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By Dawn Haywood, Deputy CEO and Education Director, Windsor Academy Trust
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” - Dr Martin Luther King
As a school trust consisting of nine academies serving 7,000 children from diverse communities, we understand our organisation and our communities' interdependence. Our schools and children thrive best when our communities do.
Twenty years ago, our founding school was a specialist sports college. Our secondary schools were specialist schools (two in sports) with a strong community objective which ensured civic engagement was rooted deep in our history.
Today, civic engagement is part of our culture. It is aligned with our values and strategically planned for with one of our six organisational aims dedicated to civic and system leadership:
"To develop partnerships that provide opportunities for more children, within and beyond the WAT family and make a positive difference for the communities we serve and the broader education system."
One of our trust values is collaboration which we enact to advance education as a public good. Below you will see examples of our civic engagement activity and six tips for embedding civic engagement across your organisation to create social value and civic impact.
To build cultural capital and support our children to be good citizens, we have two key levers: the WAT Pledge and our Aspire framework.
The WAT Pledge was developed by our Student Senate - 100 student leaders across our schools. The pledge is our promise to students of experiences/accomplishments, 11 before 11 in primary and 12 in secondary, that they will achieve before leaving school. Alongside a huge range of extra-curricular activities, the pledge expands learning beyond the classroom and helps students achieve their academic and personal potential.
Our Aspire framework develops students character virtues and learning strategies. We work collaboratively with the Jubilee Centre at University of Birmingham to ensure our six character virtues of respect, responsibility, resilience, compassion, collaboration and creativity are ‘taught’, ‘caught’ and ‘sought’ in learning and in life. Across our family of schools, students aspire in every lesson, every day to be the best learners and best people that they can be.
Our school improvement support is extensive. Specific examples include:
Our commitment to our communities includes supporting employment locally. We employ students into apprenticeships using the apprenticeship levy and support our sixth form leaders to become future teachers and early years professionals through our Aspiring Educators programme.
Our partnership with local authorities helps solve widespread education problems.
We work collaboratively with our local authorities on school places planning, increasing our academies PAN where required, building additional nursery provision, and developing a new free school.
We are working closely with a local authority to develop alternative provision across the borough and host an alternative provision centre for children from local schools. Our Trust has recently supported two local authorities by sharing our approach, research and resources to remote education and school improvement powered by digital technology with schools in the local authority areas.
At the request of our Regional Schools Commissioner, our CEO, Keith Sorrell, and Deputy CEO, Dawn Haywood, supported two school trusts that were underperforming by joining their Board to add capacity in seeking solutions to the challenges they faced.
We work collaboratively with a wide range of civic partners to deliver a positive impact in our local communities.
Working collaboratively with a local NHS Trust and the Youth Sport Trust we have developed an NHS funded programme called 'Active in Mind’ to support child and adolescent physical and mental health. The programme provides support to children most in need, encouraging physical activity and developing positive behaviours.
The second largest Yemeni community in the country exits in the locality of some of our academies. In collaboration with the Yemeni Community and Gamiel Yafai (author and award winning diversity and inclusion strategist), we have delivered the 'Inspiring Yemeni Children Roadshow'.
The roadshow aimed to raise aspirations by sharing inspirational talks from successful Yemini role models. In addition, we have held parent workshops and given books to the local Yemeni Centre to support Yemeni childrens’ reading and adult literacy.
Sport and physical activity play a crucial role in supporting physical and mental health and developing character. Our partnerships help to increase access to sport and physical activity for students and the wider community.
Through our partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, we host two School Games Organisers Partnerships, involving over 100 schools, delivering school sport competitions and events. We are also the Football Association’s Girls Superhub, inspiring girls and women into football.
Our sports facilities are open for community use enabling the local community to access sport and physical activity. Our partnership with numerous sports clubs provides a home for training and competition and provides pathways for children into their sport.
Our CEO works closely with the Institute of Directors and the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, delivering workshops to directors of local businesses. Local business leaders engage with our students and provide experience of work through Lions Den enterprise events, Aspire career talks and offering work based placements.