Uniting seven diverse schools to deliver learning excellence Learn Academies
Trustis a multi-academy group of seven primary schools in and around Market
Harborough, Leicestershire. The schools had developed a loose collaboration since 2012, but the Trust was only formalised in 2016.
“We have a mixture of small and large schools – some small, church village schools with 60 pupils, and larger, town schools with about 400 pupils,” says Stef Edwards, CEO of Learn Academies Trust, and head teacher at one of the member schools, the Great Bowden Academy. “There are around 1,500 pupils in total.”
Formalising the Trust presented several challenges, Edwards continues. Governance, leadership and central management systems all had to be resolved, she says, along with a common goal: “As a group of schools we are absolutely committed to developing excellence in learning across the curriculum.”
“Our aim is excellence in academic, social and cultural learning for children.” IT presents one of the biggest challenges, and greatest opportunities. Each school had different systems, different hardware and different levels of connectivity. There was no central management; the majority of schools outsourced IT support to third party suppliers, with different SLAs and costs. “We needed cohesion and consistency in IT provisioning,” says Edwards.
Specifically, according to Joe Bladon, IT systems manager for the Trust, the priority was creating an acceptable level of connection between schools:
“We want the schools operating on the same level, and for that to happen we need up-to-date technology for the server infrastructure in every school.” This was complicated further by the tight deadlines – the Trust needed to be fully operational by September 2016, and within budget.
“Centralisation should bring economies of scale advantages,” says Edwards, and the Trust wanted to avoid cost shocks: “Ideally, with any investment, we’ll know costs upfront and can budget effectively.”Finally, any solution install needed to allow for the unique character of each school. The Trust’s estate includes modern builds and Victorian brick. “We won’t always have a huge amount of space in which to work,” says Bladon.