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Conference sets the stage for a productive academic year ahead


The annual Great Schools Trust (GST) conference kicked off the 2023/24 academic year when over 300 staff gathered at Edge Hill University for a day packed with presentations and workshops.  

Shane Ierston, CEO of the Great Schools Trust, started the day by acknowledging the 2023 GCSE results at the King’s Leadership academies in Liverpool and Warrington where 220 students attained grades 8 and 9.

He noted the strong performance was significantly higher than the pre-pandemic results despite the disruptions the 2023 cohort faced during their time with the trust. 

“Among the results are some outstanding performances which need to be acknowledged. We had one student achieving Grade 9 in 12 subjects, Ruby Shields who had 100% in her Fine Arts exam which brought a letter of congratulations from the head of the exam board and 100% of the pupils offered scholarship places from King’s Liverpool have attained the required grades.”

Shane also unveiled the Trust’s theme for this academic year - Purpose and Performance – which was underlined by the conference’s keynote speaker Floyd Woodrow.

Floyd used his experience in the forces as a paratrooper and the SAS’s head of counter-intelligence, to show GST staff how leadership and elite performance are paramount in delivering on the Trust’s theme of purpose and performance.

The day also included a series of workshops called “Breaking barriers: Excellence in SEND education”. This was an opportunity for staff to examine the issues surrounding students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

Its importance is highlighted by the fact that across England there are now more than 1.5 million students – or 17% - identified as having an individual need for SEND support or having an education, health and care plan in place which can cover speech, language and communication needs; social, emotional and mental health issues; moderate learning difficulty; or identified as having an autistic spectrum disorder.

Sessions gave more awareness of the issues and challenges and of working with SEND pupils. Topics such as teaching SEND in a mixed-ability classroom; placing spotlights on dyslexia; ADHD and autism; and developing speech and language were covered.

Reflecting on the day Shane Ireston commented: “The annual conference is a key date for the Trust and prepares everyone for the year ahead.  It allows staff from the different schools in the Trust to meet and exchange ideas and experiences which can then be used to meet the Trust’s mission of developing skills, habits and traits in all students to help them to “become successful citizens”.