‘We want to contribute to the changing face of this area’: Academy trust hails successful first year
An academy trust hoping to “put West Norfolk back on the map” is marking the end of a successful first year.
Kwest Multi Academy Trust was formed in March 2018 in unusual circumstances – with seven founding schools all converting to academies simultaneously.
The resulting organisation has more than 400 staff and 1,100 pupils across primary and infant schools in King’s Lynn and the Fens and complex needs school Churchill Park Academy.
He acknowledges that education in West Norfolk has its challenges, but said Kwest’s schools – all rated good or higher by Ofsted – were aiming to collaborate and share their good practices.
Chief executive Paul Donkersloot is a former headteacher with 30 years’ experience in education, mainly in the independent sector.
He said: “We want to contribute to the changing face of this area, 500 years ago King’s Lynn and West Norfolk were associated with some world class people. We wanted to reflect on that and put this area back on the map.
“Like other parts of Norfolk social mobility is very low. We are not suggesting we are educating our young people so they can move away but so they have a choice, so if they decide to live in Paris they have the skills to follow that choice.”
In its first year Kwest has invested £150,000 in developing learning outside the classroom and has kickstarted improvement projects at Highgate Infant School, where a dilapidated mobile classroom is being replaced, and Greyfriars Academy.
With two infant schools in its ranks another area for development will be early years education, particularly in early intervention to help progress.
Mr Donkersloot said one of the biggest tests was the trust’s financial strategy of pooling schools’ resources – but he feels the gamble has paid off.
“Contracts we have renegotiated have helped to save us some money, we have done away with duplications and we have been able to expand staffing rather than streamline it,” he said.
The trust is aiming to build its numbers to 15 or 20 schools and is seeking four new trustees.
“Our directors and members are people who are ambitious for education and ambitious to change for the better. Being a multi-academy trust gives us the opportunity to be more innovative,” Mr Donkersloot said.