The annual BPET Conference with nearly 300 delegates from 10 BPET schools – and guests from two more schools which will soon join our trust – came together on 30 October 2023 at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in the Docklands (London) for a day of learning, collaboration and networking.
We believe that ‘learn, enjoy, succeed’ does not only apply to pupils in our schools, but to everyone at BPET. The conference offered staff the opportunity to choose between 40 workshop sessions led by experts, thinkers and leaders in their fields in order to upskill, challenge and inspire every employee.
The main presentation was delivered by the Chief Executive, the Interim Director of Education and Education Support, a new service provided to all employees which offers mental health support 24/7. Whilst we congratulated our schools for what they already do well, we also offered sessions to challenge the status quo in education and prepare staff for future developments in society – such as Artificial Intelligence – and also on a personal level, such as leadership development.
And whilst sessions on maths mastery, English proficiency and children emotional development were as popular as ever, we also offered professional development opportunities to support staff, who are vital to the smooth running of a school.
The spirit of the day has been very much about working as one big team for the benefit of the children we collectively serve. In the words of the Interim Director of Education, Alison Colenso: “Our strength is our collaboration. Let connections made today continue throughout the year, and in the future”.
One headteacher commented: “I know the day will have a positive impact on our school development this year and beyond”, whilst member of staff said: “Brilliant event that truly inspired me and my teaching. Looking forward to the next conference.”
Chief Executive Mark Greatrex said: “Opportunities such as the annual conference, together with our wide variety of continuing professional development opportunities do not only benefit our staff, but ultimately all our pupils, who are at centre of everything we do.”
Alison Colenso has been appointed Interim Director of Education for the academic year 2023-2024. Mrs Colenso will step into Laura Gregory’s shoes whilst away on a year’s sabbatical. We caught up with Mrs Colenso ahead of her starting in June 2023 to get to know her a little better.
What do you think it is exciting about the BPET vision, for all children to Learn, Enjoy, Succeed?
That it’s all about the pupils. I know that this is true about all schools, but at BPET it is so clear and engrained in everything the trust does that, to me, it provides a wonderful framework to work with. Also, each of those words – Learn, Enjoy, Succeed – is as key as the others, providing a virtual cycle of positivity where the vision is always centre stage.
What are you looking to bring to BPET schools?
The BPET vision is so embedded in me since my days as Headteacher at Deer Park School that it feels like coming home but with a difference, which is my experience at Ofsted, and the growth of the trust which now supports ten schools. So, in answer to your question ‘old eyes but fresh eyes’! Having visited so many schools in various kinds of settings, I know what excellent looks like and how it can be achieved.
How will your experience at Ofsted feed into your role?
All schools can improve, even the ones judged Outstanding. While at Ofsted, I supported leaders through the inspection process and identified areas of strength as well as areas where the school could improve. I wasn’t able to drive school improvement beyond the physical inspection though and this is what I am really looking forward to as interim director of education at BPET – supporting each school on their improvement journey and ensuring all pupils get the best possible education.
What are your priorities for supporting BPET teaching staff in their role?
Relationships are important, and getting to know what motivates people on a human level is key. Knowing individual’s hopes, goals and aspirations and how to support them in achieving these is essential. We are all working towards the same vision of ensuring exceptional outcomes for the pupils and communities we serve. Ensuring everyone has clarity and commitment for how their role fits in to this will be an important part of my role feeding into the wider trust strategy.
Improving outcomes for children is my passion. I want every single child to have the best opportunities and reach their potential. Making sure our staff are listened to, motivated, and cared for is an integral cog in the wheel.
“At Bellevue Place Education Trust (BPET), our nine schools are spread out over eight different local authorities. Eight of our schools are either in converted buildings or brand new school buildings, one school is in a converted juvenile courthouse. We were also the first Trust to have a partnership with a supermarket chain — Lidl, as one of our schools sits alongside and above a supermarket, as both were being built within the community at the same time.
In other words, our Trust is quite unique, as well as being geographically dispersed. We have a growing cluster of schools in Berkshire, but even though the majority of our schools are in London, it can easily take an hour to sometimes travel between them.
Staff work best where they are happiest
I am sure like us, any Trust’s immediate priority after the pandemic is stabilisation, especially as our sector is trying to work with record-high absence rates from staff as well as pupils and general ongoing uncertainty. Many Trusts, including our own, are at the same time looking to grow and expand their community. However, what we all must do is underpin our journeys as Trusts with an understanding that every child should benefit from the Trust structure and feel like they’re part of a Trust.
The same should apply whether you’re set on growing, don’t see it as a priority, or working around the ethos that you shouldn’t grow for growth’s sake. When a school is in need, whether that’s a significant challenge or just a small training problem, it’s our leaders and people that I call on to support that
school. They’re very aware that they’re part of a bigger organisation, but at the same time, we know that our staff work best where they are happiest. This is where the geography question comes into play.
How we make it easier to connect
Of course, Covid revealed that there are still many ways to come together even when you’re not geographically close. We are fortunate that we can meet virtually, but at BPET, we still encourage in-person visits. We’ve taken measures to make sure that this focus on in-person doesn’t put a strain on our staff — like starting later when we meet in person, paying for travel and accommodation (if required), and having training in twilight hours to make sure we don’t take people out of the classroom. These little things are making a difference, and were instigated after a survey I ran with the staff to see how we could make it easier to connect. We will always have a hybrid opportunity available, but we actively encourage our Headteachers and staff to meet face-to-face. This isn’t to say we’ve got the balance just right yet, but it gives us flexibility and we can see attendance getting higher as a result of the hybrid offering.
What we all must do is underpin our journeys as trusts with an understanding that every child should benefit from the Trust structure and feel like they’re part of a Trust.
Creating a real community of schools
Because in-person meetings and support are still important to our Trust, location is a factor when we’re taking on a new school. So much so that we’d be hesitant to take on a school which is further than 30 minutes away from one of our existing schools, so that they don’t miss out on the benefits of being part of our organisation. This is because of several factors. We want to create a real community of schools, and develop a hub structure. We also want to be able to offer in-person support, such as specialist teachers, without having a negative impact on the wellbeing of our existing staff. It’s a fantastic opportunity to provide support to a school, but not if it means our staff have to have lengthy visits away from their families and their base school.
The same applies on a pupil level. We actively encourage visits to each other’s schools to help contribute to that mindset that we are one organisation. We’ve had multiple sports competitions, where year groups come together from our different schools and compete. We’ve extended this to an intra-Trust chess tournament ‘The Queens Gambit’, and an upcoming BPET debate competition for the Year 5s and 6s across all of our schools.
We’re also looking for all our upper primary school children to go on a residential trip together. Although it’s critical, having a shared culture isn’t just about making sure each student benefits from great teaching. It’s about a sense of community and doing things together. For staff, we have an annual conference and end of year celebration, as well as termly networking groups, e.g. for subject leaders, to share best practice.
Other organisations may have a completely different take, and perhaps to them, the future of MATs is borderless. That isn’t to say that Trusts whose schools are spread across the country can’t share a culture, it just means that at BPET, the centricity of community in our culture is too important to compromise to geographic distance. For us and our Board of Trustees, having a border is important.
Autonomy in meeting the needs of schools’ local communities
At the same time, we have a firm belief at BPET that schools should retain their own identities alongside that of the Trust’s vision ‘Learn, Enjoy, Succeed’. It’s not mutually exclusive. Our schools each have bespoke curriculums, not only to do with meeting the needs of the communities they serve, but simply at the heart of what they believe is important. One of our schools, for instance, has a financial curriculum. I recently visited a year 6 lesson where they were learning about inheritance tax (which they were shocked and disgruntled by!) while a year 5 class was focused on how to save money, budget and develop an understanding of loan APRs. Another of our schools always has swimming delivered in every year group from Reception to Year 6 annually. If it’s important to the school and community, then they should keep it — as long as it’s developing the whole child and they are making great progress academically and socially.
Our schools also have the autonomy to decide how they should deliver their bespoke curriculum. None of our Headteachers want to see robots teaching the same lesson. Two teachers may teach the same class in a very different way, and that system works, as long as they see engagement and progress from the pupils.
Challenging schools to do their best
BPET provides support and challenge through the attainment and progress data recorded for each school on Arbor. This enables us to identify trends for support, strength to push out across the organisation and areas where more attention or spend need to be diverted to. We have a Standards Committee Meeting each term, to delve into each school’s data, which is made up of the school’s SLT, myself and either the CEO or a Board Trustee. We also take this data to the Board, who review it themselves and provide challenge to me, and then I take back any next steps or questions to the school with a plan of action. As well as this, we have Local Advisory Boards (LABs), which help us to review our standards of teaching and learning across each school.
We have some form of a review every term in each of our schools (extending beyond teaching and learning, e.g. safeguarding and regulation and compliance), which is identified in our School Improvement Strategy. We again, discuss the strengths, challenges and then share best practice to overcome the challenges. This is testament to the fact that sharing a culture and sharing standards and goals doesn’t and shouldn’t take away from the autonomy of each school to follow the path that they think works best for them. It again comes down to making sure that each student benefits from that Trust structure and vision. For us and our culture at BPET, that also speaks to the sense of community we are building through in-person events and support. It’s this sense of belonging that we will not compromise for the sake of dispersed growth.”
Bellevue Place Educational Trust is founded on our vision to Learn, Enjoy, Succeed.
This is not only true for our pupils, but for our staff too: by delivering the best education and support to our teachers, they will provide the best education and support to the pupils.
Due to BPET’s growth, we have been able to introduce specialist roles to work across all our schools. Our Trust Champions have been recruited amongst our existing teaching staff, recognising experience, specialist skills and leadership attitude. Trust Champions not only support other teaching staff, creating a cascading effect of best practices throughout the Trust, but they further their own professional development too.
James Richards, from Rutherford House School, has been the Trust’s Sports Champion for the last two years. At Rutherford, James has developed the PE department with the belief that children learn best whilst they are having fun. James has been working with all PE teachers across the Trust to get more pupils to be more active, more often. James organises the annual BPET girls and boys football tournaments that take place at Watling Park School.
James fully engages with parents and the wider community, as he recognises that these relationships are vital in ensuring that children are supported as they move through school. For his attitude and commitment to developing competitive sport across our family of schools, James has won the BPET’s Impact Award in 2022.
Natalia Levene, from Deer Park School, has been appointed Early Year Foundation Stage (EYFS) Trust Champion. From Sept 2022, Natalia will lead EYFS moderation, including baseline moderation, facilitate EYFS Leader Network Meetings, deliver group training at the Trust’s annual conferences and support developments within teaching and learning.
Natalia believes that the early years are fundamental for pupils, because it is at this time that they gain all the basic skills of learning, setting the scene for a smooth transition to year 1, and the rest of their education.
Natalia was awarded the BPET’s Community Impact Award in 2022 − together with Lucie Bebe − for their work to support families of children with additional needs.
Claire Syms, our energetic Headteacher at Halley House School, has been appointed Delivery Partner Lead in order to grow the BPET delivery partner work with Outstanding Leaders and Best Practice Network through running the specialist NPQs through to NPQEL. She will recruit facilitators from within BPET because of their strength in leadership, ensure training is completed, allocate cohorts to facilitators always ensuring our facilities are high class promoting the value as a Trust we place on CPD of our staff. She will be instrumental to drive the professional development of our own teachers and leaders forward, and we can’t wait!
March 2022: We at BPET are very proud to invest such a lot of time and effort in our continued professional development (CPD) offering for our staff as well as external participants, mainly focusing on middle and senior leaders through the National Professional Qualifications (NPQs). This blog article gives you a flavour of what we deliver on an annual basis.
In the last year we have delivered 17 training programmes as a Best Practice Delivery Partner, most are NPQ’s which are the professional training pathway for school leaders.
BPET deliver Best Practice Network (BPN) programmes under their umbrella organisation ‘Outstanding Leaders Partnership’ (OLP). Our own senior leaders and Headteachers have been trained to be course facilitators. So far 10 members of staff have been trained, however this is an opportunity for all senior leaders to engage with and we look forward to developing more.
Alongside course content, the programmes enable our leaders to gain facilitation skills, access to current industry research, leadership thinking and information on the wider educational climate, all of which they can take back into their own schools and use with BPET staff.
BPN are audited by the Department for Education (DfE) as an ‘exceptional provider’ and are the largest NPQ provider in the UK. We are proud to be one of their delivery partners and are delighted to confirm that external participants want to attend programmes led by BPET staff. To-date we have trained 193 leaders, 30 of which have been BPET staff members. This year we currently have 159 participants engaging with the programmes and attending our sessions. Attendees can enrol in either an Autumn or Spring cohort each year and the programmes are typically delivered for one year. As well as attending face to face facilitated sessions, participants also undertake online courses and research, they typically have to lead a project that will have a direct impact in their school or another school. Attendees have to meet a strict qualification criterion.
As a training provider we are audited, with members of OLP coming to observe our programme delivery and review course feedback. We are delighted to share the most recent feedback we have been given:
Looking Forward: New BPN NPQLL (Leading Literacy) in development
Best Practice Network is working with a series of educational institutions, including the newest BPET member Whiteknights School, Wokingham on a Leading Literacy NPQ. Whiteknights are one of the very few UK English Hubs. Together they will work in partnership to write the national professional qualification programme which will be rolled out across the UK by BPN delivery partners. We at BPET really look forward to this development and the opportunity to be involved in the delivery.