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In The Spotlight

The City Wide Learning Body is currently consulting with its members on a proposal to evolve the CWLB and establish it formally as a school company. The proposal is that the company would focus on delivering a new approach to how schools access improvement services, and that this would be followed by a gradual growth of suitable school facing services from the CWLB. The consultation will gather the views of The CWLB’s member schools, academies, colleges, and other key partners, and use these views to develop further more detailed proposals. This consultation will run until Tuesday 16 September 2014.

These proposals are being discussed at regular partnership group meetings and at locality meetings. Any questions raised during these meetings will be logged here, along with responses to inform others of the issues that were raised in these discussions.

Question Answer Date added
Why is there not more detail?  Where is the business plan?

All of the City Wide Learning Body’s work has featured a commitment to working in partnership and this applies to developing these proposals for changing the Body’s status.

We did not want to bring final proposals to members for a decision without discussing the ideas involved with them first.  This consultation is to gather the views, suggestions and ideas of schools and to use these to develop more detailed proposals, including a business plan. We wish to understand what CWLB member schools, academies and colleges want the body to be able to do before producing specific information on how it would work and the costs involved.

8 July 14
Could the proposals go ahead without the support of all CWLB member schools, academies and colleges?

We would like all CWLB member schools, academies and colleges to be involved as shareholders and owners of a CWLB as a school company.

However, we would consider establishing a company at first with a smaller number of schools or with a more limited focus.

8 July 14
How many schools are signed up to the City Wide Learning Body and how many look like they are interested in continuing to be involved as owners of the CWLB as a school company?

92% of schools are currently members and 120 schools participate in the work in the CWLB work programme.

We have had good feedback from primary heads in locality meetings and constructive and positive discussions with the special heads partnership.

Discussions are ongoing with secondary heads who, as a group, have been much more sceptical about what impact this proposal would have for them. A meeting has been set up to discuss the issues raised by Secondary Headteachers. The CWLB believes that it is vitally important to maintain cross-city, cross-sector partnerships.

18 July 14
Why can’t the council just do all the activity on behalf of schools?

The CWLB believes that we should work in partnership, with schools supporting schools to improve as we know (and research shows) it the most effective way to improve outcomes for children and young people. The CWLB also believes that partnership work between schools, academies, colleges and the Council is how we ensure we deliver our shared moral commitment and responsibility to all children in Sheffield.

A schools company at least 80% owned by schools, colleges, academies will give school leaders a stronger, equal voice in shaping the way services are designed and delivered. Extending the work we have done in the last three years which has given schools leaders an equal say in decisions about education which were previously made only by the Council.

Partnership through a school company would also offer greater value for money, as services would be more agile and could more easily adapt to meet the changing needs of schools and deliver services more efficiently. They would also be better able to innovate to find more effective and better value ways of delivering services that could potentially attract interest from schools outside Sheffield and grow.

18 July 14
Are the differences in views due to different sectors using different ways of working, which feature varying levels of partnership working? This may be part of the reason.  We believe that school led improvement is the most effective method of increasing outcomes and we believe that in Sheffield we need a partnership which is inclusive of all, schools, colleges and academies in the primary, secondary and special sectors. 18 July 14
Can you provide any indicative indications of costs, perhaps on a sliding scale depending on the scope of the services involved?

The proposed company’s costs will depend to a great extent on what services it delivers.  Through this consultation we hope to get a clearer idea of what services schools would like to be delivered by a new school company.

Whatever the company delivers, we aim for as lean a design as possible to ensure that costs remain low.

As part of the next stage of this process we will work together with school leaders to build a more robust and costed proposal which includes much greater detail.

18 July 14
Is there a challenge to heads to have the capacity to take part in partnership work?

Most schools in Sheffield and their leaders are already committed to partnership work. These proposals are about establishing a structure to support a school led system that best utilises everyone’s capacity.

The CWLB as a company could provide greater support for partnership work, for example by supporting locality action planning. 

18 July 14
What would be the cost of buying a share in a CWLB school company? We would expect shares to have a small cost which would be lower than the cost of CWLB membership and schools liability would be limited to these share costs, so their budgets would not be threatened. 18 July 14
What would the new school improvement approach do?  Would it perform the same role as the previous LA school improvement team?

The exact functions will be designed based on consultation feedback, and following some intensive work with school leaders.

The improvement approach will be designed as a transparent and open model which addresses our most pressing issues of need and greatest capacity challenges.

18 July 14
Do we have any tangible examples of what the CWLB will deliver?

The Sheffield Tracking and Assessment Tools project is the best example of schools working in partnership to address problems that they all face. This work was instigated by the Primary Leaders Partnership in conjunction with the City Wide Learning Body and a wide range of schools have lead and participated in this work.

There is currently no way for the wide range of schools contributing to the work to collectively own the results of their work.  The CWLB as a school company would be a legal entity that could license the assessment framework and data sharing tools while being co-owned by the schools that produced it. It would also be able to license the tools to schools outside Sheffield to bring further money into the city and invest it in the school system.

18 July 14

How will the membership be derived and will any component of it have executive status and power?

Membership or shareholding of any company would be voluntary, as the CWLB is now, but would involve formal ownership of the organisation. We would not envisage any member organisations to have different statuses or powers as members. It is likely that shareholders would elect representatives to sit on the company board, though no decisions have been taken on company governance. 11 Sep 14

Could you classify ‘school facing services’?

Where we have referred to school facing services, we are referring to all services that are directly delivered either to or for schools. This includes services that schools currently purchase and those available at no additional cost to schools. 11 Sep 14

If schools currently approach the LA to offer support to other schools why is this not shared at present through the CWLB?

There is currently no agreement between schools to share information on partnership and support arrangements. To do so would require an agreement between all partners, but in particular for schools to agree to a data and information sharing protocol.

This kind of information sharing and transparency is something which the LA is promoting and we aim to use the Phase 3 CWLB as the vehicle for this. In Sheffield the Special sector has already worked in this way and two localities (F and G) are piloting data sharing and joint categorisation for primary schools. We hope that by developing these partnerships we will be better able to support and challenge each other to improve standards and outcomes for children and young people.

11 Sep 14

How will the creation of a company support ‘system leaders’?

The CWLB’s development into a company would provide an opportunity for greater transparency in school to school partnerships (see previous question) and also to trade services with other areas and to grow by doing so.  Additional resources generated from this activity could then be used to support the capacity of system leaders to contribute to improve outcomes for Sheffield’s children and to engage in further partnership working. 11 Sep 14

Will the additional capacity and resources to support school improvement come from all schools?

These proposals are based on the principle that we aim for all schools to be involved in partnership working and to support improvements across the city. 11 Sep 14

How would the membership of the CWLB change as a result of the development of a company?

The membership of the CWLB is currently voluntary. Within a company model, member organisations of the CWLB would voluntarily choose to become owners. We propose that academies, schools and colleges outside Sheffield are not invited to become members to retain a focus on the city and its priorities. 11 Sep 14

With regard to the issue of the company taking over the LA statutory duties.  The document (page 7) states that ‘in time’ the CWLB could also be responsible on behalf of and in partnership with the Council for the categorisation of schools.  Would this function immediately be delegated by the constitution and terms of reference of the company on inception?

This is a potential option and locality based categorisation is being piloted in Localities F and G to include school perspectives in the categorisation of schools. The lessons learned of these pilots will be taken into account when developing more detailed proposals. Whether this would be included in a CWLB company at its inception would depend on the views and priorities expressed by CWLB members in further consultation, and also informed by national policy development. These decisions would be made by shareholders. 11 Sep 14

How would resources be directed to those schools that have limited capacity (not good or outstanding) but have some outstanding practice to be shared?

The school system in Sheffield has seen decreasing budgets and we do not anticipate that the CWLB will have large resources to hand. We propose to reinvest additional resources generated by a growth in trading to provide resources to support the sharing of good practice through partnerships. Decisions on the criteria and information used to identify areas of good practice would be made by CWLB members. 11 Sep 14

Could you list the range ‘relevant local authority functions’?

All Local Authorities have a range of statutory duties. These can be found in the Contracting Out (Local Education Authority Functions) (England) Order 2002.[1] Decisions for any statutory duties to be delivered through Phase3 of CWLB would be subject to consultation. 11 Sep 14

What would be the vehicle within the company that would support schools to assess their improvement needs – who would do this?

Central to these proposals is that there is greater transparency around school led partnerships. Therefore the vehicle to assess improvement needs would be intrinsically linked to school partnerships and the lessons learned from the sector led categorisation would inform this.

11 Sep 14

How will the company be able to design and bespoke the services that schools want such as literacy, reading support for science?

The CWLB has already commissioned action research and support for reading, OfSTED preparation and improving outcomes for children eligible for the pupil premium. This is all based on citywide performance data.

The new organisation would be closer to academies and schools that are owners, so the company’s leadership and board could more easily take views and feedback from schools to effectively (re)design service provision.

11 Sep 14

There is currently no indicative cost outlined, how will the initial cost be determined and by who?

The initial cost will be developed from proposed company functions and services. This will in turn be developed with reference to consultation results on what services schools, academies and colleges have shown greatest demand for.

We will produce cost estimates for the CWLB to deliver services with these activities and will consult with CWLB member academies, colleges, schools and the Council on detailed proposals that include both activities and costs.

11 Sep 14

Academies which are Companies and Trusts in their own right may have concerns about joining another one where they possibly have responsibility and accountability as a member. Should they have any concerns?

Academies which are companies and trusts may need to check their constitution documents to ensure that their constitutions allow them to become owners of a school company. The information we have received from the Council’s Commercial and Regulatory Legal team is that making any amendments needed would not be a difficult or complicated process.

Other than this academies would have no different accountabilities or responsibilities than maintained schools, with all CWLB members sharing a joint responsibility for improving outcomes for children and young people in Sheffield.

11 Sep 14
Will owning 80% of company mean schools also own 80% of any liability? We would anticipate that if the CWLB became a limited company then liability would be in proportion to company ownership. The information we have received from the Council’s Commercial and Regulatory Legal team is that for a company limited by shares this would be the cost of the shares and for a company limited by guarantee this would be the cost of the guarantee.  In either case we would expect this to be a small amount. 11 Sep 14
Would a majority shareholder gain any advantage over other shareholders? We are proposing that no individual organisation would have a majority share to ensure that decision making requires agreement between partners. 11 Sep 14
The documents states that the ‘LA approach to school to school support is currently not transparent enough’.  Is it necessary to set up a company to achieve this?

The LA believes that all school – school (including academies) support within the city should be more transparent in order to ensure that schools and academies know where best practice currently exists. Some other LA areas have addressed this via formal partnership agreements with clear and transparent data and information sharing protocols in place. However this requires schools and academies to agree to these.

There may be other ways to increase transparency in school to school support, but we feel this one will be effective. For example, the development of the CWLB could facilitate an agreement on an information and data sharing protocol in place that would support more transparent decision making.

If schools and academies have some formal ownership of the CWLB, this would afford them an opportunity to influence the CWLB Board in how they facilitate school to school support, including how transparent the process is.

11 Sep 14
How would the company identify ‘Our priorities’?

The CWLB currently works on jointly agreed priorities below:

  • Closing of attainment gaps for vulnerable groups:
    1. FSM at every key stage
    2. New Arrivals
    3. LAC
    4. Narrowing gap at Foundation Stage
  • Increasing reading levels at all key stages
  • Transforming language acquisition and literacy for EAL pupils
  • System-wide, that the number of good and outstanding schools continues to increase above and beyond national averages
  • That there are robust systems for enabling highly effective school to school collaboration

These priorities are identified with clear reference to citywide data and through consultation with CWLB members. The priorities may change in future depending on pupil led data, but would be agreed through the same partnership process.

11 Sep 14

How do we know that the work of TSAs and CWLB activity is competing or complementary?

We are engaging with Teaching Schools to ensure that we both have an understanding of each other’s activities and roles. This will ensure we do not duplicate our roles. We aim to develop services that can support the Teaching Schools in their role and will consult again with them on more detailed proposals. The CWLB could potentially create a framework which will enable more schools to engage with TSAs for improvement services and CPD, and also enable TSAs to gear their provision around the key citywide attainment priorities. 11 Sep 14

Statutory Duties: Are there any others which are not listed here but the company would be expected to pick up?

Any duties that it did deliver would be agreed via a consultation process. 11 Sep 14

Use of profit – who would decide this?

The owners of the CWLB as a company would decide how profit was distributed or reinvested.  The company’s articles could state whether profits would be reinvested in the CWLB or distributed to CWLB members as owners, or alternatively members could take a decision on this each year. Our consultation proposes that, whichever option is chosen, all profits be reinvested within the education system in Sheffield. 11 Sep 14
Re the last bullet point on page 5: How will the CWLB work as part of the company to deliver this given the current challenges faced by the CWLB?

The last bullet point on page 5 of the consultation document refers to schools and the Council, via the CWLB board, directing the company’s management to deliver services in the way that best suits them while achieving best value for money. The CWLB as a company would still need a board, as this would serve as a board of directors to steer the company.


The makeup and number of board members may change, depending on the governance arrangements selected.  CWLB board members would be accountable to CWLB member organisations and would be responsible for ensuring that the views of members are reflected in the CWLB’s direction and decision making.

11 Sep 14