Lavendon School, an Ofsted-rated Outstanding school has completed its conversion to academy status and joined Inspiring Futures through Learning (IFtL), a successful multi-academy trust (MAT) based in Milton Keynes and Corby.
Following a consultation with parents, carers and colleagues, and a period of due diligence, the 153-pupil school becomes the 16th member of IFtL, which was established in 2016 and now supports 6,500 children across all its schools.
Headteacher Lisa Watson said the school’s governing body began exploring the idea of joining a MAT in order to broker support, offer more opportunities to the children, and provide development opportunities for all members of the school community. After extensive research and discussions with a number of MATs, the governors unanimously voted to join IFtL.
“From the start of our academy conversion consultation, a key question was what would joining a MAT give us that is going to make us better,” Lisa recalled. “With IFtL, most importantly we share the same vision, values and commitment to be the very best that we can be, and Lavendon’s proximity to other trust schools, including Olney Infant Academy and Olney Middle School who we know well and have worked with previously, was also a decisive factor.
“As a rural, single-form entry school, we need support from elsewhere to ensure consistently high ambitions and standards, and working with IFtL and closely with other schools who have the same ethos and responsibilities for ensuring excellent opportunities for children will be very powerful.”
Lisa, who joined Lavendon School seven years ago, said it was an “absolute privilege to be the Headteacher of such a wonderful school community”.
“We are really proud of what we have achieved at Lavendon – including being in the top 20% nationally for performance data – and it is such a special place to be,” she explained.
“Our school is at the heart of the community and we are respected within it. We offer smaller class sizes, 23/24 pupils per class, and we know each child and their families inside out. In our most recent staff wellbeing survey, 98% of our colleagues said they are ‘extremely happy’ to be here. There is a very calm, purposeful atmosphere, and behaviour is outstanding.
“Joining IFtL is part of the next phase of our journey as a community, and not only will it support our succession planning and give our school a more sustainable future, we will also be able to share our expertise with the trust.”
Lisa revealed that a key benefit of being part of IFtL would be exploring further collaboration and sharing best practice in teaching and learning, operations and management.
“From my position as Headteacher, IFtL has a range of professional services that we can draw on – from finance and HR, to estates and ICT – which will allow our school to benefit from collaborative working with specialist in their fields,” she said. “I can then continue to focus on strategy, and great and exciting teaching in the school.
“For our wonderful colleagues, as well as having a wider community to bounce ideas off through supportive development groups, there are significant development and progression opportunities. We know that the best way of supporting children to learn to their best of their ability is to ensure we have skilled and inspired adults in our school, and the culture of continuous CPD, sharing ideas and best practice at IFtL is one that completely complements our continued ambition and allows additional investment into our development.
“For our children, they will be able to access opportunities we would not be able to provide in isolation. An immediate example is the IFtL Youth Parliament, which is designed to empower pupil voice to support and inform IFtL’s organisational decision-making.”
Mike Griffiths, Chair of Governors at Lavendon School, added: “Having discussed the need to academise, IFtL really impressed us with their collaborative approach and how they engaged with us from the very first meeting. From our perspective, it was helpful to explore our options without any pressure. The real benefits to the school of academisation emerged during the process and it is clear that this is a proper partnership.
“At Lavendon School we set extremely high standards in terms of outcomes. We talk about the ‘Lavendon bar’, which is the level we set, rather than comparing ourselves to other schools. We strive to maintain our Outstanding standard, and are fortunate in that we attract really good high-calibre colleagues. There is an open-door policy here and governors are very much part of school life, bringing two-way engagement.
“We are looking forward to working with the trust to explore how we can get even better. It is clear from our involvement in trust meetings already that IFtL really value local governors’ contribution, which I am very pleased about.”
Sarah Bennett, CEO of IFtL, commented: “The expansion of our organisation brings great excitement for us all. Lavendon School’s exceptional community of employees and learners will continue thriving as respected members of our trust. We seek to build upon the solid foundation already established at Lavendon School and throughout our trust. Through collaboration across our schools, it is our hope that future generations of students will receive an outstanding education that prepares them for lifelong learning. Moving forward, we are eager to develop in unison and motivate the pathways ahead for 6,500 children and 1,000 adults through a collaborative effort.”