This page aims to answer questions relating to the proposal put forward by our Trust for Tomlinscote to seek to join The Prospect Trust. As such, it attempts to anticipate concerns that members of our community may have.
What is the view of the Governors?
Governors are drawn from parents, staff and the local community. They have been involved in discussions and recently had an opportunity to receive a presentation from our Board. After a period of questioning, governors gave strong support for the proposal, expressing confidence in the future it offers for our community.
Why not remain as a ‘stand alone’ Academy or consider joining another Trust?
The vision of our Trust includes commitments to ‘All through Education (4 to 19)’ and ‘Local Schools for Local Families’. The Trust believes that The Prospect Trust offers the best match to support both elements.
What are the benefits of joining The Prospect Trust?
The accompanying booklet identifies these as:
- Sharing expertise between Academies – professional development for staff and support between Academies leading to improvement
- Improved transition between Academies – a smoother transition to the College environment and studies
- Creating new opportunities for students and staff – mentoring, collaboration, sharing revision, masterclasses etc.
- Establishing a Teacher Training centre – to ensure we recruit the very best teachers
- Enhance staff Professional Development – so that students make even more progress
- Developing common learning approaches – to the new examinations
- Providing a robust system of quality review – to ensure learning continues to improve
- Generating and releasing funds – to systematically improve equipment and buildings
- Using our reputations to innovate and set new standards – shaping the future, not waiting for it
What will happen to A-levels at Tomlinscote?
Tomlinscote’s leadership has previously reluctantly announced the suspension of recruitment to A-level courses starting in September 2018. Across a number of years, it had become very difficult to offer a breadth of A-level qualifications and doing so has placed a large financial burden on the rest of the school. This was the result of most students choosing to study A-levels elsewhere, typically leaving approximately 50 students starting A-level courses at Tomlinscote each year.
The parents of primary aged children often tell staff that they are pleased to know that A-level courses are offered at Tomlinscote. The reality is that when their older children come to make their choices, they often move to a college. A commitment has been given to protect students who enrolled on A-levels at Tomlinscote in September 2017. If the proposal goes ahead, a curriculum review will take place looking at all 16+ provision across the Trust. Our teachers will continue to have the opportunity to experience A-level teaching through the partnership within the Trust but we will end recruitment to A-levels on our school site.
Will this guarantee a place at Farnborough Sixth Form College for Tomlinscote students?
There is a guarantee of an interview for a place - assuming the college offers an appropriate course to meet the student’s ambitions and if they meet the entry requirements.
Will the loss of A-levels cause teachers to leave?
Parents often express the view that A-level teaching attracts teachers to the school. This proposal will maintain this advantage as staff can contribute their teaching to the sixth form courses across the Trust, wherever they are taught. We believe that the option to teach both main school and sixth form students will continue to be attractive to teachers.
Is the Sixth Form closing? What will happen to the vocational courses?
The Sixth Form will remain open and we are currently recruiting to a wide range of Vocational Courses. The Curriculum Review mentioned above will look at the courses we offer in the future to best meet the needs of current and future students.
Does this mean Tomlinscote and Farnborough Sixth Form College are merging?
No. Staff will continue to work mainly at Tomlinscote and be under the direction of the Principal, who is accountable to the Academy Quality Council. Tomlinscote will continue to have its own ethos, uniform, curriculum etc.
Doesn’t this amount to a loss of choice for Sixth Form study?
With approximately 50 students choosing to study A-levels with us, it is the case that this will not affect many students. Those who, for example, prefer a smaller Sixth Form, have other local alternatives. Our Year 11 students will continue to have a choice of where to continue their studies and will benefit from improved learning and closer working relationships between the school and the Sixth Form College.
Will staff have job security?
As part of the process, staff at Tomlinscote will move to be employed by The Prospect Trust. However their employment rights will be protected under the TUPE process. Practically speaking, Tomlinscote will continue to have 1600+ students to educate and The Prospect Trust values the expertise of staff. It is likely that this partnership will actually offer more opportunities to staff.
Staff have had briefing sessions and the opportunity to have individual discussions. While they want to hear the details of how this partnership will operate, they recognise that this is a good opportunity for the school.
Who will be ‘in charge’?
The Principal will be responsible for the day to day operation of each Academy together with his senior leadership team. They will answer to the Academy Quality Council that will be made up, as now, of a local people with a range of skills the Academy needs. This replaces the Local Governing Body. This will be made up of ‘councillors’ elected from the parent body, or staff, while others will be appointed because of the skills they offer.
The Board and Members of The Prospect Trust will evolve over time to ensure an appropriate mix of skills to challenge the Trust leadership team and be independent of the influence of any individual Academy.
Will Tomlinscote miss out on opportunities?
The Board believe that the combination of two Outstanding Academies, with others potentially joining, will prove to be a significant draw to both local families and government. It is already the case that larger Multi Academy Trusts have greater access to funding for buildings and major projects.
It is anticipated that the enlarged Trust will have greater opportunities to innovate, particularly in terms of gaining access to national policy changes. An early example is that of a Teaching School, enabling the Trust to recruit, train and employ teachers early in their careers; a significant advantage in this area.
What changes with the students notice?
In the short term, very little. Lessons, uniform, teachers and opportunities will at least be maintained and in some areas – for example preparation for Oxbridge and other universities, they will improve further. Over time we expect a closer integration between GCSE teaching and that at A-level; a particular advantage with the changing examination courses.
Will the school remain Comprehensive?
What about partnerships with other schools?
These will continue. A number of schools are also members of MATs – most of our feeder primary schools belong to one of two local MATs. All schools have been invited to contribute their views during this window and have already expressed strong support for our discussions.
Will it become harder to secure a place at Tomlinscote?
No. The school has a history of being over-subscribed. This is the reason we recently increased our Pupil Admission Number (PAN) from 270 to 300. This will be helped by the release of teaching spaces that were previously dedicated to A-level students. There are no current plans to change our Catchment Area.
How can I express an opinion?
Attend the open meeting at 7pm on 7th March in the school hall. After this meeting, we will open on online Feedback Form where we would welcome your views and where any additional questions will be answered.
What is the likely timeline?
Our Trust Board will meet before the end of term to review the comments we receive about this proposal. The Prospect Trust Board will also meet. If no major concerns are identified by the two Boards, discussions will be held with the relevant government departments and the necessary legal actions taken. We cannot anticipate exactly how long this will take but it is likely that it would be complete at the end of August 2018.