Our journey so far...
The Deputy Headteacher at New Bradwell Primary School describes Phil Webster, the Headteacher and CEO of the Trust, as a butterfly. He never sits still for long on an idea, he will always be asking ‘ what next? '
In many respects the development of the Trust shares some similarities with that of a butterfly too. Apparently, butterflies are able to see colours that humans can’t. As a Trust we recognise that people will see things differently. We value these different perspectives as they often result in fruitful conversation and challenge - just the kind of dialogue that we value.
Stage 1- EGG
The team at New Bradwell Primary School were delighted when Ofsted judged the school to be outstanding but were confident that this was more a start rather than an end of a journey. We wanted to grow and continue to set ourselves challenging targets. We expanded from a two-form to a three-form entry school, started a farm, looked to different methods to support our department for autistic children, revised our whole curriculum. As we managed these changes we looked at wider sector practice, seeking to learn from the best. As we looked outwards and upwards, we were quick to appreciate the benefits of working with other schools and the power of sharing best practice. The growth of the school has always been focused on delivering more for our children.
At the same time, academisation was becoming an increasingly popular concept and we reflected on how this could provide a natural extension for the work that we had started to do with other schools. We recognised that alongside promoting innovation and expanding staff development opportunities, there would be financial benefits to be gained too. We believed that operating as Trust could deliver greater value for money and were keen to find other like- minded schools who were also exploring forming a Trust.
Following conversations with Jubilee Wood Primary School it was clear that we were both interested in forming a Trust and in September 2017 the Grand Union Partnership was created.
Stage 2- CATERPILLAR
On forming the Trust we needed to explore and answer many questions about how we would operate:
- What kind of responsibilities would stay with our Local Governing bodies?
- What would the structure of meetings and committees at Trust level look like?
- What would the management structure look like?
- What might central Trust expectations cover and what decisions would continue to be driven at individual school level?
- What services would be provided centrally for each school?
- What might the future look like in terms of the size, scope and geographical reach of the Trust?
- How would the 5% contribution from each school to a central Trust budget be directed to deliver great value for money?
So many questions (the answers to these are unpacked in this website) but an exciting phase for us to explore. We started with quite a flat structure and wanted to give schools as much autonomy as was possible. Initially. there was one main Trust level meeting who dealt with everything, this set the vision, values and strategic aims for the Trust. We were also clear about the success criteria we would use to monitor the development of the Trust. We knew what information would feed into Trust Board meetings and we started to expand our group of Trustees to ensure that together we would have access to all the skills we would need to continue our development.
As with any newly formed organisation there were challenges along the way. We started working with Old Stratford Primary School, who at that stage were not part of the Trust, the school had been judged as requires improvement by Ofsted and we shaped a plan to help them move forward.
Stage 3- PUPA
We were able to demonstrate real impact with improvement plan for Old Stratford as Ofsted judged the school good at their next inspection. Following the inspection the Governing Board at Old Stratford decided to join the Trust. This was a great endorsement, both of the quality of support provided and the degree to the school had embraced working in partnership.
We also started working with a fourth school, developing a memorandum of understanding with governors that clearly outlined the support that we are providing. We hope this will help us to continue to grow and provide another very clear example of the effectiveness of the support that the Trust can provide and what can be achieved through partnership working.
Our Trust Board has evolved too, taking the decision to create two new committees (one for teaching learning, and curriculum, the other for resources). This has helped focus conversations and enhance the quality of dialogue between Local Governing Bodies and Trustees. The fact that many of our Trustees have experience working on Local Governing Bodies promotes healthy communication and team working between the different levels of governance in the Trust.
We also added to the Central Trust team, helping us to further develop the quality frameworks that we apply across our schools and increase our capacity to deliver support.
Stage 4- ADULT BUTTERFLY
We recognise that we’re still developing, we’re committed to further growth and have recently agreed strategic priorities for the next 3 years, signposting our desire to stay local and grow the Trust to delivering great education for 2,500 primary school children. This continued growth will enable us to further develop the breadth of support and development opportunities across the Trust. Whilst there are sure to be challenges along the way we’re looking forward to this next stage of our development.