North Herts and Stevenage schools part of one of the UK’s best academy trusts according to new study

Clive Mathew, head of John Henry Newman School

Clive Mathew, head of John Henry Newman School - Credit: Archant

The academy trust behind Stevenage’s John Henry Newman Catholic School, Hitchin’s Our Lady Catholic Primary School and St John’s Catholic Primary School in Baldock has been earmarked as one of the best performing in the UK – against the odd in terms of its wealth and size.

The Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust was picked out as one of four multi-academy trusts to perform well in five key criteria in a study commissioned by leadership development charity, Ambition School Leadership.

The study looked at the size, school phases, school types, pupil characteristics, geographical spread and rate of growth at 402 MATs – roughly half of those in the UK. It considered this against how well MATs performed in five areas: pupil progress at Key Stages 2 and 4, improvement in value-added over time, outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, whether schools are rated ‘inadequate’, and financial sustainability.

The results of the study concluded that no one key factor equates to success – instead there is a mixed picture of different types of trusts performing well.

JHN head Clive Mathew agrees. He told the Comet: “It’s clear that there’s no key formula to being highly successful, and in many ways we’re an underdog compared to some of the bigger trusts.

“It shows you don’t need to have a highly paid CEO to be successful and if you look at what we’re doing it’s all about the way we co-operate and work together.

“Our Catholic faiths gives us a simple set of beliefs and a shared ethos. Exams are not the defining process.”

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The academy trust has 11 member schools – mainly based in Herts and London – and, unlike some larger trusts, does not charge big membership fees.

Under David Cameron, the Government wholeheartedly promoted academies and under-performing schools were forced to convert. However under current Prime Minister Theresa May, this has been played down.

Mr Mathew says academy status is not the be-all and end-all, but can give schools some key advantages. He said: “Academies themselves don’t bring success. It’s not a magic bullet. It depends on the schools and the people who are leading it. However it has great practical advantages – funding for redevelopment and opportunities to work with other schools in the trust and share good practice.”

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