this merger as a merger of equals. The new trust will have a new name, but will build on the shared vision and values of FLT and VAT, keeping the best that both Trusts currently offer.

Please find here the consultation document and FAQ’s.

For a downloadable pdf version of the Merger Feedback Form please see below:

 

Merger Consultation Feedback form (ONLINE)

 

 

CONSULTATION DOCUMENT

 

 

Proposed Merger of Faringdon Learning Trust and Vale Academy Trust

We are seeking your views on a proposed merger between Faringdon Learning Trust (FLT) and Vale Academy Trust (VAT).

The Oxford Diocesan Board of Education (ODBE) are a party to this proposal as both the existing trusts contain former Voluntary Controlled Church of England schools, and the FLT trust contains a former Voluntary Aided School.

Statement of Intent  

The proposed merger between Faringdon Learning Trust (FLT) and Vale Academy Trust (VAT) presents an opportunity to bring together two geographically local and similar sized, high performing Academy Trusts to create a larger, more resilient, and efficient organisation that will be even better placed to support continued school improvement, staff development, effective operations and meet the educational challenges ahead of us.

At the centre of this proposal is an intent to secure the best possible educational provision for all current and future pupils and to retain the unique character of each school within the new trust, enhance development and career opportunities for staff and ensure the best use of funds and resources available.

Both FLT and VAT view this merger as a merger of equals. The new trust will have a new name, but will build on the shared vision and values of FLT and VAT, keeping the best that both Trusts currently offer.

The aim of FLT and VAT is to carry out a rigorous consultation process about the merger in the coming weeks to ensure that the needs of students, staff and the wider community are met.  FLT and VAT Trustees want to hear the views of all stakeholders in order to consider any feedback as part of their decision making process.  Your feedback will also form part of the documentation that will be presented to the Department for Education to inform their decision about the potential merger. 

Location of VAT and FLT Schools

Vale Academy Trust  - 9 schools over 11 sites indicated by red dots. Two secondary schools (including 6th form), one all through primary and secondary school, 6 primary schools and 7 pre-schools.

Faringdon Learning Trust9 schools over 9 sites indicated by yellow dots. One secondary school (including 6th form), 8 primary school and 6 pre-schools.

 

Rationale for the merger of the FLT with VAT

 

We need to nurture a dynamic system of strong trusts with the capacity to improve schools if we are to deliver the step change needed across England to meet our ambitions….. Scale is also what enables [trusts] to be more financially stable, maximise the impact of a well-supported workforce and drive school improvement” Opportunity for All, Department for Education White Paper 2022

Both FLT and VAT are well established, each with over 10 years’ experience as Multi Academy Trusts delivering education in South West Oxfordshire.  The two trusts’ vision and ethos are very similar: both have children at their centre, value all their staff, and use the power of their leaders to celebrate and encourage collaboration.

Over recent years we have increasingly worked collaboratively over a range of different areas, sharing key staff and benefitting from one another’s experience.  It is our shared view that the best way to realise the full benefits of collaboration will be through a merger to form a new, stronger and more sustainable trust, facilitating the sharing of best practice, enhanced professional development and school-to-school support.

The White Paper makes it clear that Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) are central to future educational policy and school development strategies. To thrive and innovate, trusts will need to expand and be responsive to supporting schools in challenging circumstances. The Department for Education expects “that most trusts will be on a trajectory to either serve a minimum of 7,500 pupils or run at least 10 schools.”. By coming together, FLT and VAT will form a MAT of four secondary and fifteen primary schools with a combined capacity for over 8,900 students and just under 1100 staff.

The new Trust will be a group of schools united by a common purpose and direction, to provide the best possible education opportunities and experiences for all young people in our communities and for those outside of our communities who choose to attend our member academies.  The essence of this is that all the academies in the new trust are committed to work together to generate excellence in their educational provision and to meet the educational challenges ahead of us. 

The continued involvement of the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education as a corporate member will ensure that the Trust will be an inclusive partnership that will preserve and develop the different characteristics of each school, allowing the schools to work together, regardless of their religious designation, in mutual respect and collaboration.

Both trusts firmly believe that all young people can succeed if they have access to exceptional education in an empathetic, supportive education environment through a balanced and motivating curriculum and rich extra-curricular provision. It is our ambition to provide this for all the students in all of our academies, creating a seamless educational experience across all key stages to develop responsible, capable and confident young people who will be prepared for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life as global citizens.

Local Governing Committees

The proposal is that each school will continue to have its own local governing committee (now known in VAT schools as Local Governing Bodies) which will be a committee of the Trust Board as they are currently, thereby helping to ensure that local needs are considered and addressed in each school and that the unique character of individual schools is retained.

 

The key benefits of merging the FLT and VAT

Educational Benefits

The new Trust will use a wealth of experience and expertise brought together from two very successful Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) to help drive further school development in all of its schools.  The four secondary schools will see significantly increased benefits of collaboration and partnership, allowing them to build on their already strong foundations.  There will also be additional collaborations in the Primary phase to further enhance the progress made by all schools.

In order to achieve the very best student outcomes, the Trust will put in place school development practices that will challenge and empower all leaders to provide outstanding opportunities for students to succeed. 

The core driver of school development will be the aspiration of all leaders and classroom practitioners to constantly strive to enhance the student learning experiences.  With self-evaluation and self-improvement at the heart of all that we do, there will be no ceiling on the progress that any child can make.

Some of the school development initiatives could include:

  • Sharing of teaching, learning and assessment strategies
  • Joint and collaborative curriculum development
  • Teacher and/or subject support
  • Enhanced moderation – leading to MAT-wide exemplar materials
  • School leader peer-to-peer review
  • Enhanced continuing professional development opportunities including career development
  • The sharing of successful pastoral and behavioural approaches
  • Enhancing innovative approaches to information, advice and guidance
  • The development of strategies to support staff and student health and well-being
  • Staff recruitment and retention

Financial Benefits

  • Savings through current duplicated roles across the two trusts
  • Centralised support services enabling enhanced collaborative procurement opportunities
  • More resilient and sustainable central structures capable of future growth

 

What will the merger mean for pupils?

There are three main elements to the merger which will be of benefit to the pupils.  They are

  • greater curricular opportunities
  • enhanced test and examination outcomes and
  • a wider range of facilities and resources available

A larger Multi Academy Trust (MAT) will be able to provide a broader range of enrichment activities for pupils which could include both curricular and extracurricular activities.  These could include events from the following areas; sporting events, performing arts, public speaking, science technology and engineering events etc.

Within the new MAT there will be a wider breadth of staff experience and a wider range of staff expertise, knowledge and skills.  Sharing this across the schools, and particularly for the secondary schools where there is currently only one in FLT and two in VAT, is a proven method of raising academic standards.  The new expanded MAT could provide greater staff development opportunities than currently possible thus enhancing the quality of the classroom experience and having a positive impact on pupil outcomes.

Within the two MATs as they currently exist there is a range and variety of resources and facilities much of which is common but some of which is unique.  By sharing these unique resources the opportunities and quality of experience for the pupils naturally increases, for example improved wellbeing and mental health support for pupils, improved SEN support, additional musical, sporting, STEM and pupil parliament events.

 

What will the merger mean for parents?

All of our schools will continue to be rooted within their local communities and be alert and responsive to the needs of those communities, their pupils, parents, guardians and carers, and all stakeholders.  Each school within FLT and VAT is unique, and the new trust is committed to maintaining each school’s individual ethos and character.

We will continue our commitment to strive for excellence in all that we deliver, and are determined to be an increasingly efficient, value for money organisation to help ensure that the maximum resource possible is directed towards teaching and learning to the benefit of the pupils. To support the continued professional development of our staff, we will build upon the cross-school support and partnership working which FLT and VAT have already implemented to great effect.  The well-being of our pupils and staff is a top priority, and we will also continue to promote the ethical values of openness, honesty, social and environmental responsibility, and caring for others.

We are proud of the achievements of all our pupils, and we know our parents, guardians and carers will always want our schools to continue to improve - we absolutely share that desire.

 

What will the merger mean for staff?

We will continue to recruit, train and retain the very best staff driven by a strong culture of professional development and mutual support in the pursuit of highly effective teaching and the highest levels of student progress.

The new Trust will continue to use the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) or the Condition of Service for School Teachers in England and Wales (Burgundy Book) even though they are not bound by it.

The new Trust will continue to use the National Joint Council (NJC), National Agreement on Pay and Conditions of Service for Local Government Services (Green Book) and Oxfordshire Local Agreements (OLA) for support staff even though they are not bound by it.

Position of Staff Pensions

It is a legal requirement under the Academies Act 2010 that an academy (a scheduled body employer under the LGPS Administration Regulations) continue to offer, as appropriate, membership of:

  • Teachers’ Pension Scheme
  • Local Government Pension Scheme

The new Trust will continue to use both of these schemes.

 

Timeline for the Consultation

This is the timeline, including consultation meetings that we will be running for the consultation.

29th January 2024    Consultation commences and runs for 4 weeks.  Information regarding the proposal and the consultation placed on both the VAT and FLT websites
1st February 2:00pm On-line (link to follow) for staff from FLT and VAT schools
6th February 2:00pm On-line (link to follow) for staff from FLT and VAT schools
20th February 4:00pm At Faringdon Community College, Fernham Road, Faringdon SN7 7LB for staff from FLT schools
20th February 7:00pm Open consultation meeting at Faringdon Community College, Fernham Road, Faringdon SN7 7LB

22nd February 4:00pm

At King Alfreds Academy, Centre Site, Portway, Wantage OX12 9BY for staff from VAT schools
22nd February 7:00pm Open consultation meeting at King Alfred's Academy, Centre Site, Portway, Wantage OX12 9BY
28th February 4:00pm At Larkmead School, Faringdon Road, Abingdon OX14 1RF for staff from VAT schools
28th February 7:00pm Open consultation meeting at Larkmead School, Faringdon Road, Abingdon OX14 1RF
6th March 2024 3:00pm  Consultation closes. All paper and online views to be returned by 3pm.
1st September 2024  Target date for merger

 

How can I contribute to the consultation?

The aim of this joint consultation is to carry out a rigorous consultation process to ensure that the views of all our stakeholders are considered in a fair and open process.  You are invited to submit your comments and views:

  • By attending one of the consultation meetings above
  • By writing to:

FLT and VAT Merger Consultation c/o Faringdon Learning Trust, Fernham Road, Faringdon, Oxon SN7 7LB

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Ethos, Philosophy and Structures

Will schools change their names when they become part of a merged Trust?

No. All schools within the merged Trust will retain their current names.  As part of the consultation, it is proposed that the newly formed Trust will have a new name.

Will the merged Trust lead to a change to the ethos and values of FLT and VAT Trusts?

The merged Trust will seek to develop and promote a unifying culture where every pupil can benefit from an outstanding education at a school which has a distinct ethos and character which can be valued by the community the school serves. 

Will individual schools lose their identity?

No.  All our Trust schools currently have a unique character and ethos which will be maintained. The schools within the Trust will be part of a wider community and team which ensures that they share and experience the benefits of being part of an expanded Trust. 

How will the Local Governing Bodies work in the schools?

The Local Governing Committees will continue to determine the strategic direction of their school taking into account the strategic aims of the Trust and their school’s specific priorities.

The important link between the local community and the LGCs will not be lost.

It will be for local governing committees to determine how they organise themselves to discharge the responsibilities delegated to them by the Trust Board.  LGCs will still have responsibility for maintaining and improving education standards, challenging performance data, Safeguarding and Health and Safety.

What will be the role of the Headteacher/Executive Headteacher/Head of School in the new merged Trust?

Heads will continue to be responsible for their school’s performance, the educational outcomes of pupils, the performance management of their staff, for the health, safety and welfare of pupils and staff and the day to day internal organisation, management and control of their school.

Would the school be in control of its own admissions and what would the admissions procedures be?

Every Trust is responsible for determining what pupils are admitted to its schools, this is known as admission authority for its schools.  Admission arrangements will continue to be set in accordance with the DfE school admissions code, changes to admissions criteria will always be consulted on.

We will also continue to work with and within Oxfordshire County Council’s admissions system and code of practice, to be inclusive community based schools.

 

Would you plan to change holiday times and/or hours of the school day?

All schools have the ability to set their own start and finish times.  Academies have the additional ability to set term dates, we will continue to align these across the Trust.  There are no plans to change current practices as a result of the merger.   Any proposed changes would be consulted upon.Accordion content

Will we see any differences in the day-to-day running of the school?

Parents should not see any noticeable differences in the everyday running of the school.

Partnership and Collaboration with other Schools

What will the merged Trust look like in three years’ time?

Although it is difficult to predict the future, it is likely that the Trust will have expanded during this timeframe, this will be with schools who share the same values and ethos as the merged Trust.

Would you share facilities with other schools in your area?

Yes. One of the essential features of all schools in the future will be greater collaboration and the sharing of resources, human and physical, in order to provide efficiency of resource used.

Would schools club together to buy in services?

Yes.  The two existing Trusts have committed to working together in partnership, whatever the status of each individual school. They are looking at services and resources we could share such as purchasing and professional services, in order that schools can achieve further financial efficiencies.

School Policies, Self-evaluation and Ofsted

What would happen to current FLT and VAT policies?

On merger the process of aligning policies will commence to ensure consistency across the Trust.  Any policies relating to staff will evolve through consultation with the Unions (OHRF Oxfordshire HR Forum).

Would we still be subject to Ofsted inspections?

The current practice of Ofsted inspecting individual schools will continue and the Trust Board will ensure schools are supported through this process.  The Trust Board will also be able to respond to any changes that result from the Multi Academy Trust (MAT) Inspection trials that are currently being undertaken.

How will school self-evaluation work for the merged Trust?

This will be led by the head in conjunction with the Trust School Development Team and Local Governing Committee. 

Will the curriculum change?

The new Trust will continue to be committed to ensuring every school is able to offer a high quality, broad and balanced curriculum building upon the best of what each Trust currently does. 

How will this merger benefit our children directly?

This information is contained within the consultation document.

Funding Matters

Who sets the budgets for the individual schools within the merged Trust? Do the schools have ownership and responsibility for their budgets through their LGBs?

The Trust Board will set the criteria for the annual budget cycle, approve individual school budgets and monitor performance against submitted budgets.  The Board has overall responsibility to ensure financial management and value for money for all Trust schools.

Each school will have a delegated budget and Heads will be accountable for the financial management of their school, including staffing and planning for the future.

Heads have the opportunity to sub delegate their budgets further within their school.

Are the FLT and VAT Trusts in debt?

No.  Both Trusts monitor their finances closely ensuring that, they have built a suitable contingency fund for supporting continuing development and cushioning ourselves against cuts in funding and rising costs. Both trusts are currently in surplus and are able to continue to invest in pupils’ education.

Employee Matters

Who would the employer of the Trust’s staff be?

The Trust will be the employer of all staff working in the Trust.

Can the Trust make changes to pay, terms and conditions of staff?

Terms and conditions for teachers in maintained schools are determined through the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), the Conditions of Service for School Teachers in England and Wales (the Burgundy Book) and the School’s Pay Policy for teachers. For support staff, terms and conditions are determined through Oxfordshire County Council’s Job Evaluation Scheme, the Oxfordshire Local Agreement (OLA) and the National Agreement on Pay and Conditions of Service for Local Government Services (the Green Book).

Do you anticipate continuing with same levels of training and CPD for staff?

Yes. In fact, over time these will increase from current levels as opportunities arise across the new Trust.

Will staff have the opportunity to work across the Trust?

If staff want they may be given the opportunity to work across the Trust at other schools.   Staff may be asked to support other schools within the Trust as part of the Trust’s school development programme. There may also be occasions when the Trust has the opportunity to support schools in difficulty who are not part of the Trust, and staff may be asked to work in those schools as part of school development.

Staff may be appointed to work at more than one school.

What will happen to my pension?

All staff employed by academies automatically fall within the Teachers’ Pension Scheme or the Local Government Pension Scheme on the same basis as teaching and support staff in their current Trust. 

Will the change in Trust mean my continuity of service will be broken?

No.  All staff will retain continuity of service and their continuous service date will not change.

Will staff job descriptions change?

Job descriptions of staff will only change if their role changes as part of the merger.

Will Trade Unions be recognised by the Trust?

Yes in the same way that both Trusts currently consult with the recognised Unions the new Trust will continue to do so.

What consultation is taking place about the proposed Trust?

Staff like all stakeholders have the opportunity to respond to this consultation process.

The unions have been sent a copy of the consultation document.  

Land Issues

What happens about the transfer of land?

All former Local Authority schools have a lease of land and buildings of 125-years from Oxfordshire County Council these leases will continue.  The land and buildings of our Church Schools have separate arrangements, and these will be agreed with the Oxfordshire Diocese, however we do not envisage any changes to the current arrangements.

Accountability and Responsibilities

How will the merged Trust support the Heads in running their schools?

The Trust will provide heads with the support they need to enable them to focus on teaching and learning and day to day organisation and operation of their school.

To whom are Multi Academy Trusts answerable?

Multi Academy Trusts have Boards of Trustees who are accountable to their Members who hold overall responsibility. Trustees and Members are all locally appointed.  The Trust is then answerable to Ofsted, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (EFSA) and the Department for Education’s Regional Director. This merger will not introduce a new level of management but will provide a sustainable structure to develop and move the merged Trust forward to meet our aspirations and goals.  

 

 

Where can I find more information?

Please email any questions to academyqueries@faringdonlearningtrust.org