Governors of the Leathersellers’ Federation of Schools which includes Prendergast on Hilly Fields have backed the proposal to turn the schools into a multi-academy trust by 16 votes in favour to one against.
Staff, some students and parents have opposed the move and last month there was a protest march through Lewisham against the Leathersellers’ plans.
Concern has been expressed over the limited time given to consultation with parents and staff. But Andy Rothery, chair of the governing board, said governors would “continue working with our stakeholders to resolve these concerns.”
He said the legal structure of the schoold would not change until 1 January 2024 at the earliest. “We will remain the same schools, with the same leadership and the same values.”
The govenors said there were three main reasons for the proposal:
1. We would like a couple of primary schools to join our federation to increase the opportunities for formal collaboration and school improvement.
2. The governance structure permitted for federations is not sustainable for a federation of our size and this places our schools at medium-term risk.
3. We will save money from local authority administration that we can spend in our schools on things like improved special educational need and disabilities (SEND) provision.
The governors insisted there would be no redundancies, restructures or cuts as a result of forming the multi-acadmey trust. Staff terms, conditions and pay scales would not change. New staff would be hired on the same national terms and conditions.
The governors insisted the move did not represent a privatisation of the schools. The schools would remain an exempt charity.
Two charitable organisations (that both give money to the schools) would be responsible for making sure the schools keep their current values.
Governors launch consultation on turning schools federation into a multi-academy trust
Governors of the Leathersellers’ Federation of Schools which includes Prendergast on Hilly Fields have launched a consultation on plans to turn the schools into a multi-academy trust.
The federation, which includes Prendergast School, Prendergast Vale School, Prendergast Ladywell School and Prendergast Primary School, are currently funded by Lewisham.
As a multi-academy trust they would be funded directly by the Department for Education.
The governors say that becoming a multi-academy trust would “preserve and protect the distinctive identity and ethos” of the schools. It would also give them more autonomy over their funding.
The consultation runs from February 20 2023 to March 31 2023. A public meeting as part of the consultation will be held as well as meetings for parents, staff, students and community partners.
In 2015 staff, and students took strike action in a campaign against a similar move to turn the schools into academies. At the time they demanded full consultation on the proposals which were eventually shelved.
The school governors say the move to an academy would improve the quality of education by enabling the schools to “grow carefully to include a few more local primary schools”.
Paula Ledger, Executive Headteacher of the Leathersellers’ Federation of Schools, said: “We want to increase the amount of formal, focused and consistent collaboration in our primary schools, and for that we need to grow the number of schools in our group.
“It is difficult to do this as a federation. Today’s education system favours Multi-Academy Trusts.
“We believe we have developed skills, expertise and structures that can support school improvement and we are keen to share this more widely with our community.”
As an academy trust, the governors say the school would have “greater financial resilience and autonomy over their funding”.
There would be very little difference in terms of day-to-day school life as the schools would keep their names, curriculum, staff and leadership teams, they add.
The schools already run their own admissions, own their land and employ their own staff.
The schools are supported by the Leathersellers, a 600 year old City livery company. It has had a long association with schools. Since 2018 it has given £1.3m to the Prendergast schools federation to fund grants, scholarships and mentoring.
Details of the proposal, consultation and a video presentation can be found here.