Ofsted heaps praise on ‘much improved’ Diocese of Ely academy trust

Ofsted heaps praise on 'much improved' Diocese of Ely academy trust

A large academy trust has been praised by Ofsted for its “journey of systematic improvement” after a focused inspection at seven of its schools.

The Diocese of Ely Multi-Academy Trust (DEMAT), which has 27 primary schools across Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Peterborough and Suffolk, was commended for its “wholehearted commitment to improving the life chances of pupils”.

Of seven schools inspected in October, three were rated ‘good’, three ‘requires improvement’ and one ‘inadequate’. In five of the schools, leadership and management were ‘good’.

The trust was established in 2013 and had grown from one school to 18 by the end of 2015, but according to Ofsted, “weaknesses in the diligence process” and a “lack of central capacity” meant that it struggled to meet the different needs of growing numbers of schools.

In 2016, pupils’ attainment was below national figures at key stages 1 and 2, persistent absences were higher than average and disadvantaged students “did not perform well”.

However, the focused inspection report, seen by Schools Week, says Ofsted’s recent inspections and provisional 2017 pupil achievement information shows “much needed improvements” across those areas, although the regulator warned that more could be done to address pupil absences.

In 10 of the 13 schools inspected since they joined the trust, leadership and management is judged to be ‘good’.

The trust appointed chief executive Andrew Read in 2016, who was praised for his “candid reflection, decisive leadership and clarity of purpose” in helping the trust improve.

He said the “encouraging” report reflected the “hard work” of staff and pupils across the trust.

“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,” he said.

The trust also received praise for promoting “the distinctive characteristics of each school” and providing for the “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development” of pupils, as well as effective quality assurance and safeguarding systems.

However, Ofsted warned that more needs to be done to make sure local governing bodies are operating effectively and that school-to-school support, including sharing good practice, should be strengthened.

Peter Maxwell, the chair of the trust’s board, said he was “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,” he said.