Following our consultation on conversion to become a 16-19 Academy, during the period November 2016 to January 2017, this summary provides details of the feedback received, response of the Governing Body and next steps, in addition to re-confirming the proposal.
In summary, the consultation process was conducted in line with the legal requirements and the majority of responses were supportive of the College’s proposal to convert to become a 16-19 Academy. There were some misconceptions about academies based on perceptions of sponsored academies as opposed to ‘converters’, which were addressed during the consultation process (see ‘summary of responses’ below).
The Governing Body Corporation has proposed to dissolve Oldham Sixth Form College (the College) and transfer all property, rights, assets and liabilities of the Corporation to an academy trust (which is being established in partnership with The Hathershaw College) called The Pinnacle Learning Trust, in order to operate the College as a 16-19 academy to be called Oldham Sixth Form College (16-19 academy).
This is, in effect, a conversion of the College’s legal status through dissolution, rather than a discontinuation of current provision. Oldham Sixth Form College will be a 16-19 academy and sit within The Pinnacle Learning Trust, a multi-academy trust structure.
This is a new Multi-Academy Trust, whose vision and values will be determined by the founding Colleges. Neither Oldham Sixth Form College nor The Hathershaw College propose to change their names and Oldham Sixth Form College will continue to work with the full range of partner and non-partner schools across Oldham and beyond, as it does at present.
The Corporation of the College carried out a public consultation on the proposal which started on Friday 18th November 2016 and ended on Friday 20th January 2017.A consultation document providing details about the formal proposal including the reasons for the proposal, the impact on the educational provision and the implications for staff together with details about the consultation process and how to respond, was distributed to key stakeholders including but not limited to:
- A consultation document providing details about the formal proposal including the reasons for the proposal, the impact on the educational provision and the implications for staff together with details about the consultation process and how to respond, was distributed to key shareholders including but not limited to:students and parents/carers;
- students and parents/carers;the local authority;
- the local authority;the Secretary of State for Education and the Regional Schools Commissioner;
- the Secretary of State for Education and the Regional Schools Commissioner; local MPs;
- local MPs;local schools and colleges;
- local schools and colleges;
- Access to the formal proposal was provided on the College’s website together with details of the different ways to formally respond (online, email and post) with a pro forma consultation response form provided;
- A statutory notice was placed in The Daily Telegraph and The Oldham Chronicle regarding the College’s proposal;
- All students were also consulted including notification of the proposal and consultation via letter, through a presentation and discussion in tutorials, meetings with the student executive and a lunchtime meeting with tutor group representatives where the proposal was discussed, questions were answered and views sought;
- Staff were also consulted through regular full staff meetings and Local Joint Committee meetings, in addition to all staff being sent a presentation including links to the formal proposal and consultation documents;
- Parents were provided with details through the College’s regular newsletters, in addition to a specific letter home about the consultation process.
The consultation asked two questions:
1. Do you support the proposal?
2. Do you have any additional comments, questions or suggestions that you would like us to consider?
Summary of responses
Number of formal responses received – 19.
We are grateful for the feedback provided on our proposal and set out below the key themes that emerged from the formal responses together with the feedback provided throughout the consultation.
74% of respondents supported the proposed academy conversion and establishment of the new Multi-Academy Trust (MAT). Examples of feedback are given below:
Local partner school Head Teacher: I fully support the formation of an MAT with Hathershaw and OSFC as key partners. I believe the new MAT would strengthen both institutions and prove beneficial to the students that the colleges serve. I wish you all well as you move this project forward.
Parent 1: I am worried that the proposals may weaken the relationships – and sense of even-handedness – with other 11-16 providers in the Borough of Oldham. The rationale for the proposal seems to be largely financial.
Parent 2: All parties involved should be congratulated for this proposed partnership that should improve the opportunities and life chances for many young people in Oldham.
Staff member 1: I am in full support towards the proposal in becoming a Multi-Academy trust. I think that this will bring a range of opportunity to the college, the staff and all others involved. A combination of shared knowledge, best practice and experiences can only raise the already high standards of the school.
Staff member 2: Strengthening relationships with other institutes that share a common goal and ethos can only be good for the college, leading to lots of opportunities arising in future.
Current Student 1: I oppose this proposal because A levels are meant to be one of the most challenging parts of a student’s education therefore professional support is required. This college also admits students with lower grades to provide extra support. With this proposal accomplished, the A level grades of this college are likely to drop significantly.
Current Student 2: I think it could be very beneficial, especially in a financial sense.
Where concerns were raised, such as in the cases of Parent 1 and Student 1 above, these were followed up with information and reassurances, together with an opportunity for further discussion/clarification.
In addition to responses to the formal consultation, a meeting held with tutor group representatives following explanation and discussion of the proposal in tutorial sessions enabled questions to be asked and views to be sought. Students had some concerns about academisation based on their perceptions of academies across the town and elsewhere. These were related largely to perceptions of sponsored academies and the predecessor schools. The proposal was further explained, in terms of OSFC looking at a conversion rather than being sponsored, and the requirement that colleges must be Good or better for this to be an option. Students were also informed that several local schools had converted to academy status, including Hathershaw, The Blue Coat School, North Chadderton and Crompton House, which students hadn’t always realised, so this helped allay the concerns. It was also reinforced that OSFC and Hathershaw were establishing the proposed new MAT, rather than a large, national sponsor coming in to run the colleges. This provided reassurance and those students who had expressed concerns were more positive following this discussion.
The Governing Body Corporation has considered the consultation responses outlined above and has concluded that the proposal is the best way to provide a long term sustainable, high quality and relevant curriculum offer to our students. In particular, the Governors see the following clear benefits of the proposal:
- The over-arching aim should be to secure improved experiences and outcomes for students both within the Colleges and across Oldham and the local area. All of the following points ultimately relate to this key aim.
- Enable closer partnership work to take place both across the two Colleges but also with other schools in the local area. This will further improve practice at both Colleges and help support other schools across Oldham.
- Secure better value for money in terms of procuring goods and services, thereby enabling more funding to be allocated to teaching, learning and student support.
- Provide opportunities for the two Colleges (and any other future academies within the proposed trust) to share key back-office functions, such as human resources and finance, which would further improve value for money, as above.
- Create opportunities to improve the recruitment, development and retention of talented staff and provide opportunities for joint staffing appointments.
- Allow greater collaboration with potential partners by the sharing of excellent specialist teaching expertise to help in improving standards and educational outcomes across the partnership as a whole. It is hoped that primary schools will also join the trust in the near future, enabling improved transition for students across the phases.
- Unlike sixth form colleges, allow Oldham Sixth Form College to be exempt from VAT, bringing financial savings that can be invested in teaching, learning and student support.
Summary and next steps
The OSFC Governing Body Corporation has taken account of the views and concerns raised by our students, parents, staff and community. We have also taken account of our discussions with other colleges and the information provided during the Greater Manchester Area Review process.
We have concluded that it would be in the best interests of the College, its students and the local community to proceed with the proposal to dissolve the Corporation of the College and transfer all property, rights, assets and liabilities of the Corporation to The Pinnacle Learning Trust in order to operate the College as a 16-19 academy to be called Oldham Sixth Form College.
The nature of the proposal requires the College to open as a 16-19 academy and therefore there is an academisation process (the process through which a sixth form college will become an academy) which is operated by the Department for Education. Subject to satisfying the Department for Education’s requirements, the Corporation would be dissolved and its property, assets, rights and liabilities would be transferred to The Pinnacle Learning Trust.