The Nene Education Trust was established in 2013 with the aim of growing and maintaining a multi academy trust of highly effective and sustainable schools. It aims to develop all its pupils, raising aspirations and developing character through their educational journey within a positive environment for learning through their unique Work. World. Wellness. curriculum approach. CEO Monthly has recognised the Trust’s leader, Chris Hill as Most Influential CEO 2021 – UK, so we are taking a closer look at the Trust’s work and achievements.
Raising aspirations and developing character is at the heart of everything that the Nene Education Trust does, to enable each young person to achieve highly and be successful in life, contributing back to the world we live in. The Trust comprises seven great schools located in East Northamptonshire and it is rightly proud of its schools, students and staff and the communities they serve. Each school is unique, but they are all united in believing passionately that all young people should have the opportunity to develop character, be aspirational and achieve their goals.
The Trust believes strongly in collaboration: sharing educational and operational expertise and the local community focus of the Trust makes this possible. As partners in this Trust, the aim is for all Trust schools to strive for excellence and they benefit from strong leadership, innovative pedagogy and by sharing good practice and resources.
Its people are the most important part of the organisation. The Trust recognises that its staff are the key to its success which is why it aims to recruit, develop and retain talented and highly skilled people that share the organisation’s ethos and believe in its vision to develop character, raise aspirations and celebrate achievement. The Trust makes a difference to the local community and the staff are 100% behind this. They are excited about the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of pupils in Northamptonshire.
The health and wellbeing of staff is crucial to the Trust. It firmly believes that healthy, happy staff make for a positive and productive workforce, a thriving and dynamic environment, and engaged and achieving young people. Its approach continues to evolve as it looks for ways to further enhance the working environment and wellbeing of its teams. With this, the Trust offers: 24/7 access to a free Employee Assistance Programme to provide confidential advice and guidance on any personal and/or work-related matter; free mindfulness training with a qualified and experienced professional; discounted gym membership; commitment to exploring ways to reduce email traffic and confine email replies to office hours, while recognising employees’ preferences for when they work; and commitment to continuously reviewing workload issues and exploring options for simpler, less onerous methods and processes.
Professional development is also a high priority for staff – the Trust has a long track record of “growing its own” and is committed to providing professional development opportunities for all staff, including: support (both financial and with study time) for other professional development programmes including MBAs and role specific qualifications such as AAT; access to nationally recognised professional qualifications and other external programmes including the Chartered Teacher Programme; an inhouse Excellence Pathways programme which offers bespoke training for middle and senior leaders; and there are also opportunities for staff to experience secondments at other schools in the Trust, collaborate with colleagues and work on exciting projects across the organisation. These opportunities will become more abundant as the Trust grows.
Working in schools and making a career in education is all about people; giving pupils the best start in life to enable them to become the adults, parents and employees of the future. Alongside its pupils, the Trust ensures that that learning opportunities continue for teachers, associate staff and volunteers associated with its schools. This happens best of all within an environment where people feel safe and valued, and maintaining this environment during the pandemic was a challenge to which everyone rose.
Since March 2020, the Trust has faced the challenge of responding to the ever-changing COVID situation, and since September, to the constant threat of positive cases impacting its ability to keep its schools open. This has of course been an extremely anxious time for many people, so the Trust has tried to put all its people first and as demonstrated by the feedback received from parents and staff at the end of September, it managed to overcome these concerns through its clear communication and well planned adjustments in schools. This builds upon the positive feedback received prior to the summer break when schools reopened in June and July. The Trust is rightly proud of this achievement.
During the autumn term, the pressure and demands on Principals to be on call 24/7 to respond to any outbreak and to take the subsequent actions to manage this, has been relentless. To that end, the Trust has been minded to “reduce the burden” on Principals through keeping the three key aspects of high-quality teaching, safeguarding and health and safety as the main focus since October. This in turn has allowed Principals to focus their staff on these key elements. Whilst there was a relatively low number of Covid cases in most Trust schools, and in some schools none at all, each was different in impact. The Principals have gone above and beyond to ensure that no stone was left unturned, even when outbreaks happened over weekends, to ensure that staff and parents were informed of the necessary next steps.
Nene Education Trust CEO, Chris Hill is a strong believer in people having the right work life balance, and the Trust team’s attitude has been excellent over the last 12 months in particular. The Trust needs people “on the bus” as the journey continues, and sometimes they have to pull over in the lay-by where “people get off”, new people get on and some “passengers move seats”.
Chris is a keen reader and enjoys reading Tony Robbins and Simon Sinek in particular, as he continues to evolve his personal development and leadership skills. Chris will also be beginning his Masters through the National College in the upcoming months, demonstrating that developing people is something that applies to everyone.
Whilst COVID has been a major challenge for Chris and the Trust, financial management has also been a key focus. When Chris joined the Trust, the financial position was in need of attention, but it has quickly turned around and is now in a much better place. Over the last three years the Trust has been able to invest £2m in buildings, infrastructure and IT, and it has now reached a tipping point in its financial evolution, so by the end of 2021, it will, through growth, be in the sustainable sponsor phase with economies of scale and the ability to invest more into school improvement.
Indeed, the Trust is in a very strong position and the next stage of its growth is going to be really important. Chris is determined to grow the Trust significantly over the next three to five years, including developing two of the three schools in Stanton Cross in Wellingborough. Nene Education Trust will become a leader in the education sector and Chris genuinely believes that its approach is different to any other MAT (multi-academy trust) in the UK.
Looking back over the last two years in particular, Chris is incredibly proud of what the Trust has achieved, and he is feeling very optimistic about the future, and in 2026 he will reflect on the previous five years as a period of significant growth.
For business enquiries contact Chris Hill from the Nene Education Trust via www.neneeducationtrust.org.uk.