Saturday, 9 January 2016

New Town primary and St John's consulting on becoming academies

New Town primary school and St John's have announced some consultation meetings on becoming academies. I am sceptical about this and about what the benefits are especially as the latest communication doesn't seem to give any. What do you think? Full details of consultation meetings near the bottom.

"Two [consultation] meetings will take place on Tuesday 12th January, one at 2:00pm at New Town Primary School and one at 7:00pm at St John’s Primary School. Both meetings will be the same and they will consist of informal discussion, a formal presentation and the start of the formal consultation process. 

We wrote to you on 10th December to tell you about the governors’ plans to form a new multi academy trust with St John’s Primary School and New Town Primary School. I would now like to share some further information with you, answer some of the questions you have asked and invite you to a meeting to hear more about these plans.

The Academies programme is a central feature of government policy, and also of previous governments. The purpose of the Academies programme is to give every school the opportunity to decide if it wants to continue under the umbrella of the local authority or to become an independent autonomous body.

Over recent years there have been on-going financial constraints and cuts faced by local government and many services traditionally provided to schools by the Local Authority have been either reduced or completely phased out.
Both New Town and St John’s have had to consider whether or not to convert to an academy. In considering the various possibilities open to each school, the staff and governors have at all times kept the following two matters at the forefront of their thinking:

1.  What is in the best interests of the children of St John’s Primary School and New Town Primary School, both now and looking ahead to those who will attend either school in the years to come?
2.  How can we best preserve the distinctive ethos in each school and continue to adhere to our vision statements?

What is an Academy?
An academy is a government funded school that is independent of the Local Authority. Whilst academy status gives schools additional responsibilities, and greater freedoms, in terms of the day to day functioning, an academy school will not be noticeably different to a Local Authority maintained school.

Responsibility for funding an academy school, monitoring performance and any capital projects will fall to central government rather than to local government.
If the decision is made to transfer to become an academy, the school and governing body will join an academy trust, which is a charitable company.  In this way, no one can make any money from the company. The company is limited by guarantee. It does not pay dividends and makes no profit but is a legal entity.

Schools have the option to stay as they are, to convert as stand-alone academies, or to convert as part of a Multi-Academy Trust.  The governors of both schools have looked in detail at the options available and have agreed that becoming academies, as part of the Royal Berkshire Schools Trust (RBST), should be explored in detail in order to establish whether or not this would be the best way to safeguard the distinctive education offered by each school.  Sustaining the character and ethos of each school was central to every discussion that took place.

Being part of the RBST will enable school leaders and governors to take control of the future of both schools and lead forward with clear vision, as well as enable school staff to concentrate on continuing to deliver the highest standards of teaching and care to all pupils.  This support is given through central services which are funded through a 5% top slice from the academies’ income.  RBST academies will automatically be provided with a Service Level Agreement that includes support with the curriculum, school improvement, HR advice, finance software, training and advice, governance, premises and admissions appeals.

Why are we exploring conversion as part of RBST?
At the heart of the RBST vision is the commitment to educational excellence.  The RBST has at its core a calling to serve pupils, staff, parents and the local community by providing academies with the highest levels of academic rigour and pastoral care.  Academies are places where children and young people develop and thrive intellectually, socially, culturally and spiritually.

Both schools in the RBST will teach a broad and balanced curriculum within national guidelines.  Focusing on core skills, this is designed to ensure that all pupils reach their academic potential and seeks to enrich their experience along the way.  Pupils are enabled to succeed in an atmosphere of high expectation, aspiring to educational excellence with a firm commitment to Christian values.

RBST is committed to sustaining St John’s as an outstanding school, as well as supporting New Town which is in need of specific improvement.  The Trust will set out to recruit and retain staff of the highest quality and to offer them the working conditions they need to give of their best as they serve the pupils in their care.  It will work in partnership with families so that children can be engaged and effective learners.

RBST will seek to embody the Christian experience of community, where gifts are shared without counting the cost, where the emphasis is on what can be contributed, rather than on what might be received, and where each is given according to need.

As a limited company operating within the family of the Diocese of Oxford, the Trust is motivated by Christian values to serve local communities, but it will not impose those values.  RBST welcomes those of all faiths and none, and is proud of the ethnic diversity within its schools.

Being part of RBST will change some things behind the scenes but otherwise you and your children will see very little difference when we make this change.  We will continue to work closely with our school community, other local primary and secondary schools.  The names of the schools will not change, the uniforms will not change and we will not change term dates or the school’s admissions policies.  The differing religious characteristics of each school will remain unaffected.

Being part of the Trust allows both schools to maintain their unique ethos and character, allows for the partnership to develop further with the same management and leadership currently in place and most importantly allows us to take control of our future and make decisions based on what is right for the children of each school.  The Board of Trustees will be leaders and governors who are currently leading both schools.

RBST is being established with just two schools initially which  allows for strength to remain in the individual schools in the East Reading community as well as united strength together.  Other Multi- Academy Trusts set up by the Oxford Diocese have been able to maintain the individual ethos of each school, whether community schools or voluntary aided. The Oxford Diocese therefore knows and understands what it means to preserve the ethos of a school and is totally committed to sustaining the character and ethos of each Primary School.  RBST will not make any central curriculum decisions though it will help schools to respond to new developments and enable a collaborative approach to finding suitable solutions.

In every discussion that has been had and every decision that has been made, we want to assure you that our focus remains wholly on your children’s learning, and ensuring each school retains its community identity, distinctiveness, autonomy and drive to improve. We are committed to providing the best possible education, both now and in the future; any decision to convert to an academy will have these values at its core.

Next steps for St John’s Primary School and New Town Primary School
There will be several opportunities for you to receive more information in the New Year as well as share your views formally and informally.  Two meetings will take place on Tuesday 12th January, one at 2:00pm at New Town Primary School and one at 7:00pm at St John’s Primary School. Both meetings will be the same and they will consist of informal discussion, a formal presentation and the start of the formal consultation process.  At the consultation meetings on 12th January, the governors and school leaders will be present, as well as Anne Davey, Director of Schools for the Oxford Diocese and Mark Jones, HR Adviser, who will provide an opportunity for you to find out what academy status would mean for our schools and to ask questions, as it is important that we receive your views before a final decision is taken.
The Governing Bodies of each school make the decision on whether or not each school becomes part of the Multi-Academy Trust; however, the consultation process seeks the views of parents and other stakeholders to inform that decision.

We hope that you can attend one of the meetings next term and that you continue to give the governors and the staff your support in driving our schools forward.
If you have any questions, please email the Clerk to the governing body of St John’s on clearly stating who your question or comment is for.  A full list of governors at each school is overleaf.



St John’s CE (Aided) Primary School

Ex Officio Foundation Governor

Rev V Gardner (Vicar of St John’s & St Stephen’s Church)

Foundation Governor appointed by the Diocese of Oxford

Mr D Langshaw (Chair of the Governing Body)
Mr G Buick
Foundation Governors appointed by the Parochial Church Council of St John’s & St Stephen’s Church
Mrs M. Harwood
Mr S Hodgson (Vice Chairman of the Governing Body)
Mrs N Stevenson
Dr R Penny
Dr L Methven
Mrs A Reilly
Governors appointed by the Local Education Authority (Reading Borough Council)

Parent Governors

Mrs C Burges
Mr N Hooley
Mr L Pullen


Mrs A Brackstone

Staff Governors

Mrs M Pett (School Business Manager)
Co-opted Governor
Mrs J Kitching (Year One Teacher)
Associate Governor
Mr D Bickford

New Town Primary School

Mr Michael Lambden (Chair of the IEB)

Dr Asif Butt

Ms Siobhan Egan

Mrs Angie Kay

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