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There are three special schools in Greenwood Academies Trust.


Our ‘Improvement and Support Strategy’ is made up of 3 key elements.

  1. Building capacity and expertise in leaders and practitioners – through assurance boards, Learning Alliance opportunities, networks and professional learning.
  2. Ensuring effective and accurate academy-level bespoke Improvement Plans – that are clear about improvement priorities and key tasks and activities to bring about improvement.
  3. Ensuring high quality, effective trust-level quality assurance processes – to provide information to trustees and valuable feedback to academies.


1. Building capacity and expertise in leaders and practioners

Assurance Boards

At the heart of our improvement strategy are our Assurance Boards.  These are chaired by the Education Director – Special and the membership is drawn from identified senior leaders in each of our special academies. Each Board is there to develop expertise and capacity in each of the key focus areas. They work collaboratively, and with relevant experts, to develop best practice and engage in national debate.

Special Assurance Board (SAB)

The SAB is comprised of Principals from each academy. It aims to foster collaborative working across the special academies and to provide opportunities for peer support and challenge. Each academy will ‘host’ one SAB meeting per year and during this visit leaders will undertake a focussed child study as an opportunity to develop understanding of the ‘experience’ of a student who attends the academy and a Peer Learning Walk. Professional Development needs will be discussed and planned for, and national updates shared.  The RAB, CAB, and PAB (see below) report in to SAB via the Education Director.

Raising Attainment Board (RAB)

The Special RAB is comprised of Raising Standards Leads from individual academies. It aims to raise standards for all students in all academies, with a particular focus on end of key stage outcomes which are appropriate to the individual needs and starting points of students. The RAB will develop cross academy moderation strategies to support each academy with assessing student progress. They will also focus on using research to implement appropriate interventions to improve outcomes.

Curriculum Assurance Board (CAB)

The Special CAB is comprised of Curriculum Leaders from each special academy.  It aims to ensure that the curriculum offered in all academies is high quality and implemented appropriately for the needs of students. The CAB will develop expertise in curriculum leadership and development. Over time it will develop a set of high quality teaching and learning principles supported by appropriate CPD for teachers in special schools including subject specific knowledge.

 Pastoral Assurance Board (PAB)

The special PAB is comprised of a leader from each special academy who has responsibility for behaviour, attendance, safeguarding and personal development. The focus of the board is to ensure students in GAT special academies attend school regularly and behave well while receiving high quality enrichment opportunities. The PAB will develop a basic ‘entitlement’ for all students and identify support needed, opportunities and challenges.

Other areas

Early Years

We passionately believe in the importance of developing highly effective practice in the Early Years. We know that it is the crucial start of school life, and a time when both children and their parents form opinions about lifelong learning and education. Our Early Years work ensures that Early Years practitioners are supported to continually develop their practice and academy leaders retain appropriate oversight of this important stage of education.  There is no separate Early Years support for our special academies as they are able to access the mainstream offer.

Disadvantaged support

A high proportion of children in our academies live in contexts that mean educational progress is more challenging for them than it is for many others. In order to support all our pupils to maximise the opportunities we provide for them, practitioners and leaders in our schools need to be exceptional. Our Disadvantaged work supports academies to ensure leaders are aware of best practice and continually improve in this area. We also support key leaders to become nationally accredited Pupil Premium Reviewers and ensure all academies will have a Pupil Premium Review within a 3 to 4 year cycle in addition to those where Ofsted requests a Pupil Premium Review.

PE and sport

We also believe each academy’s Physical Education, school sport and physical activity provision is highly important. Our academies contribute a small amount from their PE and Sport Premium funding to access:

  • professional development and training for PE coordinators
  • bespoke academy-level support
  • resources, advice and guidance
  • memberships and subscriptions to key national organisations and programmes
  • an annual calendar of cross-Trust sporting opportunities.

Professional learning and development

GAT’s Professional Learning Programme is an extensive, agile programme of CPD, courses, resources and training for a range of roles in academies. It comprises face-to-face learning, online sessions and asynchronous content facilitated by a range of internal and external experts. Projects and professional learning are developed each year dependent on need, often in collaboration with national experts.  The programme does not intend to cover all of the CPD needs of every individual and academy, it focuses on trust level improvement priorities; we think it is important that colleagues use local, regional and national external programmes where appropriate.

Leadership development opportunities run throughout the year through with additional termly events specifically designated for Principals including Principals Briefings’ and an annual Principals’ conference.


2. Ensuring effective and sustainable academy-level improvement

The most important part of our Improvement Strategy is ensuring each academy can effectively self-evaluate and develop personalised, aspirational Improvement Plans that bring about rapid improvement where necessary and foster a culture of continual development.

The role of the Education Director

The Education Director – Special (ED) provides professional challenge and support to our special academies, helping leadership to effectively evaluate performance, identify priorities for improvement and plan effective change. The ED takes each academy through the Improvement and Assurance work, ensuring all meetings, reviews etc are completed and internal monitoring processes are adhered to.

Key principles of the GAT Special Improvement Strategy

The Special Improvement Strategy is founded on a number of principles:

  • the prime responsibility for academy improvement remains with the Principal
  • academies are encouraged to have an autonomous vision, aligned to GAT values
  • a key aim is to support academies to develop effective procedures for accurate self-evaluation and improvement planning, and the ability to identify and commission additional support effectively for themselves
  • the expectations of contribution and involvement in assurance activities are clearly identified in this framework
  • capacity and expertise for system led improvement will be supported and developed
  • the professional partnership and communication between the Principal and ED are critical but academies will benefit from the expertise of the whole Education Directorate team
  • the amount of support provided to academies depends on their needs, as identified through a risk register process
  • processes are designed to be positive, focusing on strengths as well as identifying areas for development
  • formal delegated responsibilities (e.g. for budget) are described in GAT schemes of delegation but if concerns are identified, delegated responsibilities can be removed and given to EDs

Academy RAG ratings

Each academy has an overall ‘RAG’ rating (Red, Amber, Green) to help us allocate the appropriate level of internal support and challenge in order to secure improvement.  The overall RAG is underpinned by a number of identified ‘Risk Indicators’ that are clearly described in the Special Framework.

Agreed ‘core’ systems across all GAT Special Academies

In finding a ‘healthy’ balance between autonomy vs standardisation across our individual Special Academies, Principals and leaders of our Special Academies have worked in partnership to agree the following ‘core’ systems and strategies across all our special academies:


The latest version of BSquared assessment is used (the individual packages to be used within BSquared is determined by the Principal)


Makaton is used


Other augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) including specialist interventions

The following is used:

  • Communicate in Print
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Intensive Interaction
  • Attention Autism

Restrictive Physical Intervention

The agreed programme is PRICE (Protecting Rights in a Caring Environment)


The special academies have collectively agreed to use Read Write Inc and Fresh Start.  It is for Principals to determine the best approach for the cohorts of students within their academies


The above ‘core’ systems and strategies will enable GAT’s Special academies to work more collaboratively to best meet students needs across the trust.  It allows staff/leaders to talk a common language, share knowledge and expertise, arrange joint CPD, facilitate moderation and quality assurance processes, and share costs etc. The agreed ‘core’ systems and strategies should not deter individual special academies from using other or additional systems and strategies to best meet the needs of specific pupils in their academy. However, these will be in addition to; rather than in replacement of, any core systems and strategies as outlined above. Any other or additional systems or strategies used will not undermine and/or contradict the principles of any the core systems and strategies.


3. Trust level quality assurance processes

Quality Assurance activities will provide academies with information to improve their self-evaluation and improvement planning. They also feed into GAT oversight and governance procedures including to strategic leaders and trustees, via the Standards and Curriculum Committee.

Special academies work with their ED on an annual review cycle. The process has been designed to dovetail with a standard academy-level review cycle to add value and independent validation. The associated paperwork has been created to support leaders focus on key improvement priorities and to minimise workload.

At the start of the year a detailed meeting takes place that confirms Academy Improvement Priorities and how these are going to be monitored and supported. An evaluation of the progress of these priorities takes place each large term. In addition, a series of Reviews are conducted that allow more detailed investigation into key themes and some standard compliance checks on statutory expectations are made.