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Testing Times

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Reservoirs of Hope

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Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust praised by Ofsted

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Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST), which comprises 33 schools in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, has been recognised for its strong values, leadership and outcomes for children, after being selected as the first multi-academy trust (MAT) to undergo Ofsted’s newly-introduced Summary Evaluation.

Anne Davey and Ian Elkington. Photo: Jennifer Payne

Ofsted inspectors visited ODST between 8-11 January 2019 to conduct the whole-trust review, which included meeting with central staff and trustees, visiting schools and speaking to many headteachers and governors. Five trust schools were also inspected in the six months prior to the review, with positive reports.

A letter to ODST, published by Ofsted on 6 March, states: “The trust’s ‘common vision for the common good’ permeates all aspects of its work’, and recognises its ‘commitment to preserving schools’ individual characters’. It highlights the ‘empowerment’ felt by headteachers and governors, who describe ODST as ‘a listening trust’ and value the level of responsibility and freedom they have, for example, to ‘design a curriculum suited to the needs of their pupils.”

The report notes that: “leadership and teaching are effective” and strengths in the early years, phonics and key stage 1 were identified in school inspections. Inspectors also highlighted the steady increase in pupil attainment at key stage 2. Ofsted also found that:

  • Children in ODST schools are kept safe through a ‘strong culture of safeguarding’.
  • Trustees have ‘effective oversight of finance, steering the trust skilfully through a challenging economic climate.
  • Communication at all levels is a strength of the Trust’, and collaboration between schools, particularly within the five local hubs, is growing.

ODST Chief Executive Anne Davey and her team were praised for displaying “high levels of professionalism balanced with warmth, care and respect”. She said:”I am delighted Ofsted has recognised the impact that our focus on people has had on outcomes for the children in our care. This letter illustrates how our approach is highly valued by schools and communities. We’ve welcomed this chance to showcase our trust, having already dedicated 2018-19 to consolidating the way we work before taking on any more schools. We are already developing our practice to ensure all children make the best possible progress from their starting points, along the lines that Ofsted recommends.”

Seasons in the sun

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Happy St David’s Day! In a week that heralds the start of Spring we have record-breaking Winter warmth, record cricket scores and a win for the Welsh rugby team!

Caring for our Church schools

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AS she enjoys her last few months as Diocesan Director of Education, Fiona Craig tells Jo Duckles about the exciting challenges and opportunities that will face her successor. Read more

Equipping children through music and song

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ANDY SILVER describes a project that combines music and dancing with invaluable education to help build up confidence and spiritual and moral education for primary school children. Read more

Chinese education officials visit Church House

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by David Locke

Delegates from the Qingdao Education Bureau at Church House Oxford.

Delegates from the Qingdao Education Bureau at Church House Oxford.

TODAY Church House Oxford was visited by a delegation of high-ranking Chinese government officials from the Qingdao Education Bureau.  This consisted of  headteachers and leaders who were keen to learn about academies and the growth of Multi Academy Trusts. Specifically, they were interested in The Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST) including its Christian ethos and our strategy for raising standards.

The visit was hosted by David Locke, Chief Operating Officer, and David Cousins, Director for Schools, from ODST. ODST currently has 18 schools and has support from the Regional Schools Commissioner for continued growth and development. During the visit a number of the Chinese delegation were fascinated by the portraits of former Bishops on the walls at Church House Oxford.  We explained the role of Bishops and how, as demonstrated by the holding of a Shepherd’s crook, that the position is one of leading and caring for the flock.  At this point the Chinese delegate responded “So, it is like the story of the 100 sheep in the Bible”.  We then were able to then discuss with them how, for the Church, and with our history of commitment to education and our Christian principles, it is so important that every child has access to a high quality education irrespective of their background or faith and, just as Jesus seeks the one lost Sheep, that it is important with The Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust that every child is cared for.

In the meeting that followed we discussed the changing education environment in this country and compared notes with our Chinese visitors.  We discovered a lot in common – including a shared concern that it is essential that we look after our teachers who are delivering so much and also the need to be intentional about developing the next generation of middle leaders and Headteachers at our schools.  The meeting ended on a very positive note and we look forward to how God might work in the future from this initial meeting.