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10 May 2018

Dear Parents and Carers

Firstly, let me introduce myself as the newly appointed CEO of Pontefract Academies Trust.  As you know, your son/daughter’s school is just one of the eight members of the Pontefract Academies Trust family.  Whilst I know that your first interest will be the school that your child attends, I also know that many of you are also interested in what it means for your school to be a part of the bigger organisation.

I am, therefore, writing to share some information and to update you on what’s been happening in the Trust in the first eight weeks of my tenure as CEO.  From this point, I will send out a termly update to all parents and carers and ensure that this is on the Trust website for all to read.  Here’s the link to the website (which is being totally revamped for September 2018, as are all the school websites).

What are we all about?

As the newly appointed CEO of the Trust, I am excited by the opportunity of leading the Trust as it enters the next phase of its development.  Currently, it is part way through a journey of school improvement and the immediate priority in the short term is to rapidly accelerate student outcomes and school improvement in every school.  Pace and a trajectory of improvement is the unwavering expectation of leaders and staff in all of our schools.

Pontefract Academies Trust must be an achievement focused school improvement organisation with a focus on improving student outcomes.  It is simple really: we run schools for the benefit of students - that is why we do the job.  The best educational institutions believe in and inhibit some uncomplicated principles: an achievement and no excuse culture, high quality leadership, proper investment in staff development and a resolute refusal to accept the soft bigotry of low expectations.  I believe in simple systems executed with absolute precision and a focus on outstanding behaviour so that teachers can teach great lessons and students can learn.  To this end, it is my intention to work with Trustees in the short term to reframe our Trust vision and values and will be discussing this work with the family of schools.  Clearly, we want the values and vision of the Trust to run through all that we do, and to underpin the daily work and identities of our individual schools.

When we have reframed our vision and values, I would, of course, welcome any feedback.  Any new wording of a vision and values statement may evolve as the Trust moves forward.



We have had some significant staff changes in recent weeks and I thought it useful to share these and also highlight the structure of the Trust.


You may know that the Trust is governed by the Board of Trustees (similar to the governing body of a school, but with different responsibilities).  In addition, there are Trust Members, who guard the values of the Trust and ensure that all our work aligns with the vision. (Please see the website for details).

Each individual school also reports to a School Governance Committee (some Multi Academy Trusts call them Local Academy Councils); each School Governance Committee oversees one school, checking on how leaders are ensuring that all students make excellent progress and that standards are challenged. The Board of Trustees oversees the work of the School Governance Committees.

The Chair of the Board of Trustees is Phil Jones OBE who was elected in April 2017.  David Wilkin is the Vice Chair of the Board.  The Board has seen some changes since 2017 and continues to be made up of Trustees with a wide range of expertise and experience.  The Trustees are clear about their brief to challenge and support the Executive Leaders, to ensure the best outcomes for all learners across the Trust family of schools.

Trust Leadership

Since I took up post in March 2018, we have completed key appointments to the Trust’s Executive team who will help drive school improvement.  James Franklin-Smith has joined the Trust as Executive Director of Secondary Education.  James has a first-class track record in improving student outcomes to outstanding.  James will report directly to myself and he will be responsible for the work of the heads of our two secondary schools.  James took up post on 2nd May and is based on a daily basis in both secondary schools and is in the process of being introduced to all students.

Tom Fay joins the Trust in July as Executive Director of Teaching and Learning and will work across all primary and secondary schools and will report directly to myself.  His brief is to drive teaching and learning and classroom practice so that we have a strong model that is formally aligned across all schools.  I am delighted that these two high calibre appointments are joining the Trust as they will add energy, pace and come with nationally recognised track records.  I look forward to working closely with them both and in unison with all our school leaders.

The Trust are currently also recruiting an Executive Director of Primary Education.  The successful applicant in this nationally advertised post will be accountable directly for the performance of our six primary schools and all heads will report directly to this individual.

Central Services

Schools pay a top slice (sometimes known as a management fee) fee from their funding to the Trust. In return, we strive to offer significant support to our family of schools in school improvement and business operations.  The aim as we move forward in this new phase of the Trust is to free up school leaders to focus on the core business of teaching and learning, and to reduce the burden of managing other aspects.  We have great expertise in the Trust to help drive standards, however, we will have the humility to go and learn from other institutions so that we feel confident that our children are accessing the best education.  It would be foolish of me to say that we are where we need to be as a Trust.  However, as we move ahead there is a leadership resilience, drive and determination as well as an explicit focus to improve the life chances of all students.

School leadership

We are currently recruiting to two Heads of School positions at Larks Hill and Orchard Head. Appointing people with the right values and drive is important for the Trust and I am extremely hopeful that our recruitment will provide a strong base for stability in our schools from which to move forward rapidly

Systems and Processes

The most important people in the Trust are your children – the learners that attend our schools.  We need to make sure that we are all making a difference to their learning and progress, whatever our role in the Trust.  In the coming months we are working towards the development of comprehensive school improvement systems across the Trust that will see greater formal alignment between the schools.  A common feature of some of the most successful Multi Academy Trusts in the country is that they have consistent systems around teaching and learning, behaviour and curriculum.  It makes sense for the Trust to embrace and learn from some of the best whilst respecting and embracing the individual identity and character of our schools.

The Future…

The drive for the Trust is to become an outstanding school improvement organisation that is achievement focused.  Our job is to improve life chances and that means ensuring our young people are as well qualified as they can be.  Children being happy is important certainly, but this can be fully realised if our children are highly employable and can go on to higher education if that is their wish.

There is much talk about Multi Academy Trusts and growth. Before there is any growth in the Trust the immediate priority is to drive performance so that all our family of schools offer an excellent level of education. We need to ensure that we, as a Trust, have the capacity to do this before we welcome any more schools into the Trust. I am sure, in time, we will be in a very strong position to do this. However, performance improvement is the number one goal and, rest assured, that neither the Board nor I are driven by dreams of rapid or extensive growth in the number of schools within the Trust.

Your sincerely,

Julian Appleyard OBE

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)