The Benefits of Joining the Bushey St James Trust
The benefits of joining a Multi Academy Trust are wide ranging but include the following:
• Governors and leaders can come together and, supported by a common ethos, take responsibility for providing a better education in their local community
• A greater sharing of effective practice across schools can be more easily facilitated
• All schools within the MAT gain access to the experience of leadership provided across the wider setting
• The impact of great leaders and governors to support and develop teachers across a wider group of schools is provided
• Increased career development opportunities for all staff and future leaders can be provided, enabling a greater array of middle leadership positions and improved recruitment and retention of staff
• It is easier for teachers to support each other across schools by sharing, drawing on and learning from good practice, taking on increased responsibility for specialist subjects and acting as coaches and critical friends
• Economies of scale can enable cost efficient commissioning and purchasing of goods and services, and facilitate in-house services for all schools across the MAT.
The Bushey St James Trust is a Multi Academy Trust focussed on developing local collaborations and meeting local need. This inevitably enhances the collaborative benefits of being in a MAT and makes it easier to communicate, share good practice, and create a common ethos within the Trust.
The BSJT has a proven track record of school improvement and the key leaders within the BSJT have first-hand experience of improving schools in both the primary and secondary sector; they themselves have led schools from the spectrum of inadequate to outstanding using proven school improvement models.
Within the BSJT there is a real focus on making teaching as good as it can be and enabling the key school leaders’ to have the time to do this by centralising administrative, finance and HR functions where and when appropriate.
Data is used effectively to hold the school leaders within the BSJT to account for performance and as far as possible all unnecessary burdens have been reduced for leaders and teachers by streamlining information management processes across the Trust.
The BSJT adopts a standardised approach to using and sharing information in regard to quality assurance across the schools. This enables the Trust Board to be provided with consistent information so that they can quickly see and make comparisons of the performance of each school, both as a whole and in particular areas (such as the impact of pupil premium funding). It is also easier to identify areas of strengths and weakness within individual schools and, where support needs and can be provided. There is an expectation that every school within the Trust will be both a giver and receiver of support as there are pockets of outstanding practice and areas for development in each school.
All staff are able to learn and share good practice. Teachers across the schools (both primary and secondary) observe and learn from each other to improve the quality of teaching for all pupils. This helps to reduce teacher workload and increases creativity. The Headteachers also work together and support each other to manage change.
All school leaders work hard to ensure that every member of staff within the Trust has a personalised and bespoke professional development plan, irrespective of their position or seniority. Being in a MAT can facilitate greater opportunities for all staff which helps to attract, retain and support the improvement of high quality teachers and Associate Staff.
As with many other Trusts, staff within the BSJT have recognised the potential benefit for pupils’ outcomes and teacher workload in developing high-quality curriculum and learning materials which can then be rolled out in their schools. This means that more coherent learning programmes from KS1 – KS5 can be developed and better student progress secured.
Sharing Expertise and Services
Within the BSJT, by sharing expertise and services across the schools, this has freed up leadership time to focus on educational priorities. Sharing central administrative services has saved money and has removed burdens from both Headteachers and teachers.
Payroll, invoicing, budgeting, bulk purchasing, contract negotiations, recruitment administration, policies, caretaker/facilities management and human resources work is all undertaken centrally within the BSJT and is contributing to making significant savings. This money has been redeployed to maximise the impact for pupils across the Trust.
Governance within the BSJT is focused on improving the quality of teaching and learning, and on the progress made by pupils. This is because the MAT is able to provide advice and guidance on various reports and requirements that might otherwise have eaten up valuable time.
The benefits of scale are clear. MATs are better able to plan and put in place efficient workforce structures, as well as drive savings in back-office costs and procurement – ensuring every pound works as hard as possible in improving outcomes for pupils. As with a number of MATs the BSJT has found, for example, that having a single procurement function helps the schools within the trust utilise collective purchasing power, benefit from procurement expertise, and manage contracts on services such as reprographics, cleaning and catering effectively.
Research demonstrates that, on average, MATs were able to help primary schools realise savings in the order of £145 per pupil, representing just over 3.5% of the average Dedicated Schools Grant per pupil funding, allocated to primary schools in 2015-16. For Trusts that are sufficiently large (2,000+ pupils – as with the BSJT) MATS are better able to absorb cost pressures relating to the central overheads, drive value for money and be financially sustainable in the long term.
The transition from a stand-alone academy to a MAT will not automatically bring economies of scale, or efficiencies, because there may also be additional central costs. It can, however, unlock new opportunities to secure efficiencies and therefore the financial resilience highlighted above, in the medium to longer term as the Trust grows.
Within the BSJT financial planning and forecasting looks ahead on at least a three-year basis and reflects potential changes in circumstances, such as increases and decreases in pupil numbers or the New Funding Formula.
The BSJT’s workforce is designed and re-designed when needed to support the effective and efficient delivery of the curriculum across all the schools in the Trust.
Value for money of spending is tested and benchmarked against schools operating in a similar context. As with many trusts the BSJT does this by either using the Department’s benchmarking tool, or by direct comparison to other trusts.
Centralised robust financial systems enable the BSJT Trust Board to have effective oversight and control of finances and promote a value for money culture across the schools within the Trust. The Trust Board is able to reflect the different circumstances of individual schools where needed. Key financial and other decisions from the Trust Board are always clearly communicated and fully discussed with the Local Governing Bodies within the Trust.
Academy trusts are accountable for educational outcomes, financial management, safeguarding (including health and safety) and estate management in their trusts. The BSJT Trust Board is responsible for risk management – particularly setting the parameters of the process and reviewing and considering the results. Effective risk management underpins effective planning elsewhere like strategic finance. The Trust Board’s involvement is such that within the trustees’ annual report they can make the required risk management statement with confidence.
Effective due diligence takes place before the BSJT agrees to a school joining the Trust. This means the Trust fully understands all the risks, assets, and liabilities they would be taking on, and either put appropriate plans in place, or decide that it is not appropriate for the school to join the BSJT at that time. Any due diligence is carried out by a person or persons with sufficient skills and experience. Specialists are employed or contracted if those skills do not already exist within the Trust.
Legal requirements relating to the estate, including requirements relating to health and safety, and specific potential threats such as legionella, asbestos and fire are well understood. Comprehensive knowledge of buildings and their condition enables the BSJT to plan and prioritise maintenance and construction work. The BSJT has been hugely successful with bidding for significant funding over many years to central Condition Improvement Fund.
Managing the Buildings and the Trust Estate
The BSJT has a dedicated Facilities Manager who leads the site team and works directly to the Executive Principal. The site team maintain a three-year capital plan for each academy, ensuring that projects are prioritised across the estate on the basis of need. The site team also collates and centrally holds all relevant data on the estate, including condition surveys, health and safety inspections and projected student numbers.
It ensures that the relevant health and safety and site management policies and procedures are followed consistently across the BSJT. This means that the necessary burden of ensuring each and every school in the Trust meets its statutory obligations when it comes to ensuring their buildings are safe and secure is removed from the respective Headteacher, who can focus on ensuring that excellent teaching and learning takes place.