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Ian Kershaw, NET’s chief executive

Northern Education Trust is performing well, new study shows

Teachers, pupils and parents rated the Trust across several criteria

Posted by Stephanie Broad | October 11, 2016 | Teaching

A multi-academy trust has been advised of a ‘good’ overall level of satisfaction by both parents and staff.

Northern Education Trust (NET), which is based near Newcastle upon Tyne, decided to undertake the research to be able to provide a baseline from which to measure future progress.  

The NET is one of the North’s largest multi-academy trusts with 10 primary and 10 secondary academies throughout the northeast and northwest of England. It recently commissioned GL Assessment, a leading specialist in educational assessments and stakeholder surveys, to review its 20 academies within the North of England, 

Its trustees wanted to find out more about the general levels of satisfaction held by parents, staff and students in relation to its activities.

In the first of what is likely to become a routine undertaking every two years for each of its academies, the questionnaires by Kirkland Rowell Surveys canvassed the views of 729 parents, 359 members of staff and 1324 students across a wide range of measures.

The scores were weighted against national averages generated from similar schools across the country – where available - and reveal that NET has cause to be happy with most of its activities.

NET’s overall performance was rated as very good by parents (76.9%) and very good (74.3%) by staff.

Both parents and pupils were surveyed in relation to academic criteria including English, maths and science, and 21 non-academic criteria which reviewed subjects such as class sizes, library facilities, school security, levels of homework and control of bullying, to name a few. 

Teaching staff were not asked to comment on academic criteria but on 31 core areas which included topics such as internal communications, child protection procedures, target setting, appearance and maintenance of their academies, respect, morale, attitudes to learning and effectiveness of pastoral care. 

Within the primary sector, all scores are either good or outstanding compared to responses from similar schools nationally, with class sizes scoring highly across all three stakeholder groups.  At secondary level all scores are either good or outstanding compared to responses from similar schools nationally.

There is however scope for further improvement in some areas. For example, within the primary sector, computer access was highlighted as a concern by staff, but according to national averages, NET academies were still rated more favourably than other schools.  At secondary level, not unexpectedly given the starting point of each school at conversion, exam results and the happiness of the child will require ongoing strategic support.

Ian Kershaw, NET’s chief executive, said:  “Generally, I am very pleased with the findings given that Northern Education Trust has sponsored some of the academies researched for less than two years.  Since all but two of our academies were in special measures at conversion, it could be said that there has not been a great amount of time for NET’s culture, values and practices to have made a more substantial impact, so in that respect, I think we are doing quite well.

“We feel that GL Assessment has made a very good start at getting beneath the skin of all our stakeholders with this first research exercise.  It is important for us to know how well we are doing as a Trust, so that if there are areas which need attention, we can address them. Our goal is to continuously improve our performance year on year.

“We will be undertaking these surveys routinely now for academies joining us, probably in the first term, so that we can get a clearer idea of how things stand at an early stage in our sponsorship which will provide a sound basis for comparison and highlight progress two years down the line. We are also asking our principals to work closely with their achievement partners to see what they need to focus on following the publication of the findings and agree a short term action plan.”

Sarah Haythornthwaite, Director at GL Assessment, believes that a key measure of a school’s performance is the difference between how well stakeholders feel it is performing in relation to a set of priorities versus how important they feel these priorities are. 

She said:  “These findings are positive, especially as NET is a relatively new trust and given the starting points of many of its academies. There is always room for improvement in any school or trust; however the surveys have provided the trustees with very specific areas they should focus on.” 

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