There are a whole load of people involved in the fate of Winterbourne International Academy. Here’s a quick guide to who’s who and how they’re involved.
The Ridings Federation
This is the organisation that operates Winterbourne International Academy (which used to be the Riding High School), and Yate International Academy (which used to be King Edmunds School and Woodlands Primary).
Academies such as The Ridings Federation are funded by central government based on the number of pupils they teach. Local councils have no influence over them.
Each academy it is responsible for managing its funding and balancing its own books. When something goes wrong it cannot be rescued by the council. Like any other business it could close down or be taken over by another.
The board of trustees
The Ridings Federation is legally a company. Like all large companies it is not run by a single person. In the case of the Ridings Federation the company has members who nominate people to serve on the board of trustees.
It is this board who make the high-level decisions about how the academy business is run. It is typical for the board to include the academy principal, local business people, and parents of students at the school.
The board of trustees at the Ridings Federation has recently almost completely changed. The current board is not well known to parents or school staff.
The regional schools commissioner
Academies are not under the control of local government. Instead control comes from central government, from the Department Of Education (DofE). The DofE splits the country into a number of regions. Each one has a regional schools commissioner (RSC). Winterbourne International Academy is in the South West region.
It is the RSC who is entrusted to sort out situations which have gone wrong. RSCs have strict procedures to follow for most circumstances. They act legally on behalf of the secretary of state for education, Justine Greening.
The commissioner for our region, Rebecca Clark, has links with one of the academies that might take over at Winterbourne. Because of this a different RSC will be used. We don’t yet know which one.
Claire Emery is a professional consultant who often works with academies on behalf of the regional schools commission. She was a founding member of the local Olympus academy chain.
She was invited to help The Ridings Federation in April this year by performing an “external review of governance” – to check that the school was being properly run. The result of that review was that most of the board of trustees resigned and Claire Emery herself became chair of the board, the person effectively in charge.
As chair of the board she was responsible for starting the process of “re-brokering” – having the academy taken over by a bigger chain.
Ofsted is a government body which inspects schools to ensure they are providing a high quality of education. Schools are inspected regularly.
Each school is given an overall result of Excellent, Good, Needs improvement, or Inadequate.
The Oasis Learning Trust
The Oasis Leaning Trust is an academy chain which operates a large number of schools across the country. With 44 schools under its control it’s one of the largest and is continuing to grow aggressively. Although it owns several schools in central Bristol it has no particular links to the area.
The Oasis Leaning Trust is a part of larger evangelical religious charity. All its schools are classed as “schools with a religious character”, commonly called faith schools. Accordingly religious education is more prominent, they are allowed to select pupils on religious grounds, and are able to dismiss staff on religious grounds.
Its record of academic achievement is poor and it has been severely criticised by Ofsted. It has a poor reputation among teaching and support staff.
It is one of two academy chains in the running to take over Winterbourne International Academy.
The Olympus Academy Trust
The Olympus Academy Trust is an academy chain which operates two senior schools and five primary schools in South Gloucestershire. The senior schools are Abbeywood and Bradley Stoke Community Schools.
Both senior schools were judged by Ofsted as Good and Outstanding in some areas. Neither school is a faith school.
The Olympus Academy Trust is one of two academy chains in the running to take over Winterbourne International Academy, jointly with the Castle School Education Trust.
The Castle School Education Trust
The Castle School Education Trust operations Castle School and Marlwood School in Thornbury and Downend school and a number of primary schools.
Castle Schools and Downend School have been judged by Ofsted to be Good.
The Castle School Education Trust is one of two academy chains in the running to take over Winterbourne International Academy, jointly with the Olympus Academy Trust.