As we begin our new half-term, today marks the 5th anniversary since the Trust was first incorporated on 20 February 2012.
Back then the Trust was established for one school (called the Balham Schools Company!) and was beginning the journey to the Trust we are today. Much has been achieved in these five years!
· 7 Free School applications have been submitted, approved and opened. All schools are working together to deliver the vision of the Trust, developing independence and confidence through a wide-ranging curriculum, with a further 100 after-school clubs run every week across the Trust, offering further enrichment to the pupils we serve.
· 800 pupils being educated across the seven schools – increasing to 2,730 when all schools are full in 2023. We are currently working at 30% of our final capacity, increasing to 40% in September 17. Across the schools currently, it is a huge achievement that our schools are 84% full overall, with the three more establish schools now the school of first choice in their area.
· 144 staff currently employed across the seven schools. This will grow to an anticipated 400+ staff when all schools are full.
· £20m investment into new buildings or renovations to serve our communities – a further £16m in the pipeline by September 2018.
We are continuing to make great strives. At the start of this new half term, a further two schools now have their buildings available to them, having both shared with secondary schools so far this academic year – these are Kilburn Grange School and Whitehall Park School, with the later having the first new building completed. Watling Park School’s new building is well under construction, ready for September 2017 and Braywick Court School’s new building is about to begin this half term, with Deer Park School finally awarded planning permission only a few weeks ago! Great progress I hope you will agree.
The new buildings will establish these new schools in the area they serve. Delivering a high education quality provision remains our core focus. In supporting the expert teams we have across all the schools, we are keen for all staff to be on or considered for training programmes, where they are keen to develop their career or expertise and grow themselves, as their school grows. This may be a SENCO course or an improving teacher programme in a Teaching School, for example. We would urge Governing Bodies to have an overview of staff development, when reviewing performance management arrangements. A good example might be where a Teaching Assistant is interested in becoming a teacher – are the funds available to support their development and how has a programme been set for this to be achieved, linked with a training provider? We will also be developing Trust coordinated programmes, where staff can work together in training and learning the skills to enable the schools to sustainably grow.
A key challenge for the Trust over the first five years has been articulating the vision of the Trust. Schools have quickly become strong in delivering high quality provision and we continue to encourage schools to deliver a breath to the curriculum, so pupils develop independence and confidence – developing into happy, confident, successful ‘all-rounders’. The schools continue to embrace this vision and to enrich this further, we have set a target for all schools to become Thinking Schools.
Thinking Schools introduces children to a repertoire of tools to support their thinking skills from the earliest age. Various tools will be used, each of which is drawn from a national and international research base; all of which have been shown to work in practice. The aim is to help children to develop a positive attitude to life and learning. We have a development plan for this to be delivered over the next few years, with focussed training and a consultant who is supporting our schools – all being provided from the BPET Enrichment Fund. This fund has been created through the leasing of vacant short-term space we have available in some schools.
As we develop as a Trust, the Board is considering our growth options, as we anticipate to receive further external validation that the schools are successful. The plan has emerged to consider growing the Trust to 15 primary schools and this growth will support the development of the central team to better support all schools. We have recently recruited a Management Accountant to support the finance team and in time – through our growth in pupil numbers and growth in the number of schools – we are keen to develop the support of the central team provides, especially with the appointment of a Head of School Improvement/ Director of Education. The Board will be outlining the growth plans further following the next annual strategy meeting in early April.
Finally, you may be aware that a number of us are running the London Marathon on 23 April 2017. There are four members of staff across the Trust running, which includes two Headteachers [seasoned runners] and myself [far from seasoned!]. We have created a webpage for anyone who wishes to support the great causes we are all running for and if there are any governors or staff we have missed who are running, we would like to add your details too (do let me know!).
Thank you all for the support and dedication over the past 5 years, creating a platform for the Trust to strengthen and grow!