The Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), ranked the best multi-academy trust (MAT) in the country for the performance of its secondary schools by the DfE, operates in two hubs; Medway and Portsmouth. The core purpose and ambition of TSAT is to transform the life chances of young people through the application of a cognitive approach to education – please click here for further details on the philosophy of the organisation.
TSAT is made up of a family of schools including Primary Schools, Grammar Schools, High Schools and Comprehensive Schools. The schools work together to transform the life chances of all our children and young people. We share a common mission to nurture successful children who are confident and can think and act independently. Our cognitive approach to education defines us but does not create a ‘one size fits all’.
All TSAT academies, whether converter or sponsored, are equal partners in the Trust and are automatically part of the New Horizons Teaching School Alliance. Therefore, all schools have access to the same level of support and services that the Trust provides. The Trust prides itself on the very high quality of support and services it is able to provide to all its schools, these include:
- Academic support e.g. Specialist Leaders of Education in specific subjects and Key Stage leadership and strategic planning to support students.
- Pastoral support e.g. the Trust employs its own safeguarding and attendance officer to support all schools.
- Leadership support e.g. secondments between school leadership teams
- Headteacher support e.g. phase Directors to support our Headteachers.
- Human resources and recruitment support e.g. the Trust has its own HR department to support all schools and centrally support each school to recruit the best possible staff.
- Finance support e.g. the Trust centrally recruits and employs all the Business Managers who are over-seen by a Director of Finance to ensure Headteachers and schools receive the best possible financial support.
- Site management e.g. due to the size of the Trust we receive guaranteed Capital funding which we use to support all our schools in a co-ordinated programme of capital works that ensures all students in the Trust have the best possible learning environment.
As a consequence of our supportive ethos and ambition to transform the life chances of young people in all our schools, sponsored or converter, have seen improvements in student outcomes since joining the Trust. For example, The Portsmouth Academy (TPA) was the second highest performing school across Hampshire and Portsmouth local authorities – a brilliant turnaround from 2013, when TSAT took it on after it fell into ‘Special Measures’. It was also recently judged as Good with Outstanding leadership and management by Ofsted. Similarly impressive were the results of Rochester Grammar School (RGS) and Holcombe Grammar School (HGS), both in Medway – with 100% of RGS students achieving the pass grade of 4 or above in both English and maths, and 96% of students at HGS doing the same. The Victory Academy in Chatham, TSAT’s fourth secondary, is rated the best non-selective school in Medway, with the DfE recognising it as ‘above average’ nationally. Its success story continued when it received a ‘Good’ rating by Ofsted – only two years after it was taken on by TSAT while in a perilous financial position and underperforming academically, in a dramatic turnaround.
Each school has its own Headteacher who is responsible for establishing the ethos and vision of the school within the framework of the Trust values and shared belief in a cognitive approach to education. All Headteachers are supported by either a Director of Phase or an Executive Principal. In this way every school has its own character and individuality, whilst also sharing a common language of learning and desire to secure the best possible outcomes for students.
The Trust looks to ensure that students and staff benefit from opportunities, shared expertise and resources across the Trust. For students, we organise a variety of cross-phase and interphase opportunities. For example: Primary School students can access Secondary Science laboratories and expertise to ignite their enthusiasm in this subject; Trust Design and Technology roadshows that enable all Primary students in the Trust to access high quality D&T opportunities; we have an inter-school Primary sports day competition supported by the Secondary Schools as well as football clubs; Secondary School students will often support a nearby Trust Primary school through activities such as PE, guided reading and class support; the Secondary Schools take part in a number of inter-school competitions such as the Olympiad; often Trust schools will be invited to special events in the schools such as Women’s Day at the Victory Academy and the Medway Secondary Schools offer a collaborative sixth form curriculum to enable students to access the widest possible choice of courses to meet their ambitions.
For Trust staff there have been many opportunities to share best practice and also develop and progress their careers within the Trust. We build connections between all our teachers to enable them to share good practice and support each other on a day to day basis. We use the BlueSky platform to facilitate this and have whole Trust projects such as the Secondary 9-1 project to which everyone can contribute and share their ideas. We are moving to a model of shared CPD across the schools to enable staff the maximum choice and opportunity for professional development and we wish to support all our staff to achieve their personal career goals. These opportunities are throughout the organisation and have ranged from teachers becoming SLE’s in the New Horizons Teaching School Alliance, to secondments and posts in middle and senior leadership positions within the Trust, to Headteachers becoming executive leaders. We believe in developing all our staff through a comprehensive programme of Continuing Professional Development and professional opportunities so that they can develop their career in the way they wish. This starts from the moment a member of staff joins our Trust with our dedicated NQT, NQT+ and new staff CPD programme through to Trust financed NPQH and MSc courses. Currently, the whole Trust Executive Team have been developed from within the Trust, 3/4’s of Headteachers have been internal appointments and a similar proportion of Senior School leaders are also internally promoted members of staff. Therefore, as a Trust we very much believe in developing and nurturing the talents of all our staff from the moment they join our organisation.
Several of our schools are now accredited by Exeter University as ‘Thinking Schools’ with others on their way to gaining accreditation in the very near future. You can find out more about our schools and how they are helping to transform the life chances of their pupils by taking a look at “Our Trust” newsletters.
For more information about our Trust, please download a copy of our prospectus. However, to get a true sense of what it means to be in a TSAT school then we would welcome you to visit any of our academies to see our vision and values in practice.