Behaviours and Strategy
School communities are shaped by the people within them; staff, parents, governors and directors. How we behave on a daily basis sets the standard for our children as they progress into adult life. We aim for all members of our school communities to embody the following leadership behaviours:
To deliver this vision, we need to ensure that we:
- Build capacity for school improvement by investing in the professional growth and development of all our staff
- Recruit and retain outstanding leaders and classroom practitioners
- Recruit and retain a central services team of professionals
- Develop a clear and sustainable model for growth
- Develop a sustainable and flexible financial model
- Have a clear rationale for future schools joining the MAT
We have a proven track record of working effectively with all of our schools. This has been formally recognised by the Regional Schools Commissioner who has invited us to showcase our successes at his regional conferences and the DfE who included our MAT in their best practice document published in December 2016 in recognition of our support of smaller primary schools. The MAT leadership team have worked diligently to ensure the very highest standards are achieved by all our students. This relentless focus upon best practice in teaching and learning began well before the formal conversion date. As a result of this collaboration, all schools within the MAT performed continue to perform well above floor and coasting standards and one was placed in the top 1% of schools for its outcomes in 2016. Another of our primary schools was selected to take part in the parliamentary review of primary education in 2018 for outstanding practice. In 2020 one of our primary schools was ranked within the top 10 in Oxfordshire for its outcomes.
The secondary school is one of the top performing secondary schools in the area. In 2015 The Warriner School was placed in the top 100 of schools nationally for sustained improvement and in 2016 was chosen as one of twelve schools to take part in the national parliamentary review of secondary education for outstanding practice. In 2017 we were asked to apply for teaching school status and the headteacher was asked to apply to be a national leader of education. There have been year on year improvements for the last four years with 2016 seeing a further rise to 70% A*-C (Inc. En & Ma) and in 2017 our progress measures have increase again. There is strong parental demand for places within the existing MAT with the secondary school being over-subscribed by more than sixty pupils each year, with parents having to appeal for places in Year 7.
Our Academy model of working is viewed very favorably by both the DfE and Regional Schools Commissioner. They have scrutinised our growth plans and as a result have granted us sponsor status.
Since conversion all our schools have remained Ofsted Good or better with one school moving to Good after having been RI since 2006.
The strategic school improvement team comprises the Headteachers from each MAT school and our School Improvement Directors (Primary and Secondary). Headteachers from schools planning to join the MAT are co-opted onto the team so that they begin collaborating on school improvement whilst undergoing conversion. These schools are also able to take part in all MAT school improvement, inset and CPD programmes. This highly skilled and experienced strategic team support our schools in the following ways:
Support and challenge in order to raise standards
Sharing and benchmarking of data
Monitoring and evaluation
Intervention as necessary
Specialist tracking support
Teaching and learning support
Further expertise is provided by external School Improvement Partners who support headteacher appraisal and quality assure our school improvement work in each school. This role is vital as we fully recognise the need to be outward looking and benchmark beyond simply our own schools.
The school improvement model is based upon collaboration and operates in the following way:
This flexible model enables us to respond quickly to local and national issues. By developing key issue based hubs, staff across all our schools are able to work collectively and collaboratively, thus saving time and resources. The changing nature of these hubs also enables us to build capacity through upskilling key staff.
We undertake annual peer reviews in each school. This involves the CEO, headteachers from one or more of our schools, the head of the host school, members of the host school local governing body and our primary or secondary school improvement directors. The host school sets three priorities from their SEF and the team work together to review practice. This process has proved highly effective in establishing areas of best practice that we can share, and areas for development that we can support. From this we produce a development plan to include joint CPD, partnership working, moderation, joint planning, reciprocal visits etc.
Staff in our schools have worked collaboratively to develop a range of writing and Maths moderation tasks that are delivered to each year group across all our schools. These then form the basis of our MAT wide moderation programme enabling staff to more effectively compare standards across each school. Our common assessment calendar consists of a triannual cycle of standardised reading and Maths tests, TA assessments, Headteacher data peer reviews and question level analysis to facilitate best practice sharing.
Key to our ethos is the recognition that schools need to be able to respond to their specific circumstances. We have, however, developed supportive core standards that apply across all of our schools. These form the bedrock of all our school improvement activities and relate to teaching and learning, behaviour and assessment.
School Improvement Growth Model
As the MAT has grown our structures continue to evolve whilst still retaining the local, collaborative working that is at the heart of what we do. As a result, we have developed a flexible hub structure based upon identified issues and best practice match. These changing groups of staff work together to support each other in addressing identified progress gaps such as phonics or maths. Such hubs are also used to work together to respond to changes such as the development of new data systems. Because this structure is not fixed, it can be adapted as further schools join, depending upon their skills and areas for development. These “task and finish” hubs have a finite timescale and deliver against agreed action plans. These action plans are reviewed by the Headteacher Leadership Team and progress is reported to the School Improvement Directors Committee.
Impact Upon Outcomes
The focus of our work changes each year depending upon need. For example, We have worked to raise standards of writing in two of our primary schools whose outcomes increased from 85 to 90% in one school and from 63 to 70% in the other. Similarly in one primary school where maths had been a focus for support, outcomes in maths increased by 15%. Our maths lead school is working with all our school to deliver a comprehensive mastery programme. This has involved staff CPD events, joint observations, action planning, shared resources development and book scrutiny. Another school leads on growth mindset and similarly has delivered training to all our schools who have subsequently adapted implementation to suit their context. One school, for example has linked the key characteristics of growth mind set to superheroes, another to Mr Men characters and another to emojis.
Having only one secondary school in the academy currently means that the benefits have focused more upon transition, data systems that run from EYFS to KS5 and greater understanding of primary education. Since working much more closely with our primary schools during conversion our transition for Year 7 has improved significantly and students no longer experience a dip in Year 7. We have been able to develop a seamless curriculum in core subjects from EYFS through to year 13 through a number of joint CPD planning sessions involving all staff in all our schools. We have developed a common approach to standards of writing and maths and undertake a significant programme of cross phase moderation, all of which has had a significant impact upon transition and student outcomes.
Our CPD programme is developed each year in response to needs identified in the development plans of our schools. During 17/18, for example, we have six MAT wide twilight CPD sessions covering themes such as standards of writing, disadvantaged student progress, staff wellbeing and resilience, and making marginal gains. The CPD programme is developed by the headteachers and our consultants. Because we believe that all schools have areas of best practice, much of our CPD is developed from within as, not only does this boost staff morale by celebrating their achievements, but we are also able to further upskill our staff. We do, however, augment our CPD programme with the appropriate use of nationally recognised experts. We are able to do this because we can pool CPD funding across our schools.
We also have regular MAT wide moderation involving staff from key stages 1, 2 and 3, as well as cluster CPD for specific groups of schools covering, for example, growth mindset and maths mastery.
Recruitment and Retention of Staff
Key to the MAT vision, is the delivery of highly skilled specialist teachers across all our schools. Recruitment and retention is a particular challenge for smaller schools. By bringing together staffing needs across the MAT we have been able to recruit a secondary language and primary maths specialist to lead on language and maths teaching in all the MAT primary schools. The secondary school has been able to provide the computing teaching in one school and training in the others. MAT wide leadership opportunities have meant that we have been able to retain expertise within the academy. The ability for staff to train in all our schools forms the basis of our NQT recruitment strategy. We have developed a MAT wide People Strategy that encompasses a common approach to the candidate experience from the point of application through to talent spotting and succession planning. The successful application of this strategy means that we are fully staffed in all our schools.
Curriculum and Assessment
Statement of Intent
|We are an inclusive Multi Academy Trust and our moral purpose underpins the curriculum in all of our schools. We believe that it is vital to offer a board and balanced curriculum that celebrates all subjects, including the arts, equally. Children are encouraged to follow a pathway that is best suited to their aspirations and not be constrained by the demands of accountability measures.|
Each school must have the freedom to develop a curriculum that responds to the changing needs of specific cohorts. We believe that an imposed curriculum will not ignite passion or enthusiasm in our teachers. There are, however, numerous opportunities for joint planning across the MAT schools. This increases creativity and reduces workload. Where we have identified the need for more specific curriculum development, we have used subject specialists from the secondary school to support this process. We have also provided specialist teaching including MFL and computing to upskill primary staff or to provide stretch and challenge for the most able.
Teachers from all our schools (primary and secondary) come together to ensure we are all marking and assessing in the same way to the same standard. This not only ensures that pupils from different schools are marked fairly and assessed accurately; it also ensures that there is a smooth transition to the secondary school system. We have developed academy wide principles for marking and feedback but again, these are then contextualised to each school’s context.
Together, we have implemented a common assessment tool that enables all our primary schools to show progress effectively and identify areas where intervention is needed. This data tracking is augmented by 3 yearly standardised reading and maths tests. We have a comprehensive MAT moderation programme are developing standardised tasks for moderation so that comparisons are more meaningful. Our consultant team also validate all moderation with a final check undertaken by our SIPs.
Collaboratively, we ensure that schools set challenging targets for pupil achievement in terms of both attainment and progress within year, across years, at the end of each year and across Key Stages. The targets when realised ensure that pupil achievement is significantly above national averages. In this context, we strive for all our schools to be at least Good by the time of their next Ofsted inspection. Target setting in our academy is led by the headteacher and LGB and reflects the context of individual schools working from pupils’ prior attainment. These targets are then peer reviewed before being ratified at director level.
Our central services team delivers key non-teaching operations for the academy. We provide full support and training to key staff for all system changes associated with becoming an academy.
Centralised services include:
Finance: The team manage the monthly payroll processing for all of our staff. They also administer pension arrangements for both teacher and local government pension schemes. They manage centralised purchasing and payment of invoices, employee expenses and BACS payments. They support the budgeting process and provide monthly accounts.
HR: This team provide support to our schools on a range of staff issues (recruitment, retention, performance management etc.)
Legal services: This team advises upon any legal and statutory issues, including GDPR and information requests.
Facilities management including H&S: This team undertake statutory H&S checks, routine building and ground maintenance. They procure contracts and liaise with contractors and project manage capital developments. They also write bids for any external funding on behalf of our schools.
Clerking: Our clerks support our local governing bodies in their statutory duties and the running of meetings by coordinating necessary reports and minute writing. They undertake skills audits and manage governor recruitment processes in collaboration with our local governing bodies. They also monitor website compliance on behalf of our schools.
Policies and protocols: Where possible polices are managed centrally. These include all those relating to staff such as appraisal, grievance, pay and conditions etc. Polices are developed in consultation with regional union reps of all teaching and support staff unions to protect the interests of all of our staff. Those polices and protocols that need to reflect each schools context such as behaviour and curriculum have agreed MAT generic principles with school specific appendices.
ICT support: This team provides software and hardware support to all of our schools. They manage back office services and our ICT infrastructure. They advise upon procurement of ICT resources and mange any associated contracts.
The structure developed to meet needs across the MAT is as follows:
This structure continues to evolve as further schools join the MAT. The nature of this evolution is dependent upon the skills within each new school and their individual needs. We always seek to develop the skills of existing internal staff as part of our commitment to succession planning and career opportunities.
The plan for growth of the MAT is underpinned by financial models that are flexible and sustainable. Successful MATS of five or more schools tend to have finance structures based upon a model of delegation of 5% of the overall MAT budget. The retained funds need to be able to support central services, school improvement, specialist appointments and curriculum development. In the current model all schools receive an Educational Services Grant which is retained by Central Services to deliver the functions outlined above. The value of this grant has been decreasing year on year and so is not sustainable. Going forward, in order to deliver high quality services to our MAT schools we need to delegate up to 96-97% of the combined schools budgets back to schools. The exact level of delegation is dependent upon the level of service required by each individual school.
Because of our shared services and the economies of scale they deliver, as well as our strategic approach to procurement, all our MAT schools are currently able to submit balanced budgets for 2017/18 and 2018/19. We do, however, also have robust contingency plans is place should there be significant changes.
Leadership and Governance
The ultimate responsibility for the running of our schools resides with the directors of the MAT. The authority for running each school remains at headteacher and local governing body level and is clearly defined by our scheme of delegation.
Our VA MAT has five members (three of which are Diocesan appointed, one of which is the chair of directors) and ten directors. This structure has been planned to allow for growth. We have always appointed directors on the basis of key skills and experience. Initially we appointed directors who were members of the LGBs of our start up schools, but more recently we have sought candidates from the wider community. All our LGB members and directors live within the community that we serve. This is a deliberate policy as we are committed to working to improve outcomes for the children in the area that we all live in.
We operate four committees:
- School Improvement
- Central Services
Each have clearly defined terms of reference and provide executive oversight of our schools. These committees oversee the relevant functions as described below.
This is the largest committee as all headteachers are also full voting members, regardless of the size of their school. This deliberate policy reflects our vision and ensures that no school is able to dominate. The key functions of this group are to review in year and end of year whole school and key vulnerable group (disadvantaged, most able, SEND and gender) progress and attainment data. The first level of in-depth scrutiny takes place at LGB level, who then produce an exception report to the school improvement committee (SIC) outlining both positive and negative variances against targets and actions being taken. The SIC ensure a consistency of approach across all MAT schools, benchmark data outcomes and scrutinise progress against each school’s inspection dashboard.
In addition to ratifying school budgets and monitoring spend, the finance committee also scrutinise financial risk modelling for the MAT. Examples include modelling various top slice percentages to ensure the long term viability of the central services function, responding to changes to the new funding formula, possible increases to teacher pension contributions in future years and the impact of the apprenticeship levy. These various models are reviewed each year to ensure the long term financial viability of the MAT.
Key responsibilities for this committee include co-ordination of the central funding and services of the MAT, ensuring sound deployment of central services staff, ensuring statutory compliance with employment law and making recommendations to directors’ board on terms and conditions of employment, and implications of any staffing issues or changes.
Key responsibilities for this committee include ensuring that sound monitoring and management of staff structures and pay is undertaken, and to ratify decisions regarding the pay of all staff.
When new schools join the Academy, we encourage them to put forward potential directors so that they are able to have an input at this level of our organisation. Whilst academies are not required to retain LGBs we recognise the significant contribution made by this committed group of people in the ongoing development of our schools. We, therefore, delegate the authority for running each school to each headteacher and local governing body level as is clearly defined by our scheme of delegation.
The MAT is able to provide additional advice and guidance to governing bodies and being part of the MAT enables school leaders and governors to focus on teaching and learning. School governors are nominated by their own governors; the MAT approves the appointment (unless they are parent governors). Governors agree an annual budget with the MAT but retain the day to day financial responsibility.
We provide annual training to support members of our LGBs and this year themes include Ofsted expectations of governors, understanding data for effective scrutiny, the setting and monitoring of a budget. We have also developed common reports for LGB data and finance committees to further support them in their scrutiny. Where LGBs feel further upskilling is needed, we co-opt members of key committees onto the relevant director level committees.
All the directors of our MAT very strongly believe that we have a moral responsibility to support all schools within the local community. This was the reason we chose to set up a MAT rather than a standalone academy when we first considered conversion. We wanted schools within our partnership and beyond to be able to join us. Furthermore, because we knew that a significant number of the local primary schools were Church of England we initially formed a VC MAT and then more latterly converted to a VA MAT so that additional numbers of VA schools could join if they chose to.
We currently make some of our CPD offer open to all local schools e.g. our comprehensive TA training. We also deliver securing good (teaching) and beyond and middle leadership courses to all Oxfordshire schools through our strategic partnership with the Oxfordshire Teaching Schools Alliance. These courses are open to staff from all phases who work together over a number of months. We undertook the leadership of this CPD provision as there was a distinct lack of availability within the north of the county. We will continue to develop this countywide CPD offer as our MAT grows.
We seek to recruit staff locally by advertising all support staff jobs through the job centre, via local networks, our school newsletters, twitter feeds and websites. If necessary we train candidates who have potential but do not quite have the correct skills match. We also provide local apprenticeships were possible. We actively seek to offer SCITT training to members of the community who wish to embark upon a career in teaching. A significant number of our teaching staff started out as teaching assistants, have completed their training with us and are now working in our schools.
Embedded within the ethos of the MAT is the need for all schools to be geographically clustered so that we can share staff and collaborate on best practice. We aspire to have three-four secondary schools, each with their own local clusters of six-eight primary schools as is currently the case for The Warriner School and its primary cluster. These clusters will be located within North & West Oxfordshire, SW Northamptonshire and SE Warwickshire. Our strategy for growth has been fully endorsed by the RSC. Clusters of schools planning to form a MAT have been encouraged to learn from our models by the RSC.
We have been shortlisted by Oxfordshire County Council to set up and run a new 1 form entry primary school in Banbury. We have also prepared a bid for a secondary free school in Banbury in response to the development of over 9000 new houses in the next three-five years. A further primary school is embarking upon the process of joining our MAT.
New School Due Dilligence
Any school wishing to join the MAT must share our ethos and vision. There is a comprehensive due diligence process that gathers key information about any potential schools.
Schools facing financial issues or a dip in standards will not be rejected if there is an ethos match. We believe that all schools have key areas of best practice, whatever their circumstances and we are keen to work with increasing numbers of likeminded schools.
Timescales and Costs
We have a highly experienced project manager who has managed the conversion process for all our schools. The DfE provides each school with a budget of £25K. We have been able to manage the conversion for all our schools from within this budget. Timescales are dependent upon the capacity within the LA. They can require anything from 6-9 months. We have always been able to complete the process well with the timescales set by the LA.