Last week saw the first national publication released from the Department for Education which compared multi academy trusts against national measures. Swale Academies Trust was singled out for its performance with high value added and particularly with disadvantaged, SEND and English as an Additional Language students. The Trust was cited as 9th in the country, matched against all other multi academy trusts included in the report.
There are currently 937 multi academy trusts in the country and this is set to rise to 2000 over the next 5 years. Within this ever-changing educational landscape, are multi academy trusts the saviours in uncertain times?
In an interview with Derek Trimmer, Executive Headteacher Secondaries at Swale Academies Trust, he explains how the Trust has evolved and where it is heading.
“I am passionate about how good education improves the life chances of children and families. The best multi academy trusts, of which I believe we are one, have a duty to drive and shape the future of educational excellence, not just respond to it.”
This common good, he describes as a moral imperative, is instilled throughout staff, students and leaders across the Trust. This, he says, is beginning to have an impact on children far beyond the confines of the classroom.
“Our agenda is to continue supporting schools. This has to be a two way process, both sides gaining from the benefits. We have invested time into ensuring individual networks are embedded and have used the greatest resources we have in this Trust, that of intellectual property and the interpersonal skills of the workforce we employ.”
When asked about the pressures that could arise with staff and individual schools own conflicting agendas; working for both school and the Trust, he explained the complexities of these tensions.
“Of course, there is always going to be a fine balance to be achieved between supporting other schools whilst still looking after your own. However, I do not see this as a barrier to success. There is a duality of both roles which needs to be embraced, these roles work hand in hand, giving staff joint development opportunities after all, what you learn from supporting others allows you to reflect on what you are doing in your own school, giving opportunity to improve on it. Every school therefore becomes both a giver and a receiver of support.”
“This joint development practice”, he goes on to say, “shapes and hones the very best of what we have to offer whilst maintaining the variety and individual flavour of each of our schools.”
So what makes Swale Academies Trust stand out? Derek Trimmer, makes it clear that the Trust is not doing anything radical, but he insists that their expertise is real. “We don’t have a bank of specialists waiting in the wings, our experts are genuinely immersed in the practice and pedagogy that they espouse. This gives our work not only the credibility but a relevance and vitality that other MATs cannot accomplish. We are stronger together.”