Consistent with the purpose summarised above, the most important elements within CAST’s structure are the schools themselves. The 35 schools are shown in the table over the page and each has a local governing body with a delegated budget and delegated powers to allow it to operate as the local ‘steward’ of overall mission. The Board of Directors does not seek to manage the individual schools but does carry the overall responsibilities and liabilities for the network as a whole. On the surface, the day to day operation of the schools has not changed since becoming part of CAST and parents experience a seamless transition, as do their children. Staffing structures were not required to change upon academisation and existing staff transferred to the new company under TUPE with all existing terms and conditions intact.

At the same time, there were many key changes brought about by the CAST project. A new financial management infrastructure (software, chart of accounts, banking arrangements, payroll, systems etc.) has been introduced giving greater capacity for local management as well as for central support and monitoring. In addition, a network Finance Manager has been appointed to support and co-ordinate the new infrastructure. In order to identify school improvement needs and coordinate responses, the schools within CAST also operate within three more-local ‘Area Councils’. The schools table identifies their Areas and each has either 11 or 12 schools. Each Area has dedicated ‘Area Adviser’ whose role is manifold but includes:

• ensuring that the Board of Directors is fully aware of any school performance issues;

• working with the head teachers and governing bodies of each of their Area schools to ensure that they have an up to date and accurate picture of all aspects of their school’s strengths and weaknesses;

• working with the relevant personnel from each school to identify effective strategic responses to their development needs;

• brokering school-to-school and external support for the improvement strategies that have been formulated.

Whilst local governing bodies have delegated authority from the Board of Directors (much the same as that enjoyed by Voluntary Aided school governing bodies) Plymouth CAST also has an agreed Intervention Protocol which provides the basis for the Board of Directors to intervene directly in any school where the internal resources are not being successful in securing required improvements within an acceptable time scale.