Aurora Academies Trust
Welcome to Aurora Academies Trust. Aurora was founded in 2012 and we are now a family of seven schools operating in both East and West Sussex and Brighton & Hove. In September 2020 we opened our seventh school, Westvale Park Primary Academy in Horley, Surrey. We have over 400 employees currently working for us and we have almost 3,000 pupils in our academies and nurseries, a number that is continuing to rise.
Aurora Academies Trust is sponsored by Pansophic Learning who operate schools globally, mainly in the United States but also in Switzerland, the Middle East and in Africa. This means that Aurora’s academies are part of an international group of schools which has the added benefit of enabling us to share best practice with children and colleagues within Pansophic’s global network. For instance, we have had a number of brilliant class-to-class communications (via web links, video and emails) and there is an annual teacher exchange each Spring Term between Aurora teachers with teachers from Banning Lewis Ranch Academy in Colorado. These tangible links with Pansophic’s schools add another dimension to our very collaborative way of working and have been a powerful vehicle to help broaden the horizons of both Aurora’s children and staff alike. Pansophic’s Executive Vice-President, Martha Burnige is a member of the Executive Team providing very effective legal, governance and project management support to the Trust. Martha is also a trustee and Company Secretary.
At Aurora we do not dictate everything that our schools do. Instead we ask them to sign up to our philosophy, which is best articulated by our Aurora Pillars each of which support Student Achievement (in every sense). What Aurora provides is high class, bespoke support and challenge, which enables our academies to thrive. We encourage innovation and creativity and our school improvement ‘model’ has emerged from best practice within. Our academies work in a spirit of genuine collaboration and we meet regularly and communicate swiftly and effectively. Aurora’s school improvement work is led by our Director of Education Paul Reilly, who has been an Executive Head of several schools in his career, and our Executive Head, James Freeston, who currently oversees Aurora’s two Bexhill academies and who also utilises his experience as a current Ofsted Lead Inspector to train our academies’ senior leaders in the new Education Inspection Framework. My background, as a former Head of two secondary schools and one all-through school, means that I can also offer strategic support and challenge to all of our academies, as and when necessary.
As a Trust our strategy is not to become a very large organisation for the simple reason that we believe the Trust’s Executive leaders should ‘really know’ the staff and the children in our academies. We also believe that school improvement from a Trust works best where schools are located geographically close together. Aurora’s Headteachers and senior leaders meet regularly to discuss what is working best and to share those ‘golden nuggets’ that often lead to real improvements. Professional development of our staff is one of our Pillars and sits high on our Trust agenda – there are many examples of staff at all levels who have been able to make career moves within the Trust that they would have been unable to achieve in a stand-alone school or academy. We survey our staff each year and morale is high because people like working for us.
One of our strong points is our Early Years work, which is led by Sam Attwater, our Trust Director for Early Years and Nurseries, and which is predicated on the concept of the Foundation Village (in which nursery and reception-aged children are seamlessly integrated). Across the Trust, EYFS is at least Good and often Outstanding (our last two Ofsted judgements for EYFS have both been Outstanding). Safeguarding has always been rated as Effective by Ofsted and we have a Safeguarding Trust Lead, Heidi Attwood, who ensures that our academies remain compliant, that our staff receive up-to-date training, and who provides the Trust with the regular monitoring checks and balances necessary to safeguard our pupils. Aurora also has a Behaviour, Nurture, Mental Health and Wellbeing Lead, Nevada Smith - Nurture groups have been established in all of our academies and the positive impact that these are having on pupils’ wellbeing, confidence and their ability to ‘get back on track’ is palpable.
Fiscally Aurora is healthy and this year we have achieved our 8th consecutive clean audit report. Not only that, regular independent reports evidence that our processes are sound and that not only do we always demonstrate strong financial probity but also we have robust systems in place that lead to compliance, regularity and value for money. All of this work is overseen superbly by Aurora’s Finance Director, Alex Graham, who leads our strong team of academy Business and Finance Managers.
In terms of governance, there is an overarching Trust Board consisting of 9 Trustees, which is overseen by 3 Members. The Trust Board has established a robust Scheme of Delegation that clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the various sub-committees and post-holders in the Trust. Aurora has two sub-committees, one to oversee Finance, Audit and HR and another that scrutinises Educational Standards. Each academy has local governance in the shape of a Local Academy Board (LAB) which has the brief of both supporting and holding its school leaders to account.
I hope that you look at our website - https://www.auroraacademies.org/ - please feel free to peruse at your leisure.
With my very best wishes,
CEO Aurora Academies Trust