20 November 2017
Mr Andrew Read
Chief Executive Officer
Diocese of Ely Multi-Academy Trust
8 High Street
Dear Mr Read
Focused review of Diocese of Ely Multi-Academy Trust
Following the focused review of seven schools from the Diocese of Ely Multi-Academy Trust (DEMAT/the Trust) in October 2017, and the subsequent follow-up visit by Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI), I am writing on behalf of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills to confirm the findings.
Thank you for the cooperation you afforded to Christine Dick HMI and John Lucas HMI on their visit to the Trust on 17–19 October 2017. Please pass on my thanks to your staff and other stakeholders who kindly gave up their time during this review.
The findings from the focused review and a wider consideration of the Trust’s overall performance are set out below.
Summary of main findings
- Since January 2016, DEMAT has been on a journey of systematic improvement. As a result, the quality of education in many of the Trust’s schools is improving. The rate of this improvement is increasing.
- You took up your substantive post at the Trust in January 2016. Your candid reflection, decisive leadership and clarity of purpose have done much to improve the effectiveness of provision.
- The Diocese of Ely has a wholehearted commitment to improving the life chances of pupils across schools within the Trust, however small the school and whatever its starting point.
- The Trust was established in 2013 and grew rapidly from one school to 18 by the end of 2015. The rate of school improvement during this period was too variable. This was due to a combination of a lack of diligence and insufficient capacity to support the increasing number, and varying needs, of the Trust’s schools.
- Trust executive leaders, through strong leadership, have corrected the previous imbalance between local autonomy and centrally led accountability. Executive leaders now have a precise understanding of the unique context of each school because they have established effective communications, regular visits and systematic checks on school performance.
- The Trust board now has the breadth of experience, capacity and knowledge to shape DEMAT’s strategic direction and development.
- Published outcomes in 2016 demonstrate that pupils’ attainment and progress were low in too many schools. You and your team, supported well by trustees, have since put in place systems and structures that are bringing about much-needed improvements. This is evident in provisional 2017 outcomes for pupils at the end of key stage 2 and, in particular, in reading.
- In 2016, disadvantaged pupils in the Trust’s schools did not achieve well enough. The Trust did not have processes in place to effectively hold schools to account for the use of additional funding to reduce barriers to learning for these pupils. More recently, disadvantaged pupils’ progress is improving as a result of actions taken by the Trust and by school leaders to improve the leadership and management of this work.
- In 2016, across the schools, too many pupils were persistently absent. While rates of attendance are improving, the rate of improvement is not consistently rapid.
- Routine monitoring by the Trust ensures that a wealth of information is collected about pupils’ achievement. Leaders use this knowledge appropriately to provide bespoke support for schools where aspects of work need to improve.
- The Trust makes increasingly effective use of a range of school improvement strategies, including the use of school-to-school support, external agencies and consultants. However, there is more work to be done to harness the growing strengths and expertise that exist within individual schools to support wider improvements in all schools across the Trust.
- Underperformance in leadership and in teaching is challenged effectively. You have not shied away from taking difficult decisions in the interest of pupils in Trust schools. In 10 of the 13 schools inspected since they joined the Trust, leadership and management have been judged to be good.
- The quality of local governance of schools is inconsistent. Trust leaders are rightly reviewing the effectiveness of school governance as your own evidence demonstrates that this does not regularly meet the high standards expected.
- The Trust provides its schools with valued support in finance and human resources. The Trust’s oversight of safeguarding is effective.
- The individual characteristics of each school are celebrated and encouraged. The Trust works hard to add to the life experiences of pupils across the Trust. Evidence from inspections demonstrates that pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is provided for well.
Focused inspections of seven schools were carried out between 10 October and 12 October 2017. One of these inspections was carried out under section 8 of the Education Act 2005 (as amended) (‘the Act’). This inspection converted to a full inspection under section 5 of the Act. Six of these inspections were carried out under section 5 of the Act.
The inspection outcomes were:
- Three schools were judged to be good; three to require improvement; and one to be inadequate.
- In five schools, leadership and management were judged to be good.
- Telephone discussions were held on 12 and 13 October with headteachers and executive headteachers of 11 other schools in the Trust. During follow-up visits to DEMAT offices, discussions were held with yourself as the chief executive officer, other senior and operational staff, and with trustees. A range of relevant documentation was also scrutinised.
- DEMAT is a large and growing multi-academy trust, which was established in 2013. It is made up of 27 primary schools which are located in the East of England. The schools are in four local authorities: Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Peterborough and Suffolk.
- Initially, the Trust expanded rapidly, two schools joined in 2013, with 11 schools joining in 2014. A further five joined in 2015. To date, in 2017, an additional three schools have joined the Trust, following on from the six that joined in 2016. Two additional primary schools are in the process of joining the Trust as academy converters. One primary school will be joining as a sponsor-led academy in December 2017.
- Six of the schools are larger than the average-sized primary school, while 11 schools each provide education for fewer than 100 pupils. DEMAT schools typically serve small towns or rural communities.
- Nine schools were inadequate and five required improvement at the point at which they joined the Trust. Of the remaining schools, 11 were good and one outstanding. The Trust also includes one school that has yet to be inspected.
- The DEMAT board is made up of 12 members. There is a central team made up of 12 full-time staff. Several members of this team have joined DEMAT since January 2017. This team is responsible for the strategic and operational work of the Trust. DEMAT also makes use of a range of external agencies and consultants to support its schools.
At time of draft, this inspection outcome is subject to Ofsted’s moderation process.
Her Majesty’s Inspector
Regional Director East of England
CC: Peter Maxwell, Chair of Board of Trustees