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Sharing the vision

Diovese of Chelmsford Vine Schools Trust

There’s more to growing a multi-academy trust (MAT) than simply onboarding schools. The entire trust has to evolve and this can signal changes in the way it handles governance, assesses its pupils and develops its staff.

That’s why a trust on a growth journey needs more than just a supplier, it needs a partner who can provide expertise, capacity and support along the way.

This was the case for the Diocese of Chelmsford Vine Schools Trust which regularly welcomes new schools into its family of academies.

Wide range of services

With 23 primary schools from right across the county of Essex and parts of East London, it can take up to two hours to drive between the Vine Trust’s schools, making geographical spread just one of the trust’s challenges.

The schools in the MAT serve a wide range of demographics and communities, with the largest school teaching around 450 children, and the smallest just 60.

To be able support its schools in all their diversity, and to be ready to bring new academies into the fold, the Vine Schools Trust needed a clear strategy for growth. A strategy which would enhance the management of the trust and enable its schools to focus on pupil outcomes.

The trust looked to Juniper Education for a portfolio of services that were critical to its vision.

“With 23 schools, each with its own strengths and challenges, we need more than just a blanket performance management session or off-the-peg governor training.”

Transforming governance

One of the areas the Vine Schools Trust wanted to strengthen was governance, as Emma Wigmore, CEO of the Vine Schools Trust explains.

“The time was right for us to move away from individual school governance towards a regional board model where clusters of schools are responsible for certain aspects such as school improvement and monitoring progress.

“This involved moving from 23 governing bodies to eight local boards which is a huge undertaking. I talked it through with the specialist governance team at Juniper Education and they advised me on key aspects of the changes including the articles of association and terms of reference. The legal expertise of the team has helped me reshape our governance plan.”

The trust also needed to overhaul its governor clerking services. Clerks are the lynchpin of a governing body, providing legal advice as well as managing agendas and minutes – and having the right support is key.

“Previously we had clerks who came from different providers, and we couldn’t count on consistency,” says Emma. “We now use Juniper clerks who have raised the quality of clerking across the trust.”

Gaining insight

As it entered a new phase of maturity, the Vine Schools Trust looked to Juniper Education to support its use of Target Tracker and the Pupil Asset management information system (MIS).

“We wanted to get a better understanding of what we could do with our systems,” explains Emma. “To help us do this, the Juniper team set up regular meetings to identify our needs and review progress. For example, the team is helping us track the progress of pupils with SEND so we can help each child fulfil their potential.

“Juniper is working closely with our lead heads to enable them to get the most from the tracking data so they can take that learning back with them and share best practice with other headteachers in their regions. This means everyone has a clear and consistent strategy for assessing pupils.

“As a result, we have been able to draw up a road map for improving our practice in pupil tracking and getting insight from our data so we can identify and close gaps in learning.”

“Having the combined expertise of the Juniper team has allowed me to refine my strategy for the trust and deliver on it.”

Working together

Emma is happy with the joined-up communications she receives. “We use a lot of different services from Juniper and I liaise with many members of the team.  But whether we’re talking about health and safety, governance or tracking, it’s good to be working with one partner which knows our organisation well. Our Juniper account director pulls together all the threads, reviews what services we use and makes sure we are using them in the best way,” says Emma.

How Juniper has helped the Vine School Trust

  • Support in moving to a regional board model of governance
  • Consistent, high quality clerking for the trust’s governing bodies
  • Improved pupil tracking across the trust
  • Training that is specific to the needs of the schools
  • Joined-up communications for each service area
  • A clear strategy for the trust’s growth journey