‘It is demanding’: Academy trust’s third boss in six years opens up on new role

Oliver Burwood, the new chief executive of the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT). Picture: DNEAT

Oliver Burwood, the new chief executive of the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT). Picture: DNEAT


The new boss of a Norfolk academy trust has pledged to continue the improvement journey for its academies started by his predecessors.

Oliver Burwood took over as chief executive of the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT) in September.

The trust is now Norfolk's largest with 34 schools, around 1,000 staff and an annual turnover of £32m.

Mr Burwood is the trust's third leader since its inception in 2013 - but said the quick turnover was not unusual among multi-academy trusts.

"It is a demanding job and it takes a lot of your time and effort," he said.

"The way the trust feels is, they would rather have someone doing it well for a short period of time than someone who is hanging around."

Mr Burwood said he wished to continue strides made by his predecessors to improve the performance of the trusts' schools.

"We are really proud of some of the recent achievements. For example, about 81pc of our academies are now ranked good or better by Ofsted, up from 54pc in September 2017," he said.

"We are pleased that our academic outcomes are improving at a faster rate than national, but there is still more work to do there.

"In maths we have improved by 18pc since 2016, compared to a national improvement of 9pc, but we are still a long way behind and we want to catch up to national expectations."

While Mr Burwood does not have his eyes set specifically on expansion, he said DNEAT was "in dialogue" with a number of church schools.

"Whatever approach you take to school improvement, you need to be part of a club which is why we think we are effective," he said.

With the general election on the horizon, he said education funding would be a key concern.

"We try and deal with the reality we have. Finance is a challenge for all trusts and schools, but the message at the moment from both possible governments seems to be there is more money coming," he said.

"There are pressures on all of our academies, they each have their own budgets and have to live within their means, but because we have the right people managing our finances currently we have been able to pass on savings to our schools, for example on catering contracts."

Relationships education for church schools

Next September will see the implementation of compulsory relationships and sex education (RSE) for primary schools - a policy which has proved contentious with some religious communities.

But Mr Burwood was confident that DNEAT - all but two of whose academies are church schools - would find a way to appease parents' worries over the new teaching.

"Like everyone else, we will have a statutory duty to teach it. It is important for people to understand that," he said.

"Our approach has been to use expertise to get our academies the best approach for them."

The trust has been consulting with relationships and sex education advisor Josie Rayner-Wells to make sure its policy on RSE does not clash with its schools' Christian values.

Mr Burwood added: "Each school will need to do their own consultation to make sure it is right for their school. We really need to hear the feedback from parents - within the parameters of the fact that we have to teach it."

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