Academies FAQ NEW

Glossary of Terms


A state school funded directly by the government, rather than maintained by a local authority.  Each academy is run by an academy trust.

Formal permission given by the RSC (see below) to a school seeking to academise to proceed with full conversion.

A not-for-profit company, registered at Companies House with named Members and Directors, which employs the staff and is responsible for the performance of its schools.

Academies Financial Handbook – an overarching framework for the implementation of effective financial management control which Academy Trusts must abide by.  Produced by the ESFA, it contains mandatory guidance for Members, Directors, CEO/Accounting Officer, Chief Financial Officers and Auditors.

The term given to a document setting out the conditions of service of teachers in England and Wales.

Catholic Academy Trust – the term used by the Diocese for a MAT.

See Scheme of Delegation below.

The key decision-makers in the CAT: legal responsibility for the performance of each academy rests with them.  Strategic rather than operational, they delegate responsibilities to the Catholic Executive Officer, Local Governing Bodies and headteachers of each school.

Education Skills Funding Agency – a government agency combining the responsibilities of the former Education Funding Agency (EFA) and Skills Funding Agency (SFA) to create a single body accountable for funding education and skills for children, young people and adults.

Financial Recovery Plan – a spreadsheet to identify future savings to ensure that the school is able to live within its means and deliver a stable 3-year budget necessary to meet Diocesan and DfE approval to convert.

Also known as the Single Status Agreement, the Green Book covers the pay and conditions for 1.4 million local authority employees, ranging from architects to cleaners, lawyers and school support staff.  It is also used to determine the pay and conditions of non-local authority staff.

A group of schools, which have converted to become academies, working together within a CAT.  It is part of the same legal entity as the CAT, under the Trust Board of Directors and reports to the CAT’s CEO.  It can have an Executive Leader with delegated powers under a Scheme of Delegation (see below).   A hub can be thought of as a subsidiary company of the CAT itself.

Local Advisory Council (also known as Local Governing Body) – The term for the Governing Body of an academy after conversion.  The LAC is a sub-committee of the CAT Trust Board.

Local Governing Body (also known as Local Advisory Council) – The term for the Governing Body of an academy after conversion.  The LGB is a sub-committee of the CAT Trust Board.

An academy trust which runs more than one academy.

The guardians of the governance of the CAT, but who have a minimal role in its actual running.  Every CAT has the same five Members: His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Auxiliary Bishop responsible for Education, Paolo Camoletto, the Diocese’s Chief Operating Officer, Peter Sweeney, the Director of Education and The Westminster Roman Catholic Diocese Trustee (i.e. the corporate body).

The body to which the Education Commission delegates operational decisions concerning academisation for its approval.

Regional School Commissioners (there are eight) act on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education and work with the ESFA to provide oversight and scrutiny of academy trusts’ performance.  After Diocesan approval has been given to schools wishing to academise, the next step is to secure the approval of the RSC Headteacher Board (now known at the Advisory Board), which advises RSCs on the decisions they make.  Such approval will result in the issuing of an Academy Order.

The document which sets out where responsibilities lie within the CAT.  The delegation matrix of each CAT makes clear who will make decisions and carry out particular functions within the CAT.

School Development Plan – a strategic document to plan and deliver the development of a school in governance, leadership, finance, staffing, teaching, curriculum, assessment and attainment terms.

The name by which the Directors of an academy trust are corporately known.

The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) protects the entitlement of UK employees to the same terms and conditions, with continuity of employment, as the business they are employed in transfers from one provider to another.  TUPE applies to staff employed in schools as the school converts to academy status.

Frequently Asked Questions

Schools are facing unprecedented challenge as a result of COVID-19. Is this really the right time to press ahead with such a significant decision?

Whilst COVID-19 has caused unprecedented disruption to the smooth running of schools and has significantly increased responsibilities and workload for headteachers and governors, establishing CATs is a strategic objective which will benefit pupils and staff for generations to come.

COVID-19 has highlighted the strength and resilience of MATs and CATs in response to a crisis.  Schools are stronger when they collaborate.  During the pandemic CATs have been able to reduce the workload for individual headteachers, teachers and support staff by allowing for a common approach to undertaking risk assessments for schools, joint procurement of PPE and signage, implementing schemes to provide free school meals vouchers to vulnerable families and providing appropriate learning materials for pupils during lockdown.  It is easier for larger organisations to allocate resources to these activities than it is for individual schools.Why are schools being allocated to a single CAT in a predefined geographical area rather than being allowed to form smaller groupings themselves?Expand

The need for planned geography lies at the heart of the Diocesan academisation programme for four main reasons:

  1. Growth cannot be sporadic or dictated solely by local or generational circumstance.  Any CAT being created can accommodate local relationships via the hub model, but it cannot be allowed to degenerate into haphazardness, because in those circumstances, it will lose its underpinning coherence and so be much less likely to last.
  2. A CAT has to be scalable.  It must be able to grow to the right size without being allowed to grow too big.  Any CAT that is too small will not get sufficient economies of scale and the benefits of enhanced collaboration and sharing of expertise.  Any CAT that is too big will get diseconomies of scale and lose tightness of collaboration and sharing of expertise.  Key milestones are hitting 3,000 pupils and not going much beyond 10,000.  Family groups have to be planned to accommodate the right level of scalability.
  3. Closely related to this, it has to be sustainable.  Any CAT has to have the capacity to hit critical mass and survive and thrive on its own internal resources.  CATs that are too small, or in any other sense limited, will stand less chance of surviving and thriving.
  4. Finally, the Trustees are advocating this academisation plan as their strategy for the future.  For that reason, it has to be generationally coherent.  We need to leave something behind that can be peopled and understood by those who follow in, let us say, forty years’ time.  CATs are therefore designed along deanery and local authority lines, so that they have an immediately recognisable and intelligible ecclesial and local structure.

What is a hub?

hub is a group of schools, which have converted to become academies, working together within a CAT.  The arrangement can be theme-based or geographical.  Any hub is part of the same legal entity as the CAT, under the Trust Board of Directors and reports to the CAT’s CEO.  It can have an Executive Leader with delegated powers under a scheme of delegation.  Back office functions can be shared among schools in the hub.

A hub can be thought of as a subsidiary company of the CAT itself.  The Diocese’s preference is that hubs would be set up for an initial two- to three-year period and help the transition process for groups of schools which have a history of collaboration as they move into a Family CAT.

Schools may decide, based on geography and historical working relationships, to progress with the CAT programme by operating in hubs (perhaps two or three – whatever is felt best) within the same larger CAT.What are the benefits of academies?

  • CATs provide a formal framework for collaboration, shared curriculum expertise across schools and enhanced opportunities for sharing good practice in a variety of settings and phases.
  • Curriculum support for secondary schools by primaries and for primaries by secondaries in targeted areas – with possible cross-phase teaching – will enhance pupils’ learning and enrich professional practice.
  • Formal collaboration frameworks allow for more shared planning, more shared examples of good practice, more shared resources and more shared assessment and moderation.
  • Inbuilt collaboration facilitates buddying/mentoring systems to enhance teaching and learning and enriches school-to-school support.
  • Shared curriculum events such as Science Days, Languages Days and shared concerts become much more practicable.
  • Greater opportunities for career progression enable schools to grow their own leaders. The Ambition Institute research shows that MATs have much higher rates of promotion from classroom teacher to middle leadership, particularly at primary school, than non-MAT schools.
  • Improved recruitment and retention. The evidence is that CATs, with the flexibility and career progression opportunities they allow, attract more applications.
  • In short, CATs systemically enrich professional dialogue and practice, thereby improving pupils’ learning experience.

What about federations? They can deliver the same benefits.

Federations can deliver the same benefits and have been previously been used to support collaboration between small clusters of schools, but the lack of a hard legal structure means that they tend to be as good as the people working within them; this is no bad thing in itself, but they do not often survive generational shifts in personnel.  They are therefore less attractive as a long-term sustainable solution desired by the Trustees to the pressures our sector is facing.How will academies make a difference to the challenges we face? How would CATs help with falling pupil roll or lack of finance or deficits in schools? Will there be more money for schools?

The principle of a problem shared being a problem halved will apply: in CATs, headteachers by definition no longer struggle alone; they are key members of a larger network with a CEO carrying the can.  The very existence of a CEO with oversight of a group of schools allows for a more coordinated approach in mitigating risks to that group, and to the sector as a whole.

With government borrowing at record levels and a contracting economy, there is very little chance that more money will be put into schools.  We therefore have to make economies where we can and CATs will help to alleviate the stress schools are under.  They will not remove that stress, but they will help; in fact, they are the best mechanism available to us to create that help.

As far as falling rolls are concerned, the more money that can be directed back into front-line education through economies of scale, and the better the educational provision that CAT structure will provide, the more popular it will prove with parents.  The hard fact is that the only way in our power to increase numbers is to render ourselves more attractive to parents who are applying elsewhere.  The CAT Trust Board will have responsibility for a group of schools, and so will not allow, insofar as they are able, one or more to languish at the expense of others.

Furthermore, academies are able to share staff across schools and deploy them flexibly to respond to cost pressures from falling rolls.How are CEOs selected? Will not their cost nullify the financial benefits of joining a CAT?

In new CATs, the position of CEO will be advertised.  Once the CAT has been established, it is for the Trust Board to appoint the CEO and all senior officers of a Trust.  As with all reserved posts, the Diocese will be engaged with the appointment process, but it is for the newly formed Trust Board to recommend an appointment, subject to the approval of the Bishop as is the case now.

As CATs form, the CEO position is likely to be part-time and shared with the relevant headteacher’s substantive post as headteacher of a school in the Trust.  He or she is seconded to the CAT on a part-time basis, paid for by a section of the top-slice.  The proportion of time spent on CAT work would grow in proportion to the amount of schools joining.How can Catholic Academy Trusts better respond to falling rolls than VA Schools?

When schools come together in CATs they become part of the same legal organisation.  The CAT can drive down costs for schools through a more flexible approach to sharing staff, resources and even classes and pupils to meet the challenges of balancing budgets against a declining roll.  A CAT is the vehicle for enhanced collaboration and innovative solutions.  The determination, resilience, creativity and ingenuity of CAT leaders will be key to finding sustainable solutions to continue to provide a rich Catholic education in these challenging times.  The CEO’s oversight of a group of schools will allow for a more co-ordinated approach in mitigating risks.

CATs will not ultimately save a school from closure.  A CAT cannot resist the inevitable tide of pupils number declining to unviable numbers.  What a CAT can do, however, is give us a fighting chance and buy us time until pupil numbers increase.Will schools lose their individuality when they become part of a CAT?

No. CATs enshrine the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity which underpin Catholic Social Teaching.  Subsidiarity – decisions are best made by those who are closest to their effects – is key: its express purpose is to avoid excessive centralisation.  This can find expression in the CAT’s delegation matrix.  Our pupils are best served if schools keep their individual charism.How do CATs promote career progression?

CATs can provide a coherent plan for ‘talent management’ and as a consequence are better placed to keep their expertise within the Trust rather than losing high quality staff elsewhere.  CATs give staff the opportunity to move from school to school, without changing employer, and experience new challenges in different contexts.   This enables them to gain experience in a larger organisation, take on promotions and additional responsibility and so be less likely to leave.

Evidence can be found by clicking here: is the cost of academisation for the school and how will this be funded? If the cost of academisation is higher than the grant of £25,000 given to schools converting to become an academy, how will the school be able to cover the extra amount? If the school spends less than the £25,000 grant given, will the school keep the remainder?

The £25,000 grant is a contribution to each school’s conversion costs.  The conversion costs approximate to £25,000.  If the costs can be contained within the, grant the school keeps any surplus.   If costs exceed the grant the school will need to fund this.  It is possible to make some small efficiency savings by pooling the conversion grant across a number of schools converting at the same time.Who will serve as Foundation Directors on the CAT Trust Board?

The Diocese will invite applications Foundation Governors from the schools working to form a CAT.   The important point is that the CAT Trust Board has the appropriate skill-set to guide the CAT.What happens to Foundation Governors who are not on the CAT Trust Board?

They will remain on the Local Governing Body.Can the CAT ensure all monies in school reserve funds will be ring-fenced for use only by the school?

Yes. All monies acquired by a school by sound financial management will be retained by the school to be spent on its pupils.

In exceptional emergency circumstances another school in the CAT may ask the CAT Board to borrow funds from a school with reserves to meet unforeseen expenditure.  If this becomes necessary, a repayment plan will be agreed to ensure the funds are repaid over time to the lender. Being part of a CAT thus offers schools greater protection and resilience from unforeseen expenditure and external threats than can be achieved in isolation.