Joining Fortis Trust
Who can join?
Our Trust was set up in 2014 with the aim to make a positive global difference for all through collaboration and innovation. We partner with schools and provisions who truly place young people at the heart of what they do. Schools, who value and supports an inclusive holistic education that develops the whole child or young person. Fortis Trust aims to support schools and provisions across the sector and age range, including mainstream, specialist and AP. As an inclusive and innovative trust, we can provide high quality support for schools and provisions that:
- Value their own identify and culture
- Want to work together to develop the quality of education across the trust for the benefit of young people
- Want to access provision and services which support their young people and staff
- Want to access high quality, supportive, collaborative school improvement
- Want to be a part of larger hub/group to collectively drive improvement
- Want to be inclusive and celebrate diversity
- Want to strive for excellence in all that they do
- Want to benefit from economies of scale
Aspiration & Growth
Identity & Diversity
Innovation for Improvement
Why become an academy?
This question is answered differently dependent on each school’s or provision’s context. In our work we are approached by different schools and provisions who have decided to explore becoming an academy for a variety of different reasons. These include:
- A desire to work with other schools on a more formal footing
- A desire to build and strengthen networks for professional development
- Exploring additional opportunities for their children or young people
- Freeing up the Headteacher to focus on the quality of education with the Trust taking on a wide range of back office functions
- Unhappiness with the support currently provided
- A desire to protect/develop their own identity and culture
- As a small school an opportunity to join up with others to become more financially viable
- Wanting to access new funding streams as an academy. e.g. capital, CIF bids
Multi Academy Trusts, such as Fortis Trust, are designed to bring leaders together, to share resources, and through collaborative approaches add more value than they are able to do alone.
Process to join
Initial work together
We have the privilege of meeting many school leaders who are considering their next steps. Our initial time together is usually spent sharing respective visions and values and checking that they are compatible.
Initial work together will also be spent listening to the school and hearing about their own unique identity as a school, what’s working well and what could be improved. This is often done through a tour of the school with the Headteacher and meeting senior teams.
Early conversations also include meetings with the governing body and spending valuable time together asking and answering a range of questions. This is often followed by a more detailed presentation by our CEO. During this early time together, we will set out the timeline for any potential conversion. This is indicative and used to help all parties see what is ahead.
Passing a resolution to join
If, and when, a school decides to formally explore joining Fortis, then the Governing Body must vote and pass a resolution to join Fortis. This should be formally minuted. This resolution should be by majority and does not need to be unanimous. It is important for schools to recognise that passing a resolution does not commit the school to academy status; it simply provides a vehicle for more formalised discussions and due diligence. The CEO will share this with the Trust Board with a brief snapshot of the school and will seek approval to proceed.
Following this step, the school will be asked to complete a brief form which is designed to give some initial information for the Trust board around motivation to join, known strengths and weaknesses and financial position. In most cases, Fortis Trust’s board will give consent and, if not, may ask for some further information.
During this period, our team will be in regular contact with the school. The Trust will be working with the school on arranging our due diligence processes. This is typically produced through a one-day visit from our CEO and a separate time for others to review the financial position of the school. The areas covered are summarised below:
- Education outcomes, teaching and learning and leadership and management.
- Financial viability
- Property condition survey
- Human Resources
It is recommended that the school use this time to conduct any due diligence they wish to complete on Fortis. This could be both financial as well as seeking feedback from academies and provisions already within the Trust. Providing the initial due diligence does not raise any significant concerns, a report is drafted and provided to the Board of Trustees who will consider the findings and make a provisional decision on whether to accept the school into the Trust.
Following this, The Trust will appoint a project manager to support all parties during the consultation and potential conversion process. This is funded from a DfE grant all schools receive when converting to academy status. This will also fund the bill charged by the local authority. Converting to academy status does not incur any cost for the school.
The project manager will work with the school to help run the consultation period. This includes: an opportunity for stakeholders to submit questions which are addressed by the school; Trust and staff meetings (union and HR representatives are always invited); and parent/carer meetings with the Headteacher, governing body representation and Fortis Trust’s Executive Leadership Team.
Our Trust believes that this is important and will insist that the consultation process is meaningful and that points are heard and answered. We recommend that the school’s governing body meets to review these and then make a final decision to convert or not. It is worth noting that the school does not convert to academy status until the agreed conversion date, which is set out in the Academy Order issued by the DfE.
The Trust will provide the school with detailed guidance and the local authority, as the employer, will lead the TUPE process.
During the consultation processes, further work takes place on back office systems and structures; a budget is generated by the Trust working closely with the school, an analysis will take place of the school’s supplier relationships and any services it receives from the local authority, many of which will cease on conversion and be replaced by the Trust’s own centrally provided services. Additionally, further due diligence takes place and a final report is prepared for Trustees who will formally vote to accept the school into the Trust.
After due diligence has been considered by the Trust and post consultation, if the school and Trust are happy to proceed, the school, with support from the project manager, the school will complete an application to the DfE to covert to academy status to join Fortis Trust. The paperwork is straight forward and it is not a lengthy process. The application is considered at the Regional School Director’s (DfE) Advisory Board meeting, which reviews each application and considers the suitability of conversion to our Trust. If agreed then an Academy Order will follow with a date of conversion.
Once the Academy Order is granted, funding is released by the Department for Education and paid to the Trust. This funding allows the Trust to instruct lawyers who primarily deal with the land issues that arise from a conversion to academy status.
As our Trust has no expectations of name or uniform changes, the conversion day itself is unremarkable. Prior to conversion, the following key documents will have been shared with the school:
- Fortis Trust’s Vision and Values
- Fortis Trust’s Framework for Excellent Practice
- Fortis Trust’s Improvement & Development Booklet
- Fortis Trust’s Scheme of Delegation and Articles of Association
- Fortis Trust’s Handbook
In terms of the DfE and legally, the school will effectively close at 11.59pm on the night before conversion and then reopen as an academy at 12.01am. Legacy inspections and data will stay with the school prior but the inspection clock changes and the school will be inspected as an academy usually in the third-year post-conversion.
The financial year will now align to the academic year and our finance team will provide support before and after conversion.
Fortis Trust honours teachers’ terms and conditions so all staff will move from their previous employer to Fortis Trust with the same terms and conditions. All staff joining Fortis Trust will have access to the Fortis Trust’s full benefits package.
It is expected that the process to convert a school to academy status takes between 9 and 18 months, and depends significantly on many factors at school, Trust and Department for Education levels. The Trust will provide detailed guidance to schools wishing to consider conversion about timescales and will agree in advance a provisional realistic timescale.