Devon, United Kingdom
About Plymouth CAST
Plymouth CAST is a trust set up by the Catholic Diocese of Plymouth to support and develop its schools. Plymouth CAST is a genuine 'multi academy trust’ in that the constituent schools are all part of a single company with a central Board of Directors, rather than each being an academy company in its own right. The Diocese of Plymouth covers the traditional counties of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset and therefore also includes the newer unitary authorities of Plymouth, Torbay, Poole & Bournemouth. Altogether there are 35 schools within the Trust spread from Penzance in the West to Bournemouth in the East. Together CAST employs 1300 staff and provides for 7000 pupils. As with all academies, Plymouth CAST is a company limited by guarantee and an exempt charity.
The formation of CAST does not represent a change in direction for the schools. As Catholic schools, our fundamental mission has always derived from the wider mission of the Catholic Church and the particular emphases of the diocesan Bishop. However, it was decided that changing our legal structure from multiple, autonomous Voluntary Aided schools into a single corporate legal entity would enhance our capacity to fulfil our shared mission. This is enabled both by the structures of CAST (see below) and by the new 'cultural' expectations on all concerned. These include a shared responsibility for standards across all the schools and increased levels of transparency, particularly among head teachers, about strengths and weaknesses. Alongside this is an increased emphasis on early identification of underperformance in all aspects of a school's provision (Catholic life, educational standards, pupil and staff well-being, financial stability, school environment and community relations) and focused strategies to respond quickly and effectively.
Consistent with the purpose summarised above, the most important elements within CAST's structure are the schools themselves. The 35 schools are each has a local governing body with a delegated budget and delegated powers to allow it to operate as the local 'steward' of overall mission. The Board of Directors does not seek to manage the individual schools but does carry the overall responsibilities and liabilities for the network as a whole. On the surface, the day to day operation of the schools has not changed since becoming part of CAST and parents experience a seamless transition, as do their children.
CAST operates within three local 'Area Councils'. The schools table identifies their Areas and each has either 11 or 12 schools. Each Area has a dedicated 'Area Adviser' whose role is manifold but includes:
- ensuring that the Board of Directors is fully aware of any school performance issues;
- working with the head teachers and governing bodies of each of their Area schools to ensure that they have an up to date and accurate picture of all aspects of their school's strengths and weaknesses;
- working with the relevant personnel from each school to identify effective strategic responses to their development needs;
- brokering school-to-school and external support for the improvement strategies that have been formulated.
Whilst local governing bodies have delegated authority from the Board of Directors (much the same as that enjoyed by Voluntary Aided school governing bodies) Plymouth CAST also has an agreed Intervention Protocol which provides the basis for the Board of Directors to intervene directly in any school where the internal resources are not being successful in securing required improvements within an acceptable time scale.