Epping Forest MAT: Frequently Asked Questions

During the Information Evening for parents regarding the proposal for Ivy Chimneys Primary School to convert to a Multi-Academy Trust, here are some of the questions that parents have asked with our responses.

What other schools are likely to join the MAT and how soon?  What are the “15 other schools” identified for joining this MAT mentioned in the Academy letter?

There are 16 schools who have shown an interest in joining the Multi-Academy Trust. It is likely that all 16 schools won't join at the same time, but instead in two 'Waves'. We can be very transparent about those schools in Wave 1 since these schools have already communicated their intentions amongst their school communities. It would be inappropriate for us to divulge information about schools in Wave 2 until they have written to parents. The following schools are actively consulting with parents and intend to convert in Wave 1:

Ivy Chimneys Primary School
Epping Upland CE Primary School
Alderton Junior School
Whitebridge Primary School
Staples Road Primary School
St John's CE Primary School
Lambourne Primary School
High Beech CE Primary School

Schools joining in Wave 2 are likely to convert and join the MAT in September 2018.

Are staff happy about this proposal?  Will there be any changes to the terms and conditions for staff?

Staff have been formally consulted about the proposal. The terms and conditions for all current staff employed at Ivy Chimneys Primary School (Essex County Council) will remain the same and will be TUPE'd to the newly formed Multi-Academy Trust.

Are any changes to the admission arrangements anticipated?

There will be no changes to the admission arrangements as we will adhere to the same criteria used at present. The Planning and Admissions department at Essex County Council will continue in their duty to oversee school places in Essex regardless of whether schools are under local authority control or members of a Multi-Academy Trust.

Is expansion of the school being proposed/considered as part of the conversion?

There are no plans to expand the school as an outcome of converting to an academy. However, we remain committed to supporting the Ivy Chimneys community and the increasing demand for school places in Epping as we have in recent years. The school will continue to monitor birth rate forecasts and make appropriate plans in relation to these.

If the school becomes a MAT with only 1 school (Ivy Chimneys) will this will have a detrimental impact on finances?

As you know, this consultation is proposing a formal partnership of potentially 16 schools within the MAT. Financial due diligence is being undertaken to ensure that this is a proposal to secure our financial future rather than compromise our current financial position. It is worth noting that our current calculations suggest that Ivy Chimneys won't be financially worse off. Equally, we aren't anticipating that we will receive any additional funding. However, through joint purchasing decisions, we do anticipate achieving better economies of scale than we do at present.

As mentioned in question 1, 8 schools are currently actively consulting to form part of phase 1 and it is seen as very unlikely that only 1 school would take this step.

If the school becomes a MAT with many schools, there is a concern that standards at Ivy Chimneys will be negatively impacted if the Head is less present at Ivy Chimneys as his focus is diverted to other schools needing more support?

One of the main drivers for becoming an MAT is to ensure the financial stability and formalise our collaboration with other schools in order to continually improve the quality of education available to our children.

We currently work to support schools in the Epping Forest area on an informal basis and we readily accept advice and support from local schools to ensure that the standards at Ivy Chimneys are the highest possible. Mutual support has been the foundation of 20+ years of working in partnership with the Epping Forest Consortium and the Epping & Ongar Partnership/Local Delivery Group. We foresee that being part of a Multi-Academy Trust strengthens the working relationship between schools as we will be more accountable to each other on a more formal basis. This more formal partnership should enable stronger safeguards against any of the schools in the Multi-Academy Trust doing less well.

The structure of the MAT provides for a much broader range of expertise that the school can draw from and its important to bear in mind that while we will contribute to the MAT, other schools will be sharing skills and resources with Ivy Chimneys in turn.

Does Ivy Chimneys have the resources to support struggling schools that may join the Ivy Chimneys MAT?  There is a concern that resources (financial and personnel) will be diverted out of Ivy Chimneys if the MAT takes on a school that needs additional support.  Ivy Chimneys is not a large school with a large pool of resources available - can it really afford to send its best teachers to go in and support struggling schools under the MAT, without this impacting on the experience and outcomes for pupils at Ivy Chimneys school?

All schools that join the MAT now and in future years are carefully considered to ensure the Multi-Academy Trust is a successful partnership of schools. The Multi-Academy Trust decides on which schools join the MAT.

Ivy Chimneys is a very successful school and has a strong pool of talented senior leaders, teachers and support staff. Any support that we currently offer to other schools as a local authority school, is carefully considered before any commitment is given or agreed. Our role is to help and support less successful schools to ensure the children in those schools achieve good or better outcomes but this shouldn't be at the detriment of children at Ivy Chimneys.

Of course support offered within the Multi-Academy Trust works two ways. If ever Ivy Chimneys found itself needing support, we would benefit from the support that other schools can provide to our staff and children.

There is a concern that becoming a MAT will impact of the ethos of the school if staff are coming and going more often and the head is less present, as staff are being diverted to support other schools within the MAT.

The identity and ethos of Ivy Chimneys will be preserved after joining the Multi-Academy Trust. One of the core reasons for joining the Multi-Academy Trust at its inception is our ability to define how schools will work within the formal partnership. Much of the decision making will still reside with individual schools. We don't envisage that any support that is provided to or by other schools will have a detrimental impact on the day to day operation or ethos of Ivy Chimneys.

The MAT consultation letter states that “Ivy Chimneys will still have its own leadership team and its own Head. There are no plans to change this while the budget can still sustain it.” What is meant by while the budget can sustain it?  Does this mean that eventually the leadership team will reduce?
There are no changes to the leadership structure at Ivy Chimneys as a result of joining the Multi-Academy Trust. It is impossible to foresee whether there will be any changes to the leadership team, its structure or the role of Head Teacher in the future. Clearly the organisation of staffing is very budget dependent and irrespective of whether we are part of a Multi-Academy Trust or not, this is reviewed annually based on affordability. The long term financial forecast as part of this MAT predicts at least maintenance of current funding as far as we can reasonably see. This would not necessarily be the case on the existing model of LA funding.