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Evaluation article: Know your strengths Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016 Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016 Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser? Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools? Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence Evaluation article: Getting personal  with CPD Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process Evaluation article: Parent View — an update Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Evaluation article: Know your strengths

Can you make inspection an enriching learning process that is actually good for your school? Heather Clements of Best Practice Network offers some advice. 

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation

In this article, Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectation in their schools. 

Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence

Tony Powell outlines a step-by-step approach to support schools in achieving the accolade of ‘outstanding’ as defined by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling College, gives a personal viewpoint of the benefits of bringing in the experts.

Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress

Steve Burnage discusses engaging with good practice in the leadership of teaching and learning.

Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review

Tony Powell reports on the findings of the final Rochford Review.

Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement

A high-performing leadership team is at the centre of any school improvement mission. But how do you go about creating an excellent SLT? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network asks…

Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement

Adrian Kneeshaw of Carlton Bolling school gives advice on how to focus school spending on improvement planning.

Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school

Matt Bromley offers some advice on turning around an underperforming school in a short space of time while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement.

Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision

Tony Powell explains how inspectors gather evidence and make judgements on the quality of alternative and specially resourced provision.

Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing

With concerns about mental health rising, what can schools do to help their pupils? Suzanne O’Connell outlines the advice available from the National Children’s Bureau and how it might be…

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty

If you are struggling with a sense of uncertainty, be reassured: you are not alone. 2016 has been a year of upheaval, with the promise of big changes on the…

Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique

Tony Powell provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection

Tony Powell looks at how to use the feedback from your inspection in school improvement planning.

Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty

How can an expanding multi-academy trust ensure that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of change? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network looks at the issue and offers some guidance.

Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders

Adrian Kneeshaw looks at how leadership is important to the success of the school, and how to lead effectively.

Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend

In his second article on the headteacher and governor relationship, Tony Powell defines what is meant by a ‘critical friend’.

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations

Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectations in their schools.

Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem

Matt Bromley considers how schools can learn from exam performance data and build this into school improvement.

Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility

With new safeguarding guidance released, it’s time to check your arrangements and update your staff.

Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model

This article outlines the Ofsted methodology for determining whether a school is ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams

Steve Burnage offers advice on motivating staff, getting the best from them and building effective teams.

Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND

Suzanne O’Connell looks at a report on baseline assessment in primary schools and it’s affect on identifying children with SEND.

Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement

What do you need to do to make performance management a watertight process that makes a real contribution to school improvement? Keith Wright has some suggestions.

Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust

Tony Stephens, of the Co-operative Academies Trust, looks at what is the best type of multi-academy trust for a school to join or establish.

Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling, gives a personal take on renewing a failing governing body having designed and built one from scratch.

Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation

David Birch explains how capturing the views of students can sharpen school self-evaluation and have a positive impact on your school improvement strategies.

Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser?

Frank Norris offers advice on how to choose the most appropriate school improvement partner to work with your school.

Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal

David Birch outlines best practice in the management of the headteacher appraisal process and offers advice for headteachers on how to make the most of appraisal in their own professional development.

Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder

Professional development is a crucial factor in school improvement and improving pupil outcomes, but it could work harder, says Keith Wright.

Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance

Tony Powell looks at how the Framework for governance can be used to clarify the strategic direction of your school.

Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard

There is a new inspection dashboard to go with Ofsted's new Common inspection framework. Tony Powell explains how it can be used.

Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance

Suzanne O'Connell considers the guidance available regarding Prevent and school leaders' responsibilities.

Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able

Ofsted reports are making it clear. The DfE wants to see secondary schools challenging their most able students. In this article, Suzanne O’Connell summarises the criticisms and recommendations from ‘The…

Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare

Tony Powell looks at the new key area ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ under the new Ofsted inspection framework.

Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools?

The mental health of children and young people is at the top of the agenda at the moment. Increased anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are bringing some schools to crisis…

Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment

Tony Powell interprets government guidance on assessment to help schools support self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement

John Viner looks at research into boys’ underachievement and reviews some successful strategies.

Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers

Tony Powell looks at the revised national standards for headteachers and how they should be used by schools.

Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview

Tony Powell discusses how to prepare governors in advance for an inspection interview.

Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation

John Viner explores ways to develop a culture of continual improvement in teaching through lesson observation.

Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development

How can schools translate CPD into genuine improvement for staff? Keith Wright asked leaders to share their views, and discovered an emerging consensus about which approaches work best.

Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able

Tony Powell looks at how to identify the most able pupils, and the key factors that enable the brightest pupils to achieve.

Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability

Tony Powell looks at how the teachers’ standards can be used to evaluate performance and support improvement.

Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom

Since January 2014 there has been increased emphasis on the behaviour of pupils. In this article, Jim Donnelly offers advice on managing behaviour around the school.

Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons

David Birch offers advice on effective classroom management and argues that effective practice relies on a combination of the consistent application of agreed policy and the development of awareness and…

Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance

This is statutory guidance, which means that schools and colleges (including academies and free schools) must have regard to it. It contains what schools should do and what they must…

Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement

School improvement is a complex recipe that takes time to perfect. Keith Wright looks at some of the key barriers to school improvement and suggests strategies and systems to overcome…

Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership

Louise Wingrove gives practical advice on how to become a leader your team will want to follow.

Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision

Given that whole-school literacy is central to raising standards of achievement in schools and that it is a key focus for Ofsted, David Birch outlines some of the actions schools…

Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence

Teachers are good at gathering evidence of pupil progress, but many find it difficult to do the same with regard to their own professional development.  Keith Wright looks at the…

Evaluation article: Getting personal with CPD

Less than a fifth of teachers in England’s schools think their continuing profession development (CPD) is any good, according to a recent survey. One of the keys to unlocking the…

Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process

Performance appraisal is crucial to school improvement, but many schools are still without a rigorous and transparent way of carrying it out, says Keith Wright. Here, he analyses the challenges…

Evaluation article: Parent View — an update

Jenny Townsend looks at the importance of Parent View in achieving an outstanding rating in inspection, and how comments from parents are used by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach

Jenny Townsend explores how parental engagement can contribute to school improvement and in particular the role this can play in raising pupil achievement levels.

Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Ofsted’s Parent View means that parents have a direct influence on the decision to inspect. Jenny Townsend examines why this matters to schools.

Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty

Published: Tuesday, 20 September 2016

How can an expanding multi-academy trust ensure that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of change? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network looks at the issue and offers some guidance.

Summary

  • Schools becoming academies are most likely to join or set up a multi-academy trust (MAT) rather than go it alone.
  • MATs will need to ensure that school improvement is not compromised as they expand with more schools.
  • MATs should have a clear reason for growth, building on an existing philosophy and then looking to bring in schools that complement that philosophy.
  • Guidance on running MATs effectively is now available from a range of sources, but trusts need tools to help them assess their progress and manage their improvement effectively.

Although, back in the spring, the government dramatically stepped back from demanding that all schools become academies it is still very much focused on helping all schools make that move.

The future of MATs

There has been no change to the education white paper’s ‘direction of travel’ that all schools should be on their way to academisation by 2020. Neither has there been any shift in crucial policy areas to encourage academisation, such as enticing good and outstanding schools with the promise of autonomy and forcing failing schools to convert. These are strong indicators that more and more schools will have to consider this option.

If research indicating that the majority of these new academies won’t be going it alone or setting up new multi-academy trusts (MATs) is correct, then existing MATs – the vast majority of them with a handful of schools – will have to consider how they will manage their expansion to take on new academies.

The most important challenge they will have to face is how to accommodate this growth without compromising the success of their existing and new schools. They will need to ensure that their schools are successful by managing school improvement in a coherent and efficient manner across the trust.

In his recent national roadshow, National Schools Commissioner Sir David Carter announced plans for MAT growth audits, a sustainable peer-to-peer review model. A key element of the audit will be a focus on school improvement strategies and impact.

Managing the growth of a MAT

To be effectively managed, this change and growth process has to be underpinned by solid structures and systems that allow collaboration and school-to-school support, while protecting the distinctive nature and autonomy of individual schools.

So, how can MATs go about this? Management tools that give leaders a view across a trust’s schools are becoming available to help them, but before these are brought in it is useful for MAT leaders to step back and ask some fundamental questions before they start expanding. They can then consider what ingredients they need in the structure that will underpin the expansion.

The central questions are:

  • Do you have a good understanding of how all your schools are doing before you grow?
  • What will be the impact of growth on your current schools?
  • Are your existing schools strong and healthy enough? Do they have good governance, solid leadership, financial security, established and effective risk management processes, strong vision and improvement planning and enough leaders to cope with supporting and working with the new schools in the trust without disadvantaging their ‘home’ schools?

MAT leaders should look closely at the ethos and vision of the existing schools in the MAT. It makes sense to work with new schools that share that approach. It is about having a clear reason for growth: building on the existing philosophy and looking to bring in schools that complement that philosophy. It should not be about grasping onto a weak school nearby.

It is an approach that has been central to the expansion of Olympus Academy Trust in Gloucestershire. The trust consists of two primary schools and two secondary schools, but expansion plans should see it doubling in size by 2017.

CEO Dave Baker says that the trust has had to agree a growth strategy to clarify its priorities. This means that when schools approach the trust in the future, with a view to joining the MAT, they know what sort of schools will complement the others. Matching up ethos and values is vitally important, as is getting a balance between schools that need support and those that have the capacity to help deliver that support. He advises that schools should not rush into joining a MAT. They should adopt an approach that is right for their school and their school’s ethos, and they need to determine whether they have the capacity to run their own MAT or join an existing one.

Self-evaluation

Self-reflection is a useful starter exercise, but it is also vital to have a deeper, formalised self-evaluation approach that can be used as part of an improvement model for your MAT.

Best Practice Network has developed a self-evaluation diagnostic toolkit for multi-academy trusts. It gives MATs and the schools within them a means of assessing progress in all the key performance areas against DfE and Ofsted requirements. Any areas of improvement identified through this exercise can then be focused on through supported peer review and subsequently through improvement activity, such as school-to-school support, coaching and mentoring, and leadership and staff development.

As part of this self-evaluation approach Best Practice Network is using the DfE’s publication Characteristics of successful multi-academy trusts. The tool provides MATs, their boards and senior leaders with a grid setting out the nine characteristics of successful MATs, developed by National Schools Commissioner David Carter when he was southwest regional schools commissioner.

The characteristics include: a well-communicated strategic vision and plan; a clear accountability framework for the performance of the trust, which all staff understand; clear quality assurance systems in place to improve consistency and performance; and clear governance at trust board and local governing body level.

Each characteristic comes with descriptions that set out what it should look like in four stages of maturity: beginning, developing, embedding and leading.

Used in tandem with other evaluation tools, including the Ofsted framework and pupil premium, governance and safeguarding reviews, MATs can gain a highly detailed picture of their progress and areas for improvement.

Multi-academy trusts are set to grow in the coming years, but leaders need to be careful that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of expansion. By asking fundamental questions about expansion, and putting in place systems that will help them manage the change effectively over the longer term, MATs can ensure that school improvement remains at the very centre of everything that they do.

Further information

Toolkit

Use the following item in the Toolkit to put the ideas in the article into practice:

About the author

Colin McLean is chief executive of Best Practice Network (www.bestpracticenet.co.uk), a national provider of leadership development programmes, qualifications and support for schools, including a new trust improvement model. Details are available at www.schoolandtrust.co.uk.

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