As a result of growth and capacity, The Athelstan Trust school improvement cycle is continually developing and being refined.
The following document is intended to provide a scaffold for the current School Improvement Cycle, with additional information that supports how we aim for our work to be thoughtfully structured, strategic and sustainable.
The school improvement strategy timeline that each school works within is outlined below:
Each school completes its own detailed School Improvement Plan (SIP). The structure of these is standardised and content aligns with the Athelstan Trust priorities for the year head. The detail is individualised in accordance with the context of each school.
The appraisal process for all colleagues feeds into the school improvement plan – a mid term review meeting is in place to support the development of all colleagues.
The School Improvement Leads meet with each Headteacher at the start of term 1 to discuss and agree how they can be strategic in supporting the SIP. This support is then reviewed through regular, informal meetings throughout the year and also via the ELG forum.
The two Athelstan Trust Professional Development days (term 2 and 6) are organised by the CPD Manager and School Improvement Leads and themed around relevant and pertinent school improvement themes.
The School Improvement Leads facilitate collaborative meetings of colleagues from subject specialist groups in order for them to analyse data, share good practice and current research, collaborate on strategy etc.
The School Improvement Leads meet with teams of key colleagues from across The Athelstan Trust to analyse data, share good practice and current research, collaborate on strategy etc. These meetings are currently active for English, maths, PSHE and pastoral leads, SENCOs, disadvantaged, data, attendance, CPD and Teaching & Learning leads.
The School Improvement Team meet at least once a term to discuss risk, analyse hard data, share soft data and agree on actions going forwards.
The CEO meets with the executive leadership group (Headteachers) to analyse, share, discuss and action school improvement work.
The CEO meets with each headteacher on a fortnightly basis for conversations and coaching that balance accountability, challenge and support.
Weekly / daily:
The School Improvement Team manage their own diaries to ensure that their time is spent working in schools as much as possible, often working in a way that is bespoke to particular need and context, as directed by the CEO and / or Headteachers and other school leaders. For example:
- Team teaching and instructional coaching to develop practice.
- Splitting ‘priority groups’ to maximise achievement and enable catch up where necessary.
- Small group intervention across the ability range, in line with trust priorities.
- Joint planning with teachers at all levels, alongside observation and feedback.
- Moderating assessment – setting the standard.
- QA (Quality Assurance) – as subject experts making sure standards are high.
- Contributing to subject specific CPD.
- Leadership development.
- Sharing research and current educational theory / best practice.
- Developing resources and improving curriculum content.
When not working in schools, the school improvement team is based in the central team office where they work collaboratively on leading the themed CPD programme, the learning circuit package, reading and planning for collaborative meetings, networking with other MATs and School Improvement Teams (e.g. CST, SW SI Network etc.) etc.
Vision, Values, Strategy and Culture:
At the core of every aspect of School Improvement lies The Athelstan Trust’s commitment to being an organisation in which children, staff and parents feel part of a caring, collaborative and excellent community. These values, alongside the more detailed mission statement, and strategic aims, motivate all school improvement work within the cycle.
The School Improvement Strategy does not sit alongside a standardised approach to curriculum and pedagogy but is guided by an ethos that respects and values the individual nature and ethos of our schools while believing we are more effective when we work together and support each other. However, each school’s curriculum is aligned to The Athelstan Trust curriculum statement and through the school improvement team’s work to foster collaboration across schools, there are increasingly common examples of schools sharing both approaches to curriculum (maths being most wholly aligned) and pedagogy.
With collaboration as one of our core values, the school improvement cycle includes regular opportunities to meet and share good practice. The agenda for these meetings are led by various members of the school improvement team and designed to be strategic in terms of responding to identified need and creating actions points that feed into continuous school improvement:
- The executive leadership group (ELG) meet every fortnight, led by the CEO.
- English, maths, PSHE, pastoral leads and SENCOs meet at least three times a year, led by the linked School Improvement Lead. Other faculties are encouraged to meet at least once a year, with the agenda led by subject specialists but the meeting facilitated by a linked School Improvement Lead. Time is given on the Bi-annual Athelstan Trust days for subject specialist teams to meet.
- Disadvantaged, Attendance and Data, CPD and Teaching and Learning leads from each senior leadership team meet at least twice a year, led by a linked School Improvement Lead.
People, Learning and Capacity
Recruiting and retaining excellent colleagues is key to being successful. The School Improvement Leads work with the CPD Manager to support this through the offer of a trust wide CPD programme, linked closely to the delivery of two Athelstan Trust Professional Development days (term 2 and term 6) which are attended by teaching and non-teaching colleagues from each school. These give the school improvement team the opportunity to deliver key messages that are pertinent to improvement in each school but also that reinforce the culture and values of the trust; this is most obviously achieved through the keynote address at the start of the day (e.g. focusing on EDI, attendance, disadvantaged students etc).
Throughout the day, colleagues spend time in relevant cross school communities (subject specialism groups for teacher, pastoral support teams, Teaching Assistants, Finance and HR teams, IT and site teams etc.) with time to collaborate around key areas for development. Sometimes, this will involve external input but often, colleagues within The Athelstan Trust take on the responsibility to co-ordinate this session in response to the identified need of each group.
The Athelstan Trust themed CPD programme is also part of these events, with one additional after school, virtual meeting happening between the two. This programme fits into the school improvement strategy by enabling all teaching colleagues to benefit from an enquiry based approach to their own professional development, with the theme leaders representing expertise and passion from within The Athelstan Trust. CPD leads from each school are involved in the process and can therefore guide individuals towards the theme that best reflects their developmental need but also support in talent spotting theme leaders. The QA process involved senior leaders from each school which further spreads the impact on wider school improvement.
Secondments across schools is another opportunity for both professional development and school improvement. This is led by the CEO and discussed in the forum of the Executive Leadership Group of Headteachers.
Further CPD opportunities (NPQs, Olevi Creative / Outstanding Teacher Programme, Olevi Outstanding Teacher Assistant Programme, CLEAPSS, Athelstan Learning Circuits) fall into line with the school improvement cycle as the following can either be accessed through a request from school leadership teams to the CPD Manager / SiL or the school improvement team can suggest where it would be beneficial for particular colleagues to be involved.
The Athelstan Trust is supported by the Odyssey Teaching School Hub to offer UCL linked NPQs and the ECF offer.
Finally, the flexible working culture is modelled by the school improvement team and supported as a way of investing in people and creating capacity.
Assessment, Curriculum and Pedagogy
The Athelstan Trust has not adopted a school improvement model of standardised or even unanimously aligned assessment. However, the school improvement team does work with leaders to share best practice and encourage an organic model of joint working. During the pandemic, a standardised approach was adopted to ensure that the CAGs process was robust and fair to all students across The Athelstan Trust. Where there are identified pockets of weakness in terms of quality, curriculum and / or pedagogy, the School Improvement Leads will work with individual leaders and bring in specialists from across the schools or external consultants; in some cases, this leads to a shared approach to assessment, curriculum and pedagogy as a means of supporting improvement.
In supporting The Athelstan Trust curriculum objective to ‘maintain a rich extra-curricular offer to ensure students have access to exciting learning outside the classroom’, school improvement leads actively pursue and support opportunities for students from across the schools to share curriculum enrichment opportunities, for example, the maths challenges, the Athelstan Festival of Speech and Debate, visiting performance poets, shared residential / overseas trips and PSHE related speakers.
Quality Assurance and Accountability
In seeking to streamline how data is used for improvement work, Headteachers’ Report and 4Matrix Fusion have been introduced to enable the tracking of school performance in a way that can be openly compared as a prompt for conversations around accountability and how to improve.
A centrally employed data specialist co-ordinates and advises the data leads in each school to scrutinise data and thus creates a culture of transparency about where improvement is needed and how this can be achieved. The School Improvement Team are involved in these meetings and in all communication around the data, ensuring that their time can be allocated according to risk.
Each school has its own cycle of Quality Assurance through subject reviews but are encouraged to include the School Improvement Leads, specialists from other Athelstan schools and / or external experts so that school improvement expertise is being constantly developed and shared.
In building a sense of collective endeavour, the School Improvement Leads also conduct themed reviews twice a year. These look at a theme through the lens of a particular subject, enabling a holistic picture of where there is best practice across the trust. These reviews involve lesson observations in each school, conversations with subject and senior leaders and student voice feedback. Colleagues are invited to join these reviews which has strengthened the wider impact of this as QA strategy but also a developmental opportunity for those involved. The final report details the best practice seen in relation to the theme, asks challenging, pedagogical focused questions that are based on research led reading around the review focus; all participants in the review, governors and leadership are invited to discuss these before the final report is published. The conclusion to the report also outlines how the school improvement team will respond to its findings; for example, in the review entitled ‘SEND provision through the lens of Humanities’, each school was given time with the ASD lead who delivered training on how to ensure that lesson resources are SEND friendly and therefore accessible for all.
In the regular school improvement meetings, all colleagues in the team feedback on the soft intelligence they are constantly gathering from their regular visits to each school. Triangulated with other sources of data, this often leads to the initiation of various school improvement strategies, whether it be that the CEO follows up a line of enquiry with the individual headteacher, a school improvement lead offers bespoke support or sets up a collaborative relationship between colleagues in different schools, the CPD Manager initiates the search for context specific training etc.
Developing as a Learning Organisation
The Athelstan Trust School Improvement Team is consciously adapting to a constantly changing external environment. In responding to this, governance, the central team functions of finance, HR and operations all play a key role in ensuring that school improvement is both challenged and supported in moving schools forward.
The School Improvement Leads have presented to each Local Governing Body about their work and given them time to understand, question and challenge the work of this team. Likewise, the trustees have regular updates on the work of the school improvement team and through scrutiny of outcomes in terms of school performance data, have the opportunity and imperative to question and challenge the strategic direction of school improvement work.