Frequently Asked Questions
on the proposed merger of
Q3 Academies Trust and The Mercian Trust
Our FAQs are organised in the following sections:
Section 1 – School Operations
Section 2 – Students
Section 3 – Staff
Section 4 – Governance and Executive Leadership
Last updated: 4 May 2021
1 SCHOOL OPERATIONS
1.1 Will schools lose their identity or individuality?
No. Each of our schools has its own unique, important identity, and we do not want to lose that. The identity and ethos of each school, including the designated religious character, will not change as part of the merger. We are proud of the diversity of our schools, including grammar schools, comprehensive secondary schools, a studio school and an alternative provision free school. The MAT will continue to recognise and celebrate the rich history and identities of the different schools.
1.2 Will ‘the basics’ like school uniform and the times of the school day change?
No. There are no plans to change either the school uniform or the times of the school day as a result of our proposed merger. These things are however reviewed at least annually and may change at some stage in the future if the schools and their governing body feel this is appropriate.
1.3 Will the school holidays change?
In the short term we do not plan to change holiday dates, and there are no plans to amend Mercian Trust schools' term dates away from those observed throughout Walsall. However we realise that there are some differences in holidays between our schools. It is likely that in future years most term dates will be aligned between our schools to enable successful collaboration between school staff and leaders – and to ensure students have access to the broadest curriculum offer (including enrichment activities).
Any future proposals for term dates will form part of a separate consultation process. Term dates are reviewed annually and we would consult with parents before any changes were made. Some (but not all) INSET days will be aligned in order to enable staff from all schools to benefit from trust-wide professional development activities.
1.4 Will parents have a significant voice?
All our schools are committed to local community engagement and providing parents and students with a strong voice in how their schools operate. This will continue to be the case within a larger MAT. The parent voice will feed into the local leadership, management and governance of each school. The role of parent governors will continue to be valued as an integral part of each local governing body.
1.5 What happens if one of the schools ‘fails’ an Ofsted inspection?
One of the advantages of working within a larger MAT is that it should be more likely that schools are judged Good or Outstanding – this is because the collective support, expertise and added capacity of working together should mean that Headteachers can address any issues before they would become an issue for Ofsted.
The Ofsted rating of one school does not directly affect any other school. However, there could be implications for the whole organisation i.e. the MAT. For example, if one school was graded inadequate, then the DfE could re-broker that school out of the Trust and into another one, or if after several inspections a number of schools in the MAT were all rated lower than previously, the whole MAT could be reviewed by an inspection team.
If one of our schools was judged Inadequate or Requires Improvement by Ofsted, then the Trust (through our capacity and network of expertise) would be the first to respond to support the school (and our colleagues working in that school). The Trust is accountable for educational standards and would therefore be responsible for ensuring rapid improvements are made.
We believe strongly that school development is a reciprocal arrangement and even in the schools with the greatest challenges there is often an abundance of skill and expertise that need to be recognised, celebrated and harnessed for the greater good.
Staff and Parent Consultation Meetings
Thanks to all who have attended or are proposing to attend these meetings. We have received a number of questions specific to individual schools, for example the music scholarship at Aldridge School. These have been answered at the meetings or directly via email if submitted on the consultation page with an email address to respond to. If you have a specific question that applies to one school please raise it via the consultation page with your email address and we will respond as soon as possible.
2.1 What are the benefits to students?
One of the tangible benefits of the merger is the potential to broaden students’ access to enrichment activities such as sports, the arts and learning outside the classroom. The merger can also open up options for sixth form study.
It is not anticipated that students will move between school sites unless this would benefit them educationally, for example if an A level subject they wish to study is available at another site. This already happens within the Mercian Trust schools and could be developed further. Where facilities are available for students at some schools but not others, we will look to increase access all our students.
We also believe students will benefit in the classroom. Each of the schools has areas of good practice and innovative ideas to share. By connecting staff and encouraging them to collaborate, this innovation and good practice can spread among schools to improve teaching and learning for all our students.
A larger group of schools also can offer more opportunities for staff to develop their skills and their careers within the MAT. This helps to recruit and retain high quality staff.
2.2 Will the admissions criteria change as a result of the merger?
The merger itself will not affect the status of any of the schools, and the admissions policy will not change as a result of the merger. There are no plans and no intention to consider removing selection on academic assessment from the admission arrangements for either Queen Mary's Grammar or High Schools.
2.3 How will this impact students with special educational needs and disabilities?
The support and opportunities for students with special educational needs and disabilities will not be reduced as part of our proposed merger. Rather, as a larger MAT we will look to expand the support we can provide and increase the professional skillset of our staff through effective training and sharing of best practice.
2.4 Will the merger mean further opportunities for sixth formers other than A-Levels?
The provision of a broader sixth form offer across the merged Trust is a target for the future. The Mercian schools already offer a large number of A Levels and vocational qualifications in the sixth form. Entry requirements for sixth form study will be the same for students currently within the MAT or those joining a sixth form from a school outside of the MAT.
3.1 Will the merger mean a change of employer or a change to staff contracts?
Staff who are currently employed by Q3 Academies Trust will have a new employer (The Mercian Trust). Under employment law and TUPE arrangements there will be no immediate change to pay or conditions. We are not anticipating any ‘TUPE measures’ for staff transferring employment.
3.2 Will there be staff redundancies?
There are no redundancies planned as part of the proposed merger. Our review of school structures and central services suggests our respective teams (and complementary structures) will amalgamate well together both in the short and medium term.
3.3 Will staff have to work at different school sites?
Staff will not usually be asked to work in a different school if they do not wish to do so. However, having the opportunity to work in more than one school can provide a great opportunity for career development. Secondments and system leadership opportunities (meaning having impact beyond one school) will provide staff with additional opportunities to develop their professional practice (and ultimately continue to feel fulfilled in their work).
4 GOVERNANCE AND EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP
4.1 How will funding be organised within the merged MAT?
Currently, most funding for a MAT is allocated from the government on an individual academy basis (driven by student numbers). Funding is governed through a Master Funding agreement between the Secretary of State and the MAT, and supplemental agreements between the Secretary of State and each school within the MAT. Some funding (e.g. capital allocation) is allocated directly to the MAT to manage expenditure appropriately amongst its schools.
MAT trustees approve a delegated budget for each school within the Trust. Heads are responsible for educational standards, student outcomes and the financial performance of their school.
4.2 How can we be sure that money will be well spent in the merged Trust?
There are many checks and balances on how schools spend their finances. This scrutiny includes the work of professional auditors. Trustees also use a range of benchmarking and comparison tools to consider the Trust’s income and expenditure and financial impact of decisions taken compared to Trusts with similar schools.
Most importantly, expenditure will be based on a set of core principles which continue to place our mission and shared vision for students at the heart of our business planning and budget setting processes – this means ensuring that most of our money is used directly to increase opportunities and improve outcomes for students – for employing great teachers, remunerating them properly and looking after them, knowing that staff who feel valued both in their pay and their conditions, are staff who will be most effective in teaching and/or support students directly and delivering the operational support to enable it to happen.
Our financial plans will seek to optimise resources for the benefit of all schools and students. A Trust-wide central services team will be developed that is fit for purpose to enable successful schools and we will optimise corporate costs through economies of scale and best practice - including those associated with executive leadership and management. Our systems and structures will not be rushed – but developed over time in response to the needs of a larger family of schools in a larger local MAT (albeit not a large MAT by comparison to many others).
4.3 Have you considered the risks to individual schools?
Considering the opportunities and risks for all our schools and the communities we serve is an important part of what trustees do in a MAT. The overall risks have been considered by both boards during our strategic partnership discussions and appropriate due diligence activities are being undertaken.
All schools need to continue to focus on the pupils on their roll, whilst ensuring excellent standards are maintained where currently seen and other achievements are built upon year on year enhanced by wider Trust support. We believe that through our proposed merger we will be able to support our schools more effectively with greater capacity and with greater influence and engagement within and outside of the Trust.
We judge the benefits and opportunities of our proposed merger to very significantly outweigh the risks.