Strategy for School Improvement

What do we value and aim for as a trust as we seek to support our schools to improve?

1. DSAT schools are all individual and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to curriculum and provision. Headteachers and their staff design curriculum programmes that meet the needs of their own school and context.

2. Our commonalities and shared approach across DSAT speak more about pedagogy and joint practice development than a replicated curriculum. We have a strong, developing, research-based approach to teaching and learning which is consistent and shared across all of our schools: this forms the basis of our drive for school improvement and raising of standards in all aspects of the curriculum.

3. Raising attainment is also about understanding the aspirations of the individual child, and as such, in DSAT we promote the mastery approach in our classrooms; expertly planning learning which enables all children to access teaching and to make rapid progress. We support our teachings to become experts at delivering adaptive teaching to empower all children to achieve the best possible outcomes and to know more over time.

4. We promote teaching strategies across our schools which enable our pupils to know and remember more: applying retrieval strategies, planning small steps of learning to ensure children’s conceptual knowledge is developed and learning is deeply embedded, and promoting fluency strategies. We support our leaders and teachers to design and deliver the curriculum in a way which allows pupils to transfer key knowledge to long-term memory, sequenced so that new knowledge and skills build on what has been taught before and pupils can work towards clearly defined end points. The science of memory and current research relating to this is the golden thread through our well-defined DSAT pedagogy.

5. In DSAT, teachers have a common language and framework for Teaching and Learning, defined as our ‘Teach Simply’ DSAT model. We believe that children know and remember more when lessons are shaped around the following: Revisit/review, Teach, Practise, Apply, Assess. Our DSAT ‘Teach Simply’ model is informed by current research and, very importantly, ensures that our children know and remember more.

6. In DSAT, our aim is to ensure that all children make excellent progress, and that no child is lost in the averages. At the heart of this is a commitment to improving the quality of teaching and learning in every DSAT classroom and for every child every day.

The DSAT 10: what does DSAT school improvement look like across the school year, in the classroom for our children and in the staffroom for our educators?


High expectations and accountability.

DSAT has high aspirations for all pupils in our care. We have a standardised system for assessment of the core subjects, including annual testing and online systems to identify pupils falling behind and precise gaps in knowledge. Schools are held to account for performance and supported to improve performance. Curriculum leads (wider curriculum) are supported to design ambitious curriculums and to develop assessment strategies which identify precisely what substantive and disciplinary knowledge all children have gained. The CEO and Deputy CEO manage headteacher appraisal across the trust, which ensures that leadership are accountable and are supported to meet targets.


Collaborative partnership working and system leadership.

School improvement is internally driven while at the same time influenced by good practice and current research. This is a relentless focus, and DSAT’s Head of Teaching and Learning (who is also the Deputy CEO and trained as an Ofsted inspector) champions this in a full-time capacity. She is supported in this role by a diverse and highly skilled team of leaders, system leaders and lead practitioners from across the trust, who are deployed to support at a trust, school or class level. We know that engaging in system leadership makes us all stronger as a trust and encourages learning agility, growth and a shared vision as a staff.


Secure understanding of each individual school’s context, self-evaluation and steps needed to move to their next level of performance.

School improvement activity in DSAT happens regularly and is part of our culture. The Head of School Improvement works alongside school leaders and our schools very closely. This ensures that we know our schools well. As a result of this effective partnership, precise planning for next steps to improve in relation to all aspects of school life are identified and planned for. We adapt strategies to meet the needs of different contexts and then mobilise the DSAT school improvement team to support schools to improve. This strategy has a proven track record: 100% of schools who joined the trust in category (Requires Improvement or Inadequate) have improved rapidly and been judged as ‘good’ at their next inspection.


The development of excellence in leadership.

Leadership at all levels are supported and share good practice, and this drives improvements at an individual school level as a result. Executive Headteachers and headteachers network regularly and receive updates, training and support, including being kept up to date with relevant research and good practice. Leaders at all levels network and work together to improve and receive training: governors, senior leaders, subject leads, key stage leads including early years leads, SENDCos. Our School Improvement workforce engages in training and coaching to develop our leadership teams and subject leads.


Children knowing more, remembering more and doing more.

There is a relentless focus on improving teaching and learning in all DSAT schools and in all classrooms for the benefit of all our children. This includes the development of a shared understanding of our approach to teaching and learning, with current research and cutting-edge practice informing our pedagogy. We have developed a DSAT wide approach to teaching and learning – our DSAT Teach Simply pedagogy – which ensures that pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning are based on current research on memory. Our training offer includes professional development opportunities to further improve teaching and learning in all of our settings.


The development of courageous classrooms and courageous staffrooms.

In DSAT, we know that children learn when they feel safe and are inspired to be aspirational. We train our schools to understand how to build a culture which inspires courage: building courageous classrooms where children are not afraid to ask for help and embrace learning. Similarly, we support our staff to embrace learning agility and be courageous as life-long learners: courageous staffrooms.


Embedding a culture of safeguarding.

Embedding a strong safeguarding culture in DSAT is a priority for us. We work with our schools to ensure that practices are safe and securely based on current guidance. We ensure staff and volunteers are well trained and alert to safeguarding issues, and we check regularly that this takes place. We monitor and support safer recruitment and support leadership to manage the workforce in line with safe practices. DSAT check with school leaders’ records to ensure concerns are reported and acted upon.


Inspiring inclusive practice.

DSAT is an inclusive academy trust and our vision, values and ethos embrace equality, DSAT supports our schools to further improve inclusive practice. Vulnerable pupils are supported, and schools challenged to ensure any barriers to success are overcome for pupils who are disadvantaged, including those with SEN need. We set out clearly as a trust how to use Pupil Premium funding wisely and in line with guidance.


Supporting wellbeing.

DSAT supports leaders to evaluate practices in order to improve the ways we promote wellbeing for our staff and pupils. Our DSAT People’s Director pioneers our wellbeing strategy and meets regularly with headteachers to consider strategies to improve staff workload. This includes using the DfE workload toolkit with headteachers, evaluating provision, and also working with Early Career teachers to support them to manage workload effectively.


Developing staff as experts in the management of behaviour.

Our Strategic Lead for Behaviour and Culture, a SLE who is a specialist in behaviour management, supports schools and individual staff to review behaviour strategies and make improvements to provision. This complements training for schools and staff, including for Early Career teachers.

DSAT School Improvement Activities

School improvement in DSAT is led by our Deputy CEO (Head of School Improvement), who is a trained Ofsted inspector and works full time for the trust. Support for schools is often bespoke in nature and designed with the school’s needs and self-evaluation in mind, with the headteacher and DSAT Head of School Improvement working together to plan action to support the school.

Sometimes some schools need additional, intensive support for a period of time. This package of support varies depending on the needs of the school, but includes intense support for leadership, coaching for staff, articulated and measurable action plans with termly reviews, staff training. When this is identified, a clear, precise and informed action plan is put into place, led by our Deputy CEO/ Head of School Improvement. Impact of this is evident. In DSAT, 100% schools who joined us in an Ofsted category (Requires Improvement or Inadequate) have improved at their next inspection and are now all a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ school.

This bespoke package of support is supplemented with a core, ongoing offer of support and system leadership, outlined below:
The DSAT School Improvement Offer

The DSAT School Improvement Workforce

Our school improvement team is led by the Deputy CEO/ Head of School Improvement. This is a full-time role. Our Deputy CEO/ Head of School Improvement is an experienced primary teacher with experience as a headteacher and executive headteacher, who has supported schools as a NLE for many years. She is trained as an Ofsted inspector.

We believe firmly in system leadership in DSAT: growing and developing as a team of schools and practitioners. We have therefore identified from within our trust skilled staff who support our school improvement strategy. These staff are trained and supported to deliver against our DSAT aims and ambitious goals and are coordinated by the Head of School Improvement. Their skills cover a breadth of experience from across the trust, and therefore we have within our School Improvement team Executive leaders, senior leaders, subject and key stage specialist teachers, SENDCos.

Our Executive headteachers play an integral part in our school improvement team and a proportion of their timetable is spent leading aspects of school improvement. Our English, maths and phonics hub leads similarly contribute to the school improvement offer, and a proportion of their timetable is assigned to this task. The maths hub lead is also a Maths mastery Specialist, and within her remit as for the SY Maths Hub supports several of our schools on the maths mastery programme. Wider curriculum hub leads and key stage hub leads complement this offer by leading termly hub meetings. Our DSAT Lead Practitioners (LPDS) offer up to 6 days a year support across the trust (focused on coaching, modelling, leadership support or staff training), and this equates to over 100 days a year from across the LPD team. There are currently 20 skilled and trained LPDs in DSAT, all current teachers and leaders in our schools. In total, the system leadership (Executive headteacher, headteacher support, LPD support and hub leads) equate to 2 full time posts, complemented by the full-time post of our Head of School Improvement (equating to three full time posts supporting the work of school improvement across our schools).

Breakdown of the DSAT School Improvement Workforce