Education Provision/School Improvement
1. Can you explain the curriculum that you are employing?
Aurora Academies Trust (AAT) recognises that the curriculum needs improving and further developing, through partnership with teachers and school leadership teams at each school. AAT provides a curriculum that is data driven and which incorporates a child-centred approach. This will be supported by a Continued Professional Development programme that is tailored to meet the needs of all the staff so that they may teach to optimum effect.
2. Are you still inspected by Ofsted?
Yes, the School is still fully accountable to Ofsted.
3. What will happen to the Nursery provision?
The existing level of Nursery provision will continue as before once the Academies have opened.
4. What will be done differently to ensure continued and rapid improvement at the schools?
AAT builds on current best practice and focuses on what can be done further to benefit the pupils as this is the reason for being here. AAT has a single-minded focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning to achieve its objectives, but staff are responsible for improvement too. AAT believe that staff’s professional development is key to improving all of the schools and support this as a priority.
5. In Pansophic Learning and Aurora Academies Trust’s materials there is a lot of talk about preparing children for university and the world of work. Will this be the focus of teaching and learning to the detriment of other, more creative endeavours?
Absolutely not. AAT focuses on providing a child-focused environment which will both ensure that key skills – such as mathematics and literacy skills – are accessed by all pupils, but also that the creative side of children is nurtured and supported. The curriculum and learning experience is global, rich and varied with breadth and balance across subjects.
6. Will the Academy cause any further cost to parents?
There will no financial cost to parents. Provision will be free of charge.
7. Will there be funding for SEN provision?
SEN funding is provided on the same level and in the same way as it has been in the past.
8. Is Aurora Academies Trust a profit making company?
No. Profit making companies are not able to run academy schools and no profit can be made from the operation of academy schools. AAT is a not for profit organisation.
9. There has been bad press relating to academies excluding children who are underperforming and being selective as to those children they accept. Please comment.
AAT will not exclude children on the basis of ability, nor will it select on this basis. Not only is this something that AAT would not support or accept, it is also not permissible under the terms of the agreement AAT has with the Department for Education.
School Leadership and Staffing
10. What will be done to ensure that a permanent Headteacher is found for each of the Schools?
Leadership will be a key focus of AAT. It is recognised that having a stable senior leadership team in place as soon as possible is a key priority. Having said this, it is also recognised that the current Heads are offering a great quality of leadership to their schools.
11. Will there be an Executive Head acting across multiple schools?
AAT will review the needs of each school and determine a leadership structure that will best support the needs of the schools.
12. Teachers’ terms and conditions should be protected and are of the utmost importance in protecting the rights of teaching professionals. Can the Academies Trust alter terms and conditions and do they intend to?
There is no intention to make any changes to national pay, terms and conditions. As former teachers and head teachers, the Aurora Academy Trust leadership team – Tim McCarthy and Helen Kavanagh – understand the importance of safeguarding the working conditions of teaching staff.
In addition to this, Aurora fully intends to maintain the Schools’ use of the HR support offered by East Sussex County Council to ensure continuity in this area.
13. Will the schools have a new uniform?
No, the Academies will keep the exact same uniform as they would have done irrespective of the academy proposal.
14. What will be AAT’s Free School Meals policy and provision?
The academies will have the exact same Free School Meals policy and provision as the existing Primary Schools.
15. What is your approach towards Child Protection?
The Child Protection policy will continue as before in the existing Primary Schools. There will be a Child Protection Officer and a dedicated Governor with the responsibility for Child Protection.
16. What is an Academy?
Academies are publicly funded independent schools. They are all-ability schools often established by sponsors from business, faith or voluntary groups working with partners from the local community. Academies provide a teaching and learning environment that is in line with the best in the maintained sector and offer a broad and balanced curriculum to pupils of all abilities. As well as providing the best opportunities for the most able pupils and those needing additional support, academies have a key part to play in the regeneration of disadvantaged communities.
You can find out more about Academies on the Department for Education’s website www.dfe.gov.uk
17. Is the Academy accountable to the Local Authority?
No, Academies are independent of the local authority and the Academy reports to the Department for Education. For multi-Academy trusts, such as AAT, each Academy within the Trust has an individual governing body in this case known as a Local Academy Board.
18. Who runs an Academy?
The academy trust (in this case, AAT), governing body (where part of a multi-Academy trust) and the Headteacher have responsibility for managing the Academy. In order to determine the ethos and leadership of the Academy, and ensure clear responsibility and accountability, the sponsor (in this case AET) appoints the majority of the governors. The number of governors on an Academy governing body is not prescribed, but the expectation is for the body to be relatively small.
19. How are Academies accountable?
The Academy Trust is accountable to the Department for Education through the requirements of the Funding Agreement. The Funding Agreement requires the Academy Trust to publish proceedings of its meetings. As charitable companies, academy trusts have to ensure that their accounts are independently audited and then the accounts filed with the Education Funding Agency (part of the Department for Education) and at Companies House. The Department for Education want academies to be at the heart of their communities, and expect them to be established in consultation with local stakeholders. Academies are still subject to the same OFSTED inspection arrangements as other state-maintained schools.
20. What is different about Academy governance?
Academy trusts are set up as charitable companies independent of local authorities to give them a broader scope and responsibility for ethos, strategic direction and challenge in order to raise and maintain high standards of education. They are governed by a board of directors and in the case of multi Academy trusts there is also a governing body for each Academy.
21. Who sits on an Academy’s governing body?
Like other state-funded schools, Academies also have stakeholder governance. They all have parent representation and the Academy Headteacher in an ex-officio capacity. Academies may also have staff governors (either elected or appointed) and may include community representatives. The academy trust has a duty to act in the interests of the Academy and not the sponsors.
22. Why AET (sponsored by Pansophic Learning) as the sponsor?
As a proven leader in educational innovation and delivery in the US and internationally with a growing international portfolio, Pansophic Learning is keen to establish a platform in England in order to demonstrate the educational impact of marrying the best in English and American education. That is why it has set up AET and AAT to operate the academies.
23. Are the Aurora Academies Trust still keeping the same Governing Body?
There have been some changes to the constitutional make up of the Governing Body – the Governing Body has been replaced by a Local Academy Board accountable to Aurora Academies Trust.
24. Would the Headteacher and staff be the same?
The staffing structure remains the same and is reviewed regularly.
When a school converts from a local authority maintained school to an academy, the existing staff are entitled to transfer under the same employment terms and conditions through a legally compliant process. Therefore, all staff transferred to Heron Park Primary Academy.
Education transformation would be achieved through innovative curriculum design, improved pedagogy and an extension of the continuous professional development programme.
The main differences include:
- More opportunities – to make sure every student achieves the very best that they can, Aurora Academies Trust’s focus is on working with the Academy’s senior leaders and teachers to raise achievement through the curriculum innovation, online assessment programmes, increased attendance and individualised paths for personal growth and development.
- More choice – the proposed Academy’s partnership with other primary Academies within Aurora Academies Trust as well as with Mosaica Education schools internationally, means the school would be able to share resources and experiences. The Academies would be working with partners both locally and internationally, meaning that pupils enjoy a wider range of learning and leisure experiences at school.
- Improved teaching and learning – Aurora Academies Trust would look at how things could be done differently and better and would make some changes immediately in the winter term of 2012/13. They concentrate on improving standards throughout the school at a rapid pace, and improve the quality of teaching and learning through the introduction of a comprehensive staff training programme and online assessment.
Furthermore the Academy will:
- Raises aspirations – through the introduction of a new philosophy and ethos, based on Pansophic Learning’s proven philosophy used internationally, to bring educational improvements to schools, pupils and communities worldwide. All pupils have individualised paths for personal growth and development, with a focus on pupil self-awareness and self-esteem.
- Increase Parent engagement and involvement – regular community events are held where parents and other members of the local community are invited to see what the children have been learning, chat with staff and become more engaged in their child’s education.
- Have better resources – there were some improvements to the physical environment carried out by the Department for Education ready for September 2012.
25. Does the Academy follow the National Curriculum?
Yes, the Academy’s core curriculum follows the National Curriculum.
26. What about collaboration with other schools?
As well as transforming the life chances of pupils enrolled in them, Academies can help drive system-wide improvements through collaboration with other schools. Many established Academies have developed positive links with schools in their area and are keen to offer support to them, or to learn from them. Aurora Academies Trust’s expectation is that the Academy will work collaboratively with neighbouring nurseries and children’s centres, primary, secondary and special schools. Heron Park Primary School is an active member of the local primary school cluster and Aurora Academies Trust hopes to continue to participate in this partnership along with Oakwood Primary Academy.
27. What about children with SEN?
Academies must adhere to the SEN code of practice and statutory guidance on inclusion. An Academy’s independent status does not affect parents’ rights to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability).
28. Do Academies receive more money than local authority schools?
Academies receive the same level of per-pupil funding as they would receive from the local authority as a maintained school, plus additions to cover the services that are no longer provided for them by the local authority. However, Academies have greater freedom over how they use their budgets to best benefit their pupils. Academies receive their funding directly from the Education Funding Agency (EFA – part of the Department for Education) rather than from local authorities.