Embark Federation: A case study of Derbyshire
Contextual Information about the trust:
Embark Federation is an Education Charitable Trust that was set up on 1st January to serve 7 schools and around 2000 pupils across Derbyshire.
Many of these are in the 10% most deprived areas in the country.
We have found that a majority of children don't have access to the same opportunities that others do, so we as a trust have made it our mission to do something about this.
We have developed something called the Embark Award which is 100 activities that we would like children to have achieved before they leave school at 11. This is part of our commitment to the wider offer for our children.
We have also used our opportunity of working together as a group of schools in a trust to generate fundraising and sponsorship to set up a number of exciting events for our children and communities to help raise aspiration for all.
Why we believe creating wider social value and civic impact is important:
We very much support the narrative of being a civic trust. We have no academies; all are still called schools. We speak of being an Education Charitable Trust and our trust leader, Matthew Crawford, and our exceptional Chair of Trustees, Sarah Armitage, are working very hard to ensure the narrative is heard across the trust. Both are system leaders and, as an NLE/NLG partnership, have always sought to support children and communities right across the wider system.
When speaking to businesses who support us with sponsorship this narrative has been very helpful.
Sir David Carter once spoke of the ‘MAT dividend’ – how do parents and children know that they are part of a trust in a meaningful way?
We believe the work we are doing which we will describe in more detail below is helping to raise the aspirations of our pupils by giving them access to opportunities they would not have otherwise had. Our Embark Award also helps to create family learning opportunities within our communities and helps increase parental engagement.
Brief description of what we are doing:
In April last year, as a new trust, we appointed Rosie Mclaughlin for two days each week. Rosie’s background was in performing arts and she had graduated from the prestigious Mountview Academy in London. Her remit was to generate income through grants or sponsorship to give our children further opportunities. In her first 7 weeks she had brought £15,000 into the trust. A summary of what has followed is below:
- In April, two West End Stars, Sophie Isaacs (rising star of the West End 2018) and Victoria Farley (previously Glinda in Wicked and Cosette in Les Miserables) came to Derby to work with 70 of our children. They worked with successful Music Producer Baby J to record our Federation song which can be seen on YouTube on our Embark Federation Channel.
- In June successful illustrator Lucy Truman who has worked for authors such as Sophie Kinsella and local artist Sophie Edwards worked with 70 of our children inspiring them with their creativity.
- 23 of our most disadvantaged children enjoyed a week-long workshop led by 6 West End Stars in July. This was truly life changing for this group of youngsters who would not have had a holiday. They learned a range of songs from the musicals and the week culminated in an outstanding performance.
- Embark then hosted a free concert which was a thank you for our staff, trustees, governors and sponsors. It was attended by 150 people including many local business people.
- We organised a day with Hot House Jazz in October which over 120 children enjoyed. The pupils formed a band playing the guitar, drums, flute, clarinet, drums and keyboards. It was an amazing event and so wonderful to see our children mix socially with each other with a big smile on their faces.
- November 13th will live long in the memory of 42 children. Rosie had organised the Ultimate West End day trip for them. This involved a workshop at the world-famous Pineapple Dance Studios with cast members from the Lion King; Lila Anderson and Stephanie Lo. After a delicious two course lunch at Pizza Express in Covent Garden the children then enjoyed the matinee performance which was simply breath-taking. We were then met by the cast backstage for a Q&A before returning home.
This was the first time the children had ever visited London and a quote from one little girl summed it up when she said; “I think I must be dreaming because this is the best day of my life!”
What impact we believe this will have:
This has already had a significant impact on our schools and their communities and we believe this will grow in future years. Parents will become more engaged with their children’s learning through the Embark Award. Schools and their communities are very aware of what it means to be part of our trust and this is generating excitement across all our stakeholders. Last year there were only 3 vacancies across the whole trust and the minimum number of applicants for those 3 posts was 38!
There is also a buzz generating across Derbyshire about our trust. Our trustees decided early on that we will never approach a school to ask them to join us. In September 2019 alone, we were approached by 10 schools! The work above we believe has played a part in generating this interest through schools discussing these positive opportunities with others in their network.
Therefore, not only has this work been a fabulous thing to do for our children, schools and their communities but it has also made the trust an exciting place to be for staff, and generated interest from potential future staff and schools.
If relevant, key learning points for other school trusts are:
- Don’t be afraid to change the narrative. Moving away from the corporate language of MATs, CEO’s and academies has been very positive for our trust!
- Engage with local businesses and seek income through grants and sponsorship. The appointment of Rosie from outside education but with a clear set of skills suitable for this role has proven to be highly effective bringing in close to £60,000 into the trust and has meant that even as a relatively small trust we have been able to put on a number of events/opportunities for our children that has been cost neutral for the schools and trust.
- The events above have raised aspirations for all our stakeholders. As a by-product they have generated excitement and a real buzz around our trust and it has been noticeable the interest from potential staff of the future wanting to find out more information about Embark and of course the interest it has generated from schools too.
You can find out more about the trust on their website, www.embarkfederation.com.