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Schools Plus provides a range of services for schools working together whether as an informal cluster, a semi-formal co-operative type arrangement or in a formal group such as a multi academy trust. Many are the natural extension of services we offer to individual schools and some are specifically created to support group structures and operation.

The school-lead system has been with us for over a decade with the first NLE’s working closely with us. Successive governments of different persuasions have recognised that schools benefit from seeing how other schools are run and learning from their experience.

Like everyone else we have tried to make sense of the new system and continue to evolve our services to meet the needs of schools and the groups they now work in. The services we currently provide for clusters and groups of schools, including MATs and SATs fall into 4 areas:

1. School Improvement

Our Lessons Learned system provides online resources for groups of schools to work together to:

• improve standards of teaching and learning through evidence based analysis of lessons, marking, learning walks and any other aspect a school wishes to monitor and develop;

• conduct performance appraisals, setting annual targets monitoring progress and assessing performance;

• track the impact and effectiveness of CPD;

• evaluate school effectiveness and create school and group development plans.

The system provides a group level view so that best practice can be identified and shared, consistency of approach and development can be managed and so that an evaluation of the group level impact can be assessed by Trustees and/or senior leaders.

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2. Data Analysis & Interpretation

In addition to our school level performance data reports we also provide 3 performance reports for clusters and MATs:

• Schools Performance Report, comprising an analysis section at subject and group level ranking and comparing the school’s performance to national and the group averages, together with an optional section that summaries each school’s data separately on one page and provides a brief independent commentary on the school’s performance.

• MAT/Cluster Performance Report, focused on the MAT’s or cluster’s accountability rather than an individual school’s performance. Using both DfE-suggested and other bespoke measures to assess the impact of the group’s school improvement activities.

• MAT/Cluster Aggregated Report, this report aggregates the results of all schools in the group into a summary report similar to that provided by RAISEonline or its replacement ASP. The MAT or cluster can see how well it is doing for all its pupils and key groups across all its schools.

3. Surveys

Our range of pupil, parent and staff surveys have been extended to help assess the impact of being part of a group, the relationships between schools and how effective leadership, school improvement and back office services are across the group.

Very much bespoke to individual group’s needs these surveys can be delivered on-line or by paper and can be repeated annually or every other year to demonstrate progress.

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4. Advisory Services

Our advisers can help support school groups in a range of ways and so it is worth asking if you have a very specific requirement. Most of our work falls into 3 areas:

School improvement models and their implementation – most groups quickly realise they need to articulate and then implement a structured school improvement model so that schools are clear on their responsibilities and how support can be made most effective. Working with the leaders of groups we can support and help implement the structures that most suit their group’s ethos and needs.

Effectiveness and Efficiency reviews, all groups, whether 2, 3 or 50 schools, have limited resources and funding. We can independently and without bias review the way the group goes about its day to day activities and suggest areas for improvement and potential cost savings, taking into account the ethos and priorities of the schools and the MAT/cluster.

Establishing a MAT is now a well-trodden route and the legal issues have taken second place to the need to be clear on the ethos and values of a group and the practicalities of how the group will be run. By this we mean what will be:

• the level of earned autonomy?
• the intervention and support processes?
• the curriculum design and differentiation?
• the leadership and people issues?
• the back office communications and structures?

We believe that school to school support is the way forward but that capacity is needed to help make this approach work. Through our services we seek to add some of this capacity for groups of schools we work with