2022: What's in store?
We speak to CEO, Jan Shadick, as she reviews progress for the Trust so far and talks about priorities for the year ahead.
It’s more than fair to assume it would be quite a challenge taking charge of a multi-academy trust in the throes of a global pandemic. Our CEO joined us in September 2020 and did just that. Not only did she face leading the Trust through the ongoing covid situation, but there was also a revelation about our founder’s links with the slave trade to deal with and all the while aiming to carve out a strategic vision for the next few years.
With grit and determination and a genuine passion for providing the best education for all our children and young people, Jan led the work on our strategic direction, launching a new five-year vision and strategy for all our schools to be excellent schools early in 2021.
What does this mean? Excellent outcomes for all our children, being an employer of choice and a welcome presence in our communities are the measures we’ll be looking for to know if we’re on the right track.
There is no doubt that covid and all the issues it brings for schools is an added challenge and one that we can only plan around to a point. But it certainly hasn’t stopped Jan’s drive for progression.
How have things gone since you started as CEO at the Trust?
I have very much enjoyed my time. It’s been hard work with lots of change but overall, a very positive 16 months. The Trust is brimming with potential, and we really are starting to see momentum gather particularly around our school improvement, people and EDI strategies.
One of my main focuses has been on developing our culture with our strategies really driving these changes. Feedback has been positive and now that we’re starting to see the impact of some of the changes we’ve been making, I feel confident that we’ve laid good foundations and need to start moving forward.
Being open and transparent in our approach has really helped us in our conversations about Aske. These were not easy, comfortable conversations and there was much to think about but talking to our communities openly resulted in some clear decisions being made, particularly around the name of our Trust and schools and use of an outdated motto.
Covid has dominated this time to a degree, but we have coped with that well. Having said that, we know this term will be a real challenge and we’ll keep updating our plans to keep as many of our children continually learning as possible.
What challenges and opportunities do you think schools and education will face this year?
2022 is going to be a big year for all sorts of reasons. It’s difficult to predict how things will be after covid but I am hopeful that we will find ourselves in a more stable position as the year progresses. Whilst it has presented a lot of challenges for us, it has also led to re-evaluating how we do things and I think we are likely to see more of a move to community. This will impact on demographics, and we are seeing a shift in London, in part down to Brexit, but hopefully this will stabilise.
More generally in education, the SEND review and white paper will no doubt help to shape the future of SEND provision in schools. Again there is the challenge of covid, particularly for the most vulnerable pupils but this also presents an opportunity and will likely lead to a review of the SEND accountability framework.
For our Trust, we will continue to do what we have been for the past 18 months. We will start to build on our strategies so that they have impact. We will use the talent we have in our fantastic staff body to support each other and build our leadership across the Trust. 2022 will also be an opportunity for us to explore how we can grow as a Trust – whether that be taking on another school, widening our community and partnership impact or growing our staff teams to better serve our children and young people.
What are you proud of in terms of progress towards strategic objectives?
The work we have done on our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy and on our People strategy has allowed us to start shifting the culture in the Trust. Ultimately the aim of this work is to empower our staff to do their jobs well, happily and with the most impact. Early feedback on changes we’ve made so far have been positive and I’m very proud of this.
I also think our School Improvement Model is working really well to support our structure and is starting to gather momentum, particularly since our two Directors of School Improvement started with us in September. They are both helping to put this model into practice across our primaries and secondaries.
What strengths do you think we have as an organisation?
Our people are without doubt our biggest asset – brimming with potential and very passionate about making a difference to lives of our children and young people. I see this strong moral purpose in classrooms every day and it fills me with pride.
Our sponsors, the Haberdashers’ Company, are equally passionate about the impact of education on young people, as are our sister Haberdashers’ schools. The support they provide, particularly around the Haberdashers’ Advantage, our character programme, is crucial to the success of our strategies and our vision.
There is also great strength in our Central Services team, who support our schools throughout the year, from IT and Finance to Estates and Data to our well regarded Habs Institute for Professional Learning. They are all hugely committed and hard-working.
Our sense of team is growing stronger all the time and this means we can work better together, which can only benefit our children and young people in the long run.
What are you hoping to achieve this year?
Our immediate priorities are to get through this term and prepare for summer exams. Our young people need to be well prepared for what their next stage of education is, whether that be starting secondary school, sixth form or university. We want excellent outcomes for all, particularly our most vulnerable.
We will build our School Improvement team by using the great talent we have across the Trust and will continue to develop our culture through the People and EDI strategies. We can see this through the discussions we are having internally but also reflected in the world around us.
I am excited about developing the Haberdashers’ brand further this year – we have new names, we are working on refreshing our visual identity and of course I look forward to see how we grow as a Trust.