A FAMILY of Oxfordshire academies is helping rural village schools to survive during 'challenging' times.

Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST), the county's largest multi-academy trust, has been praised by Ofsted for ensuring schools remain 'financially sustainable' even if they have small pupil numbers.

The comment was made in a wider report about ODST, which was the first in the country to experience a new type of inspection especially for multi-academy trusts.

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Ofsted's report of ODST, which runs 33 schools in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, stated: "The [trust's] board exercises effective oversight of finance, steering the trust skilfully through a challenging economic climate.

"This is particularly important given the relatively large number of small village schools in the trust - trustees and officers believe that these schools play a vital role in their communities and are committed to their survival.

"They are rightly considering ways in which staff and resources can be shared across small schools to ensure they remain financially sustainable."

Small schools are said to be more at risk of the current funding pressures as cash is allocated on a per-pupil basis, meaning schools with fewer pupils gain less money.

ODST was established in 2012 and John Henry Newman Academy in Littlemore was the first school to join.

Its network teaches more than 6,100 pupils, mainly at primary schools, and at one point it was the fastest-growing multi-academy trust in England.

Oxford Mail:

Anne Davey and Ian Elkington, CEO and deputy CEO of Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust

Ofsted's report was released earlier this month following inspections of five of the trust's academies, plus a further 10 visits to other schools run by the trust and telephone calls with 12 headteachers under ODST's umbrella.

It states: "The trust’s 'common vision for the common good' permeates all aspects of ODST’s work.

"School leaders and governors speak of their strong commitment to the trust.

"Typically, they describe ODST as being ‘like a family’, in which the CEO [Anne Davey] and her team display high levels of professionalism balanced with warmth, care and respect for all."

Ofsted added that 'headteachers and governors strongly support the commitment to preserving schools’ individual characters and places in their local communities.'

The report said providing schools with centralised procedures for finance, HR, safeguarding and health and safety had 'lightened leaders’ workload.'

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Training offered by the trust was said to be highly-rated by school leaders, who told Ofsted the courses would have 'otherwise have been out of their reach.'

ODST’s chief executive Anne Davey said: “I am delighted Ofsted has recognised the impact that our focus on people has had on outcomes for the children in our care.

“This letter illustrates how our approach is highly valued by schools and communities.

“We’ve welcomed this chance to showcase our trust, having already dedicated 2018-19 to consolidating the way we work before taking on any more schools.

“We are already developing our practice to ensure all children make the best possible progress from their starting points, along the lines that Ofsted recommends.”