29 Mar


I’ve had a week of particularly mixed emotions.

Earlier in the week I was left reeling from (yet another) BBC Panorama investigation into two multi academy trusts. The MATs, TBAP and Silver Birch, are both based in and around the London and Eastern areas of the country. Some of the allegations made certainly didn’t make for easy viewing. The investigative team talked about alleged financial irregularities, alleged interference in exams and alleged “bullying” cultures. I think the programme centred around 2 or 3 schools. Interestingly, there are now over 24,000 academies in England. I’m not in any way condoning the behaviours that were alleged in this programme but myself, along with many other school leaders, are becoming increasingly frustrated about what, at times, appears sensationalist reporting.

How often does the BBC run “good news stories” about the positive influences multi academy trusts have had on the outcomes for young people? I look back at the creativity and innovation that have been made possible on our journey of academisation. The opportunity to (formally) work with like-minded schools, to develop pioneering curriculums, to collaborate on “fit for purpose” assessment models, to have the freedoms to think “out of the box”, to be at the cutting edge of technology. It is right and proper that we have internal and external audit systems. It is right and proper that we work within “best value” principles. It is right and proper that we adhere to National agreements. I’m sure a small number of schools within the system (whether they are free schools, academies, independent schools or community schools) are poorly run and managed. Is the constant berating of schools (especially academies) in the public interest? All I ask for is a degree of impartiality.

These frustrations were forgotten about when, on Friday, I visited all of our Primary Schools across the trust. The work at Hollinwood Academy goes from strength to strength. It was lovely to hear about how sensory boxes were supporting the work with some of our youngest children. What struck me was the passion the staff had for learning and how they constantly explore imaginative methods of working with all our children. Truly beyond outstanding.

Next stop was Hawthorns where myself, and our visitors, were treated to some rehearsals for the Greatest Show. It’s going to be great – get your tickets while you can! Truly inspirational. The overall calmness and culture of learning was really apparent.

Finally, we visited Spring Brook Heron Street site. It was lunchtime, but the children were keen to show off some of the work they have been doing on the iPads. It was this time last year that I had the privilege of visiting Cupertino in California. I came back with a vision of rolling out a 1:1 project across all of our MAT schools and Group. At Spring Brook I saw the accelerated learning that can occur when skilled practitioners give children a clear framework to learn. I saw lots and lots of amazing work but two pieces of film that really stood out were from Caitlin and Emily. Emily had produced a film using iMovie – it was superb. Caitlin had completed a piece of persuasive text about Mexico.

The enthusiasm from the children and staff was contagious. Truly brilliant.

Have a great weekend,


You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here