School experience of joining a MAT
Cherry Orchard Primary School joined the Rivers academy after being judged inadequate by Ofsted in January 2020.
Headteacher Karen Banford shares her experience of Cherry Orchard joining the trust.
Why did you choose the Rivers Academy CofE Trust over another MAT?
"I was already part of the Rivers family before I joined Cherry Orchard, so I had no doubt that joining the Rivers would have a huge and positive impact on the school. Right from the start in the Autumn term, we received a wealth of help and support from the MAT. The school improvement team worked in partnership with colleagues from the local authority, to support our development journey.
We have been able to collaborate with colleagues across the MAT to share ideas, training and plans. The Cherry Orchard staff have been really positive about the opportunities working in a larger educational organisation can bring, in fact we have already had our first secondment with a highly skilled member of our Cherry Orchard staff moving to a new role within the MAT. The opportunities are there for us all to develop and model what lifelong learning looks like within our learning community at Cherry Orchard."
How was the process to join the trust?
"I was able to work with the Rivers’ central team to bring about immediate support for school at a difficult time. The trust brought in high-quality school improvement support to help imbed new initiatives and to model what the theory should look like in practice, this instructional coaching was well received from staff. Additional support from the central team has helped to stabilise the schools finances and ensure that the technology across the school is fit for purpose."
Have there been any improvements in the four months since being part of the Rivers Academy Trust?
"The school has worked extremely hard to revise and refresh the quality of education at Cherry Orchard. This year the staff team have been involved in a number of high-quality training events all based on the latest research to renew their professional understanding. The lack of previous whole school training and development was one of the factors which had led to a decline in standards. The team are now feeling professionally nourished and have a renewed appetite for reflecting, and learning from research and education innovation. The school has become a hot bed for learning, for everyone, especially the children!"
Ofsted feedback since joining
The school has had two Ofsted Monitoring visits since the inspection judgment in January 2020, one in October 2020 and one in February 2021.
Ofsted Feb 2021 - Since you joined the school, you have rightly prioritised improving the curriculum. Your aim is to ensure that lessons are well planned and sequenced in all subjects. Leaders have already made improvements to the way that lessons are planned and delivered in reading and writing.
Ofsted Feb 2021 - You recently introduced a new approach to teaching early reading. Leaders organised phonics training for all teachers and teaching assistants. This has helped teachers to plan well-sequenced phonics lessons that can be delivered in school or at home. Teachers use pre-recorded videos to provide all younger pupils with a daily phonics lesson. Some pupils who are working at home upload recordings of themselves reading. This allows staff to hear them read regularly.
View full Ofsted report on the Cherry Orchard website.
"It is clear that priorities are clear and everyone is working towards the highest of goals- that is excellence for all.
We have worked incredibly hard as a team; our sequences of learning have been refreshed to ensure our pupils are engaged and intrigued on a daily basis. Our new phonics and early reading strategies have already made an impact on our pupils – seeing our pupils making rapid progress is definitely the best part of Headship.I have also been working alongside a dedicated team who have tidied up what had become a cluttered school. I feel this is important as an organised learning environment is key for pupils to be able to access resources to help them learn independently."
Centrally planned curriculum
"Our main longer-term goal has been to refresh our curriculum, this has been a huge piece of collaborative work with the Rivers Academy Trust. We joined the academy in April 2021 and our staff have been working with the wider MAT team to write a new curriculum based on the United Nations seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. The curriculum is aligned to the latest thinking so that we have a knowledge rich curriculum, enabling our pupils to love , learn and live as successful global citizens in an ever-changing world."
"Alongside the academic side of school, me and the senior leadership team have been working hard to get to know our delightful pupils and their families because as an experienced headteacher I know if things are going to improve at the pace we need it to we need to work together."
The future for Cherry Orchard
Since joining the trust Cherry Orchard has opened a pre-school on-site. This will be great for the local area as there are very few settings currently offering all day care, for 50 weeks of the year.
"Cherry Orchard is an incredible place and we are looking forward to the next Ofsted visit."