Five Questions for our MAT if we are serious about School Improvement

One of the most respected thinkers on multi-academy trusts is Robert Hill, once a senior civil servant in the DfE and now an education consultant.  A couple of years ago he wrote a very compelling blog post here on what distinguishes the well-performing MATs from the rest.  I wanted to round off the year by turning some his observations into direct challenges to us, and am happy to share some comments on some actions we are taking on the points raised:

 

1. Do we know our academy schools well?

Cathy, Nick and I have just completed our end of year reviews with all seven of our academy schools.  Sitting with Heads and SLTs, we have been through all the data around national assessment test results and teacher assessments to get a clear picture of how we are doing.  We all know that the data only gives us one window into the state of our schools but it’s an important one.

We use the data collected to help school leaders and teachers focus on the right areas for improvement and to help us a MAT to see where we need to invest effort in our wider support.  The data dashboard is a useful tool enabling the Trust’s leaders to report to the Board on the tracking of performance but also in areas such as attendance, exclusions, child protection, pupil premium and special needs.

 

2. Do our academy schools work together?

The sharing of performance data across school leaders gives a high sense of peer accountability.  This is matched by the peer learning achieved when we look together at the things that are working well in one particular school.  We love to see the ‘co-construction’ model in action, where Heads and lead teachers meet to work on new ideas in curriculum, assessment or anything else!

 

3. Do we adapt our strategies to academy schools in different contexts?

One of core values has been to see schools ‘aligned but individual’.  This means that all MAT strategies and resources must fit the local context.  You need good relationships to ensure that this works well.

 

4. Do we deploy expertise strategically?

The core driver for wanting to grow has been to build the capacity of the Trust to develop and deploy expertise that can be applied to where it is most needed.  We have just rounded off a successful first year’s experiment in seconding one of our best teachers, Joe Neale, to work as a Lead Teacher in Literacy. This will be followed up by having another of our teachers, Kathy Hicks, working as a maths specialist next year.  Both have been working under the able direction of Cathy Williams, who applies this specialist time to where there is the greatest need.

 

5. Do we work with and learn from other schools?

Since we created Schoolsworks, we have visited and learned from a range of other schools and MATs.  In June this year we paid an invaluable visit to a MAT we are partnering with in Devon. Every visit produces something new and valuable to take away.  For example, from Education South West we have brought back snappy maths, a consistent approach to moderation and a more fully integrated shared services model.

Have a great summer everyone and let’s have another great year, next year!

Chris Seaton

July 2018