Derby diocesan schools trust attempts to cope with its popularity

21 July 2017

DAVID HALLAM-JONES/GEOGRAPH/COMMONS

Central place: Derby Cathedral

Central place: Derby Cathedral

THE diocese of Derby has a key part to play in solving the city’s schooling crisis, the head of its academy trust has said.

A string of schools in and around Derby — at least four primaries and three secondaries — have been rated as inadequate by Ofsted, and many have been put into special measures.

The Department for Education has given a number of local organisations a share of £1 million in an effort to boost performance. The diocese’s multi-academy trust is one of the groups receiving a grant.

The diocesan director of education, and head of the Derby Diocesan Academy Trust (DDAT), David Channon, said that many schools, including many non-church schools, were applying to join the trust. “We are in massive demand from schools, and have a huge waiting list to join us,” he said on Tuesday.

Two schools which had been in special measures, and were turned into academies and joined DDAT, were now rated good by Ofsted, which showed how the trust could help Derby turn its schools around, he said.

Part of the challenge for schools in Derby was a rapidly growing population, many of whom did not speak English as a first language, and whose children were often moved from school to school.

“One of the priorities that our Trust has is to focus on progress so that outcomes are at least good,” Mr Channon said. If the trust could show that children in its schools were getting better, then their achievement would look after itself, he said.

Another part of the puzzle was launching a new Derby Cathedral School, which was approved last year and will open in 2018 (News, 16 June). Unlike most cathedral schools, it would not aim to educate only well-off children, Mr Channon said.

“This is definitely all about serving the common good. Our admissions criteria are open so that this is a school for everyone. This is strategic and deliberate: we want the school to be part of an approach that will improve social mobility in Derby.

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“The new cathedral school will be part of the diocesan academy trust — new church schools and community schools working together to form this inner-city hub.”

The MP for Derby North, Chris Williamson, told the BBC that improvements to the city’s schooling would happen only when the Government reverses the academisation process and returns schools to the control of local education authorities.

Mr Channon said, however, that the DDAT was already making a difference, and was also extending the C of E’s mission. “Because we have got so many schools in the pipeline, one of the things that’s really great is that if we have a school in a pickle, we can get another stronger school near by which is willing to help partner them on the journey.”

Non-church community schools who seek to join the trust particularly appreciated joining a network that was not being run as a business concern, he said.

“We are really clear to the schools that want to join what our vision and values are. They trust our motivation for what we are doing, and they trust us for the fact that the Church of England was involved in education 60 years before the Government started. I think it’s really exciting — we are revisiting what the National Society was created in the first place for.”

Without the trust, the existing church schools that became academies could have been lost in the system. Now that community schools were joining the trust, the Church was able to reach children it previously would not have been able to, he said.

“Often, we hear about the Church working really hard to get people to come through the door, but I’m quite literally holding people back in order to manage expectations so that we can grow in a managed and sustainable way,” Mr Channon said.

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