Over the past five years since incorporation, we have become a family of eight schools which sit at the heart of all the Trust’s work, supported by a strong business and governance infrastructure led by a lean and nimble central services team. Our schools have a mix of Ofsted judgements of good and outstanding with many strengths between them and a track record of sharing practice. Each school has its own character and yet we share a common family identity. This is an important part of our signature as a multi-academy trust. Our school principals and headteachers are accomplished leaders who enjoy the opportunity to stretch themselves professionally. The Trust provides an environment in which leaders can learn from each other and engage in wider system work both within the MAT and across London.
To this end, we have been developing an infrastructure for sharing practice more effectively so we can continuously improve the quality of education for our students. This includes trust-wide peer reviews of learning and teaching, leading practitioners, subject networks and a leadership academy. We are learning this year about early years and primary age specialism as colleagues join us from Canon Barnett primary school, extending our policy, teaching and curriculum work from age 19 right down to age 2 provision. We are excited to extend in this way, bringing this to bear on our second primary school, Wood Wharf.
In the next phase of the Trust’s development, we are preparing for further schools to join as the system becomes increasingly school led. We hope this will include some secondary, much primary and some special school provision. Some of our most experienced school leaders will lead clusters of schools to ensure that we are an inclusive trust. As of September 2022, we will be educating over 5000 students and employing 500 staff.
In addition to our work in schools, we have developed a number of other elements of our provision, each designed to extend what can be offered to staff and students:
- The East London Teaching School Hub – which offers ITT (Initial Teacher Training), the ECF (Early Career Framework), NPQs (National Professional Qualifications) in leadership and CPD (Continuing Professional Development). This is system leadership work in Tower Hamlets and Hackney to support outstanding teaching and leadership across the region whilst also improving practice within the Trust.
- Mulberry Arts – an extensive Trust-wide arts provision spanning theatre, dance, music, film, conferences and training for employment in the creative industries. An extensive range of partners are engaged in this work, focused on developing confidence, exploring identity and developing skills in public speaking and performance.
- Mulberry STEM Academy – a supplementary school running on Saturdays and in the holidays for students aged 5 – 18, with an alumni programme. It is sponsored by Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd and aims to create a talent pipeline amongst our students into careers in STEM-related industries. These industries are not yet ethnically diverse and gender equality remains problematic. This programme is a deep and longitudinal initiative to bring about systemic change.
- The Mulberry Schools Foundation – a charity which raises funds to provide deep and meaningful opportunities for students and their families which cannot be afforded within their usual financial constraints, for example travel bursaries, books and equipment, the Global Girl Leading programme, Model UN and so on. The Foundation aims to level up the playing field financially, giving the added value through such resources to those that do not have them.
- The Knowledge and Innovation Hub – a research and development arm of the Trust’s work, which allows Mulberry to build its own knowledge base about disadvantage, community and education as well as creating entrepreneurial activity to address the disadvantage gap for children in education. During the pandemic lockdown in response to the difficulties families were experiencing, Mulberry co-founded with the Dunraven Education Trust ‘Reconnect London’ which aims to better understand and target the impact of lockdown on disadvantage.
As we look to the future through this new strategic plan, we know we are part way through a journey. In 2017, the Mulberry Schools Trust set out planned growth of between 10 and 15 schools over a decade. We anticipate that the DfE’s preferred size of MAT will be 20 schools and so we may have to adjust this. We have reached a strong position, with robust governance, secure finances and good central services with an outstanding offer of trust-wide programmes for students and staff. The next five years looks bright and exciting, as we move on from the Covid pandemic challenges of 2020 – 2022 and plan for the next five years of the Trust’s work.