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"Wonderfully dedicated and knowledgeable" SPT team praised in peer review

The Special Partnership Trust (SPT) team has been praised as “wonderfully dedicated and knowledgeable” in a peer review undertaken by the Director of Schools and Educational Services for the Eden Academy Trust.

The Eden Academy Trust was asked to conduct a peer review of the SPTin Summer 2023, with the visit to the trust taking place in Autumn 2023. 

The review was conducted by Dr Paul Van Walwyk and the process consisted of referencing Trust documentation, interviews with Trust staff, members and trustees, as well as associate professionals working with the Trust, and discussion groups with various teams and groups within the Trust. 

Alongside praising the team, Dr Van Walwyk noted the following regarding the Trust’s vision and strategy:

“The Trust has a clear vision which is further supported by a focussed strategic plan for development. Within the strategy, intent is clearly articulated, with implementation mechanisms identified that relate to the expected impact of the five focus areas on the schools within the Trust. 

“Within each of these areas, there is a clear understanding that permeates the Trust, both within the central team and the school leadership team, aligning the Trust vision with the strategic focus. The structure of the Trust is designed to support the strategic and operational requirements of the schools within the Trust to meet these strategic aims.

“Leaders both at an executive and operational level were able to articulate their understanding of the Trust vision and principles and how it relates to the Trust values.”

Dr Van Walwyk further recognised the creativity and autonomy that Trust schools have.

He added: “The Trust is very focussed on the concept that clear intent with well-articulated expectations of impact at a Trust level allow schools to have a high level of creativity and autonomy within the implementation of expectations. 

“The Trust executive team has identified that because schools are so different, it would not be appropriate to enforce a corporate model, as this would present problems with meeting the needs of significantly different cohorts of pupils.  However, it is also recognised that the need for a collective identity with shared expectations is essential for the Trust to have a clear identity and a purpose for the schools within the Trust to align with.

“Trust leaders explained how they want school leaders who have autonomy but who are informed by the values of the Trust. This is achieved by empowering senior staff in schools to make choices based on the key question of ‘what difference does what we do have on pupils?’, as well as being aware of external factors that also influence the decisions that leaders have to make.”

He further went on to recognise the work the leadership team does to support individual schools and headteachers to thrive and flourish.

“The executive team is  highly effective in their support of existing schools within the Trust and in bringing in new schools to the Trust,” he adds. “The model of executive leadership across the Trust is seen as helpful by school leaders as it offers support and challenge that Headteachers are able to identify with. Regular group coaching sessions for Headteachers was a further element identified as providing a sense of belonging to the Trust and a network to support improvements in their schools. 

“When asked about the impact of the Trust model on pupils, the CEO and executive leaders’ response was that this is demonstrated by happy and engaged pupils who can be seen achieving within their own sphere of ability. 

“They access well-planned and thought through learning opportunities at all levels of need that equip them in life to be interested and curious adults within society.  When those pupils' needs change the organisation changes, being a creative and focussed employer responsive to staff means that parents do not have to fight the system as it can respond to the needs of the pupils. The view from the executive team is that staff should come and work at the Trust ‘because even though we don’t have the answers, we ask the right questions’.”

SPT CEO, Guy Chappel, welcomed the findings from the review and says it reinforces the direction the Trust is heading in.

“Peer reviews are always immensely valuable exercises,” he says. “We’re incredibly grateful to Paul for his professionalism and the thoroughness of the review. It’s always rewarding to see the work we’re doing - not of all of which is seen - is being recognised and to see the areas where we can push on even further.”