Education and Adoption Bill

Written evidence submitted by Acorn Care and Education (EAB 04)

Executive Summary

1. Established in 2005, Acorn Care and Education is the UK’s leading provider of education and care for the most vulnerable and hardest to place young people. Our submission relates to the proposed changes to legislation on academies, set out in the Education and Adoption Bill.

2. Acorn welcomes the government’s continued support for the academies programme and the recognition of the benefits that a high quality sponsor can bring to a failing school.

3. Acorn sponsors an Alternative Provision (AP) Multi Academy Trust (MAT), comprising of six regional AP Academies and a medical AP Academy, in Cornwall and, recently, Stone Lodge Academy in Ipswich whose pupils have moderate learning difficulties.

4. Acorn believes that high quality academy sponsorship can enable schools to make real improvements. However, it is essential that only organisations with relevant expertise are able to take on academy sponsorship and that this only occurs when this would be the most appropriate option for the school concerned. This is particularly key for schools that provide education for pupils with special educational and complex needs.

5. Acorn has demonstrated significant success in driving improvements at the academies we sponsor. As such we hope that our experience will serve as a useful example to inform the Committee’s consideration of the measures in the Bill, ultimately to ensure that they will bring about the best possible outcomes for all pupils.

6. We would be delighted to present further evidence to the Committee on this aspect of the Bill.

Background on Acorn Care and Education

7. Established in 2005, Acorn Care and Education is the UK’s leading provider of education and care for the most vulnerable and hardest to place young people.

8. Our specialist professionals provide the highest standard of education and care for over 2,400 children and young people with challenging and complex learning difficulties, in well-resourced schools and high quality fostering or residential settings.

9. We run 16 successful specialist schools as well as one of the biggest fostering networks in the UK, employing over 200 social workers and 100 teachers, and are committed to achieving excellent long-term outcomes for children at the best possible value.

10. In addition Acorn is completing the second full academic year of sponsoring an Alternative Provision (AP) Multi Academy Trust (MAT) in Cornwall. We have also recently undertaken the sponsorship of Stone Lodge Academy (formerly Beacon Hill School) in Ipswich, having been asked to take on its sponsorship after it was put into special measures.

11. We do not support our sponsorship by top-slicing any of the academies’ funding, nor do we generate any profit from our sponsorship. Instead we focus on setting up the right governance structure for the academies, improving the academies’ leadership and providing support to drive necessary improvements. We also ensure that funding is used to ensure the best possible outcomes for the pupils at the schools.

12. Acorn is continuously looking for innovative ways to drive up standards in the delivery of our services. Through working closely with local authorities, our third sector partners, parents and children, we are better able to identify need and develop unique models of care and provision where there are gaps.

Acorn’s Academy Sponsorship

13. Acorn’s evidence submission relates to the proposed changes to academies legislation, in particular in relation to the identity of academy sponsors. We very much welcome the government’s continued support for the academies programme and the recognition of the benefits that a high quality sponsor can bring to a failing school.

14. Acorn believes that high quality sponsors can bring about real improvements to schools that are struggling to provide appropriate education and support for their pupils. This is especially important for schools that provide education for children and young people with special educational and complex needs. As such it is essential that, where a school is subject to an Academy order, an identified sponsor must be relevant, with evident quality of service, and able to drive the improvements necessary to meet the needs of the individual pupils at the school.

15. Acorn has demonstrated significant success in this area and as such we hope that our experience in sponsoring academies and delivering improvements will serve as a useful example to inform the Committee’s consideration of the measures in the Bill.

16. Acorn is in the second full academic year of sponsoring an Alternative Provision (AP) Multi Academy Trust (MAT) in Cornwall. Acorn Academy Cornwall is an Alternative Provision (AP) MAT that is comprised of six regional AP Academies and the Community and Hospital Education Service (CHES), a medical AP Academy.

17. The CHES provides education for pupils who are unable to attend school due to medical reasons. This ensures that children and young people with health needs that impede their attendance at school have access to high quality educational opportunities, with the expectation that they will return to school as soon as possible. Pupils educated through CHES receive their education through a combination of individual teaching and online learning, based on an individual timetable which is tailored to their medical needs.

18. The six AP Academies (APAs) provide education for mainstream pupils who have been permanently excluded or are at risk of permanent exclusion or on an intervention basis. They provide tailored support for pupils with complex needs and, where possible, help them to reintegrate into mainstream or special schools or, if in the last four terms of Key Stage 4 (KS4), integration into the world of work or further education. Pupils from Key Stages 1 to 4 are educated by the multi-academy trust.

19. We have used our expertise in providing care and education for young people with complex needs to re-engage pupils at the schools with their learning through early intervention and the development of personalised learning programmes. These programmes are developed based on the specific needs of each pupil and are linked to the national curriculum and, at KS4, linked to both academic qualifications and vocational education, depending on the best route for the individual pupil.

20. Acorn undertook sponsorship of the MAT to help drive improvements, share expertise and provide central oversight of the schools in order to drive up standards and outcomes for their pupils. A key area of focus is improvement in governance in all its aspects.

21. Acorn established a Board for the MAT and a series of Board Sub-Committees to ensure that adequate decisions and regular monitoring of all aspects of performance are in place. The Board is chaired by an independent Chair who has relevant experience from the public sector. Focus has been placed on developing an effective Board by including representation from the referring schools, local charities and council employees.

22. The MAT Board has supported the executive team in making key decisions, including the relocation of one of the AP Academies to new, more suitable premises and investing in management information systems.

23. In addition, efficiency gains through more effective procurement post-conversion, have been achieved, enabling more of the MAT’s funding to be deployed in delivering its core educational purpose.

24. Since Acorn undertook sponsorship, two academies have been rated Outstanding in All Areas by Ofsted (one moving from Good, the other a first inspection) and two have been rated Good (one moving from Adequate).

25. Acorn has also recently undertaken the sponsorship of Stone Lodge Academy (formerly Beacon Hill School) in Ipswich, having been asked to do so after the school was put into special measures. We plan to use our experience in driving improvements at the academies in Cornwall to support Stone Lodge in the development of its own improvement programme, ultimately to ensure positive outcomes for the school’s pupils, all of whom have complex social, emotional and communication difficulties.

26. We believe that our work with the MAT in Cornwall, and our plans for Stone Lodge, demonstrate the positive outcomes that can be achieved through the introduction of new skills, governance and methodologies and the investment of time by an effective sponsor that understands the specific needs of the school’s pupils. This is particularly important for schools that provide specialist education and support to pupils with complex needs; it is essential that an academy sponsor for those schools has the requisite expertise to offer the most appropriate support for the pupils, to drive improvements and ensure that the best possible outcomes for each pupil are achieved.

June 2015

Annex A: List of Acorn Academies

· Acorn Academy Cornwall

- North Cornwall APA, Delabole – rated Good in April 2015

- Nine Maidens APA, Redruth – rated Good in October 2012

- Restormel APA, St Austell – rated Good in January 2013

- Caradon APA, Liskeard – rated Good in September 2012

- Glynn House APA, Truro – rated Good in April 2015

- Penwith APA, Penzance – rated Outstanding in May 2015

- The Community and Hospital Education Service (CHES), Camborne – rated Outstanding in May 2015

· Stone Lodge Academy, Ipswich

Prepared 30th June 2015