ACET is a not-for-profit charity which was established in May 2011, when Aston Comprehensive School, an outstanding school at the time, converted to academy status. At this point, ACET (Aston Community Education Trust) was a single academy trust (SAT) which had been established to provide support for schools in challenging circumstances – this was something which had been happening on an informal basis for a number of years and due to the changes in the education and political landscape, the Headteacher, Eunice Newton and Chair of Governors, John Barton, created the vision to provide support for children on a larger scale through the establishment of ACET.
In July 2012, Thurcroft Junior School joined ACET through a sponsored route brokered by the DfE. Finding itself in challenging circumstances for a number of years and on its journey out of special measures, the opportunities which were made a reality for the children and staff of Thurcroft cannot be underestimated. The collaboration of primary and secondary colleagues proved to be a formula for success as secondary subject expertise enhanced primary pedagogy; central business support for finance, estates and personnel issues enabled the Headteacher to focus on the leadership of the curriculum and staff through a highly effective mentoring and coaching model implemented by the CEO. Thurcroft secured an Ofsted judgement of good in February 2014.
The initial success of ACET led to the Regional Schools Commissioner approaching ACET to sponsor further academies and so we find ourselves in a position in November 2022 where the Trust now comprises 12 academies: 3 senior academies and 9 junior academies. At ACET, our junior academies, with the exception of Thurcroft, are primary schools offering education for children/pupils aged 2-11. In the senior academies, education is offered for students aged 11-18 years.
We are a trust that is committed to transforming lives by ensuring all learners have access to a quality first education. Across many of our communities, there remain high levels of unemployment and local challenges which are still impacting life chances many years after the closure of local industry, namely, the mining industry. We have a track record of school improvement (as evidenced in Appendix 8), prioritising the quality of education through fully sequenced curriculums which offer flexibility for context-specific considerations; academy improvement support through strategic leaders and leadership development programmes to secure succession planning and future-proof retention of staff. It is important to us that leaders feel they have the support of a wider network of colleagues – we recognise the demands of the role and value the importance of colleague support.
The vast majority of ACET academies are located in communities with a high level of deprivation across Derbyshire and South Yorkshire; most academies have a higher than national average rate of children in receipt of FSM. Just 2 academies, Listerdale and Waverley are regarded as being located in affluent communities.
At ACET, we want our academies to be at the heart of their local community; to retain and develop their own unique character and local community links whilst implementing the policy and practice that brings alignment and a sense of family across the Trust. In accepting a school into the Trust, we have no intention of separating the school from its local links and very much encourage maintaining links with local feeder schools/community contacts. We view joining our family of academies as an enhancement to the infrastructure and support a school already has at a local level; the benefit of joining ACET is to offer further opportunities to share best practice and adopt curriculum models/business strategies that have proven success.
We believe that local children should attend local schools and so our academies are not selective in their admission arrangements. Our practice is fully inclusive and we welcome children from all backgrounds and ability groups, including those who might be categorised as vulnerable. Across the trust, we invest in support structures that ensure arrangements for safeguarding and SEND are robust, with expert advice readily available from senior leaders as and when required.
As a trust, we are committed to continued professional development and learning opportunities for staff working at all levels. We have plans to further enhance career prospects through the offer of clearly defined career pathways in order that we can recognise the ambitions and talent of staff working at all levels. We have a strong belief that people are a precious resource which we need to nurture, support and value so for this reason, we listen to the views of staff through twice-yearly surveys outlining actions to be taken to further improve the workplace experience. Our people create the ACET family.