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A Quick Update…


Hi everyone,

A quick update this week…

Last Monday and Tuesday I spent the day with a number of other CEOs of MATs from across the country.

Several government agencies had asked for a slot to offer some updates.

Ofsted kicked us off.

Ofsted can divide opinion in the educational world. Clearly schools are government funded organisations and should be held to account, as importantly, the system needs a mechanism that inspires confidence in families and young people that children are receiving the very best education on offer.

The new Ofsted framework aims to allow schools more autonomy in devising a curriculum offer that is appropriate for their stakeholders (Intent) – deliver it in a way that is most suitable for the young people (Intention) and evaluate its effectiveness in a way that has been agreed with all the participants (Impact).

I think that this a huge step forward – and stated it in our meeting.

However, my criticism was aimed at the timing of the re-introduction of inspections and the variability of the inspectors.

I lobbied for a “pause” (of around a year) in the inspection cycle. Our school leaders are having to manage situations outside anyone’s scope of experience. The last couple of years have been incredibly challenging for everyone concerned – including our school management teams. Just to pick up a model of inspection as described in the handbook, without an acceptance of the pressures they face, will push many good people out of the profession.

That then led to my next point. Recruitment to all roles within schools is becoming more and more difficult. Across the country we are seeing our more experienced staff (usually aged 55+) leaving the profession. Layer on top of that, a younger workforce who have a very different view of “work”. Many of these colleagues are really comfortable doing a great job for 4/5 years and then trying their hand at something totally different.

And that’s brilliant, good for them. However, these and other factors lead to a widely acknowledged and well-documented fact that schools are facing a near crisis in recruitment. This is no different in the Northwest. These continued Ofsted pressures certainly don’t help – it could be argued that they actually contribute.

We also heard from across the country some alarming stories of inspectors being well out of their “comfort zones.” Inspectors who had limited or very little experience of the young people in special schools and alternative provisions, they were making judgements that had a massive impact on the school and the Trust. Ofsted really need to look at how they can either a) attract practising colleagues into the inspectorate or b) offer improved training for those already inspecting.

They’ve heard our position – we’ll see if there’s any changes in the next few months.

We also heard from the Government finance teams. Our Trust (and schools) are all in a strong financial position. This, however, is a result of our innovation and creativity – not because of the funding formula.

The challenge all schools face is twofold.

Firstly, with the numbers of children coming into our sector. We face this on a daily basis because of the quality of all our schools. Many families see us an absolute “first choice” and will often fight, via the tribunal system, to get their children into our schools. Government sees the solution to this as more children with EHCPs can be supported in mainstream schools. A laudable ambition and one many people agree with but, in practice, I think it requires a huge investment in training and development. More importantly we may need to develop a change of “culture” in many mainstream schools.

Secondly, and more importantly, is that the children/young people who attend our schools all deserve the most individualised and personalised offer possible. To deliver the intent, implementation and impact I mentioned earlier in the blog, costs time, effort and money.

Our schools now need a very diverse and different workforce. Our children and young people do not fit into a “homogeneous” group. Every single one of them needs a bespoke offer to ensure they get to their preferred destination. The curriculum has moved massively forward and yet the funding model is stuck in the 1990s.

We were told the SEND review would deal with this issue – we’ll wait and see.

So, this week – high level discussions – but I’ve got two highlights. Firstly, sitting down on Wednesday with some children and tucking into a jacket potato and cheese flan! Don’t tell my wife- I’m supposed to be on a diet! And secondly being called a “really good” second-hand car salesman by a senior colleague in a local authority!!

I’ve been called many things(!!) – “anyone want to buy a variety club bus with 15 careful owners?”


Have a great weekend




New Bridge Multi Academy Trust
Roman Road

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