South Marston Primary School: Academy conversion

Please see below for a letter from Luke Maddison, Headteacher, and Diane Gambles, Chair of Governors.


Dear Community of South Marston,

We write to inform you that following agreement by the Governors our school is now actively pursuing conversion to ‘Academy Status’. As a Church of England, Voluntary Controlled School we have been exploring the possibility of joining the ‘Diocese of Bristol Academies Trust’ (DBAT), a Multi Academy Trust (a not for profit organisation). If this change was to take place, DBAT would replace many of the functions that Swindon Borough Council currently provide.

If successful, we would aim to become an Academy by October 2016. We would like to provide you with as much information as possible, so that you may better understand the importance of the school taking this opportunity to secure the future of education for all pupils within our community.

The government wishes all schools to convert to ‘Academy Status’ over the next few years, although you will be aware from the media that Good or Outstanding schools will now not be forced to convert. Many schools have already converted within Swindon and nationally which is why we are considering this change now.

What are Academies?

Academies are publicly funded schools, which are not controlled by the Local Authority and therefore have additional independence in a number of important areas. This greater independence brings increased responsibilities and opportunities to build upon our current success.

‘Academy status’ is still a relatively new concept, however realistically becoming an Academy is the only option available to us as Swindon Borough Council’s role in education is increasingly being diminished. Many of the services which were once provided are simply not there anymore following a significant reduction in public funding, which will continue. As an Academy school, whilst we would not necessarily be financially any better or worse off, what we would have is a close relationship with a supportive network of other schools as well as choice over how we spend our money and the services that we provide and the economies of scale in purchasing terms.

Why join DBAT?

DBAT was established in 2012, originally it included just one school, Fishponds in Bristol. Since then seven more schools have joined, Christian Malford, St Peter’s – Chippenham, Easton – Bristol, Tadpole Farm, Lydiard Millicient – Swindon, Seagry, Somerford Walter Powell – Malmesbury, with an eighth being built in Swindon at, Ridgeway farm. All of these schools have already worked successfully together as members of DBAT. The group of schools are very forward thinking and organise shared training and staff development. We believe that joining together as an academy provides an exciting opportunity to improve the education for all our children.

There are many different ‘multi-academy trusts’ both locally and nationally which different schools have joined, however as we were established as a ‘church school’ in 1873 and are ‘Voluntarily Controlled’ by the Bristol Diocese, we have only one option open to us, which is to join the Diocese of Bristol’s Academy’s Trust. We already have strong links with the Diocese of Bristol, becoming one of their Academy schools is really the next natural step.

What might change?

 Accountability would be direct to the Department for Education rather than the Local Authority. There would be some additional financial performance management reporting to satisfy the requirements of Companies House and the Charities Commission. This burden will be managed centrally and not by individual schools.

What would stay the same?

 Schools joining DBAT retain their own distinctive characters and identities; including their own Headteacher, Governing body, uniforms, logos and web sites. Most importantly, our school will keep our own ethos, aims and values. Joining a ‘Church Academy’ would also only strengthen these. Swindon Borough Council still would have a statutory duty to provide Special Educational Needs services, Child Protection and the school nurse service.

How can I find out more?

On Tuesday 14th June we will be holding two information sessions for parents at 3.30pm and 6pm. There will be representatives from our Governing Body and the Diocese of Bristol Academies Trust there to take your questions.

This is an exciting time for our school, coupled with the fact that we will be expanding and moving into new purpose built accommodation in the next couple of years. The educational landscape in this country is changing very rapidly, we aim to stay ahead of these changes in order to provide the very best quality of education we can for our community.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Luke Maddison               Mrs Diane Gambles

Headteacher                        Chair of Governors (on behalf of the Governing body)

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