1. Quality of the Curriculum (inc any revised test/exams arrangements)
2. Catch up – assessment, catch up support funding, national tutoring
3. Support and progress for disadvantaged pupils
4. Sharing and collaboration for teachers and support staff
5. Ensuring financial sustainability and increased incomes
The priorities and actions for the year are based upon:
· All schools are judged to be good or better in OFSTED Inspections
· All CE schools are judged to be good or better for Christian Distinctiveness in SIAMs
· KS1 Attainment is above national for 90% of schools
· KS2 Progress is above national for each of reading, writing and mathematics
· KS4 Progress 8 and Attainment 8 is above national
· Sixth Form attainment and progress is above national
· Staffing expenditure is no more than 80% of total income
· All schools set balanced in year budgets
The year started with the new expanded trust of 12 schools, 3500 students and 550 staff. All the staff met together on the first INSET day in September for the first time. In September we introduced school performance analysis meetings to review the tests or examination performance and priorities for the year ahead. All schools are accurate and sharp in their evaluations which took place with the headteacher, LGB Chairs, Trustees, CEO and new Head of Improvement/Deputy CEO. Through the autumn and spring term schools were optimistic about improved performance; the detailed annual reviews confirmed this progress.
The Trust invested in additional central team capacity to support improvement, estates and health and safety compliance, additional HR and finance accountant capacity. This was for current and also additional schools so that the trust could grow to at least 5000 students – the scale evident from other trusts to provide both the support capacity but also financial sustainability. We were continuing the onboarding process for Sherborne Learning Centre to join the trust. Full financial sponsorship was secured along with a significant capital Suitability Grant to fund the essential refurbishment and redesign of the Centre which was rebranded as Harbour Vale School on its joining on 1 November 2019. The Southern Academy Trust (SAT), with 1600 students in one 11-18 secondary school and 3 primary schools, approached the trust about support whilst they were reviewing the future of their trust. As a small Church of England trust, also in the Diocese of Salisbury, they lacked improvement capacity and had not been able to grow. From November 2019 the CEO provided 1 day per week support as interim CEO and accounting officer. The SAT trustees, LGBs and headteachers unanimously agreed that the SAT schools should start formal processes for its closure and the schools to join SAST.
And then in March 2020 Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic hit with the national lockdown. A new vocabulary was born of stay home, shielding, key workers, social distancing, furloughing, quarantining, testing, antibodies, social distancing, zoom and Teams (which we were already trialling) and more. It was the most challenging of circumstances with rapidly changing national guidelines and restrictions – new and unprecedented issues to deal with.
The response from leaders and staff was outstanding. Colleagues have been proactive and committed to supporting the local communities. It started with quick provision of free school meals and/or vouchers (in place before the national scheme was introduced). This included staff delivering food to families. Schools were open for vulnerable children and those of key workers throughout this period including the Easter holiday. This was alongside providing activities and learning for those at home. After May half-term all our primary schools opened for reception, Y1 and Y6; the secondary schools later opened for Y10 and Y12 for short periods. During the lockdown some of our schools clustered together to share provision – this was the case for the three Shaftesbury primary schools and then also the three Sherborne based schools. The level of mutual support and acre was excellent. Headteachers met initially daily and then 3 times a week through Teams to share the challenges and issues. This also embraced schools beyond the trust in the Sherborne/Shaftesbury/Sturminster area.
All our schools fully reopened in September following national guidelines and new ways of operating including use of sanitiser, staggered starts and endings, use of bubbles, facecoverings on school transport and in public areas for 11+ if appropriate, one-way systems et al. Students have arrived from around the world into Barton Hill Boarding House, following a quarantine period. It has been great to see our staff, children and students back moving back to more normal ways. We have retained the breadth and balance of our curriculum offer – unfortunately some of our many extra-curricular activities, trips, performances and other community experiences are on hold.
We are now a trust of 5000 children in 17 schools (13 primary and 4 secondary) with 850 staff the four former SAT schools joined on 1 July 2020. We have been blessed that the number of Covid-19 cases has been very low and the effect on people’s lives less than other parts of the country.