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Questions - common themes (this is a link)

The page contains the answers to common themes of questions asked across the consultation period so far.  They are broken down in categories:

  • Timing
  • School Leadership
  • Staff Impact
  • Pupil Outcomes / Performance
  • The Westbrook Trust
  • COVID impact
  • Funding
  • Academisation proposal - process
  • Compass

 

Timing

Why is now the right time for Fairview to become an academy?

The Compass Partnerships of Schools has been providing Fairview with interim leadership support since January 2019, this was due to end in July, but was extended due to the impact of COVID.  There is an open audit issue with Medway Council due to Fairview being a maintained school but not having a Medway Employee as headteacher, for example there are financial control challenges.  This issue needs to be resolved so the current interim arrangement cannot continue.

The Governors therefore have to determine if to remain a local authority school or academise, both of which will require appointing a permanent head teacher.

The governing body believes it is beneficial to be an academy (see the slides for reasons), therefore utilising the support of an Academy Trust to secure an experienced headteacher is the prudent approach.  If the academy order is not granted then the school will remain a local authority school and the Governors will have to recruit a permanent Head Teacher.

The governing body wish to be able to give absolute clarity to all stakeholders on the leadership of the school as soon as possible, so the anxiety and distraction of an unknown future can be removed.

School Leadership

Who is going to be a headteacher / deputy headteacher going forward?

The Compass Partnerships of Schools has been providing Fairview with interim leadership support since January 2019, this was due to end in July, but was extended due to the impact of COVID.  There is an open audit issue with Medway Council due to Fairview being a maintained school but not having a Medway Employee as headteacher, for example there are financial control challenges.  This issue needs to be resolved so the current interim arrangement cannot continue.

Leadership options have been discussed with Westbrook, should we academise, and there is full confidence that experienced, proven leaders would be available to be provided, if required.  The appointment of a Headteacher will remain the responsibility of the Fairview Governing body, and we are confident that we will have excellent options.

We are acutely aware of the importance of giving full clarity on this as soon as possible and are in ongoing dialogue with the Regional Schools Commissioner, who make the final decision on academisation, regarding timelines because we know the importance of an effective transition.

 

All the existing Westbrook Trust Schools have strong leadership, but you will be installing new leadership team at this critical point? Does this cause you concern?

The Westbrook Trust have committed that if required, an experienced proven leader would be available., this is therefore a comfort not a concern.

 

As you have recognised the change in leadership prior to Compass coming on board was disruptive and took the school backwards on a number of fronts. What have we learnt from this and how will the formation of a new leadership team be approached to ensure this does not happen again and we can build off the positive work that Compass have done.

The Governors recognise that the school has not developed staff sufficiently in the past, which left us in a position where we did not have talent ready to take on senior roles.  We are adamant that this must be addressed, not that anyone would get a guaranteed role, but we have the best talent ready.

At this point in time, we will appoint someone that will take the time to get to know the school, work with our great staff that understand the school and it’s community and then work collaboratively with stakeholders to maintain what is good and develop and implement ideas to improve where it can be.  In discussions on leadership with all the trusts we met we made it crystal clear that any new leader in the school would need to be able to build effectively on the great things in place – the school needs evolution not revolution.

We have confidence this will be achieved, the Westbrook Trust have assured us they have experienced proven leaders that we have met that can take on this role should it be needed, removing the risk that any recruitment process has: some people are great at interviewing, can show their own school impressively, but ultimately not work in a way that is acceptable when it comes to it.

 

What new staff will be seen on the playground if we academise with The Westbrook Trust

As highlighted above we need to appoint a permanent headteacher and deputy headteacher.  Following the friendly family environment that we hold dear, we would expect you to see them on the playground.

 

I understand that The Westbrook Trust structure does not have Executive Headteachers.  Will the money saved from this structure be redirected into additional teachers/TA’s for Fairview?

That is correct, some Trusts prefer having the Executive Headteacher layer between the CEO/ Lead of the Trust and the headteacher / head of school.  The Governors believe the model where Headteachers report directly to the CEO gives them more accountability for the performance of the school and removes a layer of senior management.  That saving can then be deployed in the school wherever the headteacher believes it will have the biggest impact for the pupils, be that teachers, TA’s or other resources.

Staff impact

If the school were to academise would the teaching team remain the same?

Absolutely, Fairview staff will remain at Fairview school and are not fluidly moved between schools.  One of the benefits of joining a local trust is for staff to share expertise, ideas and best practice with other schools.  This could mean that a member of staff spends time at another school, but this would only be done if there is no negative impact on the children at Fairview and of course if the member of staff wanted to.  For example, Byron is lucky to have a National Leader of Education in Music who spends half a day a week supporting music leads in the other schools.

 

Will sharing resources from becoming an academy mean job losses?

No.  The number of staff needed to support the children will be the same.  Sharing of resources will lead to improvements and reduction of costs, allowing money to be invested elsewhere to support our school’s children.

Pupil Outcomes

Where can we see more detail on Westbrook Schools Performance Data?

Performance data can be found on the Department for Education website, Get Information About Schools, for any school or trust.  For convenience we have pulled together all the key performance measures published for The Westbrook Trust.

There is a lot of information here, and it can be quite complicated to understand which is why this details was not shared in the presentations.  I would highlight a few key things when reviewing and interpreting performance data.  This is not just relevant to The Westbrook Trust, but all the Trusts we reviewed.

  • Metrics of this nature should be used to identify areas that need review / consideration, this is true not only of how the Governors have approached this review, but how Ofsted and Regional Schools Commissioner would use this data (the 2 bodies that are responsible for assessing and managing school / Trust performance) to assess the performance of a school / trust.  It is easy to draw conclusions out of context if only the core data is used.
  • A governor, who is an experienced analyst and trained in assessing school performance data, used performance data to identify areas that needed further investigation across all the trusts assessed, and where required sought more detailed information to draw conclusions based on context – the detailed information cannot be shared publicly due to the small number of pupils and outlining the reasons means that someone who knows the school and year group could potentially identify individuals, which is not permitted.
  • The size of year groups means that the performance numbers can be impacted by a small number of individual children e.g. 47 children in Brompton Year 6 in 2019, means that if 4 children perform much higher or lower than expected due to any reason that would lead to a 9% change in results.
  • Every year group has children with different strengths and weaknesses, therefore a single year performance and year to year movements will be impacted by far more than the quality of education, so a number of measures and context is required to make a full assessment.
  • When reviewing subsets of a year groups performance e.g. split by gender, disadvantaged backgrounds, ethnicity, special education needs, etc., the number of children in each group becomes even small again which makes changes in data even less statistically reliable to draw conclusions from.
  • All schools will have a mixture of positive and negative variations in their performance data.
  • To emphasise the points here the following is taken from the Department For Education website, Get Information about Schools:

It is difficult to say with certainty how much of the progress scores are down to the school (which may have scored higher with a different group of pupils) and how much is down to the pupils (for example some may have performed well at any school). The confidence intervals reflect this uncertainty. If the confidence intervals for 2 schools overlap, then we can't say for certain that the 2 progress scores for these schools are significantly different.

Generally speaking, the greater the number of pupils, the smaller the range of the confidence interval. For smaller schools, the confidence interval tends to be larger, since fewer pupils are included, and therefore the score will be more greatly impacted by performance of individual pupils.

 

A few other things considered when assessing who The Westbrook Trust will impact pupil outcomes are:

  • The current Ofsted rating for the schools in The Westbrook Trust are Good with the exception of Byron which was last assessed in September 2018 as Requires Improvement.
  • As a Local Authority school, Byron was placed into special measures in January 2014. Following input from Medway Council and the Regional Schools Commissioner, The Westbrook Trust were asked to sponsor the school to support improvement.  The school then academised with The Westbrook Trust in January 2016.
  • The Ofsted report recognised the improvements the school had made and the impact of The Westbrook Trust:
    • “This is an improving school. The headteacher leads the school with drive, energy and compassion and is ambitious for all pupils.”
    • “The Westbrook Trust offers highly effective support to the school. The trust has worked with firm purpose to stabilise the school.”
    • “The Westbrook Trust has played a significant role in transforming the school since the school became an academy. They have implemented systems and procedures to ensure that pupils are kept safe, teaching improves and school funding is used effectively. They provide strong support to the headteacher and extensive professional development for governors and staff.”
  • All the Trusts reviewed in this process, with the exception of Compass, were recommend to the Governors by the Regional Delivery Directorate, who work on behalf of the Regional Schools Commissioner, due to having a strong track record in primary school improvement and an existing footprint in Medway schools.

As a parent of a child with additional needs could you please confirm what level of SEN support will be available should the Westbrook Trust take over responsibility for the school?  Will the needs of children be proactively supported?  Will resources and qualified support staff be shared within the group to make it fit for purpose?

Westbrook Trust schools all have qualified SENDCOs who meet regularly to share good practice to meet the needs of their pupils. The SENDCOs are proactive and aim to work with parents to ensure their needs of their children are being met. There a range of specialist trained staff across the schools to be able to provide provisions across the four areas of need including emotional first aid, nurture group accreditation and a qualified Forest School teacher. There is also a specialist teacher of learners with specific learning difficulties. These approaches would be shared and adopted across all schools.

 

What about the children at the other end of the spectrum?

All pupils need to be a focus and the aim is that all make at least good progress from their individual starting points, including pupils with high prior attainment. Pupils need to be challenged through high expectations for all. Data for eligibility into grammar schools shows that more pupils in Westbrook Trust Schools are eligible for grammar school admission than the Medway average. The three-year average of pupil outcomes at the higher standard at KS2 at Brompton-Westbrook are higher than that of Fairview and the same at Oaklands despite the higher deprivation. Comparing the three year average of KS1 results of Fairview and St. Margaret's Infants shows that by the end of Year 2 more pupils at St. Margaret's achieve greater depth than at Fairview in each Reading, Writing and Maths.

 

Are there any statistics to show the average pupil progress since other schools joined the Westbrook Trust?  Likewise, are Compass able to provide any stats to show if there has been any progress since they started? 

Average progress data for Brompton-Westbrook and Byron Primary School since they joined the Westbrook Trust is 0 for reading, +1.8 for writing and +0.3 for maths. This means that children on average do better at KS2 than those with similar prior attainment nationally in writing and maths and about the same in reading.  This consultation is not about Compass, however this data is publicly available for all schools and Trusts https://get-information-schools.service.gov.uk/.

 

How will the success of this change be measured?  Currently the school is rated good. What will it be in three years?

The Governors expect high standards regardless of academisation – we challenge the leadership of the school to ensure each and every pupil meets their full potential, academically and more broadly.

A specific example, we would expect to see improvements in the coming years in pupil outcomes, particularly in the number of pupils reaching the expected and higher standards at Key Stage Two.

Ofsted inspections happen approximately every 3-4 years. We recognise the focus of the current framework is on the quality of education and personal development which is something that is central to what we want for our pupils. Whilst not being able to set a target of an Outstanding judgement at the next inspection, we would want Ofsted to recognise the strengths and developments of the school in these areas in a journey to Outstanding.

 

The numbers quoted for performance at Westbrook Schools are factually correct but presented in a misleading light

The Governors are very confident with the numbers that are being presented and how they have been interpreted in the decision-making process – among the Governors we have a very experienced analyst.  When analysing data there were several things the Governors considered, trends over time to give an overall picture and exploring specific areas to ensure context was understood – context is especially important when every number represents a small group of children.

To give full context used by the Governors in their assessment, the Westbrook Schools have shown good progress scores.  In 2018 the aggregate progress scores across the Trust for maths, writing and reading was positive which indicates progress was better than national average.  In 2019 progress was positive for Byron across all 3 subjects, but negative in maths and reading at Brompton.  The Governors reviewed the performance data narrative that was submitted to the Trust Board when discussing the results, it explained the results with the context of a small number of pupils circumstances during the exam period.  The report was also clear on targets and actions to be taken at each school to continue improvement of pupil outcomes.

Looking at pupils attainment levels, in the past 3 years Byron went from 41% of pupils reaching expected levels across Maths, Reading & Writing prior to joining the Trust, to 67% and 64% in 2018 and 2019 respectively, so under the Trust over 50% more pupils have reached the expected level compared to the year before.  Brompton increased from 68% in 2017 to 73% in 2018.  This fell back to 64% in 2019, but with only a cohort of 47 pupils, each child counts for 2.1%, therefore this fall represents 4 children that did not achieve the performance level that was explained by the children that were impacted at exam time by events outside of school as per above.

Westbrook

How many more schools are The Westbrook Trust looking to join the trust?

The Westbrook Trust have been clear about their non-negotiables for growth which include shared values, positive outcomes for all pupils, a willingness to work collaboratively, a commitment to grow staff from within, locality and shared beliefs around central funding. They have no plans to actively seek other schools to join, however are willing to work collaboratively with schools that share these values.

 

Will Westbrook have capacity to support Fairview along with the support that the other schools need particularly with Oaklands joining?

The Governors were confidentially notified that Oaklands had approached the CEO of Westbrook to explore joining at the earliest time possible – this was to allow an open conversation on the implications of Oaklands potentially joining The Westbrook Trust with regard to the support that could be provided to Fairview.  The Fairview Governors agreed that this did not have a material impact on the benefits and support that could be gained from joining the Trust.  In regard to the proposal for Oaklands to join The Westbrook Trust, the notes from the May 2020 Head Teacher Board state: ‘Supportive of the match as it will be a capacity-giver joining the trust it is the Head Teacher Board that makes recommendation on academisation to the Regional Schools Committee.

 

I understand that other schools in the Westbrook Trust have animals in their schools.  Will there be plans to introduce things like this to Fairview?

Brompton-Westbrook are training a dog to be a therapy dog. St. Margaret’s Infants have chickens as part of their learning experiences.  The important thing is that each school is empowered  to do what is right for the pupils it serves, if the headteacher felt that there was a benefit in doing so then they have the freedom to make it happen.

 

I am aware that St Margaret’s has changed its opening times to finishing earlier on a Friday.  Could this be enforced at Fairview?

As a temporary COVID-19 measure to restrict staff movement between bubbles and reduce contacts, St. Margaret’s Infants are providing the statutory allocated Planning, Preparation and Assessment time to teachers on a Friday afternoon.  On a Friday, parents have the choice of whether to collect their child after lunch or for their child to stay in a club supervised by teaching assistants from their bubble. These clubs have replaced the extra-curricular activities that previously would have been accessed across bubbles from both external providers and school staff at various times during the week. The children who stay to club are then collected by parents at the end of the normal school day.

As a point of transparency, both Brompton-Westbrook and Byron Primary School have operated a similar arrangement for a number of years. Approximately half of their pupils stay to Friday afternoon clubs with parents choosing to collect the other half. Although these were done at separate times, the key reasons for introducing this were:

  • Increase pupil take up for extra-curricular activities.
  • Increase the range of extra-curricular activities on offer.
  • Improve attendance on a Friday.
  • Improve teaching and learning by enabling teachers to meet together as a team on a Friday afternoon to plan for the week ahead.
  • Allow families who are going away for the weekend to leave early on a Friday after lunch.

On both occasions, these were localised proposals made by the Head Teacher and governing body in the best interests of the local community. This was not an arrangement enforced by the trust. Before this arrangement was introduced separately at Brompton-Westbrook and then later at Byron, a full consultation with parents was undertaken. Parents were overall very positive about the proposal due to the increase in the range of clubs and the flexibility for having a weekend away, particularly to visit relatives who live a long distance away and avoid rush hour traffic.

There has been no discussion or consideration to introduce this arrangement at Fairview.

One of the key reasons the Governors are proposing to academise with The Westbrook Trust is the individuality of the schools.  As illustrated here, the headteacher and local governing body of each school in the trust work together to do what is right for the schools own community – our due diligence across a number of trusts we considered found that this is certainly not the case in all trusts.

Thoughts post COVID

Have the Governors reviewed the assessment criteria of Trusts following the COVID outbreak, in particular considering how schools responded to the outbreak?

We did discuss if the COVID outbreak changed anything and concluded it didn’t.  The criteria we set for assessing trusts included ethos, values and leadership.  We believe schools and trusts that have an aligned view to us on these things would respond well to the community needs during the outbreak.

Each Westbrook Trust school responded to COVID approach based on the needs of their local community, for example, a very number of key workers at Byron Primary due to its proximity to Medway Hospital.  The schools worked together to enable all schools to remain open during both school holiday periods.  For staff, pupils and their families there was a strong focus on wellbeing and maintaining a sense of community through Trust-wide projects such as Miles at Home.

 

Since the initial due diligence, COVID has proved that you can work remotely so is the geography of schools still an issue?

Businesses and schools have indeed adapted their working practices due to COVID and this has demonstrated resilience and flexibility from staff and pupils.  However, the power of face to face interaction is still far greater when building working relationships, learning together and sharing best practices.  Therefore, when we get to life after COVID, the benefits of proximity of schools will be as relevant as before.

Funding

Does the cost of the central Trust reduce the funds available for an academy vs local authority school?

As a local authority school, a small percentage of funding is retained by the local authority to provide services. Joining an academy would mean that this arrangement is changed, and the trust retains a small percentage to provide services and support to schools. The funding to an individual school will not be less, in fact efficiencies will be realised through a variety of ways such as shared resources and procurement.

The Westbrook Trust retains the equal smallest percentage of funds of all the Trusts we considered. The percentage retained by the Westbrook Trust covers all leadership costs and provides a large number of services back to the school.

 

How are funds allocated to schools in Westbrook Trust to ensure Fairview would not be financially worse off

Different academy trusts have different models for distributing funds to schools. The Westbrook Trust does not pool any funds. The funding (after charge described above) and reserves are retained by the individual school to be spent by the Headteacher and Governors for the pupils of that school.

 

What additional capital funding/investments would be available to Fairview if they joined the Westbrook Trust?

As part of an academy Trust with fewer than 3,000 pupils, Fairview would be eligible to bid into the government's Capital Improvement Fund. The Westbrook Trust has bid successfully into this fund for its schools, for example since converting in 2017, St. Margaret's Infants has received £405,000 of capital improvement funding for projects such as roof replacement and kitchen fire doors and shutters.

If the size of the Trust grew to more than 3,000 pupils the Trust gets a fixed level of funding to invest in capital projects across the Trust.

Process

How will the feedback from parents and teachers be scrutinised to ensure that they are considered in the academisation process?

All submissions to the on-line consultation survey will be sent directly to The Education People not the Governors.  They will prepare an independent report summarising the views of all stakeholders.  This report will be considered carefully at the Governors’  meeting, and considering the breadth of views and points that have been raised during the consultation process the Governors make their final decision on if they believe that academisation is still the best option for the school.

A copy of the report will be shared with the Regional Schools Commissioner who is responsible for the final decision if to grant an academy order or not.

A copy of this reports will also be made available on the school website.

 

Who are The Education People?

The Education People (TEP) are an education service that provide support to schools and local authorities in Kent, Medway and East Sussex.  They have been commissioned by Medway Council to undertake their statutory duties around Governor Services.   Through their governor services team, TEP also provide training, advice & guidance and commissioned services to governing boards.  The Education People also run a Clerking Service to provide clerking support to boards across Kent and Medway, including Fairview.

  

Does the Regional Schools Commissioner have the final say on academisation?

Yes.  Requests are considered by a Head Teacher Board who make a recommendation to the Regional School Commissioner – who then makes the final decision.

 

How will people that are unable to attend the meetings get the information shared at the meetings and Q&A’s?

The slides for the presentation have been shared to give everyone the opportunity to read the information.  This section covers common themes from the question.  All stakeholders were also provided with details as to how to raise questions and contribute to the consultation in the Consultation Document and on the school website.

 

Were teachers involved in the decision to look at joining the Westbrook Trust?

As with all other stakeholders, staff have been given the opportunity to engage in the consultation.  This has included attending a Westbrook school (pre-COVID) to meet staff and experience the environment, presentations from the Westbrook CEO, 1 to 1 discussions on thoughts and concerns with Governors.   The staff all have the opportunity to contribute to the consultation survey and as with all stakeholders are very much encouraged to do so.

 

Are staff happy to change?

Governors have spoken to staff a number of times in a group and 1 to 1 basis and as with any proposed change there is a range of views expressed.  I think it would inappropriate to comment on the staff as a whole from those that have attended meetings, but all staff have been invited to complete the Consultation Survey.  From the report that follows we will have a clear view to consider in the final decision.

 

Will the full assessments of the trusts be shared?

No.  The Governors have collectively spent 100’s of hours reviewing a wide range of information to come to the proposal that we believe will deliver the best outcomes for all the pupils at the school, both present and future.  The purpose of the presentations and accompanying information was to consolidate that into a meaningful summary of the assessment.  Furthermore, Trusts have shared confidential information to allow the Governors to form their opinions, so it would be inappropriate to share this.

 

How were conflicts of interest managed during the process?

As with all aspects of Governor duties, upholding high standards and managing personal conflicts was important during this process.  Two Governors declared conflicts of interest during this process.

Mrs Allen, wife of Mr Allen, CEO of Westbrook Trust, was Chair of Governors at Fairview when this process started, and has subsequently stepped down.  To avoid conflicts of interest Mr Woods, Vice Chair of Governors, led the academy working party, Mrs Allen was not a member of the working party and stepped out of any other meeting where academisation was discussed during the decision process.  Due to the significant workloads for the working party the Governors agreed it would be beneficial for Mrs Allen to continue as Chair for a further period, satisfied with the measures taken to avoid any conflict.

Mrs Hunt, our Local Authority Governor, is a Head Teacher of a Kent primary school for which Mr Allen became Chair of Governors.  This was declared and Mrs Hunt played no further role in the decision process.  The Governors also discussed if they felt that Mrs Hunt could have unduly influenced the decision process and it was unanimously agreed that she had given balanced views throughout the process.

Due to these conflicts the Governors requested an independent audit of the process to be undertaken, the report from which was shared with Medway council and the Regional Schools Commissioner.  The Regional Schools Commissioner, responsible for academisation decisions confirmed they were “suitably content with your demonstration that the academisation decision was made independently”.

 

Why did the Vice Chair of Governors run the consultation meetings rather than the Chair?

The Governors are all volunteers and have collectively spent 100’s of hours to ensure they could be fully informed to determine the most suitable Trust for Fairview, in addition to all other time commitments required to Govern the school.  We work as a team to utilise skills and support each other to ensure we can work as effectively as possible.  The Vice Chair has led this process from the beginning due to the potential conflict of interest described above, but was unavailable to attend the previous informal consultation meetings due to personal reasons.  Further due to the very significant amount of time required to prepare and lead the consultation process, the Chair and Vice Chair agreed that the Vice Chair would lead these meetings, while the Chair continued to lead the BAU activity of the Governing Body.  

Compass

Will there be an opportunity for Compass to present to parents?

No.  The Governors’ role is to determine what it believes is the right strategic option for the School and then consult with stakeholders to gain an understanding and consider the view of the school community.

Compass are not part of the proposal, and it would undermine the process to allow another trust to present what they can offer in 30 minutes, when the Governors have spent 100’s of hours to ensure a fully triangulated view of the trusts has been obtained.

To be clear this is not a vote between Westbrook and Compass, it is an opportunity to share your views on the proposal to academise with Westbrook.  We encourage everyone to complete the survey to share views be they positive, negative, or other.

The Compass Partnerships of Schools has been providing Fairview with interim leadership support since January 2019, this was due to end in July, but was extended due to the impact of COVID.  There is an open audit issue with Medway Council due to Fairview being a maintained school but not having a Medway Employee as headteacher, for example there are financial control challenges.  This issue needs to be resolved so the current interim arrangement cannot continue, so therefore if the school does not get approval to academise the Governors will remain a Local Authority school and recruit a substantive Head Teacher.

 

Why did the Governors consider Compass more Corporate than Westbrook?

During the process, the Governors had a wide range of interaction and sources of information about the trusts.  It is using this broad set of information that this opinion was formed.  The Governors agree that the atmosphere in the Compass schools remains family focussed, but other interactions with the trust led to the opinion that the Trust overall had a more corporate identity than Westbrook.

 

Was the fact Compass is tried and testing considered in the assessment?

Yes, it was.  We considered a wide range of aspects, and short-term and long-term leadership impact was considered separately.  As you would expect the Governors recognised the short-term benefit that Compass offered vs other trust options.

 

As Compass are a London based academy are they simply pushing to stay at Fairview for business planning and expansion purposes, as once they have one school in the area they can expand further or is it because they believe they are the best fit for the school?

It would not be appropriate for the Governors to comment on this question.

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