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 regional conferences and the DfE who included our MAT in their trusts best practice document in recognition of our support of smaller primary schools. The MAT leadership team work diligently to ensure the very highest standards are achieved by all our students. As a result of this collaborative approach, all schools within the MAT continue to perform well above national standards. Our Academy model of working and capacity for growth is reviewed annually by Regional Schools team and continues to be viewed to be strong practice.
Since conversation all our schools have remained Ofsted Good. The two schools who joined with a status of RI both achieved Good under out leadership. We have also taken a school out of special measures in less than two years. We are very proud of this achievement which is due to our collaborative approach to school improvement. The impact of the work of the MAT was highly commended by the inspection teams.
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
- CPD delivery
- Specialist tracking support
- Teaching and learning support
- Curriculum development
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 self-evaluation and school improvement plans. 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 and reciprocal visits.
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 Trustees School Improvement Committee.
Impact Upon Outcomes
All our schools perform well above national benchmarks. 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 50%.
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.
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 can be a particular challenge for smaller schools. By bringing together staffing needs across the MAT we have been able to recruit experts who work across more than one school. 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 ECT 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.|
Our aim is for every child within the MAT to flourish academically, socially and personally through the challenging, engaging and knowledge led curriculum that has been developed across our schools. Our vision and moral purpose translates into a knowledge rich curriculum which is driven by a strong set of values. It is informed by research and deliberately designed to enable all of our children to have equal access to knowledge.
Our curriculum is ambitious for all children and the careful sequencing and planning, underpinned by research, aims to support even the most vulnerable or disadvantaged appropriately to close the attainment gap. We know that our classrooms may be the only source of the structured knowledge essential in providing firm foundations for the future learning journey of some of our most vulnerable children and so this must be guaranteed. From the Early Years onwards, the knowledge and understanding that children acquire supports the development of critical thinking, analysis and creativity which we view as necessary precursors to future educational success.
Our curriculum is a framework for setting out the aims of our programme of education, including:
- The knowledge and understanding to be gained at each stage (intent)
- Translating that framework over time into a structure, narrative and with subject specific pedagogy (implementation)
- Evaluating what knowledge and understanding pupils have gained against expectations (impact)
Our aim is for every child within the MAT to flourish academically, socially and personally through the challenging, engaging and knowledge led curriculum that has been developed across our schools.
The curriculum enables children to deepen their understanding of the key concepts within each curriculum area and develop their knowledge through carefully sequenced units of work. The detail of this is informed by research carried out by subject associations such as the Historical Association and Geographical Association, through the work of subject specialists and through ongoing feedback from staff delivering the curriculum.
Specific tiered Vocabulary is also essential for that knowledge development and understanding and so it is both identified, sequenced and taught explicitly in order that children have the necessary language to communicate both orally and in written form in each subject area.
The sequencing of our curriculum is a key factor in enabling our children to make appropriate and informed links in their learning which we believe will deepen their knowledge and provide opportunity to apply, evaluate and analyse what they have learnt. The curriculum is enriched through carefully chosen trips and workshops, which give children the experiences that bring knowledge to life.
Realising the ambition
We are committed to high quality professional learning that focuses on developing excellence in teaching, including strong subject knowledge and supported by robust, research-based formative assessment practices. Curriculum design is driven by a curriculum team which supplements the traditional subject leader roles. Subjects are taught discretely but links are made where there is natural alignment to ensure that children develop an interconnected web of general knowledge. A core reading curriculum is identified for all children and the non-core curriculum is a key driver in developing reading comprehension thereby supporting children to engage on a ‘level playing field.’
How we know if the curriculum is being learned
Within the context of the WMAT curriculum we understand progress to mean knowing more and remembering more and being able to demonstrate that knowledge in different contexts. Assessment is carefully planned, and activities are underpinned by research. We know that if knowledge has been learned and retained in the long-term memory is can then be used to analyse, create and evaluate and so opportunities are planned to enable this.
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 and are developing standardised tasks for moderation so that comparisons are more meaningful. Our consultation 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 average. In this context, we ensure that all our schools are at least Good by the time of their next Ofsted inspection.
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 lead on all HR processes on behalf of our schools from recruitment through to exist interviews.
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.
Our financial models are both flexible and sustainable. Centrally retained funds support the delivery of the high quality services to our MAT schools. These consist of:
- Local MAT services – School improvement team, HR support, financial services, premises team, ICT support and Business Centre.
- Mandatory professional services for academies – External audits, payroll provider, Legal and HR external support, governance support and financial systems.
- Insurances and other services – Occupational Health, Insurances, external H&S audits etc.
- Other costs associated with being an academy – LGPS lump sum, apprentice levy.
We delegate a % 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 but is no less than 94%.
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. We do, however, also have robust contingency plans in place should there be significant changes.
Leadership and Governance
The ultimate responsibility for the running of our schools resides with the trustees 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 two committees: school improvement and resources and audit. Each have clearly defined terms of reference and provide executive oversight of our schools. These committees oversee the relevant functions as described below.
School Improvement Committee. 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.
Resources and Audit Committee. 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 also 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 trustees 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 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 trustee level committees.
All the trustees 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 a number of 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 who 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 to four secondary schools, each with their own local clusters of six to eight primary schools as is currently the case for The Warriner School and its primary cluster. Our strategy for growth has been fully endorsed by the RSC. The Regional Schools team encourage clusters of schools planning to form a MAT to learn from our models.
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.