Warrington Primary Academy Trust (WPAT) has been a lead player in some impressive strategic school improvement projects in recent years.
WPAT’s teaching school, for example, led a £1 million project funded by the DfE’s strategic school improvement fund to give early years foundation stage practitioners in 56 schools in disadvantaged areas across seven local authorities the skills, strategies and teaching and learning techniques they needed to help them improve children’s literacy, communication and language.
Nearly 2,000 children – mostly in reception classes, as well as some in nursery provision – were involved in the project. The project had two main strands: literacy, and communications and language. Professional development was a cornerstone of this programme: practitioners were trained in the early identification of children with speech, language and communication problems, while project leads - often SENCOs or literacy leads – were appointed in each school to head up the project.
An independent evaluation of the programme highlighted significant impact. The programme’s communication and language strand revealed a significant impact on children’s learning: 97 per cent of all participating children made some positive progress, with 35 per cent of girls achieving the most frequently reported level 4 and level 3 being the most common level amongst boys.
Louise Smith, WPAT CEO, says that the trust’s desire to lead improvement on a large scale is undimmed. The trust is currently playing a lead regional role in the DfE’s workload reduction project, developing and trialling workload reduction strategies amongst its schools, which are now being shared nationally.
The trust is also developing a proposal with more than 20 other primary schools across the region to create subject knowledge CPD for primary teachers.
“We are in the midst of a maelstrom with covid but we need to plan ahead. True leadership is also about horizon scanning. That’s why we are leading in areas like this. You have to keep these things moving forward and putting things in motion and not let the spinning plates drop.”