The Challenger Hub was established as a key priority when the Challenger Multi Academy Trust was formed in 2015. Our joint commitment to a school-led collaborative approach means that all our academies automatically join the hub and the network of excellence. Our MAT comprises of seven academies, both Primary and Secondary, located in Essex, Dunstable and Bedford; the hub has therefore provided a critical means of bringing our academies together; offering a platform for sharing best practice and school-to-school support.
The QA Review process is a central part of our extensive CPD offer and talent management programme. All our senior leaders are trained reviewers, and we are looking at offering this opportunity to experienced middle leaders next year. The QAR has been comprehensively welcomed by our senior leaders as providing ‘invaluable professional development and high-quality evaluations.' The reports that our academies have received become an integral part of their self-evaluation and subsequent improvement planning. Moreover, the QAR reports provide the trust with a consistent framework that stimulates important learning dialogues across academies.
Two of our academies have also embarked upon the Challenge the Gap programme. Whilst it is too early to assess impact, this collaborative solution is helping us to monitor and evaluate our improvement strategies, with a particular emphasis on disadvantaged pupils. Our leaders have also accessed the Leadership Development Days and the Challenge Partner conference; this widened the network of ideas and provided the contacts that enhanced our own senior leadership conference in July 2017.
The Challenge Partner network has enabled us to forge new partnerships with other schools and trusts. Widening our network has increased our capacity to build a bespoke middle leadership programme that will in turn drive improvement at a faster pace. Collaboration within the network also led to the development of a customised and unique teaching and learning evaluation tool used in all our academies. This on-line tool has improved the quality of lesson observations, and provided the data that enables teachers and leaders to have the powerful conversations that will continue to drive quality first teaching across CMAT.
TeachMeets have become a termly feature of our work. These have been energetic and stimulating events around a particular theme; up to 100 teachers have shared best practice and left motivated and increasingly determined to innovate and take risks.
The on-line half-termly Hub newsletter captures the Challenge Partner updates, along with our other leadership, learning and teaching innovations. This includes bringing staff up to date with our IRIS Connect and teacher coaching programmes that are now in all of our academies.
We are particularly excited about our new on-line CMAT CPD library. The CMAT library has a growing number of courses ranging from “Social Needs” to “Learner Engagement” – we look forward to sharing this idea, and how our academies are utilising the 24 programmes, with our Challenge Partner colleagues.
These are exciting times for us. As a relatively young MAT, we are already feeling a sea-change in culture. Colleagues of all roles are now able to connect beyond their own school gates; trust-wide networks are opening up possibilities; being part of Challenge Partners feels right, and provides us with a philosophy and methodology that is hard to argue with.
John Kane, Hub Manager