WISE Academies is a successful multi-academy trust based in North-East England spread across three Local Authority areas. The Trust was established in March 2011 when two Sunderland based primary schools (Town End and Bexhill) converted to form a multi-academy trust (MAT), being invited to do so by the Department for Education as highly successful schools. This was the start of one of the first MATs in the area, formed to embrace the greater freedoms afforded by the academies’ agenda.
By 2012 WISE had grown to 4 academies. The two schools that joined were struggling schools before academy conversion took place and served communities based in some of the most deprived wards in the country. Within two years both schools were rated good by Ofsted, and subsequent inspections have built on this early success with the Trust’s most deprived school achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Behaviour judgement in its 2018 inspection.
After 2012, the Trust paused its growth in order to build leadership capacity and ensure highly effective systems and structures underpinned all areas of its work. A central team was gradually established in order to allow academy headteachers to focus relentlessly on improving outcomes for pupils while the functions of Finance, Governance, Health and Safety, HR and IT were taken care of by highly skilled experts.
By 2015 the Trust was experiencing great success with three out of four of its academies achieving their highest ever results. WISE Academies had developed a national reputation for excellence and was acknowledged by both Nicky Morgan, the former Secretary of State, in her address at the Academies Show in April 2016 and Lord Nash in his address to the House of Lords in October 2015. It was at this point that WISE Academies’ Board of Trustees believed that the Trust was ready to grow again if the opportunity arose.
Between 2016 and 2017, two further schools joined the Trust, a well performing school, and a further sponsored academy which was a small, rural first school. In 2019 this previously inadequate school was inspected and achieved a ‘Good’ outcome in all areas. Also in this year, one of the original schools in the MAT achieved an ‘improving to outstanding’ judgement by Ofsted.
The Trust had developed strength and depth of expertise and capacity by this time both within academy leadership and staffing structures and also in the central team. The Board of Trustees determined that the Trust was in a very strong position and growth opportunities should still be sought if they presented themselves. In 2018, a significant growth opportunity materialized, and after a thorough analysis of risk through the due diligence process, a further 8 academies joined the Trust. These consisted of 2 convertor academies and 6 sponsored academies including the re-brokerage of a Trust with 3 schools.
At this point WISE Academies paused its growth again as its key priority was to ensure that all new schools in the MAT felt supported and were benefiting from being part of the MAT.
The increased size of the Trust meant re-organisation was necessary in order to maintain oversight so it could continue to understand the needs and challenges of its schools and therefore provide agile support. The Regional Hub Structure was established and two Regional Hub Leaders were appointed. One of the great benefits of becoming a mid-sized Trust was that WISE Academies became eligible to receive automatic Schools Condition Allocation which is used to strategically improve Trust academies so that buildings are of a high standard and pupils have learning environments that are fit for modern day education.