Aquinas Church of England Education Trust

Aquinas Academy Improvement

Academy Improvement at Aquinas is rooted in ensuring every child and young person in our Trust has access to the best possible teaching and curriculum experience; we believe that our Trust must provide ‘Life-Transforming’ experiences for all children and young people.

We use the Confederation of Schools Trust’s (CST) four key Academy Improvement propositions:

1. The goal is for every teacher in every classroom to be as good as they can be in what they teach (the curriculum) and how they teach (pedagogy).
2. For this to happen, we need to mobilise for every teacher the best evidence from research.
3. There is no improvement for pupils without improvement in teaching and no improvement in teaching without the best professional development for teachers.
4. Strong structures (in groups of schools) can facilitate better professional development and thus better teaching and improvement for pupils.

At Aquinas, we use our strategy 'One Trust, One Team - Stronger Together' to achieve these propositions and improve outcomes for all pupils through:

1. creating the conditions for optimal learning;
2. continuing to refine curriculum and pedagogy;
3. developing outstanding educational leadership and;
4. sustaining rigorous quality assurance.

Our Commitment

• Everyone is valued for their individual contribution to the educational outcomes of pupils.
Clear Trust-wide expectations, including:

o a common Trust language for education;
o an Aquinas Approach to Curriculum Design;
o our Aquinas Core Teaching Principles;
o using Leadership Standards to drive school improvement; and
o rigorous adherence to the Early Career Framework and Teacher Standards.

• A culture of evidence-informed practice, coaching and mentoring and continued professional learning.
• Networking opportunities across the Trust to inform and share practice, driving continual improvement.

Working with local and national partners to benefit our own academies and as part of our civic leadership responsibilities. Our key partners are:

o The Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership (CEFEL)
o Anglican Academy and Secondary School Heads
o The Bromley Schools’ Collegiate
o Rochester Diocesan Board of Education (RDBE)
o Thames South Teaching School Hub
o Step Ahead Teaching School Hub
o The Chartered College of Teaching
o Olevi.

1. The development of teachers and teaching

Teacher Development Leads in each of our academies work in partnership with Early Career Mentors (ECM) and those responsible for overseeing Continued Professional Learning and Development (CPLD). They derive practice from a well-researched evidence base, model exemplary practice and are trained to coach and mentor others to improve. They operate as part of a wider network to drive the continual improvement of teaching across the Trust.

Training and development opportunities exist including:

• teacher development leads in each academy working with teachers to continually improve the ‘craft’ of teaching and share best practice;
• Aquinas Career Development programmes, building seamlessly upon initial teacher education, early career induction and aligning with the Golden Threads of teacher development as set out in the national recruitment and retention strategy; and
• academy-to-academy and peer-to-peer support as required, brokered between Trust leaders.

2. Curriculum design and implementation

Curriculum development plays a pivotal role within academy and Trust improvement planning. Our approach to curriculum design and implementation allows academies to augment and enhance their curricula to respond to local context and to champion equity. Curriculum and subject leads know that academy-specific curricula always build upon and enhance the National Curriculum to ensure our children and young people have access to the very best all-round education. We offer:

• clear Aquinas curriculum design principles;
• support so that subject leaders can work collaboratively on the what and how of curriculum design;
• a clear set of Aquinas assessment principles;
• shared arrangements to standardise and moderate within and between academies; and
• an annual curriculum review cycle to ensure continual improvement and to champion equality, diversity and our aim to include all young people.

3. Outstanding Educational Leadership

Leaders across the Trust, including Executive Heads, Headteachers and Heads of School work in partnership with the Education Team to contribute to and realise the Trust’s vision of Life-Transforming-Learning. Academy leaders and teachers at all levels have opportunities to influence the work of the Trust as well as working within it. They play a vital
role in sharing a clear vision for ensuring continuous improvement so that our children and young people continue to flourish. All leaders believe strongly in the power of curriculum design and the continuous improvement of the quality of teaching to achieve this.

Headteachers and senior leaders within each academy are supported by the Trust Education Team to share their improvement vision and planning through two key documents:
• The Self-Evaluation Form (SEF) is closely linked to the 2019 Ofsted framework, enabling each Headteacher to thoroughly evaluate their academy against clear criteria and identify any gaps in provision which may exist.
• The School Improvement Plan (SIP) is informed through the SEF and co-constructed throughout the summer term in readiness for each new academic year.

We support all leaders within the Trust by providing:

• time and space to work together as leaders;
• highly effective leadership structures at all levels, with clearly defined accountability and distribution of roles and responsibilities;
• a commitment to developing self and others through coaching and mentoring support;
• access to NPQs, other accredited post-graduate programmes, shadowing and secondment roles;
• an effective talent strategy outlining teacher and leadership pathways from the point of recruitment, providing a robust appraisal process enabling ongoing career guidance and development;
• the opportunity to review discrete areas of provision in our academies through our focused review strategy;
• opportunities to join inter-trust collaborative review teams throughout the year;
• ongoing assessments of existing and incoming academies, with precise plans for targeted support, including adapted levels of autonomy and compliance placed upon academies at different levels of risk;
• robust self-evaluation and precise annual school improvement planning tools and support to set out the roadmap for continual improvement; and
• a collaborative approach to school improvement planning.


Alongside regular appraisal and review, Headteachers are invited to present annually to the Trustee’s Education Scrutiny Committee (ESC). This committee holds strategic oversight of the continuous improvement of each academy in the Trust, through the work of the Trust Education Team and senior leaders within our academies. Aquinas Trustees are committed to high-quality curriculum design and excellent teaching to improve academies so all pupils across the Trust live “life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). They take careful note of future destinations and performance data for all groups of pupils, particularly those who may face disadvantage.

The effectiveness of each academy’s curriculum, the quality and the effectiveness of its teaching and leadership are reviewed through our Collaborative Reviews of Education (CRE) in association with the St Benet’s Trust in Norfolk. School improvement plans and self evaluation are central to this process which uses those colleagues within the Trust and those from outside, to work with headteachers to review school improvement annually. Our Collaborative Reviews allow colleagues to:

• reflect upon the improvements their academy has made over each year;
• clearly articulate strengths and areas for development to different audiences;
• hear different voices from those visiting the academy to carry out the review; and
• work alongside other leaders and Trust colleagues to close gaps in effectiveness or provision for all pupils through the SIP and SEF.

Useful Links

The Aquinas approach to Curriculum Design
Aquinas Core Teaching Principles
Aquinas SEF
Collaborative Reviews of Education Framework
The Early Career Framework
Teacher Standards
Headteacher standards