Models and Partnerships

An overview

This section of CatholicLinks on models and partnerships focuses on the work of voluntary aided schools, not on academies.

An academy is a separate legal entity, a type of school, as is a voluntary aided school.  There are some ‘stand alone’ academies but most Catholic voluntary aided schools, especially primary schools, have converted from being separate schools into academy status as part of what is known as a multi-academy company or a multi-academy trust company.  In a multi-academy company the legal relationship between the academies is rooted in the governance of the same, and gives rise to obligations and duties on the academies to work together.

Voluntary aided schools are separate legal entities, which are able to choose to work with other schools in partnership in a variety of ways on a wide spectrum; it is these opportunities that are explored in this section of CatholicLinks.

The information on model and partnerships is particularly relevant to Catholic voluntary aided schools in England and Wales and fundamentally concerns the nature of governance.  Some people mistakenly think that creating a collaboration or federation is brought about by appointing an executive headteacher to manage more than one school.  Federations (as understood in law) are created by establishing a single governing body and the governors may or may not have an executive headteacher deployed in the running of two or more of the schools.  Collaborations are also essentially about governance arrangements, but collaborations do not have a single governing body to govern all the schools.  The governing bodies of the schools in collaboration agree how the governing bodies will work together strategically – i.e. collaborate, and also decide how the schools will work together operationally too.  There has been an informal (but not legal) practice of referring to federations as ‘hard federations’ and collaborations as ‘soft federations’.  The use of these terms will be considered.

The formal legal terms ‘collaboration’ and ‘federation’ arise out of parliamentary legislation and regulations for schools – in the Church’s case – Catholic voluntary aided schools.  Formally and legally, federations and collaborations do not apply to academies; that said of course academies work in a collaborative manner, but that is different to the practice and status of federation and collaboration as defined in law with respect to educational provision.

This section looks at governance structures and then considers collaboration and federation separately.  Finally, there is guidance on process as it applies to federation, and there are some training materials that may be used or customised further to meet local needs.

In the midst of the progress of academisation, it is an interesting development that the National Governors Association (NGA) has also championed federations (18 December 2015):

Calling chairs and vice chairs of federations: become a Federation Champion with the NGA -The NGA is seeking chairs and vice chairs of governors to become ‘Federation Champions’ as part of our work to promote maintained federations. The aim of the campaign is to support the view that federations are a sustainable and viable alternative to multi-academy trusts (MATs).

Federations are another way of forming collaborative partnerships between schools but this route has not been the preferred pathway of the last two governments.


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