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Event review: Bett Academies

Bett Academies was a special event for academies to explore their sector and hear from a variety of inspirational speakers

Posted by Lucinda Reid | March 26, 2017 | Events

Whether you are an academy, part of a multi-academy trust (MAT) or a school exploring academisation, the line up of high-profile industry pioneers at Bett Academies (16-17 March 2017, NEC, Birmingham) proved to be an inspiration for all!

Running alongside The Education Show at the NEC in Birmingham, Bett Academies, which was free to attend, offered visitors the highest quality of continuing professional development (CPD), advice and guidance.

The show kicked off with Sir David Carter, National Schools Commissioner, providing visitors with his view on academy progress. He took questions from the audience and the session proved to be highly informative.

Many of the CPD sessions were delivered by academy and MAT leaders. Cathie Paine, Deputy Chief Executive of REAch2 Academy Trust, shared her advise with visitors on how to facilitate a change in culture within academies. She drew on experience from her expertise as a leader who has gone through this process, giving visitors ideas and insight.

Another motivational session was delivered by Rob Tarn, Regional Chief Executive and National Leader of Education at the high-performing Outwood Grange Academy Trust. He outlined the Trust’s model for rapid transformation in struggling schools,  explaining how to bring about a drastic culture shift in schools under special measures so that, within just seven short weeks, they can climb the ranks and become ‘good’ and even ‘outstanding’ schools. Tarn has worked as a headteacher at six schools in special measures, and has seen these schools improve beyond recognition. The presentation proved to be an eye-opener for many visitors.

Another MAT leader, Andrew Fielder, CEO of Aspire Academy Trust, ignited a lively debate about the shape of the new educational landscape. During his session, Fielder outlined an initiative that he believes in, called ‘hub working’, where groups of three to four academies support and monitor each other, share resources and develop joint improvement plans. His most controversial point was that this infrastructure removes the need for governing bodies and headteachers.

Moving away from MAT leaders, the Rt Hon David Laws was also at the show, considering the role that academy schools play in achieving a world-class education for all children. With informed and practical advice on how to work within an academy to achieve a world-class level of education, this was a very popular session for leaders and teachers.

Joshua Perry, Director of Assembly Education, added an interesting angle to the seminar sessions when he called on schools and suppliers to work closer together. His reasoning was based on the fact that the Precambrian explosion of MATs in the last few years has left suppliers unprepared and lacking an understanding of the very specific needs of MATs. Perry stressed the importance of sector suppliers, academies and MATs to collaborate and invest in the development of this next phase of learning technology.

Despite its name, Bett Academies wasn’t just designed for the needs of academies and MATs. Many schools that have not yet converted to academy status and are holding back from the inevitable, attended the session presented by Tom Rees, Headteacher and Director at Northampton Primary Academy Trust (NPAT). He explained how he used to feel, not wanting to be absorbed by a large MAT but equally having no desire to start a new one. Wanting to take the step towards academisation on his own terms, he joined other schools in Northampton who started working together to form NPAT as equal partners, not built on the back of a top-down sponsor.  

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