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Gary Peile, Chief Executive of The Active Learning Trust

Across the board

The Active Learning Trust operates across three UK 'hubs' for strong governance. Gary Peile tells us more...

Posted by Stephanie Broad | February 06, 2016 | School life

The Active Learning Trust exists to maximise impact at schools in need of significant improvement and those that are already outstanding, in areas such as leadership or attainment.

As part of this, we believe that strong local governance, (as part of an overall model of good governance), plays an effective role in that drive to raise standards across all schools.

As part of joining our Multi Academy Trust (MAT) schools are asked, as partners, to establish and support local boards who share our determination to raise standards. We seek board members who have a desire to develop and use their expertise to support others, and be part of a model of support that ensures good work is maintained and developed. 

Crucial to the delivery of this vision is the establishment of local hubs. The Trust’s 14 schools operate three of these hubs in Cambridgeshire, Lowestoft and Ipswich. These hubs support both excellence in teaching and in leadership and in governance. 

Our hubs are a key element in how we meet our obligations to strengthen governance. They ensure that there is a clear system of reporting and reviewing work at school level in order to demonstrate evidence of the impact of the Trust. They ensure that the Trust’s board has a clear picture of the challenges faced both in each school and across each hub, as well as how the work of the schools and the wider Trust is being directed to secure improvement.

All board meetings feature specific reports and presentations from schools on a rotating basis. This provides an opportunity for the relevant school leader to set out the key issues faced in their school in terms of pupil progress, and how they and the Trust team are setting about to tackle those issues.

The meeting of the board in December 2015 is a good example of how the relationship between the board and its schools is developing. At this meeting Trevor Folley, our lead for work in the Ipswich hub and Craig D’Cunha, the Principal of Chantry Academy which joined the Trust in September 2015, provided a detailed report and presentation to the Trustees which focused on the needs of the school as highlighted in school plans, external reviews and Ofsted and how the resources of the school and the Trust are being directed to meet those needs. The board were then able to identify and question the use of Trust central staff time and consultancy and other expertise against those needs and review how those resources are intended to have impact in key areas across the school.

As a school in special measures, trustees are very aware of the depth of need at Chantry. Half of the board volunteered to take on trusteeship of the previous sponsor of Chantry Academy and were closely involved in the early work at the school under its new principal in 2014. This level of knowledge certainly helps to establish a close understanding of the many challenges faced at the academy. The board, with its membership drawn from education (including three colleagues with headship experience in either primary, secondary or special education) and finance, and from the public and private sectors, are able to bring a very wide level of experience and knowledge to the Trust and to use that experience to support schools in their improvement journey.

Gary Peile is Chief Executive of The Active Learning Trust.

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