In conversation with others
Last year the Corinium Education Trust invited schools in the South Cotswolds to engage in a conversation with us about the future education landscape.
As a group of four schools currently, the Corinium Education Trust is excited about working openly with others in a strong partnership.
This year we are delighted that the conversation will continue under a memorandum of understanding with an even wider group of local schools, primary and secondary.
‘Chesterton Primary School and Nursery is delighted to have an opportunity to work more closely with other local schools and we are excited about the possibilities of working in partnership with others to bring about further positive experiences for all children. At Chesterton we will continue our rigorous focus on our journey of improvement whilst remaining outward facing. We will contribute to this collaborative approach whole heartedly for the betterment of all.’ Libby Pringle, Headteacher
Collectively, over the course of the next 18 months, we will be exploring the benefits there might be in working more closely together in a larger formal structure.
We are committed to working together and considering the development of inclusive, sustainable and collaborative solutions that are in the best interests of all of our children, young people and staff.
‘Kemble Primary School is excited to explore the opportunities that will arise from the conversations we are having about the future education landscape in our local area. Working with more schools, both secondary and primary, will allow us to further develop and improve the offer we make to our children and stakeholders and we are keen to see what can be achieved to benefit us all.’ Emma Morrogh-Ryan, Headteacher
This is an opportunity for the Corinium Education Trust to evolve and for others to join us in co-creating a new collaborative framework based on shared values and a common sense of purpose.
‘We are enthusiastic about collaborating with a wider group of schools. We are delighted to be able to work alongside other Church schools within the group and share our Christian values. We are committed to raising the achievement of all pupils and being the best that we can be.’ Louise Lennox, Headteacher, Siddington C of E Primary School
We feel the time is right for each of us to think about the future of our schools and explore what future organisational structures might be possible to support school leaders and our wider learning communities.
‘At Cirencester Deer Park School, we recognise the importance of working collaboratively to help deliver high quality education for pupils from age 4 to 19. The opportunity to be a part of an even wider group of schools exploring how we might be able to forge structures and systems which enable all pupils to benefit from our collective expertise is not to be missed. We are looking forward to achieving a shared set of values and channelling the passion emanating from each school into purposeful discussions about what the future of education locally could look like.’ Richard Clutterbuck, Headteacher
While it is not legally binding, the memorandum of understanding reflects our commitment to formally explore other multi-academy trust models alongside other schools in our geographical area.
The memorandum of understanding sets out what we want to achieve through discussion and, most importantly, will support our bid to secure funding for this initiative. This funding will be used to facilitate the group and enable us to visit other school groups to see what is working and what could be of benefit to us all.
This will help inform future decision making, both for us as an established trust, and for the other participating schools. For example, the Trust may choose to stay as it is, grow incrementally in size, or evolve into a new organisation with a wider group of schools.
‘Interest in our local conversation has grown and, as an evolving organisation, we are pleased to be an active partner in collaboration and co-creation. I hope we will be able to learn more from each other, and from other organisations, and move towards a sustainable, collegiate, and cooperative model for schools locally in the future.’ Chiquita Henson, Trust Lead (CEO), The Corinium Education Trust
‘This ongoing conversation between schools in the South Cotswolds and beyond comes at a particularly crucial time for The Corinium Education Trust as we seek to evolve and further develop the amazing work that happens in our schools. Strengthening collaboration and partnerships with other schools can only bring even greater benefits to the young people we all serve. This is a very exciting project and I am convinced that it will reap enormous benefits for all concerned.’ Martin McLeman, Chair of Trustees
Local Development Group:
Communications with stakeholders: staff, governors and parents
Frequently asked questions
1. Who is engaged in this conversation and who is representing the schools?
A number of schools, primary and secondary, from the South Cotswolds and Stroud areas are engaged in the conversation.
Each school is being represented by their headteacher and/or the school’s Chair of Governors.
2. Why are you having this conversation now?
We feel the time is right for each of us to think about the future of our schools and explore what organisational structures might be possible to facilitate and support system leadership and wider school improvement.
It is increasingly likely that cooperative working between schools will become the ‘norm’. The shape of educational provision is changing rapidly. We want to be sure that all of our schools will continue to flourish and thrive, and offer excellent education to our pupils.
Over time, working collaboratively and sharing of best practice and resources will help to secure continued improvement in pupil achievement, high quality teaching and learning and good use of resources.
3. Will being a part of this conversation impact on our own standards or divert resources from our school?
No. The conversation will focus on what might be possible and is taking place at a strategic level. We will be applying for additional funding to support our exploration of different organisational structures.
We have chosen to engage in this conversation and work together with other local schools to ensure that the vision, values and culture of our schools is central to everything that we do.
Collaboration and sharing ideas and expertise can only help us all find robust and sustainable solutions that lead to further improvements for our pupils and staff.
4. What do you mean by a ‘formal structure’?
In this context a ‘formal structure’ could mean coming together as a Federation, Trust Partnership or Multi-Academy Trust.
A ‘formal structure’ would be a legally recognised entity.
5. What is a 'strong partnership'?
A ‘strong partnership’ brings schools together to serve the common good. It is based on trust and mutual respect. It is values-based with shared goals.
Leora Cruddas, CEO of The Confederation of School Trusts reflects on a key question in her paper ‘Starting with Why: Why join a trust – and why a trust-based system?’
‘How can my school best collaborate with others in a strong and resilient structure to ensure that each child is a powerful learner and that adults have the opportunities to learn and develop as teachers and leaders?’
6. What is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)?
The Department for Education (DfE) strongly encourage partner schools to formalise their arrangements in order to clarify the activities and benefits for all involved. Evidence suggests that partnerships that enter into a formal agreement tend to be better formed and more sustainable.
One way of doing this is through agreeing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to ensure that the promised outcomes of the partnership are fully delivered and can be evaluated.
A MOU is not a legally binding document. It is a statement of serious intent – agreed voluntarily by equal partners – of the commitment, resources, and other considerations that each of the parties will bring.
A MOU has moral force but does not create legal obligations.
The content of a MOU is entirely up to the parties involved. The language and level of detail used will also depend on the structure of the partnership and relative formality that partners prefer.
Our MOU which has been drafted collaboratively, is based on a template provided by the DfE to help groups of schools build impact evaluation into their partnership from the outset and clearly set out the achievements they hope to realise.
7. Where will you find funding to support this?
As a group of schools, we propose to apply to the Department for Education for Trust Establishment and Growth Funding for up to £50,000 to support our exploration of different organisational structures and the potential development of what a local one might look like.
This additional resource will ensure that any expenses we incur through our engagement in this conversation and collaborative activities, including planning and research, are not taking money away from our school budgets and our children.
8. Why would a Local Authority school or Single Academy Trust (SAT) want to join this conversation?
There are a number of reasons why a Local Authority School or Single Academy Trust may want to join this conversation:
- They may wish to explore whether remaining as a Single Academy Trust or as a Local Authority school offers the security and opportunities the school needs to continue to improve.
- They may be looking to strengthen partnerships with local schools to share and tap into wider expertise and provide mutual challenge and support either formally or informally.
- They may believe that working together as partner schools offers better opportunities for pupils and staff in their schools.
- They may want to respond to our local context, identify common ground and find solutions that work for all. They may not want to work in isolation.
- They may wish to access central services and benefit from specialist support that is not available outside of a wider organisation.
- They may see this as an opportune moment to engage in co-creation and contribute to the scope and design of a new organisation that reflects their values.
9. What is a MAT and how does it differ from a SAT?
A MAT is a Multi-Academy Trust. It is a legal entity that governs a group of schools through a single set of directors. It is set up by a group of schools, usually a local collaboration, that share a common ethos and vision.
A SAT is a Single Academy Trust. It has the same legal status and powers as a MAT but consists of a single school. When a SAT joins a MAT it becomes part of the larger legal entity but remains a school in its own right.
10. Is there a set model for how a MAT should operate?
There are rules regarding how a MAT is funded, but the way in which a MAT operates, its governance structure and vision/ethos are defined by the schools that set up the MAT.
11. What about the Local Authority?
Each school in the conversation currently works closely with the Local Authority, and, as schools in Gloucestershire, we will continue to work with the Local Authority even if we decide to do something new together.
However, services within the local authority are diminishing and some schools are feeling increasingly isolated and are already beginning to look elsewhere for support. There are strengths within a wider partnership of schools that can be shared and deployed to address areas for development.
12. What will change?
We do not intend to change anything about our day to day operation during the period of this conversation or as a result of it without wider consultation with our stakeholders.
13. Some of these schools are already in a MAT, does this mean we will be joining their Trust?
No. The Corinium Education Trust is a small mixed MAT currently made up of 4 schools, one secondary and three primary schools.
The Corinium Education Trust is beginning to grow locally and plans to honour the commitment made to those schools with whom it is already in discussion in the full knowledge that this wider conversation is taking place.
The Corinium Education Trust is scheduled to open a new primary school on the new Steadings development in Cirencester in 2025.
The Corinium Education Trust is outward-facing and keen to work alongside other schools to find a sustainable solution for schools locally, including those already within it.
The Corinium Education Trust recognises their engagement in the conversation may lead to evolution and change.
The Corinium Education Trust is offering a framework for development and welcomes the opportunity to engage openly in conversation and co-creation.
14. Who else will know about the conversation that is taking place?
As a group we are committed to being open and transparent.
We aim to draft a communications strategy and share our progress with our stakeholders. Initially we are advising our staff and governors and then parents. We plan to provide regular updates and seek feedback over the 18 month period.
We will also be advising the Local Authority, the Regional Director’s Office and the Diocese of Gloucester.