Future Development Of The School

Dear parents and carers,

Further to my notice in the newsletter this week, I would like to share additional information about our process of due diligence regarding the possibility of joining Scholars’ Education Trust.

Over the last twenty years there has been considerable energy put into researching what makes for the best educational outcomes for young people.  Out of that research has come some large government initiatives like Every Child Matters, and the pupil premium.  Time and time again, the work done has shown the significant impact of successful, purposeful and effective cooperation between schools in raising attainment for all.

The last two years, and the Covid pandemic especially, has shown us even more clearly how important it is for organisations to work together and support each other. This is a great school, with fantastic students, inspiring staff and good outcomes.  We want to be nothing short of exceptional, because nothing short of exceptional is good enough for my children, your children, or any of the children in our community. And so, as a great school, with big aspirations and lots to offer, we have been exploring how we could work more closely with other great schools, for the benefit of all.

Governors have been exploring the benefits, advantages or disadvantages of converting to become an Academy and joining the Multi Academy Trust (MAT) called Scholars’ Education Trust (SET).  The research into whether academisation and joining a MAT is right for the school started in January 2022.  This has given the Governing Body time and information to support its decision-making process.   We have been in formal due-diligence with SET since the beginning of this academic year (Sep, 2022).

This is a matter that schools up and down the country have been thinking about since the Academies programme began in 2010. As of January 2022, 45.5 percent of all schools are academies (79.8 percent of secondary schools and 38.6 percent of primary schools). This has also increased over the past two terms. Many of these academies are part of a Multi Academy Trusts (MAT) with other academies. This enables them to work in close partnership, learning from and supporting each other, and sharing resources to enable them to make the most from their budgets. There are 1,197 MATs in England with two or more schools. Over half of all pupils in England attend an Academy. In April 2022 the Education White Paper also reaffirmed the government’s intentions that all schools are part of strong trusts.

We are therefore very excited to inform you that we have entered a formal process of due-diligence with the Scholars’ Education Trust (SET), a very successful, well-respected and local multi-academy trust (MAT). A link to their website is here: http://www.scholarseducationtrust.co.uk/ 

In explaining what this might mean for our school, I have tried to anticipate parents and carers questions and answer them below.

This is, we believe, a really exciting and important opportunity for the school. I am sure that you might have more questions that you think of over, so please do look out for more information and details of the formal consultation that will follow in due course.

Warm regards,

Mrs Miles

 

Click the down arrow to read the FAQ's

Questions

Answers

Are we joining SET now?

No, we are entering a period of due-diligence, open discussion, stakeholder engagement, discovery and sharing. We are looking at ‘fit and feel’. We are under no commitment and any decision to join SET will be collective. Due-diligence is about exploring what might be possible with them.

Are there any other SET schools in Letchworth or Hitchin?

No. MATs come in many flavours - we have chosen one that thinks, works and cares like us. The government are keen not to create local monopolies to ensure on going parent choice.

Are we being forced into this? Is this because of Ofsted?

100% not, it is entirely our choice. We are not being brokered, or converted, or anything else. However, the latest Education White Paper includes an aspiration for all schools to be in a MAT by 2030 and finding a MAT now, when there are plenty of options and MATS looking for new partners to reach the optimum size, seems wise. Getting this settled sooner will remove uncertainty and allow the leadership team to maximise its focus on educational outcomes.

What are their red lines/non-negotiables?

Collaboration is the core of what they do, if we are not willing to collaborate, we have no place in the trust. Central systems, one set of accounts, one IT system, one SIMS system - to save money for education. Being non-selective, inclusive, coeducational and with a broad curriculum. All values we hold dear and place our students at the heart if our educational offer.

What are ours?

We continue to be in consortium with FH for 6th form and continue our informal partnerships locally such as North Herts Heads and other groups. No curriculum narrowing. No change to the name or badge of the school and being true to our identity as an individual school too. Remaining non-selective and inclusive.

Will our school hours change or the school day change?

No. As now, any decisions around structures of the school day remain a decision for our school in our context.

Will our exam boards change?

No. We will continue to use the boards that are most appropriate for our students.

Will subjects have to go?

No, SET is committed to a broad curriculum just like us. If we ever wanted to make changes (such as new courses) to our curriculum that would be an in school decision made in the best interests of Highfield students.

How do I know due-diligence is being done properly?

It will be done by us and SET together, supported by educational lawyers and shared with you at every stage.

How can parents, students, staff, the community have their say?

There will be a full and formal consolation process involving both face to face events and the ability to electronically contribute. We will be engaging all stakeholders in that consultation and further details will be shared at that point.

How will students know what is going on and have their say?

A special online assembly will be recorded and shown to all students. Students will be able to complete a survey, just like parents and staff and we will be working with our student council.

Will it impact how the school is governed?

Yes. SET has a CEO, who is the executive (professional) line manager for all of the headteachers. The CEO and headteachers meet fortnightly. The trust has a non-executive board (lay volunteers), which is like a governing body. Standards and  pay are governed centrally (standards, finance, people etc.) Each trust school has a local governing body (LGB), which includes teaching staff, support staff, and parent governors. Recruitment to the SET governing board are done on a skill basis and existing appropriately skilled Highfield governors could apply to join if there is a vacancy, but they would not automatically join the SET board. The chairs of the LGBs and the CEO meet monthly.