The topic of the week is John Murphy – Should we put our trust in Trusts?
Play the Podcast Episode Now
We learned some amazing things about the Oasis Multi Academy Trust this week when we spoke to John Murphy, CEO.
John trained as a primary teacher and became a primary head before taking on two schools for boys who had been permanently excluded. After heading up a school in special measures, John became an academy principle for Oasis. Oasis’ family of schools now numbers 47 schools across 4 regions. The regions contain between 11 and 14 schools. Each academy is an independently funded state school and there is one governing body which controls the whole organisation.
Local Authorities have failed with these schools for tens of years.
Oasis has been a charity for 30 years. It doesn’t just run academies in England, it runs street schools in Mumbai, food banks, credit unions and hospitals across the globe. They felt that the concept of a multi academy trust was another service into the local community that they really wanted to be part of.
Oasis has very deep beliefs and values which give it its strength. They have not been aggressive and taken over schools – rather, schools have come to them to ask to be part of their movement.
How does school-to-school support work?
There are 5 main functions:
- Regional families of schools have principle leadership team meetings on a half-termly basis
- Regional conferences to share good practice
- Regional improvement networks
- Explicit school-to-school support sharing curriculum
- Shared values and culture
All of the people working for the Oasis Multi Academy Trust are working hard for each other. You don’t have to do that in a Local Authority structure.
This doesn’t mean Oasis only works within its own organisation – they make a point of working with anyone from whom they can learn. For example, there are established partnerships with Teach First, Teaching Leaders, Future Leaders and Pixl and there are open data sharing agreements with all Local Authorities.
How do successful schools directly help less successful ones?
There could be an exceptional leader in a less successful school so Oasis don’t necessarily use this as a measure of good leadership. Rather, they have a very carefully-constructed talent management system which makes sure that the talented individuals from all schools are able to share that expertise most effectively.
Oasis have set up Leadership Pathways so that people who join know these pathways exist for them. This is based on what Oasis have learned from the most successful companies who have excellent talent management processes.
What is uniform across Oasis and where do schools find their own character and differences?
While we are a national family, we want there to be as much local identity as there can be.
Principles have a high degree of freedom but there is a range of national operating procedures and what is uniform is value, cultures, policies and scrutiny of data. Oasis are moving towards sharing the same forms of accreditation but at the same time they want their principles to be able to innovate and share what they have learned.
There are 84 recognised policies across the group. Where there is difference it is in local protocols.
Governance Local Authority vs. Multi Academy Trust
The quality of governance in Local Authority schools depends on the quality of the governors you have to support you, many of whom don’t have the educational experience or knowledge to help you. Professional government in a multi academy trust enables you to have a proper, professional dialogue from the beginning. John felt he could make very rapid progress as a result.
Schools have been constantly thwarted by entrenched insularity.
John believes we need to break this down in order to make progress and multi academy trusts have a big role to play in this.
Where do you get quality volunteers from?
Oasis has over 2,000 volunteers across Britain – Church Leaders, Imams, reading recovery granddads etc. At the Waterloo ‘hub’, Oasis has:
A credit union
A food bank
Workers in the Library
Workers in the local parks
These all surround the Waterloo academy so Oasis Community Learning are focussing on that community. There are also ‘Homes Teams’ who will visit and give practical assistance to help individual learners who are struggling because of their home situations.
There is an enormous amount more detail to hear in the episode, so do listen right to the end!
Tweeter of the week:
Beth Knight: https://twitter.com/planetbeth91
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