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AIMAT Consultation

Parkside School is no longer continuing with the AIMAT process – July 2019

Frequently Asked Questions

SECTION 1: Academy Information

What is an Academy?

Academies are publicly funded independent schools that are not managed by a local authority but their funding and accountability is directly with the Department for Education.

Note Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) top up funding for Academies will still be paid by Local Authorities who retain a statutory duty for SEND.

Why is The Parkside School proposing to become an Academy?

For a number of years, the Governors of The Parkside School have been investigating the benefits of Academy status for our School, our pupils and staff, with a number of partner Schools in the area.

We now believe that the time is right to convert to an Academy and form a Co-operative Multi-Academy Trust, to be known as AIMAT (Anglia Inclusive Multi-Academy Trust) in order to take our partnership and collaborative work to the next level.

The proposed Trust will comprise the following Schools;

  • The Parkside School (Norwich);
  • John Grant School (Caister-on-Sea); and
  • Fred Nicholson School (Dereham).

Will our commitment to Special Educational Needs and Inclusion change?

No. Our vision and commitment to pupils with complex needs will not change. By forming a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) with other special schools in the County we will be sharing and growing our knowledge and expertise across all three schools, to improve support to pupils and their parents.

What is our vision for AIMAT?

The schools have agreed a collective vision to build an inclusive Co-operative MAT for the Anglia region which will start with special schools and potentially grow to include other schools who share our vision.

The three schools’ specialisms are different and complimentary and the MAT will be able to build on them and create a regional centre of excellence in special education.

We wish to become a leading centre for research and development into the education of children with special educational needs within the Anglia region. AIMAT is intending to develop links with a range of partners, including local universities and colleges. With its partners, AIMAT can develop best practice for educating pupils with a wide range of special needs, allowing us to stay at the forefront of SEND Education in the region.

Why are the schools proposing to form a Co-operative MAT?

There are a number of structures approved by the Department for Education that academies can choose to adopt. AIMAT has chosen one based on Co-operative principles.

All Co-operative organisations share a common set of principles which aim to benefit all stakeholders. These include:

  • Openness – Open to other schools, academies or free schools to join if they share these principles (see paragraph on p6 – Can other schools join AIMAT in future?);
  • Ethical – being ethical about what we do and the way we do it;
  • Social responsibility – encouraging all stakeholders to take responsibility for their own community, and work together to improve it;
  • Caring for others – treating everyone as we wish to be treated ourselves.

The Governance of Academies is made up of Members and Trustees. These are voluntary, unpaid positions. In AIMAT there would be five Members, and at least nine Trustees. Members and Trustees are appointed according to their particular skills and experience that they can bring. Each Academy has to adopt a series of statements called Articles. Uniquely, a MAT based on the Co-operative Articles has the additional structure of a Forum. The Forum is made up of representatives of local stakeholder groups. Each school has a Local Governing Body (LGB) that supports and provides challenge at school level. Typically, this LGB is a smaller group than the schools’ existing Governing Bodies.

The Co-operative Articles contain the following features;

  • The Forum appoints two Members;
  • Members appoint Trustees;
  • The Forum provides a feedback mechanism from stakeholders to Members;

The Co-operative values resonate with AIMAT’s vision and values for an inclusive Trust as shaped by the Head Teachers and Governors who have been working on these proposals.

Current school Governors also liked the local democratic accountability of the Forum electing two of the five Members who appoint the Trustees and hold to them to account for AIMAT’s performance.

The AIMAT structure includes the appointment of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and a Finance Director (FD). These are appointed by the Trustees.

What does inclusive mean to us?

Effective inclusion relies on ensuring;

  • All pupils are enabled to participate in the school community and make progress. Progress should be seen in as wide a context as possible, i.e. not just within an academic framework;
  • Teaching seeks to ensure that all children are successful, have high aspirations and a love of lifelong learning;
  • Positive emotional well-being and mental health for all;
  • We are a reflective organisation always seeking to improve practice to meet the needs of a diverse and increasingly complex school population;
  • Early identification of need and support;
  • That we encourage and facilitate the participation of stakeholder groups, in particular parents and carers;
  • Understanding and respect for the communities in which our young people participate.

We believe that the schools which stand by these inclusive principles are the most effective in combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all.

What benefits do we anticipate from forming AIMAT?

Forming AIMAT will bring the following benefits:

  • The combined resources of the schools within AIMAT will support the achievement of the best possible learning and life outcomes for the pupils;
  • Sharing of best practice across all schools in AIMAT;
  • Greater access to support for AIMAT schools (for example administration, pupil outcomes, teaching and learning, staff development);
  • Gain economies of scale in the procurement of goods and services to reduce costs and free up more resources for use in the classroom;
  • Provide wider opportunities for staff in training, employment progression and experience, ensuring dedicated and skilled staff are not only attracted to work in AIMAT but are retained;
  • The establishment of the new governance structure (the Members and Trustees) will hold the CEO and AIMAT to the highest standards through their robust challenge, management and strategic leadership;
  • A voice for the schools’ communities and stake holders at Members level through the election of two representatives via the Co-operative Forum;
  • Added value of challenge, accountability and support of a CEO taking a strategic approach to the development of AIMAT;
  • Opportunities to expand AIMAT to include good or outstanding special and/or mainstream schools who share our vision;
  • Opportunities to sponsor a new special school or one in need of support.

How will AIMAT work?

The ethos of AIMAT is that all schools are equal partners with the shared overall aim of improving life chances for pupils. Each school is seen as central to its own community with the skills of each being used in a supportive way for all the others.

The AIMAT Trustees act through the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to offer both support and challenge to the Head Teachers and schools. The challenge is to ensure pupil progress continues to be at least good, standards are monitored and the well-being of all is maintained in school environments that are safe and appropriate.

The Local Governing Body is responsible for monitoring the performance of each school at a local level and reporting this back to the Trustees. They have powers delegated from AIMAT under a Scheme of Delegation across a range of areas, but will focus on the outcomes for pupils, as many of the administrative functions will be centralised.

The Local Governing Body is comprised of people with relevant skills and/or experience. It should include at least two parents or carers, plus others from the staff and community as appropriate. It continues to provide support and challenge to the Head Teacher.

Support comes through a genuine partnership of schools in AIMAT working collaboratively together to be greater than the sum of its parts. Each school has its own Development Plan focusing on the quality of education and this forms part of the overall AIMAT Development Plan.

AIMAT’s Development Plan will be updated by the CEO and regularly reviewed by the Trustees. The schools’ Development Plans will be overseen by the CEO, updated by the Head Teachers, and regularly reviewed by the Local Governing Body.

What have the schools done to ensure that AIMAT is viable and achievable?

Our preparation work for the formation of AIMAT has included:

  • Devising the vision and values, aims and objectives;
  • Identifying potential Members and Trustees. In the interim a Shadow Board has been formed to oversee the transition process;
  • Undertaking a due diligence exercise on the finances of all schools to ensure that all are financially sound and viable;
  • Modelling the projected finances of AIMAT to ensure it is sustainable;
  • Considering the AIMAT’s approach to school improvement by building on the combined strengths of the three schools;
  • Recruiting an Interim CEO – Pam Ashworth; and
  • Recruiting an Interim Operations Lead – Judy Ellis.

This culminated in an application to the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) for the three schools to establish AIMAT.

The RSC office approved our application to convert and establish AIMAT in July 2018 and the Schools have put in place plans to convert on 1st April 2019.

What are the aims and objectives of AIMAT?

  • Improving the educational outcomes of all pupils;
  • Improve the mental health of all pupils, and through this develop the skills and coping strategies that will enable them to lead fulfilled lives including being confident in and making a positive contribution to their local communities;
  • For all AIMAT schools to be judged as outstanding by Ofsted;
  • To develop outstanding leaders in the area of SEND both within the AIMAT schools and beyond;
  • To support teaching schools to ensure that all teachers have a good understanding of teaching pupils with SEND;
  • Fully utilise the facilities and provision of each school, to enthuse and motivate pupils to be fully engaged in their education;
  • Improve skills for personal independence and life in the community, also whenever possible, employment opportunities and employment outcomes for pupils with SEND;
  • Longer term we aim for AIMAT and its services/expertise to grow, enhancing the learning and life opportunities of a wider range of pupils through the Anglia region.

What will not change because we academise?

If we become an Academy there are a number of things that will not be affected, including:

  • Our relentless commitment to delivering the very best education for our pupils;
  • The individual ethos of each school;
  • Terms and conditions of employment for staff;
  • The names of each school;
  • The curricula in each school;
  • Admissions arrangements (will continue to be via Norfolk County Council);
  • The buildings will remain as they are (work is underway to identify funding to improve facilities on all sites in the medium term.);
  • The “Top Up” funding and audit arrangements (from Norfolk County Council) for pupils in complex needs schools.

What will change?

Similarly, if we become an Academy there are a number of things that will change:

  • The legal status of the schools that become part of AIMAT, which would be a charitable company limited by guarantee;
  • Five Members will be appointed;
  • A Board of Trustees will be appointed by the Members to have the overall responsibility for running the three schools;
  • The Trustees will appoint a Chief Executive Officer who will lead, line manage and support the three Head Teachers;
  •  The Trustees will appoint a Finance Director;
  • Staff will be employed by AIMAT not by the Governors of each school;
  • Local Governing Bodies will be established by the Trustees operating under a scheme of delegation;
  • The responsibility for the school buildings will transfer to AIMAT
  • Financial arrangements – Most funding will come to the school direct from Central Government (with top up place funding still coming from the Local Authority);
  • Some functions, e.g. Finance, HR, Site development and maintenance, will be overseen centrally.

Is The Parkside School being forced to become an Academy?

No. All of the Schools proposing to form AIMAT are rated as either Ofsted ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ and are thus eligible to voluntarily convert under the Academies Act 2010.

When will The Parkside School become an Academy?

Work is under way and the planned conversion date is 1st April 2019.

Can other Schools join AIMAT in future?

Yes. Other Ofsted rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ schools can join with the permission of the AIMAT Board of Trustees.

AIMAT may also apply to the DfE for approved Sponsor status in order to support new Free Schools, or schools in ‘Special Measures’ or ‘Requires Improvement’; should an appropriate school be identified.

Why is there a consultation?

The Academies Act 2010 requires Governors to consult “such persons as they think appropriate” on whether the school should become an academy.

The Governing Body will consult with all key stakeholders about the academy conversion including parents, staff, pupils and other schools over a four week period from 7th January 2019 to 4th February 2019.

Does the school need agreement from the Local Authority to become an Academy?

No. The Academies Act 2010 has removed the need for the Local Authority to approve plans for the school to become an Academy.

Norfolk County Council is, however, very supportive of this process and the schools’ plans.

What form of relationship will exist between the Local Authority and the school?

This is for individual Academies or Multi Academy Trusts to determine – there is no statutory requirement for any formal relationship between Local Authorities and Academies. Academies are directly funded and accountable to central government (Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency).

The Local Authority retains statutory duties for aspects of Special Educational Needs, admissions coordination and provision of home-to-school transport. Local Authorities are also expected to play a key strategic role locally in areas such as pupil placement, admissions and sharing good practice.

However, The Parkside School has a good relationship with Norfolk County Council and we expect this to continue after it has converted.

Will the school change its name and uniform as some Academies have done?

No. The school will not change its name or uniform after it becomes an academy.

Are Academies subject to the same Ofsted inspection regime?

Schools converting to Academies will continue to be inspected in the normal way.

What is the process for The Parkside School to join the AIMAT?

As The Parkside School is proposing to be part of a new Multi Academy Trust, there is a need to set up a separate company. The conversion process includes the following key legal processes:

  • Registering the Memorandum and Articles of Association for AIMAT with Companies House;
  • Putting in place a Supplementary Funding Agreement between the AIMAT and the Secretary of State for the running and funding of The Parkside School;
  • Transferring the employment of the staff from the School Governors to AIMAT, following a statutory process (TUPE);
  • Agreeing a Commercial Transfer Agreement for the transfer of assets and contracts from the local authority to AIMAT; and
  • Arranging for the land currently owned by the Parkside Community Trust to be transferred to AIMAT.

SECTION 2: Staff Issues

Does the school have to hold a consultation with staff?

Under employment legislation Parkside Community Trust which is the current employer will need to conduct a TUPE* consultation with all staff (both teaching and non-teaching) and the relevant unions / professional associations as part of the staff transfer process.

(*TUPE = Transfer of Undertaking – Protection of Employment)

Can the school alter teachers’ pay and conditions?

The terms and conditions of teachers are protected on transfer under by the TUPE regulations. Academies do have the freedom to vary terms and conditions from national ones, but AIMAT does not have any plans to do this.

Can the school alter non-teaching staff pay and conditions?

The terms and conditions of non-teaching staff are protected on transfer under by the TUPE regulations. Academies do have the freedom to vary terms and conditions, but AIMAT does not have any plans to do this.

We will maintain Norfolk County Council terms and conditions for existing non-teaching staff through all the schools.

If the school becomes an Academy, who takes responsibility for the pension arrangements?

Teachers working in an academy fall within the scope of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS), just as if they were employed in a Local Authority maintained school.

Non-teaching staff at schools are able to join the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). This is administered by Norfolk County Council as at present. Employees will pay the same rate as at present under both schemes, subject to any nationally imposed changes.

How will the TUPE process work and what specific responsibilities does the school have?

As the employer, The Parkside Community Trust is responsible for leading the TUPE process to inform and consult with staff. This will be delivered by Norfolk County Council HR Team who are the schools’ HR advisors.

AIMAT is responsible for informing the employee of any ‘measures’ which will impact on their employment and writes to each member of staff confirming that they will transfer under existing terms and conditions.

SECTION 3: Finance

Will we get more money as an Academy?

No, funding overall will remain the same.

The Government is clear that becoming an Academy should not bring about a financial advantage or disadvantage to a school. However, academies do have greater freedom to decide how they use their entire budget.

SECTION 4: Admissions

Will becoming an Academy affect our admissions arrangements?

The Local Authority will continue to be responsible for admissions for all pupils with an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP). All pupils who attend the three proposed AIMAT schools are required to have an EHCP. The current arrangements will therefore continue whereby Local Authority remains responsible for placing the pupils, in liaison with the schools.

Further information on admissions is available from Children’s Services and on the individual school websites.

Does becoming an Academy change the way in which exclusions are dealt with?

Academies are required by their Funding Agreement to follow the law and guidance on exclusions as if they were maintained schools.

Should this situation ever arise, AIMAT would continue to work with Norfolk County Council to seek an outcome that was in the interests of the pupil, parents and school.

SECTION 5: Further Information

How do I find out more about the proposals?

Come along to the consultation meeting being held for parents at the School on Tuesday 22nd January at 6.00pm

A separate meeting is being held for staff.

There will be an opportunity for you to meet representatives of AIMAT and Governors and ask questions.

Please complete and return the separate questionnaire page to the School office by Monday 4th February 2019, either by email to, in person or by post.

Mr Steve Hobbs
Chair of Governors
The Parkside School
January 2019


Academy Consultation Questionnaire

thumbnail of Parkside Academy Conversion FAQ



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