A News story by Ellena Schuster-Farrell 27 April 2018

On Friday 20 April, our trustees gathered with Ambassadorial Advisory Group chairs and members from across the trust for the second AAG and Trustee Conference. An opportunity for networking and sharing best practice, the main aim of the day was to better understand the role of the AAG and ensure that groups are receiving the support they need.

Led by a chairperson, our AAGs meet at least once per term and are made up of elected ambassadors from the academy community. They work closely with headteachers, regional and national staff as well as our trustees, focusing on the four Cs of communication, celebration, complaints and community. Our AAG and Trustee Conference brings ambassadors and trustees together to look back on the successes and lessons to be learned from the last year.

A growing team of great ambassadors

Friday’s conference kicked off with an introduction from Chair of the Board Michael Wemms and CEO David Moran. Michael and David gave an overview of the AAG system, gathering thoughts from attendees on what they hoped to achieve on the day. Michael stressed the importance of AAGs, outlining the unique role they play within the trust’s governance structure.

“We have a growing team of great ambassadors. You are the people who communicate with parents and the local community, and you are the people who can celebrate successes with students in your academies.” Michael Wemms, Chair of the Board

“Finding our feet”

In a session led by trustee Cameron Pyke and Director of Corporate Services David Walker, delegates then split into groups to share highlights from the past year and discuss how each group has focused on the four Cs. Many AAG members mentioned the progress that their groups had made, with AAG Chair for Shenley Academy, Dave Barton, noting that his group now feels more established.

“There’s been a period of finding our feet. We’ve now realised what our strengths are, and we understand how we can support our regional teams in helping our academies and communities. Although we should understand regional governance, we don’t have direct responsibility or accountability there. But what we can help with are the community links – knowing the feeder schools, the local businesses, churches and parents.”Dave Barton, AAG Chair, Shenley Academy

Creative freedom

Cameron Pyke, who is also AAG Chair for City Heights E-ACT Academy, then gave a talk on his own experience as part of an AAG. He pointed out the freedom that AAGs have to formulate creative solutions to academy and community issues, as well as underlining their importance in ensuring good news from the academy is communicated to the local community. Cameron also provided a broader picture of AAG successes across the trust: beyond their work in the community, AAGs are also functioning well in their legal capacity as panel members for hearings and headteacher recruitment, for example.

“An AAG creates a virtuous circle of the experience of parents, students and community. We can also act as a frank but respectful sounding board for the trust.”Cameron Pyke, Trustee and AAG Chair for City Heights

Attendees then heard from Kit Thorne, Chair of Parkwood AAG and E-ACT Governance Adviser. Kit gave advice based on his experience, addressing the challenges that face chairs.

“As AAG members, we’re part of the jigsaw. And the key to a jigsaw is looking at the big picture.”Kit Thorne, AAG Chair, Parkwood E-ACT Academy

AAG project bids

A highlight of the day was hearing about the exciting new initiatives taking place in our academies thanks to the £20,000 that has been made available for AAG projects that focus on the four Cs.  Projects to equip students with essential life skills, initiatives that will bring academies and communities together and opportunities to showcase and celebrate pupil talent are just some of the inspiring plans drawn up by our AAGs.  Denham Green’s AAG, for example, has worked with the academy to implement a music programme, creating a brand new music room available to pupils in and out of lesson time.

The conference concluded with a session looking ahead to the coming academic year, with ambassadors discussing the various challenges that AAGs face. Their feedback on topics such as AAG membership, progress and ensuring good communication within the governance structure will help to inform future strategy for AAGs.

We were delighted to see such fantastic energy on the day, and we’d like to thank our ambassadors for their enthusiasm and engagement at the conference as well as their continued commitment to making a difference in their academies and wider communities.