New church schools in the Diocese
There will be a new church school in Bath which will be part of the Comenius Trust (Weston-All-Saints Primary School). Abbot Alphege CofE Academy is due to open in September 2017. We have also recently heard that we were successful in bidding with the Wellsway MAT for a new church school in east Keynsham due to open in September 2018, this will be called The Bishop Hancock Primary School. Both will be welcomed new large church schools for the Diocese showing the possibilities of working within the new free school agenda. We continue to work with partners to secure new church schools within new communities via the free school provision and are currently pursuing further opportunities.
The academy agenda continues to dominate our interface with schools as governing bodies try and decide the best option for their setting. Although new MATs are being established, existing MATs are growing some into hub models and the small number of stand alone academies are considering MATs too. We are working with the Regional Schools Commissioner (RCS) to look at applications within a community context. This helps to ensure mutual understanding and in one case we have looked at a whole local authority and the academy provision within it. We are now represented on the new sub-regional improvement boards (SRIB) along with the LA and Teaching Schools chaired by a member of the Headteacher Board and attended by RSC officers. These termly meetings look at coasting schools, warning notices, funding and particular issues and risks at individual schools that have been highlighted. Although early days they have proved useful and a mechanism for sharing information.
One of our key partners is our own Bath & Wells MAT (BWMAT) which continues from strength to strength as the hub model is embedded. It is expected that a new Bath hub will be formed this year thus giving coverage across the whole Diocese, and perhaps further hubs in the future. Interest in the Diocesan model continues to be high not least because the MAT is now established and is able to demonstrate what it possible over a period of time. Training about the BWMAT remains termly.
The capital funding for VA schools continues to be allocated to the Diocese for distribution. This year the funding provided by the Education Funding Agency for VA schools (Church of England and Catholic) across the diocese was just over 1.5million pounds.
In this year’s projects there is a significant focus on security in schools, particularly as OFSTED are looking at site security as part of their safeguarding considerations. We also are extending two classrooms, one in order to enable a school to accommodate a child with a physical disability and another to enable a small village school to increase their Pupil Admission Number and ensure no village children are refused a place at their school. We are also working with two schools faced with the challenges of being in a Victorian building, to bring the buildings up to scratch according to the Prioritised Maintainance Survey.
The team continues to work on a long list of legal issues with our solicitor, Taylor Culshaw. These range from lost trust deeds, to outstanding land transfers to land registration. Over a period of years we have established a property information form (PIF) for each of our schools and have populated much of the data. The speed at which we can resolve any outstanding issues is mainly dictated by financial pressures but an academy conversion means that most legal issues must be resolved before a schools converts. We continue our retainer arrangement with Taylor Culshaw so if you do have a legal issue at your school it is always worth talking to us.