Educational trust’s ‘journey of improvement’ is praised by Ofsted inspectors

The DEMAT team

The DEMAT team - Credit: Archant

Government inspectors have praised the “journey of systematic improvement” at one of the biggest multi-academy trusts in the country.

Inspectors from OfSTED said the quality of education in many of the schools run by the Diocese of Ely Multi Academy Trust (DEMAT) was improving as a result.

“The Diocese of Ely has a wholehearted commitment to improving the life chances of pupils across schools within the trust, however small the school or whatever its starting point,” said the inspectors’ report.

DEMAT is a large and growing multi-academy trust, which was established in 2013. It is made up of 27 primary schools across Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Peterborough and Suffolk and includes St Mary’s School, St Neots, St John’s School, Huntingdon and Bury Primary School.

In a focused review of the trust, inspectors praised chief executive Andrew Read for his “candid reflection, decisive leadership and clarity of purpose” which they said had done much to improve effectiveness of provision.

“He models very well the behaviours he expects of others. He quickly gained a precise understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in DEMAT and has established the correct priorities for improvement,” they added.

“Trust leaders, through strong leadership, have corrected the previous imbalance between local autonomy and centrally-led accountability.

Most Read

“They 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,” said the inspectors’ report.

“Over the past 18 months there has been a significant improvement in the quality and effectiveness of leadership, and operational systems across the trust,” it added.

Inspectors found underperformance in leadership and teaching was challenged effectively – and in 10 of the 13 schools inspected since they joined DEMAT, leadership and management were judged to be good.

They said the Diocese of Ely’s “unwavering commitment” to improving education was evident in each tier of the trust’s leadership.

“The trust board has considerable experience and knowledge of education, business and the church. Trust leaders are well placed to accelerate the trajectory of improvement currently underway. Headteachers are very positive about these developments,” the report stated.

Inspectors said strong and improving leadership within the trust and in schools, aligned with more effective use of external agencies, was helping schools to raise standards.

“The trust places great emphasis on the need for strong leadership and management in its schools. The chief executive officer has made clear his high expectations of school leaders. Evidence from recent focused inspections indicates that trust support is having an increasingly positive impact on school improvement,” they added.

The report also said the trust’s oversight of safeguarding was effective in each of its schools, and that it provided its schools with valued support in finance and human resources.

The trust was encouraged to ensure outcomes in its schools continued to improve, develop its approach to improving school attendance, ensure good practice in local governance was replicated consistently, and implement plans to strengthen school-to-school support.

Andrew Read said: “The encouraging findings of the inspection reflect the hard work of the staff and pupils within the trust’s schools. The many positive statements about the leadership team are well-deserved, but we also recognise the helpful areas for further improvement identified by OfSTED, many of which mirror the national challenges we face within the education system for which we all share responsibility.”

DEMAT board chairman Peter Maxwell added: “I am delighted with the positive findings by the Inspectors - it is a real credit to our leadership team, and to all those who work so hard in all our schools.”