Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has singled out seven academy trusts for praise, while taking another swipe at struggling trusts for “empire building”.

Wilshaw, in his monthly commentary published today, said Ofsted inspectors visited seven trusts to find out “what marks them out from their weaker counterparts”.

The trusts (full list below) were chosen from a list of high performers, all with at least nine academies, put together by national schools commissioner Sir David Carter.

Wilshaw said none of the trusts had used their “academy freedoms in a particularly radical way”, but said they all offered a broad curriculum, scholarly atmosphere and had an effective use of assessment to identify, escalate and tackle problems quickly.

Inspectors also found the trusts invested in professional development, placed a high priority on initial teacher training and had a “cautious and considered approach to expansion”.

The latter comment appears to be another swipe at trusts Wilshaw has already singled out for underperformance, including E-ACT, the School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA) and Academies Enterprise Trust.

In his latest commentary, he said the “strong performing trusts have resisted the temptation to expand too quickly and spread themselves too thinly across a wide geographical area”.

“There is no sense that the executive leaders are driven by a desire to build empires. Instead, their initial focus has been on securing sustainable improvement in a smaller number of academies.

“Most of these leaders are working to a 3 to 4-year consolidation plan before they consider applying their trust’s model on a wider scale and across a more diverse range of schools.”

Schools Week revealed last week that Carter will launch new multi-academy trust “health checks” from January to ensure only trusts with capacity to take on new schools are allowed to expand.

Some may question Wilshaw’s inclusion of REAch2 in a list of trusts that have avoided expanding too quickly.

More than a quarter of the 77 new free schools announced last month will be opened by the trust, which already runs more than 60 primary schools.

Schools Week revealed the trust’s expansion plans in May, when at the time two-thirds of its schools had still to be inspected by Ofsted.

The list is also notable for the exception of many chains name-checked by ministers, such as the Harris Federation and the Outwood Grange Academies Trust.


Full list:

  • Ark Academy Trust
  • ASPIRE Academy Trust
  • L.E.A.D Academy Trust
  • Leigh Academies Trust
  • REAch2 Academy Trust
  • The Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust
  • The First Federation Trust