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Sir Herbert Leon Academy Hosts Immensely Moving 'Genocide Memorial Day'

posted by Nicholas Basson   [ updated ]

Despite being over 90 – Harry Olmer, a holocaust survivor of the Holocaust, was one of three outstanding guest speakers at Sir Herbert Leon Academy's Genocide Memorial Day. Despite being over 90, he stood and spoke for over an hour without notes at about his experiences as a boy, much the same age as his student audience, about how he and his family were taken from their homes and made to work for the Nazis in various concentration camps. Tragically many of Harry's family did not survive.

This immensely powerful annual event was shared not just by the school’s own students, but also invited schools across Buckinghamshire and Northants, the local MP and the Mayor of Milton Keynes. Sponsored by Remembering Srebrenica and the Holocaust Educational Trust, speakers included those who have had personal experience of genocide, and their stories explain the effect that it has had on them, their families, and their friends.

Lejla Damon was born on Christmas Day 1992 after her mother had been raped by Bosnian Serb soldiers during the war following the break-up of Yugoslavia. Lejla – only eight years older than some of the students – expressed her sincere hope that her own bitter experiences would never be repeated.

Jon Silverman, a respected former BBC journalist and academic, spoke about his experiences reporting extensively on the Bosnian genocide. He was a witness to the Bosnian and later conflicts, and explained that an apparently tolerant and mutually respectful community can quickly break down so that former friends and neighbours suddenly become enemies intent on murdering each other simply because of religious or tribal differences.

Leon sixth form students shared their experiences of visiting Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and Srebrenica, site of the Bosnian genocide. They explained what they witnessed deeply affected them and totally altered their attitudes and their view of life.

Milton Keynes South MP, Iain Stewart, unveiled the Academy's 'Silent Soldier Statue,' part of a national scheme run by the British Legion to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War. Entirely paid for by fund raising activities by students and staff, it will be dedicated to the memory of a local serviceman who died in that great conflict.

AET’s Ridge Academy becomes “Centre of Excellence”

posted Jun 27, 2018, 12:18 AM by Nicholas Basson   [ updated Jun 27, 2018, 12:18 AM ]

A Cheltenham special school, which accommodates some of the most challenging and disadvantaged children in Gloucestershire and beyond, has achieved a highly prestigious award for raising standards in education and behaviour leading to students making 'astonishing progress.'

Part of the AET network of schools, The Ridge Academy, a special school for 50 children with social, emotional and mental health needs, has become a 'Centre of Excellence' joining an elite group of 240 schools across the country holding the Inclusion Quality Mark award.

Assessors noted that:

  • Teachers and teaching assistants never give up on the children and always patient and calm with them. 
  • Experienced staff create a gentle, welcoming and safe place for these children to come to and be personally nurtured as well as educated. 
  • Good, reliable relationships help children to feel secure and are the key to the school's success with its pupils. Many staff stay at the school for many years, developing warm and constructive relationships with families. 
  • Previously excluded Year 6 children are helped to return to take their SATS tests, and are given every support to make this transition smooth and successful. 
  • Every opportunity is found to praise and celebrate success; children in class are thanked for behaving well with certificates and rewards presented and displayed around the school. 
  • Relationships with parents and carers are praised in a school with a genuinely family atmosphere. Among their comments are: 
    • "No other school could manage my child's behaviour like this one." 
    • "The core of what happens here is phenomenal." 
    • "I don't think this school could be improved."

The impact that staff at The Ridge Academy has on other schools in Gloucestershire, as well as nationally through AET is also highly commended. Because of this, many children in danger of exclusion have been able to remain in their mainstream schools. The Ridge works very closely with AET and benefits from extensive special needs expertise.

Pete Hales, Principal at The Ridge Academy, said: "The Ridge Academy has been on a journey for a number of years and we have achieved a major goal in becoming a Regional Centre of Excellence. I hope now we can use this to support more children at The Ridge, across Gloucestershire and within AET. I would like to thank all the dedicated staff at The Ridge because without their commitment this would not be possible.”

Julian Drinkall, CEO for Academies Enterprise Trust, said: "This is an excellent and thoroughly deserving commendation for Mr Hales and his team who are transforming the lives of so many children, including beyond the boundaries of their own school. They are a credit to their town and county and an invaluable asset within the AET national academy network."


posted Jun 18, 2018, 6:00 AM by Nicholas Basson   [ updated Jun 18, 2018, 6:01 AM ]

A Barnsley AET academy has become the second primary in the country to earn the highest award for the outstanding efforts it makes to ensure that its school community is safe and aware of all possible safeguarding concerns. 

Shafton Primary Academy in the High Street has been presented the Incyte International Platinum Excellence in Safeguarding Award, which covers every aspect of safeguarding from recruitment to internet safety, health and safety to child protection. 

There are two levels of award, Gold (which Shafton Primary achieved last year) and Platinum. To achieve Platinum the school underwent a rigorous audit this month from a safeguarding specialist who produced a detailed report highlighting the school's many strengths. It recognises and rewards innovative and creative ways of working that really make a difference to young people and those most at risk. 

The report states: 'Pupils in the academy have every confidence in the staff to keep them safe and help to solve any problems they may encounter. There is a very strong will on the part of all staff to establish an environment that is safe and where staff and pupils are aware of how to stay safe and what to do if something goes wrong. They have developed an ethos and culture within the academy in which safeguarding is a high priority, understood by all, and have created a happy caring school in which pupils thrive.'

Julian Drinkall, CEO of Academies Enterprise Trust, said: "This rare and outstanding accolade for Shafton Primary Academy is fully deserved for Mrs Charalambous and her staff. It underlines just how totally committed they are to doing everything possible to ensure the safety and well being of every child at all times."

Mrs Jo-Anne Charalambous, Executive Principal at Shafton Primary Academy, said: "We are thrilled to receive this award which is an acknowledgement of the hard work of our entire staff, governors and the school community. We are dedicated to ensure that our children are happy, safe and well when they attend our school."

The first secondary school in the country to be granted the Incyte International Platinum Excellence in Safeguarding Award was also an AET academy; Winton Community Academy in Hampshire.

Creative young writers' children's charity has been published nationwide

posted May 23, 2018, 8:14 AM by Google Google   [ updated May 23, 2018, 8:55 AM ]

The creative thoughts and storylines created by a highly talented group of young students are being published in an adventure story which not only entertains young readers, tackles the challenges they face when making the move from primary to secondary school, but also raises money to support children around the world.

Five teams of five from Year 8 at Four Dwellings Academy in Quinton, Birmingham competed over many months for the glittering prize of having their story transformed into a real-life published book by author and illustrator team BB Taylor and Holly Bushnell, creators of the Murphy and the Monster Series.

The team 'Wizz Writers' emerged victorious with their story 'The Curse of the Nomed' about a boarding school with an evil Egyptian god headmaster who brainwashes pupils during assembly until a group of children break the curse with the help of an unlikely librarian heroine.

In collaboration with Wesleyan, the specialist financial services mutual, and Partnership for Children, the winning team have created an adventure that tackles the challenges faced when encountering the unknown, and promotes positive mental health for children leaving primary school.

One of the 'Wizz Writers' team explained: "It was an exciting experience for all of us. We learned so many things that we will need in our future careers. Not just in writing skills, but also in subjects like marketing, research and making the best possible use of social media. Although the story explores Egyptian culture, it is also based in Scotland so we bring two completely different communities together."

The judges said: "All the presentations were great, but this team really stood out for the energy and zest they brought to the project."

The story will now be sold in bookshops and online.  All net proceeds from the sales of the book will go to Partnership for Children, an independent charity which promotes the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children around the world. Book sales and other donations raised over £20,000 within days of its release.

A dedicated website for the project can be seen at https://lookatourbook.co.uk/

The Day The Oscars Came To Percy

posted Mar 16, 2018, 6:44 AM by Nicholas Basson   [ updated Mar 19, 2018, 3:37 AM by Google Google ]

Over 400 pupils at Percy Shurmer Primary Academy in Birmingham had an unforgettable day when two British Oscar winning stars returned from Hollywood to see for themselves that the support the school gives to deaf children is not just top quality but also supported by the whole school community.

Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton had, only days beforehand, both scooped Oscars for Best Short Film, (Live Action) with 'The Silent Child' at the star studded 90th Academy Awards. The film features a profoundly deaf four year old child living in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her to use sign language to communicate. Rachel wrote and starred in the film which was directed by her fiance, Chris. Rachel's father became deaf when she was just 12 which prompted her to learn sign language and qualify as an interpreter. She famously signed as she presented her Academy Award acceptance speech to the world..

During their visit they toured the school, took part in a 'signing' class, were interviewed by the school's media team and enjoyed an assembly which featured every child singing and signing. At the end of the morning they spent quality time with the children from the Deaf Learning Base who were thrilled at the opportunity not just to meet them, but also hold a world famous - and very heavy - Oscar in their hands. The celebrities, children and staff were also joined by representatives from local newspapers, regional and national tv.

Eight year old Mawadah from the Percy Shurmer Deaf Learning Base told the media: "It is important that everybody knows sign language."

Marie Duffy, Assistant Headteacher - Teacher of the Deaf , explained: "It was wonderful that Rachel and Chris were able to support our school's vision that being deaf does not stop you from doing what you want. It was an amazing inspiring day for all. The children loved sharing their passion for learning British Sign Language with Rachel and Chris."

Ofsted “Good” Signals Latest Improvement At AET

posted Dec 18, 2017, 9:38 AM by Richard Sparks   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 7:57 AM ]

The largest provider of apprentice places among Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) has been praised by Ofsted for successfully improving the quality of its service. Securing a “Good” rating from the regulator Ofsted highlights that AET's apprentices are 'highly valued by their employers, make beneficial contributions to their businesses and often play an integral role in the smooth running and the success of their department.'

Launched in 2012, AET has extended its programme to enrol 80 people, including new apprentices and using the apprenticeship levy to upskill existing staff. As the largest MAT in England, AET has pledged to nearly double the number of places on offer. Ofsted now rates the programme 'good' in all the main categories of inspection.

The report is the latest indicator of improvements at AET since Julian Drinkall took over as Chief Executive in 2016. AET also saw a significant upswing in primary school performance last summer, paving the way to exploratory discussions with the DfE to expand the number of primary schools in the trust.

Julian Drinkall, Group CEO for AET, said: "I am delighted that Ofsted recognises the significant improvements to our apprenticeship programme. We are working very hard to transform every aspect of AET’s performance, both in terms of the education that our schools provide, but also how we train and upskill our staff. This is an important milestone along the way, and we will look to build on this in the coming months and terms.”

In their 10 page report following the inspection in November 2017, Ofsted  confirms:-

  • leaders' and managers' actions have had a positive impact since the last inspection in 2015/16 with the number of apprentices significantly increased

  • training both on and off the job is highly relevant enabling apprentices to contribute positively to their organisations

  • staff are highly skilled and their industry-related skills are strengthened through good quality professional development and training

  • achievement in English and mathematics has significantly improved since the last inspection in 2015/16.

  • apprentices are proud of their work and achievements, and employers are proud that they have been able to 'grow their own' staff, often employing former pupils as apprentices.

  • they produce work of a good and sometimes high professional standard.

Building on progress to date, AET intends to increase the number of apprentices each year.

Tanya Bentham, Head of Talent, commented: "We aim to meet the new Public Sector Target, approximately 150 new starts a year for the group, whilst also working with schools and academies outside of the trust to offer Apprenticeship training.”

AET is providing support to the Woodard Academy Trust on apprenticeship training, which has five academies nationwide.

Music Is Key To Feversham’s Outstanding Success

posted Nov 30, 2017, 1:52 AM by Nicholas Basson   [ updated Nov 30, 2017, 6:37 AM ]

A Bradford primary school locked in special measures just four years ago is now in the top ten per cent of pupils’ progress nationally in English, writing and mathematics. Key to their success is the strong emphasis on teaching music, up to six hours every week, the appointment of an outstanding headteacher and the inspirational imput of a local musician.

The dramatic turnaround in standards at Feversham Primary Academy has just been under the spotlight in  a 25 minute feature on 5 live Daily with Adrian Chiles and was top of the bill on BBC 1 The One Show.

Naveed Idrees was appointed headteacher at Feversham in 2013 and is totally committed to give every child the appetite to love and enjoy learning. A local musician, Jimmy Rotherham, was charged with introducing music to all ages across the school.

“When I started teaching the children it was something new and exciting and there was real enthusiasm. It was based on games and fun. Too often it is repetitious with children having to sing the same song 16 times. Now,” says Jimmy, “everyone who walks into school comments that it has a great atmosphere and that is down to the music.”

Jay McGuiness, lead vocalist of The Wanted and winner of Strictly in 2015, visited the school for The One Show feature to see the huge impact that music has had at Feversham. He met with children, teachers and parents and even visited the liv
ing room of 9 year old Abiha and watched her practicing on the drums. Abiha is the first Muslim girl to be accepted in Bradford’s Foundation for 
Musically Gifted Children. Abiha told Jay that her drumming had helped her with her concentration in school and made her improve in her work.

Headteacher Naveed Idrees explained his ambition from the beginning. He said, “What is the purpose of learning? Education should be fun. My view is exams are a by product of good quality teaching and learning which builds on the skill sets of the children, motivates and engages them.

“Rather than do more English and Maths the focus was on learning to learn skills, as well as engaging children and focusing on those skills that will allow them to become better learners.”

Our Michael Is 'Outstanding New Teacher Of The Year'

posted Oct 30, 2017, 5:27 AM by Nicholas Basson   [ updated Oct 30, 2017, 5:29 AM ]

A young and gifted teacher from an AET academy has achieved the highest possible commendation by being named as 'Outstanding New Teacher of the Year' in the widely acclaimed 2017 Pearson Teaching Awards.

At a spectacular celebrity even t in central London, Michael Grant, a 23 year old teacher at New Rickstones Academy, in Witham, Essex, was one of just 11 winners of a coveted  Gold Plato Award. Known as the 'Oscar of the teaching world,' the honour rewarded Michael for the outstanding contribution that he has made in the town where  he was taught and is now a teacher.

After the event Michael said: "It was a shock, I did not expect  it at all right up until they announced my name. I love the range of people that I work with in the job: 
 staff, students, parents and governors. I feel you get to make a real difference as a teacher. "

Mr Grant is the youngest of the 2017 Gold Plato Award winners. His citatation read: 'He has only taught for a year, but is already seen as an integral component of his English department and school. He has become known for his engaging teaching style, incredible subject knowledge and passion for learning. Mr Grant’s classes have become so popular students are regularly asking to join and his pupils make exceptional progress with their learning.'

Mr Damian Lee, Headteacher of New Rickstones Academy, said: “Having taught Michael whilst he was student in Witham I knew from a young age that he would become a successful teacher.  The passion he has for his subject combined with a calm and thoughtful manner with the students is second to none.  This is an amazing achievement for Michael and recognition of the great start he has made to his teaching career."

He added: "I’m sure everyone who knows Michael and is involved at New Rickstones Academy will be bursting with pride.”  Michael is a former student of the other AET secondary school in Witham, Maltings Academy.

Mr Grant received  his Award from Candice Brown, winner of 2016 'Great British Bake Off' title at the Awards Ceremony on Sunday 22 October. New Rickstones Academy is part of a national network of 64 schools sponsored by the multi-academy trust - AET. Since 2011 there have been no less than five national winners in AET academies of which four have been from Essex schools and two have been from Witham.
The recent AET winners are :- Richard Robb at Tendring Technology College, Frinton on Sea,  History Teacher of the Year 2011; Clare Baldwin at Maltings Academy, Witham, Teaching Assistant of the Year 2013; Benedick Ashmore-Short at Hamford Primary Academy, Primary Headteacher of the Year 2014; Joy Ballard at Ryde Academy, Isle of Wight,  Secondary Headteacher of the Year 2015; and Michael Grant at New Rickstones Academy  Outstanding New Teacher of the Year 2017.

AET completes top team hires with education heavyweights

posted Oct 18, 2017, 3:24 AM by Richard Sparks   [ updated Oct 18, 2017, 3:29 AM ]

AET completes top team hires with education heavyweights

++ Frances Soul appointed as National Director of Education ++

++ David Hatchett appointed as National Director of Secondary ++

++ Chas Parker appointed as Director of IT ++


AET today announces the two final appointments to complete the reconstituted executive team, under CEO Julian Drinkall’s leadership. Frances Soul and David Hatchett join the organisation as National Director of Education and National Director of Secondary respectively.

AET has also confirmed the appointment of Chas Parker as the Director IT. The appointments follow the announcement of James Nicholson as the new Chief Financial Officer, and Lauren Costello as National Director of Primary Schools.

Frances will be joining AET from Pearson where she is currently Vice-President Efficacy Improvement for Global Product and was previously Director School Improvement, Pearson UK. Prior to this Frances was National Programme Director for Secondary School Improvement, DfE National Strategies, where she developed and delivered on a number of national school improvement programmes such as support for the National Challenge. Here, she led a national team responsible for supporting improvement in leadership and management, school governance and raising standards in teaching and learning.

Frances has also worked for the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust where she managed and delivered a national programme targeted at improving outcomes in maths, English and science for the most underperforming specialist schools. Frances has experience across every sector of the education system from HE and FE through secondary to primary, specialising in curriculum design and teacher professional development. She has also worked as a local authority adviser, Ofsted schools Inspector and is an experienced school governor.

David Hatchett joins AET from the E-ACT multi-academy trust where he has held a number of senior and executive-level school improvement roles over the last five years. He is currently Regional Director of Education, where he has responsibility and accountability for a portfolio of academies covering primary, secondary and sixth form. David is also currently National Director for Assessment and the Lead for Teaching Schools.

Prior to joining E-ACT, David held senior roles with Pearson and Edexcel. As Head of Assessment Development at Pearson, he was responsible for the development and delivery of high profile Government tests and examinations for the UK and Abu Dhabi governments. At Edexcel he spent a number of years delivering national marking and assessment programmes and processes. David has co-authored a series of textbooks aimed at pupils learning English as an additional language for a well-known educational publisher, and was an accredited facilitator on middle leadership training programmes with Teaching Leaders'.

David brings with him over eight years’ experience as an Ofsted inspector and has led or participated in more than 200 inspections. He is a graduate of Ambition School Leadership's Executive Educators programme, an experienced governor of schools and sits on the Board of a sixth form college in London.

Taking up post in November, Chas Parker joins AET from CRI, a major social welfare charity with a turnover of £150m and staff and volunteers based across 260 sites in the UK. Chas will report to the new Chief Financial Officer, James Nicholson.

Julian Drinkall, CEO of AET said:

“These two appointments to the executive team mark an important milestone in AET’s turnaround – the trust is an entirely different organisation from just nine months ago. Frances and David are exceptional educationalists and bring a wealth of experience, both individually and collectively.

“We are also delighted to be appointing such an experienced specialist in Chas Parker as our new Director of IT.  

“The last academic year showed early signs of improvement across the trust, and with such an experienced team now in place, the pace of change will accelerate. Key Stage 2 showed the most improvement last year. Our focus will now intensify on our secondary schools so that across all phases we are on track to becoming an organisation that not only promises, but delivers a world class education for all our pupils.”

Frances Soul said:

"I am hugely excited to be joining Academies Enterprise Trust, at this crucial point in their journey, and being a member of the new senior team under Julian's leadership. I share his commitment to achieving the highest standards in education and to ensuring the best outcomes for all children across all our academies.”

David Hatchett said:

“I am thrilled about joining the AET executive team at this crucial stage in the Trust's journey of improvement and excited by its ambition of becoming an excellent, world-class MAT. I am looking forward to working with principals, governors and the central team to ensure that all secondary-age students receive the quality of education and the outcomes that they deserve and need”.

Chas Parker said:

“I am excited to be joining AET and am looking forward to contributing to the team that will lead the trust through the next stage of its development and to be supporting its work to become an internationally renowned MAT.” 

Academies Enterprise Trust bolsters Board with new Trustee appointment

posted Oct 5, 2017, 3:08 AM by Richard Sparks   [ updated Oct 5, 2017, 3:28 AM ]

Roger Matthews joins multi-academy trust AET as Trustee

The Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) has today announced that Roger Matthews has been appointed as a Trustee of the Board.

Previously Chair of Mitie Group Plc and a former Chief Finance Officer of FTSE-listed companies, Roger brings significant executive and non-executive experience to the newly reconstituted board, under the chairmanship of Jack Boyer.

Roger Matthews served as Group Finance Director of J. Sainsbury Plc from 1999 to 2005. Prior to this he was Finance Director at Compass Group plc. He has also held various finance positions at Grand Metropolitan Plc and Cadbury Schweppes Plc, following qualifying as a Chartered Accountant at PwC. He has extensive experience in business and property services, retail, food manufacturing and public procurement.

Roger’s appointment follows the news earlier in the summer of three new trustees, Dame Kathryn August, Professor Deborah Eyre and Alison Paines, joining the board.

Jack Boyer, Chair of AET, commented:

"Roger is a strong addition to the AET board who brings management and finance experience of successful large organisations given his background as CFO of FTSE companies Sainsbury's and Compass Group, and most recently Chair of Mitie Group Plc. His appointment represents a further step in providing AET with the governance and strategic skills at Board level required of a leading national multi-academy trust.”

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