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Warriner MAT

The Priors School MAT Frequently Asked Questions


What is The Priors School?

The Priors School is a free school. This means that we are funded directly from the government and are not attached to the Local Authority in any way. As a free school we are classified as an academy in our own right. We are therefore classed as a Single Academy Trust.


Why is the school looking to join a MAT?

As part of the governors’ ongoing duties to secure the future of the school and ensure it is sustainable, discussions about Multi-Academy Trusts have been held regularly for a period of time.  The reasons for these discussions stem around the need to be financially sustainable, offering the best provision for children and staff and direction from the government.


Throughout 2021, Ms Moore (Chair of Governors) and Mr Emms were in discussions with the Regional Schools’ Commissioner (RSC), Department for Education (DfE) and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to review the school as a single academy trust. Although these were positive meetings, the message came through loud and clear that we should consider joining a MAT. Luckily, the school was already looking at options as part of our own on-going strategic and sufficiency work. The government have also released an Education White Paper in March 2022 with the express intention for all schools to be part of a Multi-Academy Trust by no later than 2030. You can browse through the white paper below.




With regards to finances, the school is managing, but as part of a MAT, we will reduce expenditure on a number of things such as HR, communications, site management, utilities, accounting and auditing. If we remain as a single academy trust, these types of savings could only be made through changes in staffing.  The governors feel that it is in the best interests of the school to invest time and energy into choosing the correct option for The Priors School, before a decision was made for us and we had to join a trust of the State’s choosing. This has led us to begin investigating different options to safeguard the future and integrity of the school.


What options have the school explored?

There are three possible options in the table for The Priors School.

  1. Remain as a SAT and continue as we are

  2. Create our own MAT

  3. Join an existing MAT


Over the course of the past four years the governing body have explored these options in great detail. Whilst remaining as a SAT has a number of positives, we believe that the future of education is shifting away from this model and that in the future the school will be forced to join a MAT, not of its choosing. With the current funding situations in schools, it will become more difficult for SATs to exist and run efficiently and joining a MAT is the only way to ensure economies of scale and allow us to continue to thrive.


We also spent a lot of time exploring the possibility of creating our own MAT with like-minded schools. We worked on this for over six months, but felt that with only two other small school partners this would not produce the financial efficiencies we would be looking for. There was also an element of risk with this option, as we would have had to put in an initial financial input to purchase the ‘backend’ services required for running a school. Another issue we came across, was the other schools were church led, so we would have been a member of a mixed MAT. Due to constitutional requirements of church schools, this would have resulted in the leadership of the MAT requiring a majority of church members, thereby giving them a greater say in the running of our school.


The third option, joining an established MAT, was the option we decided to pursue. With an established MAT, the backend services are already in place, the organisation has been set -up and it is possible to see if a MAT is successful and has a similar ethos to our school. Of course there are potential drawbacks, such as potential relinquishing of control in some areas of the school, and these will be explored fully during the due diligence process.


Why The Warriner?

We looked in detail at a number of different trusts, including trusts in Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Nationally. These MATs all had different models, including a hub model, charity led and school led. These options were presented to the governors, and it was felt that the best option was to explore three trusts in detail. After meeting with a number of CEOS it became apparent that the ethos and philosophy of The Warriner MAT matched that of our school and a number of benefits were presented to us. Following these meetings, the governing body believe the best option is to explore this in more detail. Some of the key reasons for choosing The Warriner MAT are:

  • They have a proven track record of working with small, village schools

  • They have a focus on schools maintaining their autonomy and identity

  • Their ethos and values closely mirror ours

  • They are well respected nationally

  • There are lots of opportunities for our children and staff


Will The Priors lose resources by joining the MAT?

School funding is based on a per-pupil funding formula, so the school will receive its core budget based on the minimum funding guarantee and this will be ring-fenced for The Priors School. Therefore, the school will not have funding diverted from it.


As a SAT, we have to fund a number of back office resources ourselves, including HR, payroll, legal, insurance, communications, computer software, information management system, audit and accounting. These come at a great cost to the school. By joining the MAT, these expenses will be centralised. The school will pay a “top slice” towards these, from a percentage of our per-pupil funding. By being part of a larger body of over 2000 pupils, we clearly can access more central resources than the amount we put in.


Will the school keep the money it raises for itself?

All funds raised on behalf of the school will be solely for the school to spend. This money will not be taken into the central pot.


We have been successful over the past few years in applying for grants. We can still do this, and will be able to access these pots. We will not be able to apply for the Condition Improvement Fund, which has been used to build our new lobby and replace the flat roof in the EYFS.


Does the school currently not have access to LA resources?

As a free school, we are independent from the LA. Any resources we use from the LA, we have to pay for. Furthermore, due to funding constraints, the LA are continually being stripped back with fewer resources and services on offer.


Does being part of a MAT help The Priors with compliance?

The Priors is currently compliant in all areas set out by the ESFA, DfE and Charities Commission. However, the financial and governance compliance frameworks are being extended every year. With each new update, the school have to expend a large amount of resources, both financially and with working hours, to ensure we meet these standards. With a larger back office team, governors and trustees and leadership teams, remaining compliment become easier for the school, and we can focus on the important part of our job – teaching your children.


What specialists will The Priors have access to?

Being part of a large organisation clearly allows the sharing of best practice to happen. There are regular leadership and phase team meetings to ensure that all members of staff can learn from each other. We can also share the cost of professional development to ensure all staff have access to the most up to date thinking and ideas. By being partners with secondary schools, we will have access to specialist resources and teaching, such as PE teachers, language teachers and science teachers and this currently happens within the MAT.


Why are you only looking at one MAT?

Joining a MAT is a two way process and involves a lot of work. We looked at a number of MATs and firmly believe The Warriner is the MAT we would like to progress to due diligence with.


Will you lose pupils as a result of joining the MAT?

We have a growing reputation in our local area. We do not believe joining a MAT will have a negative impact on our pupil numbers, as we will still be The Priors School, with our own individual child focussed way of doing things. There are predicted decreases in the birth rate over the next few years, but this is counteracted with the number of new houses being built and our location on the edge of three counties. It must be noted that we were predicted to have fewer applications than our pupil admission numbers this year.


Will The Priors maintain control of its own staffing?

From our research and discussions, the answer to this is yes, although the MAT are the employers. If we wish to employ an additional member of staff, we would have to produce a case as to why, but as we maintain control of our own budget, as long as this does not push us into a deficit position, this will not be challenged. The MAT cannot employ members of staff using our budget, if we do not agree with this deployment. Staff will not be moved to other schools, unless there is a desire to do so from all sides.


As we are currently not even in the due diligence stage, no contracts have been drawn up and guarantees written in stone, however all indications show this to be the case. If the contracts are not satisfactory during due diligence, the school has the power to withdraw from process.


Have you consulted the staff?

A consultation has been held with all staff, who have been given the opportunity to give one to one feedback. No objections have been raised.


Why is this consultation so short? Is it genuine? Has a decision been made?

There is no legal duty for the school to consult on these changes, however, we felt it was best practice to speak to all stakeholders. This is an informal consultation as part of the due diligence process. The feedback from parents is important to the school. However, it is important to note that this process has been ongoing for four years with a number of discussions held by the governing body and a decision has been made to explore this option. It is not a knee-jerk reaction and is not a decision made in haste.


This is a genuine consultation. The governors have made the decision to explore joining The Warriner MAT. The consultation is about gathering parents views. In the presentation, it states in the Next Steps slide - “Join the MAT by September 2023”. This is an indicative timeline to show expected timeframes, and in no way a presumption that this is what will happen.


We have to be very clear, that no final decision has been made regarding joining the MAT. There are a number of steps to take before even coming close to the contract stage. Both parties need to conduct due diligence on a number of items, including ethos, curriculum, finances and buildings. If, at any point, something does not work, both parties can withdraw from the discussions. If, at the end of the due diligence process, the governors believe it is still the correct decision for the school that is when a final decision will be made. This decision will also need to be ratified by the RSC and the Head Teachers board for Warwickshire and Oxfordshire.


It is important to note that we have been through this process before in 2020, when we decided to withdraw from the process of joining the Stowe Valley MAT.


What advice has the school taken?

Mr Emms has been on a governing body of a school who has joined a MAT previously and went through this process. The RSC would also allocate the school a support worker to help us through this process. When we begin the due diligence process, we can access some funding from the DfE to support us with costs, so that we can source legal and accounting advice to help us make an informed decision.


Will the parents have another opportunity to have a say in this decision?

Ultimately, the governing body are the proprietors of the school and have the school’s best interests at heart. A decision has been made to pursue due diligence and if this is all successful and satisfactory, with a unanimous vote, we will proceed to join the MAT and this will be shared with parents. We would look to hold another parents’ meeting to share this you, although this would not be a consultation.


Will joining the Warriner MAT affect secondary school applications?

Being part of the Warriner MAT will have no effect on the secondary school application process. All our children apply for secondary school places based on geographic preference and individual secondary school's admissions criteria. We are not currently a feeder school for Southam College and will not become a feeder school for Bloxham, so for example, if you live within the Southam catchment, you will still have the same priority you currently have.