Aspire Schools Trust: School Improvement Model

‘Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.’ (Dylan Wiliam) 

‘Teaching quality … is arguably the greatest lever at our disposal for improving the life chances of the young people in our care (John Hattie, 2015), particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds’ (Dylan Wiliam, 2016) 

‘One of the aims of bringing schools together in Trusts is to provide them with levels of support and collective learning that would not be achievable for any school on its own.  These findings show how important this can be to schools’ resilience in the most challenging of circumstances, and how being part of a greater whole builds that resilience.’ (Mujis and Samson, 2021) 

Aspire Schools Trust’s School Improvement Model has been heavily influenced by CST’s Knowledge Building – School Improvement at Scale (2021). 

We fully support the 4 propositions in the CST document that:

  1. The goal is for every teacher in every classroom to be as good as they can be in what they teach and how they teach
  2. For this to happen, we need to mobilise for every teacher the best evidence from research
  3. There is no improvement for pupils without improvement in teaching, and no improvement in teaching without the best professional development for teachers 
  4. Strong structures can enable strong practice to exist in all our schools 

The School Improvement Cycle


Core Principles
Children come first – this directs all decision-making in each school and the wider Trust
Aspire ethos – ‘No borders, just horizons’ (Amelia Earhart)
Safeguarding is fundamental (annual external safeguarding review and action plan for all Trust schools)
Principled leadership (moral, ethical and civic leadership)
Aligned autonomy for all schools not ‘one size fits all’
Talent management – from Early Career Teacher to Headteacher or CEO…
Financial stability – curriculum-led financial planning
Governance at a local school level effectively scrutinises standards and provides challenge and support for school leaders
Strategy for Embedding Core Principles
  • Schools joining AST must be aligned to our Aspire ethos and ‘Children come first’ principles (explored within our due diligence phase). If they are not, we are the wrong Trust for them
  • Aligned autonomy is about committing to our ethos and core principles, whilst retaining flexibility to preserve each school’s distinct values, structures, uniform, and a whole range of distinctive features unique to every school
  • Safeguarding has to be robust, with each school implementing clear policies and procedures, while maintaining a strong culture of safeguarding. An annual external review in each school ensures that this is a constant focus
  • Recruiting and retaining good staff is key to all schools. We spend a lot of time finding the right people, ensuring that their roles are fulfilling, rewarding them well and ensuring they have opportunities for development and promotion
  • The Trust’s financial strategy centres around resource optimisation, where the curriculum should lead the finances and it should not be the finances leading the curriculum. We want all schools to live within their means whilst deploying their resources astutely to maximise benefits for the children. Internal Scrutiny three times a year and annual external audit.
  • Governance is subject to annual self-review and three-yearly External Review (ERG) in line with the Academy Trust Handbook. Scheme of Delegation is reviewed annually and is adapted for each school, delegating responsibility to local governors in line with their stage on their development journey towards excellence
  • Schools need to be rooted in the heart of their communities. Parents and local co-opted Governors are integral to Local Governing Bodies to ensure that each school remains a unique community asset, committed to raising aspiration for children in the local area 
Core Principles
Strategy for Embedding Core Principles