Benedick Ashmore-Short’s teaching career spans from early years and primary through to secondary and sixth form, where he has a successful track record of turning around struggling schools, one of which had been in special measures for 35 years. As Executive Director of Education at the ASTREA Academy Trust, Benedick looks after the interests of 12,500 pupils across 27 academies.
As a multi-academy trust, everything we do is centred around a shared goal – to give every child who attends one of our schools the same opportunities to succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances.
The ASTREA promise is made to every pupil that by the time they reach Year 6, they will have slept under the stars, visited a foreign country, climbed a mountain, debated at Oxford, taken part in activities to promote health and wellbeing and a host of other opportunities designed to enrich their learning and development. The aim is to give all pupils the chance to participate in a range of experiences they might not otherwise have had. This encourages them to discover what they’re truly capable of and develop a wider view of the world beyond the classroom.
We are a MAT with a strong belief in the power of shared experiences. It’s an approach that is embedded across our schools too and we have put measures in place to make it easy for schools to work together to deliver the highest possible standards of teaching and learning.
One of the key challenges for any multi-academy trust (MAT) focussed on ensuring every child gets the most from their education is that every school is different, and some need more support than others to meet their pupils’ needs.
For schools that are part of a successful trust, there’s a network of support that they can tap into to address the issues they face. For our schools in our MAT, being part of the ASTREA group binds them together. But our staff also have a shared responsibility for raising the achievement of every pupil in the trust – not only that of children attending their own schools.
This is a foundation stone for collaborative working that helps us to unlock pupils’ potential so that every member of our MAT community can thrive.
Working in partnership
In my view, you cannot foster a culture of collaboration without transparency. That’s why every school in our MAT is given access to information on the performance of each of the academies in the group – this includes details of pupils’ attendance, achievement and exclusions.
Having this information at their fingertips means that a head of maths could spot that their pupils’ attainment dips in Year 6, for example, and use the data to identify a school in the group that has achieved success in raising the achievement of pupils in maths. They can then make contact, arrange a visit and work with other teachers and subject specialists to find out what initiatives have worked in that school to help pupils make good progress. This might result in the introduction of a new homework club or mentoring scheme to tackle the issues that are holding children back.
Being able to scrutinise the progress being made by the 12,500 pupils across the academy group allows us to easily spot children who are starting to fall behind and see in an instant where schools are performing well or if individual pupils and groups are not being challenged in class. Knowing this helps all schools within the trust to ensure that every child achieves.
Staff training and performance
Great teaching is at the heart of a successful MAT. As an expanding group, we have a team of teaching champions that work in schools across the group where additional support is needed to boost children’s reading ability or help raise the achievement of EAL pupils, for example.
Great emphasis is placed on CPD for our teaching teams too. Staff training, and performance data is collated from across the trust for everyone from our Chair of Trustees through to our teachers, which enables us to identify common training needs.
With 39 CPD courses in the calendar for the coming academic year, there are considerable cost savings to be achieved through economies of scale and our trust-wide ASTREA Teacher standards help to ensure that the quality we are striving for is consistently being met.
Collaboration in your trust can make the difference between providing a positive education for some, and ensuring a positive education for all.
Here are my 5 Top tips for encouraging collaboration across your MAT:
- Champion a culture of shared responsibility: foster a sense of partnership in driving the success of the group as a whole, rather than focussing on the performance of individual schools.
- Shape a single vision for success: every school is unique, but by building a strong community where everyone is working together to achieve a common goal, the trust will be in the best position to give children a great start in life.
- Demand excellence: Don't accept 'good enough', identify where excellence is happening and make that the set standard.
- Make it easy to share best practice: great teaching can be happening in any school. Take steps to support staff in spotting it and ensuring it is replicated across the group.
- Make it fun – positive collaboration is much more likely to happen when it’s enjoyable and rewarding for all those involved.