"It’s an honour to be nominated and a great credit to the whole team at CORE."
Birmingham-based governing board, CORE Education Trust, has become shortlisted for an award by the National Governance Association.
The board hails as one of three finalists for the ‘Outstanding governing board in a multi-academy trust’ award. The ceremony for the awards, held every two years, will take place this year in London.
The ceremony serves to celebrate the achievements of school governance. It also recognises the outstanding practices performed by the school governing community.
As CORE Education Trust has become shortlisted for one such award, this marks a huge step for the board. Ammo Talwar, Chair and one of the Founding Members, hailed it as “an honour to be nominated and a great credit to the whole team at CORE.”
He spoke more about the Trust, its achievements and what lies next.
Can you tell us more about the CORE project?
[The CORE Education Trust] was set up in response to public concerns about the so-called “Trojan Horse school crisis” in Birmingham. The trust’s members and the trust’s CEO [Adrian Parker] have worked together since March 2015 to establish a new board of directors, local governors and effective teacher leadership at each trust school.
Each and every policy and procedure has been looked at, and where necessary overhauled to ensure robust financial and governance compliance is in place.
Beyond a clear commitment to best practice, I feel we’ve been able to prioritise local solutions and really include the school community in what’s going on. What I want to do is to look beyond one-off issues and take this opportunity to invest more in the local area over the long term.
What have been the biggest challenges for the project?
Our biggest challenge was to ensure the children remained at the centre of our work and of every decision taken. Maintaining this local focus while ensuring the time, people and resources that were needed were on hand was a challenge.
Working under the external pressures of inspections, of the press and political interest was another one. But we’ve remained committed to maintaining our aspirational vision for the original schools and for the trust as a whole.
What additional work is required for further improvements at these schools?
The schools were both graded GOOD by Ofsted in spring 2016, but this journey isn’t over. We know that the local community and the schools themselves have very high aspirations, and that’s a good thing.
They are eager to focus on growth and consolidation of their many strengths, towards an OUTSTANDING rating. This will broaden and deepen the impact of a positive change to more children and families.
We also need support from the other agencies to invest in the local learning ecosystem which includes out of schools activities and learning.
Do you feel other schools could use your model for success?
Definitely. The CORE Education model is about finding solutions for schools at a local level. It ensures that the children and their communities are held secure at the centre, within an outward facing culture.
As a Trust, we now have a breadth of expertise, knowledge and understanding about how to improve and support schools, all earned through practical experience. The four CORE values are Collaboration, Opportunity, Respect and Excellence for all.
CORE Education Trust’s commitment to their sponsored schools stands as a testament to their successful progression. During 2014, Ofsted marked Rockwood Academy and Nansen Primary School as ‘inadequate’ and in need of ‘special measures’.
But now, with the help of the Trust, they have flourished. While also receiving a rating of ‘good’, Ofsted praised the leadership of CORE Education Trust, in particular, its “passion and determination”.
They also added the board: “worked relentlessly and with great resilience”. With such an incredible turnaround, this really highlights the determined efforts and achievements of the governing board.
However, as Ammo mentioned, a long journey in education still remains. CORE Education Trust realises the massive potential the city of Birmingham has for the younger generation. Ammo explains:
“We need to ensure that all Birmingham’s young people understand the full potential of our city, and offer real opportunities to be part of it going forward.
“Birmingham has one of the youngest populations in Europe and we see many transformational cultural, commercial and transport developments on the horizon. Our leaders must work harder to ensure that all the opportunities the city can offer as a global centre.”
While receiving the shortlisting, the governing board grows from strength to strength. They have recently appointing Emma Leeman as their new Director of Strategy. In addition, the Trust continues to place education as their focus.
With a new date waiting to become confirmed, the National Governance Association awards will take place in London.
As the CORE Education Trust proves that change is possible for the better, becoming shortlisted for the NGA award hails as a definite indication that its ethos and aims are exemplary.