Our Approach to Academy Improvement

We believe that every academy has something to offer another by way of great ideas, resources and people. We also believe that each academy in Sussex Learning Trust has a responsibility for every child educated with the Trust. Therefore, all academies within the Trust enjoy ‘equal footing’ irrespective of their OFSTED grading. Our commitment to each child, each community is that SLT will deploy its methods and resources to enable its academies to find ways in which it can continually improve their standards.

Academy improvement initiatives should be proportionate. Naturally, at times, some of our academies will require more support than others but there is always the standard SLT package of academy Improvement that each and every academy receives on an annual basis. Where there is increased and/or immediate need (see below) then the Trust will allocate more resources accordingly.

Sussex Learning Trust’s Scheme of Delegation makes provision for the Local Governing Body and its Headteacher to have significant levels of delegated autonomy. The Trust’s role in academy Improvement is explained below. There are three basic standards that SLT requires its academies to provide and achieve:

  • a safe learning environment for the children,
  • at least ‘good’ outcomes for the children
  • to meet the previous bullets within its agreed budget allocation.

Self Evaluation, Improvement Planning and Annual Reviews

Always the starting point. Drawing on external and internal sources of information, the Headteacher and CEO or DCEO (with the input of the LGB) will agree the current standards of the academy against:

  • Leadership & Management
  • Quality of Education
  • Behaviour & attitudes
  • Personal Development
  • EYFS (where appropriate)
  • Safeguarding
  • Overall effectiveness

From this, the Academy Development Plan (ADP) is written, outlining the areas that the academy wishes to prioritise. The Trust expects each academy to deliver outstanding standards, outcomes and opportunities for their learners driven by a rich and broad curriculum.

A Senior Executive for each academy

The Senior Executive Team includes the CEO and Deputy CEO (Dir. Primary) . The Headteachers of new joining academies will always be line managed by the CEO, providing immediate and constant access to advice, guidance etc. Where a new joining academy is a Primary school, the Deputy CEO (DCEO) will obviously advise the CEO and bring their expertise to bear in terms of strategy, knowledge etc. of the phase. The DCEO is assisted by an Assistant Dir. of Primary to ensure appropriate capacity.

The Senior Executive for each academy is responsible for ensuring that aspirations and standards continue to rise over the short, medium and long term. Scales of efficiencies are realised and best practice shared across all settings. The Senior Executive Line Manages the Headteacher on behalf of the LGB. Amongst other things they will:

  • Work alongside the Headteacher in respect of the development of the academy’s curriculum;
    contributing to the needs based budget setting for each academy in conjunction with the Finance team;
  • Serve the LGB with advice, guidance and challenge, where appropriate;
  • Ensure that ‘standard’ and bespoke academy improvement activities meet both national policy and local expectations so that the academy’s provision and outcomes meet external requirements/accountability frameworks and ensuring that all learners benefit;
  • coordinate and monitor internal and externally led projects;
  • support bid writing for that academy;
  • with the Head, ensure that preparations for Ofsted and other external agency evaluations and inspections of the Trust are thorough and accurate.

Immediate Intervention and Strategic Intervention

The Trust understands that some academies are in a position where there is an immediate need for intervention. For example, where standards or informed predictions suggest that the most senior year groups in the academy are not meeting their potential or national expectations. This will require immediate intervention in that the children cannot be allowed to ‘fail’, or at least, significant mitigation or damage limitation is required. In such cases SLT will deploy intensive support by way of physical and human resources. Immediate intervention is a ‘short term fix’ and not sustainable so, at the same time, strategic intervention will be required to address the issue ‘lower down’ in the academy’s year groups so that the presenting issue does not reoccur in future years. Naturally, the intention is that as quickly as possible the systemic issue is rectified but the Senior Executive, as a skilled school improvement practitioner, will need to co-plan with the Headteacher a proportionate response which is likely to still require some immediate intervention for the upcoming year groups until the strategic intervention has embedded.

Collaboration & Peer Support

The Education Team is made up of colleagues across each of our constituent academies which means that the bulk of academy Improvement work is delivered on a reciprocal model of mutual benefit. For academies that are ‘good’, the Trust only prescribes that all of our academies are entirely open to peer challenge and support. Some ways we facilitate this include:

  • All Heads meet bi-weekly and discuss, amongst other things, the issues or challenges that their settings are facing (Executive Team meetings) along with what is going well
  • A strategy of peer to peer support, which involves colleague Heads invited in to look at specific aspects of academy
  • Each academy has a named Senior Leader responsible for liaising with their counterparts to ensure that learning and CPD opportunities are frequent across settings and phases.

Our Improvement Strategies for Academies in need of Immediate Intervention and a Case Study

Much of the above still stands. The difference is that the Senior Executive may be more prescriptive in the approaches required for that academy to improve at pace. In addition, there will be a bespoke package of intensive support from a team from the Education Development Team. This will be tailored to the specific needs of the academy.

A recent case study

The Trust and LA believed the school to be inadequate, even though an historic OFSTED has it judged as ‘good’. The support we provided included:

  • Full time Consultant Head for 2 terms
  • 3 weeks immersive Behaviour support to address significant dysregulation
  • Consultant SENDCo
  • The CEO (NLE) was on site adding leadership capacity for two solid weeks.

This intensive support introduced:

  • a new Teaching and Learning Policy
  • Introduced new expectations of pupil behaviour and redesigned packages of support for the most dysregulated learners leading to a transformation of pupil behaviour
  • trained staff to apply it using digital resources provided,
  • increased accountability for teachers and leaders,
  • introduced a more rigorous Attendance Policy to parents,
  • Took the finance and budgeting responsibilities away from the Head to focus on the above.

“The interim leadership team have made immediate impact on the crucial area of quality first teaching which was a key priority set at the previous Progress Review Visit.”

Senior LA Advisor

The academy is a dramatically better place for children and staff to learn and work and it is well on its way to being entirely transformed.

Central Education Services and our Commitment to Supporting Improvements

SLT appoints a Senior Executive Team which is responsible for leading the improvement activities across the Trust. The team is expanding to reflect the growth of the Trust and the needs and requirements of our constituent academies. Each academy has a lead Senior Executive whose responsibility it is to commission and/or carry out ‘standard’ pieces of work which are funded by the Annual Partnership Contribution that each academy pays into (see table below) all of which will naturally help inform and shape the academy’s self-evaluation.

‘Standard Annual Partnership Academy Improvement Initiatives’

Academy Improvement Support
 We believe that most schools benefit from the following activities, most years. They are led by, or  commissioned by, the academy’s Senior executive (see above)
 Curriculum 3 ‘i’s’ reviews
 Academy SEF support
 Academy Development Plan
 Supportive Data Review
 Pupil Premium Reviews
 Pastoral System & Inclusion Reviews
 Department Reviews
 SEND Review of provision
 Governance support and guidance
 Progress of groups of children reviews
 Safeguarding review
 Leadership mentoring/coaching
 Annual SLT CPD twi-lights led by our leaders
 Line management of Head on behalf of LGB
 Consultant expert for LGB in Performance Review of Head
 Progress data reviews
 Trust Annual Conference – on Trust priorities
 Twi CPD for all staff (bespoke to professional requirements)

Senior Executive and Education Development Teams

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Our experience in providing impactful School Improvement work

SLT is very clear in its mission:-

  • To promote and support the best interests of children in the communities we serve
  • To advance education for the public benefit
  • To exercise civic duties and responsibilities for the wider good of the local community

We draw very strongly from the work of Leora Cruddas, CEO of CST, the sector body for school trusts, in which trusts are encouraged to be organisations for civic benefit. This is how we have approached our outreach work.

Since 2015 we have been widely involved in the school led improvement initiative. Within our Trust, the transformation of the former Heyworth Primary school into the great school it is today, proudly serving an area of significant deprivation has been our proudest achievement in this respect. However, we have also been commissioned by:

  • West Sussex LA
  • East Sussex LA
  • Department for Education
  • Multi-academy Trusts
  • School Governors

““The multi-academy trust provides support and challenge in equal measure. It has a significant impact on school improvement.”

OFSTED of WPPA, formerly Heyworth

At the last count, we have supported over 25 schools across all phases of education. Projects are naturally bespoke to the needs of the school, but some examples include:

  • Mentoring of new Heads
  • Coaching of existing Heads
  • Subject leadership
  • Phase leadership
  • Staff retention initiatives
  • Supporting capability procedures
  • Improvement planning
  • Pupil Premium reviews
  • Schools that have received 2 consecutive RI judgements
  • Behaviour management
  • Governance
  • Post-pandemic recovery

“Leaders have benefited from effective support from a national leader of education. This has helped them to become outward looking, learning from other schools while maintaining the existing strengths of the school.”

Large Junior School OFSTED, previous 2 x RI, now ‘good’