Rachel Burnside joined the team at Old Stratford in 2017, prior to the school joining the Trust, this brief case study gives her perspective on what joining the Trust has meant for her:
When I first heard that Old Stratford was joining the Grand Union Partnership I had my reservations. I had heard former colleagues express concerns about working at an academy. There were rumours that becoming part of a MAT could have a negative impact on your pension, your workload and that the most established academies in the Trust often dominated decision making and kept the best resources. There was a fear that academisation was more about making money than making a real difference for children and that as a school we’d lose our individuality and sense of identity.
Since joining the Grand Union Partnership I have come to realise that these concerns were unfounded. Personally, I have benefited greatly from being part of the Grand Union Partnership, it has given me access to expertise and advice from across the other schools that are part of the Trust, supporting my career development.
In 2017 I took on the role of Early Years teacher at Old Stratford. At the time I was concerned about taking on this responsibility. It was the first time I had worked in Early Years and I was anxious that this area received its own Ofsted judgement; especially after Old Stratford had previously received a ‘requires improvement’ judgement in this area. At this time, an Ofsted visit was imminent and being a one form entry school, this felt like a lot of pressure. However, the very experienced Early Years Lead at New Bradwell School was given time to support my development. I was able to observe her in her setting at school and she shared examples of work, planning and her daily routines with me. She also came and worked with the children at Old Stratford, so I could see how I could adapt what worked in her setting to make it more appropriate for our children. Since then, we have been involved in cluster meetings with other Early Years teachers from across the Trust, where we discuss our current approaches and learn from each other. For example, we’re able to explore the different lay outs of Early Years environments across the Trust and the strategies that support children to play and learn in them, which is of course fundamental to the EYFS curriculum.
In 2018 I was given the opportunity to take on the role of Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) role at Old Stratford, again the Trust has supported me to develop in this role. I have been able to draw on the expertise of the experienced SENCOs at both New Bradwell and Jubilee Wood, I have been able to view different assessments, received training and advice on our current online system (Edukey). I have also been able to talk through the potential next steps for our special needs (SEN) children at Old Stratford. There are numerous examples of the good practice that I have been able to pick up from the two other academies and implement at Old Stratford.
Now that I am more experienced in this role, I meet with both SENCOs on a termly basis, we compare provisions and are working on building a register of useful contacts that we can use and share across the trust. We have been also looking at the most effective ways to use our individual skills and experiences across the schools, and how staff development opportunities can be utilised most effectively to benefit us in all three schools.
More broadly, I’ve noticed how being part of the Grand Union Partnership has made a real difference to Old Stratford in relation to how we can access resources from across the Trust. A simple example of this links to how children in the school have more opportunities to access external sporting events through the school. Prior to my roles of SENCO and EYFS teacher I was the PE co-ordinator, it was a real challenge to be able to resource travelling to events as the school does not have a minibus. Just so many more sporting opportunities for our children.