Oak Learning Partnership Header Image
Header image

Oak Learning Partnership

Oak Learning Partnership is a Multi Academy Trust that was formed on the 1st April 2019 between Unsworth Primary School and Elms Bank Specialist Arts College. Hazelwood High School is currently being sponsored by the Partnership.

Our CEO is James Franklin Smith and our Director of School Improvement is Christine Reynolds. Use the link at the bottom to visit our Trust website, where you will find all the key information about our Trust.

Ethos and Mission Statement


To give our learning community a highly effective education in a truly inclusive environment.



Aspiration – we have a strong desire across our learning community to achieve something great, to achieve more than we expected and to encourage others to do the same, to believe that we can achieve great things and overcome all the obstacles.

Integrity - we talk about having moral courage, overcoming difficulties, and being able to have difficult conversations, being self-reflective and basing everything on truth and trust, having empathy and being open with a clarity of purpose in our systems.

Resilience – we want to encourage our pupils to be fearless, to have capacity including emotional capacity, to be confident, have positive self-esteem and be able to bounce back and be on a journey for learning.

Local Governing Body

Each school retains its own local governing body.

Composition of local governing bodies (LGB) is per current Schemes of Delegation, which allow significant flexibility to meet local context and needs. LGBs should focus on creating governing bodies comprising people with the right skills and commitment to ensure effective governance. Headteachers will be responsible for seeking appropriate membership of their LGB supported by the CEO and the trustees. The trustees prior to appointment will agree all members of the LGB.

Function of local governing bodies:

The details of what has been delegated from the trustees to local governors should be detailed in a scheme of delegation for each LGB. This should make it clear what functions the trustees have delegated to the LGB and for which academies. They are expected to undertake an annual self-evaluation of the effectiveness of their governance and identify priorities for improving governance.

It is important to note that local governors are not trustees of the academy trust, unless they also sit on the academy trust board. Everyone involved in the MAT governance arrangements should ensure that they understand what their role is. This should be clear from the scheme of delegation. It should be noted, however, that even where trustees have delegated functions to local governors, the trustees remain accountable and responsible for these functions. Trustees should, therefore, be satisfied about the LGB’s ability to adequately perform any functions delegated to them

In general, it is expected that LGBs will be responsible, in each school, for:

  • Ensuring that the school promotes the vision and values of the Trust.
  • The safety and well-being of staff and pupils.
  • The attainment and progress of pupils.
  • The quality of teaching and learning.
  • The range and quality of the curriculum.
  • The appointment, development and performance management of staff.
  • The effective deployment of funds and resources.
  • Ensuring that the school meets the standards of financial management and controls set out in the FHT Finance Policy.
  • The maintenance of the site and buildings.
  • Engaging effectively with parents and the local community.
  • Ensuring that the school fulfils the Trust’s expectations for engagement

Information about Academies

Academies are state schools that are funded directly by the government rather than through the local authority. They have to establish strong and effective systems of accountability and governance to ensure that they are successful and provide the highest possible standards of education and care for children. At Unsworth we consider that this is what we do and, in order to protect our school and its children and families in the future,  we feel the time is right to join with others in order to be ‘stronger together’. Our multi-academy trust will be known as Oak Learning Partnership.

Individual schools will be facing huge pressures over the next five years and it is now widely accepted that groups of schools working together in collaboration are best placed to provide security and strength to their communities. Well over half of all secondary schools in the country are already academies as are around twenty per cent of primary schools. The number is increasing quite rapidly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Further information on the creation of a Multi-Academy Trust

What is a Multi-Academy Trust (sometimes called a MAT)?

A MAT is where a number of schools formally join together so they can share resources and help each other to improve. Rather than being funded by and accountable to the local authority, a MAT is directly funded by and accountable to the Department for Education (DfE).

Individual academies, which are part of our MAT, will retain their distinctive nature. They will keep their names and uniform policies. The school’s will not change except in ways we think will improve the schools even more. This is why we want to create our own MAT so we can shape its nature and retain the characteristics that make our schools successful rather than join an existing MAT and potentially lose some of our unique qualities. This is the same for each school in the MAT.

All academies in a MAT are overseen by a single board of trustees. Our trust board is made up from governors from the schools in our partnership and  other trustees specifically recruited for their skills. The board is responsible for standards and the overall effectiveness of all the academies in the trust and not just one school. Certain powers are also delegated to local governing bodies at each school. These will be decided in our scheme of delegation which will be drawn up during Summer 2019.


Why are we considering forming a Multi-Academy Trust?

The founding schools of our MAT have worked together. We have collaborated on different projects. We want to secure this partnership and protect our schools going forward. The leaders and governors at each school have spent many months researching the benefits and pitfalls of becoming part of a MAT. The reasons for doing this in a formal partnership are:

  • To maintain excellence in both of our schools for all of our pupils by closer collaboration and sharing of expertise and school improvement strategies at a time when support from the local authority has diminished.
  • To further develop the educational experience for all of our children through our work together in developing an enhanced curriculum.
  • To strengthen leadership at all levels across all of our schools and increase opportunities for the continuing professional development of all staff.
  • To take further control over our finances and find opportunities to benefit from economies of scale and share costs and administrative functions.
  • To offer school to school support to schools that are under-performing in a more formal relationship by becoming a sponsor of such schools.

What are the benefits for our children and communities?

Our children will benefit through:

  • Developing an enhanced curriculum which leads to a broader range of learning opportunities across all of the schools in the trust.
  • Greater opportunities for learning across the schools, both physically and through technology, enabling pupils to collaborate together and foster more friendships with each other.
  • Enabling a greater consistency in learning by sharing best practice and ensuring attainment and progress is the best it can be for all children.
  • Access to improved resources, services and support functions that the local authority can no longer provide due to spending cuts.
  • Access to a greater number of shared resources e.g. curriculum materials and shared staff expertise.

What are the benefits for staff and our schools?

Our staff will benefit by:

  • Developing closer links between staff so that they can work together to develop better teaching and learning, share expertise and jointly problem solve.
  • Gaining a greater understanding of pupils’ progress through sharing data and other self evaluation processes across all schools in the trust.
  • Increasing capacity for strategic leadership, as leaders in our schools we will be able to work across the trust as a team to further develop and share areas of expertise. This will enable us to retain our best staff by increasing their opportunities to develop.
  • Enabling the leadership of the trust to bid for grants for additional funding as a charitable status trust.
  • Sharing ‘back office’ functions such as financial management, ICT functions, personnel management, central purchasing and premises maintenance so that we can do things more efficiently and more effectively.
  • By choosing to join a MAT, the schools will not be forced into academy status under the sponsorship of another school or organisation in the future.

What are the possible concerns?

‘Pressure to convert has been put on our school from the Department for Education and the government.’

The governors of each school have made the decision to support conversion independently based on what they see as the benefits to the children, the school and the staff. These decisions were made prior to recent government announcements on academisation. We believe that schools are best placed to work on school improvement together. It is this ‘school-led system’ that will ensure the best possible provision for all of our pupils.

We will not be forced to take on additional schools until we have the capacity to do so. Any decisions on additional schools joining would be made by the Board of Trustees. Any school joining would be expected to abide by our vision, ethos and governance structure and fully contribute and learn from the other schools.

‘This is a sudden decision. Our school is doing well-why change?’

The leaders and governors at each school have spent two years considering the question of whether to form a MAT for all of the reasons outlined above. We feel that we will be stronger together as the local authority’s capacity to support and challenge schools diminishes.  We want to shape our own future and take control at this point in time. We have always been outward-looking and believe that collaboration is how we improve our school even further.

‘The schools in the MAT are very different. Some are primary schools and some are secondary schools. How can that work?’

All schools have to focus on the pedagogy of teaching and learning, which is the dame no matter what the age range of the young people. We feel that this diversity adds to our strength as a group. We will also ensure that our founding principles are written in such a way as to protect the distinctive nature of each individual school. No school in the MAT will have the power to change the nature of any other school.

Each school will retain responsibility for setting its own culture and ethos from selecting uniform to developing their own curriculum. Much of the sharing is ‘behind the scenes’ where it is most effective.

As our MAT grows in the future, we will look to maintain a balance of primary and secondary schools.

‘The trustee board may not know individual schools very well.’

The trustees are partly made up of existing governors of the schools concerned. They will want to do their best to make sure all children across the trust are well looked after and will continue to visit the schools as governors do currently. They will also have to commit to ALL of the schools in the MAT and not just represent one.

‘Staff may find it hard to meet up with staff from other schools.’

All the schools in the MAT are within twenty minutes drive of each other. The schools involved in our MAT already involve themselves in joint developments.

‘The school is no longer accountable to the local authority.’

This is true but the trust would be accountable directly to the DFE and our accounts would be audited by the DFE’s Education Funding Agency and external auditors. We would also be overseen by our Regional Schools Commissioner, Vicky Beer, as well as continue to be subject to inspection by Ofsted. The schools in the trust would also continue to work in partnership with the local authority and buy back those services that offer value for money. Schools already buy-back services from both local authority and private providers and this will not alter but working as a group of schools gives us more opportunities for economies of scale.


Why should our staff support other schools?

Our school has always collaborated with and supported other schools. The governors have always supported this work outside of our school as they have seen the benefits for Unsworth. Looking outwards has led to improvements in our own practice.

We believe that we have an obligation to our own school and to children in other schools to make sure that their educational experience is the best it can be. This sometimes means that our staff go into other schools to develop their practice. This is called school to school support. Decisions to offer support are only made if we have the capacity to do so without affecting the quality of education in our own school and that will continue. Being part of a trust gives us additional funding to protect our own school when offering school to school support.


What might the trust look like in the future?

It is our intention to start as a small MAT in order to get our structures and relationships with each other right. We also need to ensure that joining the MAT protects the quality of education in our own schools before we start to support other schools.

In the future other schools might apply to join our MAT. Whether they do so would depend on them sharing our values and beliefs and our capacity to support them if support is needed. There would be a process of ‘due diligence’ before any school joined the trust.

There is also more information about academies on the gov.uk website, we have shared the link below.

Our school motto is ‘Together We Build Understanding.’ We live that every day.  We are entering into this process with enthusiasm and a conviction that it is the right thing to do for the future of our school.