The CFOO, Luci Jones, along with specialist HR support from Browne Jacobson (National legal and HR firm) provide ongoing HR support to Headteachers and School Buisness Managers.
The Trust supports its academies to fulfil the statutory financial and reporting requirements that come with academisation. Academy Business Managers work within a clearly defined team structure that is led by the Director of Operations, to ensure the financial data that is provided to SLT’s and LGB’s is of a high quality and supports decision making.
We use the Integrated Curriculum Financial Planning (ICFP) model to ensure each academy’s budget forecast effectively supports their development plans. Academy Business Managers provide internal financial data on a half termly basis to SLT’s and report to LGB’s each term. The Trust will meet with academy stakeholders on a biennial basis to undertake a financial review and agree the most appropriate support plans to enable the academy to achieve it’s aims.
In addition to providing services to its academies the central Trust fulfils a compliance and corporate function to ensure the Trust meets statutory reporting requirements and deadlines.
Each academy maintains it’s own individual bank account and all their funds are paid into and out of this account. The academy has full access to their account at all times.
Any end of year surplus/deficit is ring-fenced to the academy and carried forward into the next financial year. Under the scheme of delegation, LGB’s review and approve budgets/expenditure. We work with our academies to ensure they operate net nil/surplus budgets. Deficit budgets require board approval.
The Trust has a reserves policy which requires the academy to build a reserve fund of one month’s net payroll costs over reasonable timeframe (3-5 years), that does not jeopardise the operation of the academy.
Cheshire Academies Trust does not pool funds across its academies. Individual academy funds are ring-fenced to their own bank account. Academy funding from the ESFA is paid directly to the academy, not to the Trust, on a monthly basis.
The Trust will provide:
- Managed payroll provision
- Pension fund administration (teachers pensions and LGPS schemes)
- Online budgeting and finance systems that provide real time data
- Banking and credit card provision
- Day-to-day financial support from the CAT Finance Manager
- Annual internal compliance audit (DfE requirement)
- Annual external audit and production of annual accounts (DfE requirement)
Oversee capital bids (over £2m in additional funding (CIF) secured for CAT academies since 2014)
In line with the vision of the Cheshire Academies Trust this strategy identifies how it will work with individual academies and the collective group of academies that the Trust provides a good quality of education for its pupils and the communities they serve.
We believe in building relationships with our school leaders and forensically understanding what is working and what may need to change. This is a discussion and a collaboration across six visits per year, not including safeguarding visits.
At the heart of our academy improvement strategy is a commitment to facilitate partnership working between all Trust academies, encouraging each to become self-evaluating and outward looking. We will support and challenge all academies to become self-improving academies, committed to an academy-led system, in order to promote and secure:
- At least good levels of achievement for all children with many children achieving outstanding outcomes
- High quality teaching for all children
- An effective curriculum that is matched to the needs of our children in every academy
- Removal of barriers to learning so that all children are enabled to achieve
- Effective leadership at all levels in all levels
- Access to high quality and targeted professional development for staff at all levels, enabling sustained and continual improvement
- The nurture of professional talent in all spheres of academy related work, supporting the development of a talented workforce in line with future succession planning needs of the Trust
- Expectations of and opportunities for the identification and dissemination of effective practice and engagement in academy, inter-academy, local, national and international research and development opportunities
- High quality ITT training in order to develop a consistent and highly skilled supply of future teachers and leaders developed from Cheshire Learning and Teaching Alliance.
- Safe Academies with fair access to learning
- A wellbeing provision to meet the needs of all learners
- Affordability and value for money
Our governors are provided opportunities to communicate across schools and between layers within the Trust. This provides a shared network of governors and trustees who collaborate to support our leaders in bringing about school wide strategic improvement. The NGA Learning Link provides on line free training to governors and can be accessed anywhere, anytime.
Chairs of governors, including other governors from time to time, meet on a termly basis to discuss all manner of strategic developments. These range from ongoing training from the Trust providing opportunities for feedback so we can adjust policies and practices. The Trust delegates almost all manner of strategic leadership to governance. An executive summary of our scheme of delegation can be seen below.
We also believe in the use of highly trained professional clerks who can capture discussions clearly and precisely.
Collaboration is in our DNA. We know we learn quicker as a team; together we go further.
Strong collaboration, with shared accountability, leads to better progress and attainment for pupils, and help schools and their leaders to meet rising expectations.
- School leaders and teachers networking to share thinking, planning, best practice, learning from each other and tackling challenges together.
- Governors coming together to share strategic thinking, to combine skills and to support each other during challenging times.
- Pupils within CAT working together
- Support staff coming together to share expertise and challenges
- Opportunities for parent involvement can be shared and supported more effectively
Alongside collaborative practices our Trust has set up hub in all key areas to facilitate engagement, sharing and evaluative discussions. These are practitioner led and not directed by senior leaders. They involve subject leaders and specialists working together to support improvements to the quality of teaching, learning and assessment.
Governors hubs also form an active collaborative partnership between local link governors in areas such as safeguarding, GDPR and health and safety.
We use Microsoft Teams to provide an online platform to enhance and facilitate collaborative working. It enables our teams, across geographical areas to continue to open communication and share good practice.
Professional Development and Support
Our Trust Senior Leadership Team meets once per month with subject hubs meeting each half term. These provide ongoing opportunities for staff to work and learn together. We use Peer Reviews to lead a supportive mechanism for leaders across the Trust to help a particular school in specific areas. These take place over the course of a day. They are a partnership of people working together to bring about improvement while also offering opportunities for middle leaders to broaden their school improvement experiences in a variety of schools.
We have also created a bespoke ‘Close to Practice’ programme which is aimed at improving the quality of teaching and learning in all classrooms across our Trust. We believe in giving teachers the skills and knowledge to enable them to thrive and so our programme takes place over two years and is led by Headteachers and ‘School Designers’.
Ongoing training takes place termly for School Business Managers, Next Generation/Aspiring Leaders, Middle Leaders and governors.