Governors of Anthony Gell School are consulting on a proposal as to whether or not the school becomes an Academy and joins the Embark Federation. This page explains the proposal, contains relevant and recent communications, indicates the timeline involved, and lists questions that have been asked along with answers to these questions.  The content of this page will be updated during the consultation process to reflect additional questions which may arise.

Page last updated:  9th May 2022

Formal Consultation Timetable and actions:

Monday 9th May  Planned approach to formal consultation shared with staff, including union reps in schools. Regional Union reps alerted to consultation.   
Monday 9th May  Letters issued to all stakeholders.  Responses invited via dedicated email address and/or via meetings.
Tuesday 17th May  Embark in school for meetings with various stakeholder groups/individuals. Including: 

  • Informal drop-in session for parents/carers. 
  • Opportunities to meet with students/Student Voice. 
  • Meetings with individuals/groups on request.  
  • Presentation and Q&A with staff 3.45pm-4.45pm. Online and face to face. 
  • Presentation and Q+A for parents/carers 5.30pm-6.30pm.  
  • Governors’ meeting with Embark 6.45pm-7.30pm. 
Wednesday 25th May  Chair and Vice Chair of Governors plus Headteacher host meeting with staff: 3.45pm – 4.45pm.  Online and face to face.  
Monday 23rd – Friday 27th May  Headteacher available for meetings with individuals/groups upon request. 
Thursday 26th May  Governors and Headteacher host a meeting with parents/carers: 6pm – 7pm in school. 
Friday 27th May  Questionnaire issued to key stakeholders, enabling stakeholders to say whether they are for or against the proposal and give reasons. 
Friday 17th June  Final date for stakeholders to respond as part of consultation.

 

The document below has been produced from a working document, that has been prepared by the governors of Anthony Gell School (AGS), specifically led by a focus group consisting of a subset of governors. 

Governors Success Criteria for the Embark Proposal

Frequently Asked Questions

1: What is academisation? 

Academisation is the process of converting a school maintained by the local authority (LA), Derbyshire County Council (DCC) in our case, into an academy run and managed by an academy trust or more commonly a multi-academy trust (MAT). The academy remains state-funded and is not being privatised. Originally brought in by the Labour government, both main parties are committed to the continuation of the current push to continue with academisation. 

2: Why are the Anthony Gell School (AGS) Governing Board proposing this? 

The AGS Governing Board have evaluated various options against agreed criteria which include being able to:  

  • Maintain and strengthen our identity, core values and ethos;  
  • Retain the ability to make key decisions as a school with a high degree of autonomy and local governance;  
  • Improve the quality of education for all students;  
  • Strengthen our commitment towards community, inclusion and pastoral care; and  
  • Maintain current partnerships whilst developing new ones with organisations, groups, external providers and schools.  

We are excited by the potential to be even stronger together for the good of our students. 

3: Why do this now? Is this a knee jerk reaction to the recent white paper? 

The AGS Governing Board have been reviewing and considering this topic for over five years. We feel now is the right time to make the change given the reduction in the LA offer, the reduction in school-to-school support from historical partnerships and the benefits available by joining a MAT. 

4: Have the headteacher and senior leadership been involved in the proposal? 

Yes. The headteacher has done a huge amount of work in shaping and guiding our approach. The school senior leadership team have been involved in discussions and have met with representatives from Embark at various times.  

5: How many other Derbyshire secondary schools have done this? 

There are 47 secondary schools in Derbyshire who were once all maintained and therefore directly linked to the local authority. 35 of these Derbyshire secondary schools have already chosen to leave the local authority and become academies. The reduction in numbers has translated into less money, less focus and a reduced offer to those of us who remain. 

6: When will it happen? 

After the consultation period ends, the AGS Governing Board will consider all the feedback and review all available options. Assuming there are no major barriers, and we feel the success criteria can be met, the AGS Governing Board will vote on whether to go ahead. If we vote to go ahead, the school will convert after all legal processes have been resolved. 

7: How can we get more information? 

There is further reading material about the success criteria as laid out by the AGS Governing Board here. There will be several opportunities to discuss the proposals with the governing board, Embark and the school senior leadership team. 

8: I heard that the academy order has been issued, is this a done deal? 

It’s not a done deal. The academy order allows each school to start a period of formal consultation about the proposal. Today, governors are still the only people who can decide whether a school becomes an academy, as long as the school is rated ‘good ‘or better by Ofsted, and this remains the case even after an academy order is issued. 

9: How do we make our opinions known? 

Please send any questions to consultation@anthonygell.co.uk. Please use this same email address to say whether you are for or against the proposed move, including please the reasons for you having the opinion you do. Alternatively, please do come and talk to us at one of the discussion events. 

1: Who are Embark Federation? 

They are a family of 15 schools across Derbyshire who believe that by working together as a team they can create schools that ‘stand out’ at the heart of their communities. They have 4 core beliefs; Family, Integrity, Teamwork and Success that are central to everything that they do.  

They have a strong group of schools with excellent capacity to support others. They have two National Leaders of Education, two National Support Schools and a National Leader of Governance across the trust. 

More details can be found here. 

2: Why did you choose Embark Federation? 

After pulling together a requirements list, we reviewed several MATs for fit against the list. We have chosen to fully explore the possibility of joining Embark as their core beliefs of Family, Integrity, Teamwork and Success are very closely aligned to our values and ethos. 

3: Embark look like a primary focused MAT, what do they know about secondary schools? 

To date they have been primary focused and are open that they have to learn and grow.  

4: Who are the other three secondary schools considering joining Embark? 

Aldercar High School, Buxton Community School and Parkside Community School. 

5: Didn’t this get thrown out by the Department for Education (DfE) earlier this year? 

Any proposal such as this has to be considered by an Advisory Board, and the Regional Schools’ Commissioner (who represents the DfE) has to give approval before the proposal can go ahead beyond a certain point. The first discussion triggered a programme of enhanced due diligence. This detailed due diligence included various practitioners with expertise and a great deal of experience visiting each of the schools and carrying out reviews on quality of education, safeguarding and pastoral care, buildings and site, finances and HR. 

The Advisory Board met again in April 2022 and looked in detail at what the due diligence had concluded about AGS, Embark, and the other three secondary schools. The Regional Schools Commissioner informed us that proposal had received unanimous support from the Board, and she was happy to give it her approval. She was impressed with the work which had been undertaken by Embark and the four secondaries and how the reports showed all four schools to be strong schools. This means that the DfE have now issued what is called ‘an academy order’ for AGS and indicated a timeline they believe to be realistic if each school wishes to go ahead to conversion. 

Although the detailed due diligence was demanding work and took a lot of time, it proved to be very reassuring for us as a school, when a range of external experts gave us their seals of approval, and when the strength of the other three secondaries who are part of this proposal was also confirmed. 

6: How will the MAT offer change as the secondaries join? 

We’ve been discussing this extensively with the secondaries and Embark and considering things like the scheme of delegation (the document that outlines who does what) to align with all our requirements. Embark have carefully considered how their structure and support will be improved if all four secondary schools join in the next 12 months. They are remaining true to their guiding principles and values. They are also considering how expertise can be developed to enhance the support offered to any new schools who join. They continue to be realistic and sensible about their rate of growth and will not be welcoming any more schools to Embark until after the secondary proposal is completed. 

7: What are Embark’s growth plans? How will they maintain their ethos and values? 

In terms of growth they have some key principles; 

  • Never approach a school. 
  • Maintain 3:1 ratio of good or better schools to those that require improvement. 
  • Move towards geographical teams. 
  • Has to be a good fit with values to protect schools that are already part of Embark. 

They plan to move towards regional teams of approx. 6-8 schools so they get the benefits of working in a tight knit team but also the economies of scale of being part of a larger trust. 

8: How do Derbyshire County Council feel about the proposal? 

Our local authority (DCC) has made it clear that it expects all schools to consider the pros and cons of joining any Trust. They hold a good opinion of Embark and the local authority and Embark work together in many areas.  

9: What happens to the Cluster of Gell Schools (COGS) partnership with our local primaries? 

It carries on exactly as now. Embark are keen for us (and all their schools) to carry on with a variety of partnerships. 

1: Is this just about the money? 

No. It is a consideration, but one of the last on our list. 

2: How much do Embark take from the school? 

The total amount of money a school has is affected by the proportion of the school’s budget removed by the local authority at source. This is often referred to as ‘top slicing’. Derbyshire top slice in the region of 5-9% of schools’ budgets and schools must then pay for essential services including HR, finance and legal support. Maintained schools are encouraged to buy these services from the local authority. The local authorities top slicing from schools helps to pay for local authority salaries and the upkeep of local authority buildings such as County Hall in Matlock. Embark top slices 5% but this then includes services for schools such as HR, finance and school improvement. More details about the services provided by Embark as part of their central offer via the top-sliced 5% of schools’ budgets can be found here www.embarkfederation.com/our-central-offer/  

3: Will our money be used to help other schools in Embark? 

No. Once the ‘top slice’ has been sent, the remaining money is ring-fenced for AGS alone. 

4: How financially sound are Embark? 

Embark are audited by Smith Cooper once a year, this is a requirement of the Academies Financial Handbook and the funding agreement with the DFE.  In addition, their systems and processes are reviewed throughout the year by their internal audit partner Dains Accountants.  The accounts are published on their website and companies house as a public record.  They are also required by the DFE to make regular submissions, and this is a further triangulation to review the suitability of their position. 

5: Will this impact our ability to make capital improvements? 

Being part of a MAT opens more avenues for capital improvements to the school infrastructure (buildings and site). 

6: How does Embark plan to avoid excessive salaries for Trust staff? 

Trustees are responsible for setting salaries for the central team. There are robust processes in place, and they are benchmarked against other similar trusts and against the charity sector. Their salaries are at the lower end of this benchmark. Any salaries in excess of £100,000 must be declared. Embark’s website includes financial details showing one salary across the trust between £100,000 and £110,000. 

1: What happens to the school staff? 

Embark has demonstrated the value they place on their staff. We have been able to talk with people who have been working as part of Embark for the last few years and all have said how happy they are with the way Embark operate. A staff survey, which was undertaken at a recent Embark event, supports this. 

2: Will their terms and conditions be affected? 

No. Embark has no wish to change terms and conditions unless they can be enhanced.   We continue to follow DCC terms and conditions and are part of the collective bargaining process that DCC complete with the recognised trade unions. Staff from other schools already in Embark have not had theirs changed. 

3: Will the staff be moved around to other schools in the MAT? 

No. There may be some extra opportunities for staff, but these would be voluntary. 

4: Will we have a principal or CEO in Anthony Gell? 

Schools keep an individual headteacher, rather than a ‘principal’; with the headteacher leading the school on a day-to-day basis alongside the school’s governors, whilst receiving support and challenge from the MAT to ensure the best provision for our children. There is a CEO of Embark. This person leads the Trust. The current post holder has been part of Embark from the beginning and he will be available for stakeholders to speak to during the consultation process. 

1: Will we still be called Anthony Gell School? 

Yes. Retaining our identity and ethos was a key requirement. 

2: Will we keep our current dress code (non-uniform)? 

The dress code will remain a decision made by AGS’s headteacher, working alongside the AGS governing board. There are no plans for this to change currently.  

3: What changes will our students see? 

Most of the changes will be unseen and will not affect the day to day running of the school. Our students will continue to achieve excellent outcomes. We will continue to be recognised as a caring school. 

4: How will this affect outcomes for students? 

In joining a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), the over-riding concern of governors is to ensure that our school continues to provide the best possible standard of education and care for our students. Working more closely with a wider range of practitioners from other schools will help AGS staff to develop their practice. 

1: How will this affect the Anthony Gell Foundation Trust? 

The Anthony Gell Foundation Trust is a registered charity and this proposal will not affect their work. If you would like more information about the Foundation click here. Trustees from the Anthony Gell Foundation have already invested a great deal of their time in reviewing the proposal and meeting with Embark. We will continue to work closely with trustees and Embark to ensure the ongoing success of the AG Foundation and its support for Anthony Gell School.  

2: Is it true that if we join Embark they will own the land and it could be sold off to build houses on, and the community would be stopped from using the facilities? 

No. The land which the school, leisure centre and playing fields and pitches are on is owned by the Anthony Gell Foundation. This will remain the same if we join Embark, and the land will remain owned by the Anthony Gell Foundation. There will be a process of reviewing and amending leases where, simplistically, Embark will take the place of DCC. Responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of the school will transfer to Embark. 

3: How will this affect Gell Friends? 

There will be no changes to the operation and finances of Gell Friends. If you would like more information about Gell Friends click here. 

1: What happens next? 

After the consultation period ends, the AGS Governing Board will consider all the feedback and review all available options. Assuming there are no major barriers, and we feel the success criteria can be met, the AGS Governing Board will vote on whether to go ahead. If we vote to go ahead, the school will convert after all legal processes have been resolved. 

2: What happens if the governors decide not to go ahead? 

In the short term we would remain a local authority maintained school. Inevitably, we will need to convert at some stage. After a period of reflection, governors are likely to consider seeking an alternative partner to join up with.