The Shared Learning Trust (TSLT) is a multi-academy trust comprising five schools based in Bedfordshire. It was established in March 2015 when four academies split from their previous sponsor and, as a result, has no ‘lead’ school. The MAT is made up of two Luton-based secondary schools, The Chalk Hills Academy and The Stockwood Park Academy; two primary schools, The Linden Academy and The Vale Academy, based in Luton and Dunstable respectively; and The Rushmere Park Academy, a lower school with a thriving nursery based in Leighton Buzzard. Ofsted ratings range from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’.

TSLT’s vision for its schools is based around three core principles: strive, achieve, believe! Trust leaders believe that young people should be empowered to achieve more than they ever thought possible, and so they put the pupils – their progress, outcomes and well-being – at the heart of all that they do.

CEO Cathy Barr regularly uses B11 consultants to support the work of the individual schools in the Trust. So, when Ofsted published their MAT review summary framework in December 2018, she approached them to conduct a review of the impact of the trust itself, confident in the knowledge that their review process is rigorous, and reports are clear and informative.

On this occasion, while TSLT has key staff who lead school improvement, she felt that an external perspective would be useful in validating their judgements and, if necessary, identifying any additional areas in which the schools and trust could improve. Cathy had worked with the National Governance Association in 2018 to review TSLT’s administration and compliance processes, and therefore wanted the review to focus predominantly on how the trust supports and challenges its academies to achieve the best provision and outcomes for pupils.


TSLT’s MAT review took place over two days in July 2019. Through initial liaison between Cathy and B11’s MD Mark Allison, a purpose and focus for the MAT review was devised, based on the Ofsted MAT summary review framework. The review focused specifically on the effectiveness of the MAT in supporting and challenging its academies and comprised a thorough documentation review, plus conversations with the CEO, academy leaders, two local governors, two trustees, chief operating officer and HR and compliance director.

Cathy, who has over 26 years’ experience in the education sector, offers her thoughts on B11’s way of working and what she felt TSLT’s latest review achieved: “As we experienced in the trust’s previous work with B11, the process was rigorous, supportive and challenging. All leaders and stakeholders were able to speak openly and honestly with the reviewer with the intended outcome of strengthening and further developing trust workings to achieve best outcomes for learners. The reviewer focused on the brief, while cross-referencing other aspects of the trust i.e. compliance.’

“As well as being a valuable process in both preparation and practice, the review provided a number of insightful points to consider, with recommendations as to how the trust might go about instigating improvements. The conversations between myself and reviewer were open, highly professional and focused on what is working within the MAT and how improvements in less successful areas would be best implemented. I found the review report was also a clear and accurate reflection of these conversations.”

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