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Joining the Ridgeway Educational Trust (Academy)

Long Wittenham School is in the process of joining the Ridgeway Education Trust (RET). RET is a Trust with community at its heart. It is based on the strong values of inclusivity, high standards and respectful relationships. They are dedicated to high standards in education for 4 – 18 year olds. RET currently comprises the Didcot Girls’ School (Ofsted outstanding), St Birinus School and Sutton Courtenay CofE (VC) Primary School. The school have been working with RET since Christmas and have been continually impressed by the ambitious standards they set themselves, the aspirations they have for our school and the warmth and care in how they work. As a school we strongly believe in the ethos of the trust and together we will strengthen our offer for all the members of our community.

Stakeholder meeting with Ridgeway Education Trust 

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the meeting with the Ridgeway Education Trust (RET) on Monday 22nd May. We were delighted to see so many of you – staff, governors, current parents, future parents and members of our village community. 

At the meeting we heard from Ruth Elliot, Chair of the RET board, and Rachael Warwick, CEO of RET, who shared the trust values of ambition, integrity and leading for legacy. Rachael spoke of the importance of being a local trust which allows schools to easily collaborate and staff to share expertise face to face. Rachael also spoke about great education as extending beyond the classroom to include extra-curricular opportunities giving examples of reading for pleasure, leadership for children and their programme of career talks inspiring children to be excited about what their futures might look like. 

It was lovely to also hear from Rachel Hornsey, Headteacher of Sutton Courtenay CofE Primary School, who shared her school’s experience of RET since they joined in 2019. She explained how having support from RET for finance, HR, facilities and governance has allowed her the time she needed to focus on teaching and learning and the positive impact this has had on her school and for their children. We also had the opportunity to meet the newly appointed RET Director of Primary Education, Paul Shaughnessy, and RET Mastery, Maths Lead Andrea Wickham, who is currently working together with our teachers to improve how we deliver Maths at Long Wittenham. You may see her in our school on Thursdays and Zoe Parks, the Sutton Courtenay CofE Primary School Maths Lead on Thursdays and Fridays.

There were lots of great questions from the audience and overall a strong feeling of support and enthusiasm for the move by Long Wittenham to become part of RET. If anyone has any more questions they would like to ask please do not hesitate to email them to the office or share them with one of the governors in the playground. 

What is the Ridgeway Education Trust (RET)? 

RET is a multi-academy trust which means that they are a group of schools that work together towards shared goals and for mutual benefit. Academy schools are state-funded schools that are directly funded by the Department of Education and independent of local authority control. RET currently comprises Didcot Girls’ School (Ofsted outstanding), St. Birinus School and Sutton Courtenay CofE Primary School. All Saints CofE Primary School in Didcot are also applying to join RET. 

What happens next?

We have received approval from the Department for Education for Long Wittenham to join RET and, all being well, we plan for the legal process to be completed for this to happen on 1st November 2023. However, staff from RET are already working with our staff at Long Wittenham and you will see further collaboration between the Trust and the school in the weeks and months ahead. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is an academy and what is a multi-academy trust? 

An academy is an independent state school that is run by an academy trust. The academy trust enters into an agreement with the Secretary of State for Education that sets out its responsibilities and accountabilities for the effective running of the academy. Academies are funded directly by the Government and are not part of/controlled by the Local Authority. 

A multi-academy trust (MAT) is simply an academy trust that operates more than one school. 80% of secondary schools, 39% of primary schools and 43% of special schools are already academies (as of January 2022).

How was the Ridgeway Education Trust selected?

The school’s governors have done lots of research into the options for Long Wittenham School to join a multi-academy trust (MAT). During their research they spoke and met with various MATs. The governors concluded that Ridgeway Education Trust (RET) is the most appropriate choice. They believe that RET’s track record of school improvement with both primary and secondary schools, its geographical proximity to our school and its alignment of values with Long Wittenham make it a compelling choice. As an Academy that already includes a Church of England school, the Governors also feel that our Christian mission and ethos will be nurtured and celebrated by RET.


How will the children benefit? 

If Long Wittenham converts to academy status and joins RET, the children will still be taught in the same classrooms by the same teaching staff as now and they will probably not notice any immediate difference. However, we would expect children to notice changes and improvements in the way that they learn, not least as a result of new training and professional development opportunities available to teaching staff to help them to innovate and improve the children’s education. In particular, the children will benefit from the sharing of excellent and innovative practice in teaching and learning between the RET schools. We also believe that they will have wider opportunities to learn new skills and experience new activities. 

Will conversion alter Long Wittenham’s existing ethos and values? 

No, Long Wittenham will retain its values and ethos. The Senior Leadership Team will remain unchanged and will still be responsible for driving the culture of the school. We have chosen to join RET because we believe there is a very strong cultural fit between the two and we would not have considered joining a MAT where we did not believe that our school’s ethos would continue to thrive. 

Will Long Wittenham have to change its name, logo or uniform? 

No, there are no plans to change our school’s name, uniform or logo.

Will admissions to the school be affected? 

There are currently no plans to change the admission arrangements – the application process for parents and carers will remain the same. Academies are their own admissions authority and are in charge of deciding their admissions arrangements. Like maintained schools, academies are required to comply with the Admissions and Admission Appeals Codes of Practice. Academies are also required to participate in the Local Authority’s coordination of admissions processes and Fair Access Protocol. The Local Authority will continue to have responsibility for making sure there are sufficient school places locally and to coordinate the admissions process for all schools. 

RET prioritises places for children in its primary schools, and children of the staff who work in all its schools, at Didcot Girls’ School and St Birinus School.

Will Long Wittenham still follow the national curriculum? 

Academies do not have to adhere to the National Curriculum but they are still required to provide a “broad and balanced curriculum” and children still have to take part in national tests, such as SATs and Phonics Screening. We are not considering deviating from the National Curriculum. 

Will term dates change? 

Academies can set their own term times but there is no plan to change the existing dates. Our Senior Leadership Team will remain responsible for taking decisions around the timing of INSET days and will continue to take those decisions based on the best interests of our families and staff. 

Will Long Wittenham’s responsibilities in relation to SEND change? 

No, our responsibilities as an academy in relation to Special Educational Needs & Disability (SEND) will be just the same as they are now following the Code of Practice. 

How will the transition affect pupils? 

Pupils will not be affected by the transition period involved in joining the MAT. Governors, Trustees and the Senior Leadership Team will work together to ensure this transition is as seamless as possible. Once the transition period is over, Long Wittenham will continue running as normal and we are confident that any changes the pupils notice will be positive ones. 

How will the transition affect parents? 

Parents will not be affected; however, they will start to see and hear more information about RET.

Will my child’s pupil premium entitlement be affected? 

Pupil premium payments (and other pupil specific funding) will remain with those pupils and will continue to be spent on enhancing and assisting their learning. 

Can a child with an Education, Health and Care Plan nominate an academy as their school of choice? 

Yes, Long Wittenham will retain the admissions criteria that we currently use. 

Are academies still subject to the Ofsted inspection regime? 

Yes, academies are inspected in the same way as maintained schools. Each school will continue to be inspected individually. The performance of all schools will continue to be monitored and if there are signs of deterioration, or other factors likely to cause concern, these could trigger an inspection. 

However, all schools which join a multi-academy trust are given a three-year Ofsted ‘holiday’ and the previous Ofsted designation of the school is removed as it is effectively viewed as a new school. This would give time for school improvement to bed in prior to the next Ofsted inspection.

Will the plans for the new school building be impacted by this decision?

No, RET will advocate on behalf of the school, alongside the school governors, in the negotiations concerning the new school build. The ownership of the land and building for the new school site would not change.


What will be the impact on Long Wittenham staff? 

Currently, all staff are employed by Oxfordshire County Council. After conversion, all staff will be employed by Ridgeway Education Trust (RET). Staff are legally protected to transfer under the same employment terms and conditions, including pensions. Staff will be provided with further information on how they are affected. We believe that being part of the academy trust will provide greater opportunities for career progression and development and we have already seen the benefits of working together, for example, on Maths and Music. 

Will staff transfer directly to RET? 

All staff employed by the governing board on the date of transfer will automatically be transferred to RET as the new employer. 

Will staff members’ pay and conditions change? 

Staff members will be covered by the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) regulations 2006 (TUPE). This means employees and their terms of service are legally protected when the school joins an academy trust. 

Will pensions be protected? 

Yes, as part of the TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) regulations staff members’ pensions will be protected during their transfer to the academy trust. 

Will anything change for staff members? 

Staff members will be offered more opportunities to visit colleagues in other settings to share practice and collaborate. They will be given improved development and better networking opportunities. 

By joining an academy trust, staff members’ chances of career progression and work opportunities may be enhanced. Teachers will be employed by the trust, so could move into a senior role at another school in the trust without changing employer. 

Would staff members be required to work at different academies? 

Staff usually remain in their own academy; however, opportunities to work, train and develop elsewhere may arise from time to time. 

Would the Senior Leadership Team stay the same? 

Yes, it is the governance structure through which the Senior Leadership Team is accountable that will change. 


Will Long Wittenham receive more or less money as an academy? 

Academies receive the same amount of per-pupil funding as they would receive from the Local Authority as a maintained school. The difference is that the whole of the school budget would go direct to the Trust from central Government, rather than via the Local Authority. This will allow the Trust to control the whole of its spending by allocating budgets to each of the schools.

The Trust will retain some of the budget in order to provide services to each of the schools, similar to how the Local Authority funds its core services.

Would there be a change to Long Wittenham’s current suppliers e.g. cleaning? 

There is no requirement for Long Wittenham to change its existing suppliers and it is likely that at the point of transition we will retain our existing contracts with external suppliers by simply transferring them to the Trust. 

Over time, it is likely that RET will review those contracts, to identify whether it is possible to achieve greater efficiencies through increased buying power and joint commissioning of services such as school equipment and cleaning, for example. 

How much does conversion cost? 

During the conversion process, the school will be eligible for a grant of £25,000 from the Department for Education. While the costs of conversion can vary, we believe that this grant should cover the majority of those costs.