Academy Consultation

Should Malden Oaks apply to become an academy and join the Auriga Academy Trust? 

Consultation document

Introduction by the Headteacher and the Management Committee of Malden Oaks

The government encourages good and outstanding schools to gain academy status. This document explains what that means and why, after careful consideration, the Management Committee (the governing body) of Malden Oaks has reached the provisional conclusion that the school should seek to become an alternative provision academy within the Auriga Academy Trust. 

However, before deciding to proceed with a formal application to the Department for Education (DfE), the Committee would like to hear from anyone with an interest in Malden Oaks and its work. Whether you agree or disagree with what is proposed here, your views will be important and will be carefully considered by the Management Committee before it reaches a final decision. 

We hope the sections below will help with any questions you may have:

A. How can I comment on this proposal?
B.  What is Malden Oaks?
C.  What is an academy, and what would be the benefits if Malden Oaks became an academy?
D.  Why are we proposing to join the Auriga Academy Trust?
E.  What changes would we see?
F.  What are the risks?
G.  What happens next?


We look forward to hearing from you.

Robert Green, Chair of Malden Oaks Management Committee

Samantha Axbey, Headteacher

 

A. How can I comment on this proposal?

You can reply to this consultation in three ways:

Robert Green
Chair of Management Committee
Malden Oaks
The Dukes Centre
Dukes Avenue
Kingston upon Thames
KT2 5QY

  • If you would rather speak to a member of the school staff about the proposal, please contact Laura Dandy, Business Manager: stld@maldenoaks.rbksch.org / tel. 0208 289 4669

The main questions on which we would like your comments are:

  1. Do you agree that Malden Oaks should apply to become an alternative provision academy?
  2. Do you agree that we should do so as part of the Auriga Academy Trust?

Of course, please include any other comments you would like us to consider.

However you choose to reply, your comments should arrive no later than Friday 7th May 2021.

Note: This process constitutes the consultation required under Section 8(1) of the Education and Adoption Act 2016.

B. What is Malden Oaks? 

Malden Oaks is a small school currently maintained by the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. We offer ‘alternative provision’ for up to 120 Kingston and Richmond students aged 11-16 (and a small number aged 16+) who have found it difficult to access mainstream education. Some are with us for one or two years, others for only a term or two. We ensure a safe, supportive and stimulating environment where students are encouraged to have high expectations and to take responsibility for their learning and their school community.

Despite our small size, we offer a broad curriculum with a wide range of GCSE subjects to allow students to develop their interests, plus an extensive and inspiring outdoor and activity programme. Supporting our students in developing positive relationships, self-confidence, resilience, creativity and British values is crucial to our ethos. Success is not measured solely by our – nationally outstanding – academic results, but by the views of our past and present students and their parents/carers.

We have three sites in Kingston and Richmond – Ham, Surbiton and Hampton Hill – and provide the following services to students and schools in both boroughs:

  1. as a pupil referral unit (PRU), we educate students who are directed to alternative provision by a state school or who are permanently excluded from school;
  2. special educational needs (SEN): we provide education on site for up to 24 students with an Education, Health and Care Plan relating to social, emotional or mental health needs; and respite education for other SEN students (on site or in other locations including the student’s home);
  3. medical tuition service: for students who are unable to attend school due to ill health; delivered at home or in other venues;
  4. Malden Oaks Outreach Team (MOOT): one day a week programmes at a number of activity venues for KS2, KS3 and KS4 students at risk of disengagement from mainstream school. Also under the MOOT umbrella we run networks and training for teachers in mainstream schools.

Student admissions to Malden Oaks are made in conjunction with Achieving for Children (AfC: the community interest company providing children’s services for Kingston and Richmond) and with the mainstream secondary schools in the two boroughs.

C. What is an academy, and what would be the benefits if Malden Oaks became an academy?

An academy is an independent state-funded school. This means it’s funded directly by the government (the Education Funding Agency, EFA) rather than by a local authority as maintained schools are. As an alternative provision school, much of the funding for Malden Oaks would in future flow through the EFA. But that is essentially a technicality: the actual level of funding would not be affected. 

Academies were originally a Labour government initiative launched in 2000. Subsequent Conservative governments have set the aim that all schools should become academies. The majority of secondary schools have already become academies. By putting forward its own proposal to become an academy, Malden Oaks is able to ensure that it remains in control of the process.

The Department for Education has stated that academy status gives education professionals working in alternative provision greater scope to innovate and raise standards for their students – while remaining clearly accountable for the outcomes they deliver. In comparison with maintained pupil referral units, the benefits enjoyed by alternative provision academies are essentially about increased flexibility. We believe the following areas of flexibility as an academy would help us provide even more effectively for the students at Malden Oaks and for our partners:

  • freedom from direct local authority control: responsibility for our own success at a time of uncertainty, helping us to contribute to and shape local educational developments
  • greater control of our budget according to the school’s priorities
  • freedom to offer new types of support to mainstream and special schools
  • flexibility over the lengths of terms and school days if this would help students

These flexibilities would not mean that Malden Oaks as an academy would ‘go it alone’. Partnership will continue to be central to the way we work. Our key partnerships include AfC; the maintained schools (particularly, but not only, secondary schools) in Kingston and Richmond; other providers we work with to extend our curricular offer; other local services; and of course the parents and carers of our students. As an academy, we would continue to work collaboratively and closely with all of these. 

Why apply to become an academy now? The simple answer is choice and control. At present we have the opportunity to become an academy in the way that we want and with a Trust which best suits our philosophy and the needs of our students. The risk is that if we don’t exercise this choice now, government policy may change and we could be directed down a road which may not meet our students’ needs. For example we might be required to join a Multi Academy Trust with little or no understanding of our values, beliefs and ethos: of what makes Malden Oaks special and successful. 

D. Why are we proposing to join the Auriga Academy Trust?

The government encourages academies to collaborate with each other. Most of these collaborations operate within an academy trust. Over the past year the Management Committee has therefore carried out a thorough investigation to identify the academy trust which would be the best fit for Malden Oaks. After reviewing other local academy trusts and also wider regional and national academy chains we decided to approach the Auriga Academy Trust (AAT). Auriga have told us that they would welcome Malden Oaks as a new member of their academy trust.

Malden Oaks has been working increasingly closely with AAT since 2019. We are now proposing to join AAT because we know that the Trust’s vision and ways of working are closely aligned with those of Malden Oaks, and because we think partnership with Auriga’s schools would have significant mutual benefits. We are currently conducting a robust due diligence process to ensure that there is total transparency on the implications of joining Auriga, and to ensure that we fully understand any potential risks. Auriga is of course similarly conducting a due diligence process in relation to Malden Oaks. The DfE will not approve our application to become an academy unless it is satisfied on these points.

The Auriga Academy Trust was established in 2016. It comprises all three special schools currently operating in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames:

Capella House is a new school: a co-educational special school for pupils aged 4-19. The school specialises in providing for children whose primary or main presenting needs relate to difficulties with speech, language and communication.

Clarendon is a community special school for 140 pupils aged four to 16 with moderate learning difficulties, many of whom have additional complex needs, including autism.  The school manages an offsite centre: Gateway, which is for pupils aged 11-16, and co-located with Twickenham Academy. 

Strathmore is a community special school for children and young people aged 4-19 with severe and complex learning difficulties including those with an additional diagnosis of autism and/or physical/sensory disabilities.

For more information about AAT, please visit the Trust’s website:   

https://www.aurigaacademytrust.org.uk/ 

How will joining AAT benefit Malden Oaks? First and foremost, we will be able to retain our particular ethos, values and culture, within a family of schools that share important beliefs and principles about the education of young people. The Auriga Academy Trust is founded on the vision that, through working together, its schools can provide outstanding learning experiences for the pupils and students in their communities, both now and in the future. That closely matches the Malden Oaks vision set out in section E below. 

Specific benefits which Malden Oaks would hope to realise as a member of AAT include:

  • Sharing professional expertise. For example, Malden Oaks would be able to draw on the speech and language therapy provision within AAT, while Malden Oaks’s expertise in SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) needs, and our teachers’ subject specialisms, would be relevant to the other schools in AAT.
  • Sharing staff development. Our staff will be able to share best practice with a larger pool of colleagues, access broader professional development and draw upon greater resources. For students, this support for teachers will result in enhanced teaching and learning and a strengthened curriculum experience, giving the very best opportunity to achieve the optimum outcomes.
  • Sharing resources. Though a small school, Malden Oaks currently has to support the full range of central services such as financial and estates management, and procurement. By accessing services and resources managed and commissioned across a Trust covering four schools, there would be opportunities for economies of scale: more of our resources could be directly applied to teaching and support of students. 

E. What changes would we see?

From the perspective of students or parents/carers, there will be very little change in the day-to-day running of the school. Keeping all that is special about us is one of the drivers for becoming an academy. The school will still be called Malden Oaks. It will be operating under the same headteacher with the same staff. All staff would continue to work with the same responsibilities as now: they will go through a transfer of employment under TUPE Regulations, which protect the terms and conditions of staff at the point of transfer. Pension rights and continuity of service will be preserved. There are no plans to make any posts redundant as a direct result of joining AAT. 

Open meetings have been held with staff to discuss the implications of becoming an academy, and to allow for questions and concerns. The overall response was supportive. Staff are, of course, encouraged to respond specifically as part of this consultation.

The school will continue to operate on its existing sites. The government expects all land and facilities used wholly or mainly for the purpose of the converting school to transfer and be made available to the academy. There could, in theory, be potential financial liabilities associated with the cost of maintaining our buildings; however, in practice we are already responsible for most of these costs now. 

Our vision will remain unchanged and will be, as it is now, central to everything we do as a school:

 

  • To be a centre of excellence in provision for students who have experienced difficulties in mainstream school, helping them to re-engage with education.
  • To provide a broad, balanced and exciting curriculum which replicates the best of the opportunities available in mainstream schools, combined with bespoke and targeted support.
  • To achieve excellent outcomes through high expectations and quality first teaching, delivered by qualified specialist staff.
  • To prepare all students for a fulfilled and productive adulthood, so that they can make a positive contribution to their families, communities and wider society.
  • To place the needs and voices of students, parents/carers and the local family of schools at the centre of everything we do.

 

Possible changes, though less immediately visible, would be significant in the long run. They would arise from the additional flexibilities as an academy which would help us to achieve the Malden Oaks vision even more effectively, and the additional efficiencies possible as a member of AAT which would help us target resources even better.

One area where there would be some early change is in the governance of Malden Oaks. The governing body of a maintained pupil referral unit is called a Management Committee. It consists of voluntary members, mostly drawn from the wider community. Its role corresponds to that of the governing body of a mainstream school, and it has almost identical responsibilities. While the headteacher has executive responsibility for the school and its day-to-day operation, the Management Committee is responsible for:

  1. ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction; 
  2. monitoring and holding the executive to account for educational performance and management of staff;
  3. overseeing financial performance.

To carry out these duties, Malden Oaks’s Management Committee currently has 12 members: the headteacher and an elected member of the school staff; three senior teachers from partner mainstream schools in Kingston and Richmond; and seven lay members, one of whom represents parents. Though small, the school is a complex organisation. The Management Committee has a balanced representation designed to ensure that, between them, its members can offer the educational, student support, safeguarding, financial, legal, HR, IT, strategic, compliance and asset management skills needed to monitor and advise on the effective running of the school. 

As an academy within AAT, Malden Oaks would have a dedicated local governing body with broadly the same responsibilities as the Management Committee. Setting this up gives us a chance to take a fresh look at its composition. We shall do so, taking account of any comments received during this consultation. Nonetheless, at present we expect a smooth transition to academy status to be assisted through significant continuity between the membership of the current Management Committee and the new governing body. 

Any new governors will be appointed on the basis of their individual and combined skills, expertise, willingness to contribute and their commitment to the aims and ethos of Malden Oaks. In particular, we shall consider how best to ensure that the new governing body has access to parents’ views, bearing in mind that most of our students are at the school for a relatively short period.

One significant change is that the new governing body would operate within the framework of the Trust Board which oversees the operation of the Auriga Academy Trust. AAT’s practice is to secure effective communication by ensuring that one or two members of a local governing body are also members of the Trust Board. We believe such cross-representation will be an important way of ensuring that Malden Oaks gets the most out of becoming a member of Auriga.

F. What are the risks?

As mentioned above, Malden Oaks works closely with the secondary schools in Kingston and Richmond: the great majority of these – and of the boroughs’ special schools – are already academies. Malden Oaks as an academy would therefore have exactly the same status as most of its partners.

Across the country, a significant number of alternative provision schools have already become academies. We have explored, and shall continue to explore, the experience of some of these, to ensure that we make the most of the opportunities available as an academy, and avoid any potential snags. 

What about standards of education and safeguarding? As an academy, Malden Oaks will continue to be subject to periodic inspection by Ofsted. This inspection will be of Malden Oaks as an individual school, not of AAT as a whole. It will assess our school’s overall effectiveness, the quality of education provided, the behaviour and attitudes of students, their personal development and the school’s leadership and management. In reaching their judgement, inspectors talk to students and gather the views of parents/carers. Malden Oaks has most recently been graded ‘Good’ by Ofsted. We see academy status as part of our journey towards being recognised as ‘Outstanding’.

Will the process of becoming an academy be a distraction from ‘the day job’? Certainly there will be leadership, administration, legal and support time needed during the application and conversion process. A grant from DfE would cover some of these costs, but there is no doubt that the process itself will involve extra work for senior staff. However, our leadership team has considerable experience of taking on additional new tasks, and we are confident that the day-to-day running of the school and planning for its future will continue as usual. After becoming an academy, some of the responsibilities currently placed on our financial and business management staff will be shared with the wider administration of AAT. 

Auriga currently includes only schools based in Richmond. Is there a risk Kingston schools will find it harder to place students at Malden Oaks? No. Students will continue to be placed in the same way as at present. AfC’s involvement in those processes, and its responsibility for both boroughs, will ensure that decisions are informed by exactly the same principles as at present, and that both boroughs continue to receive their allocated share of Malden Oaks’s provision.

Auriga’s current schools are all special schools. Surely the priorities of Malden Oaks, which is not a special school, will be different? As a member of AAT, Malden Oaks will continue to decide its own priorities. In some cases these may of course be different from the other schools in the Trust. At the same time it’s worth remembering that – like the students at AAT’s other schools – a significant proportion of Malden Oaks students have, and will continue to have, an education, health and care plan (EHCP); and that very many of our students who do not have an EHCP do have a variety of special educational needs. We believe that our partnership within AAT will help us to meet such needs even more effectively.

G. What happens next?

A report summarising the points made by all those responding will be submitted to the Management Committee as soon as possible after consultation closes on 7th May. The Committee will then decide how to proceed in the light of the comments received. 

If this consultation led the Management Committee to conclude either that Malden Oaks should not become an academy, or that different options for academisation should be explored, the implications would be carefully examined before further action was taken. Any proposal for a different approach to academisation would be the subject of a new consultation.

If on the other hand the Committee decides that it remains in the best interests of Malden Oaks for the school to become an academy as part of the Auriga Academy Trust, it will submit a formal application for this purpose to the Department for Education during the Summer Term 2021. Academisation, if approved by DfE, would take place in April 2022 at the earliest. 

The Management Committee’s decision will be placed on the school’s website, and all those formally consulted, together with any other respondents, will be notified.