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'The worry over Sats results doesn't ease off when you're a MAT leader – it triples'

As the chief executive of a multi-academy trust, you worry not only about the Sats results of the schools in the MAT but also those that want to join

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As the chief executive of a multi-academy trust, you worry not only about the Sats results of the schools in the MAT but also those that want to join

Sometimes you actually forget about it for a few minutes, but the blissful moments of peace never seem to last for long.

It’s actually been bad for a couple of weeks as the date on the calendar has got ever closer, but it gets worse the closer it gets. In the final hours leading up to the Sats scores actually being made available it gets almost unbearable.

When Sats flash back into your mind, it coincides with a genuine feeling of nausea. I’m a grown man, an experienced headteacher, and there are more important things to worry about in the world.

I’m a national leader of education (NLE) and my original home school has been "outstanding" three times, but I still feel physically sick at the very thought. Surely it shouldn’t be like this? What are we doing to our children, our teachers and our school leaders?

It’s always bad just before the scores are released, even if it’s actually OK afterwards. It’s the waiting, the fear, the worry about the implications if it goes wrong.

Sometimes you reflect, you think back and you ask yourself if you could have done any more. And you know the answer. You always know the answer. There was nothing more you could have done.

Like every other school leader in the country, you have spent every penny, thrown every resource at your disposal and your staff and children have worked themselves into the ground. But you still worry that it won’t be enough. This is that really tricky cohort, the one you’ve always been worried about … and now it’s their turn.

The fear multiplies

Suddenly it gets worse because you remember that you are no longer a single head or an executive head any more. You’re the chief executive of a multi-academy trust (MAT) and there are three schools you are worried about.

Does it ease and spread the worry? Of course not. It triples it! Now you are not just worrying about the three schools currently in the MAT – you are worrying about the three that want to join. How will it be next year worrying about six?

And then it’s over…

You’ve not slept, of course. Even though this year you were determined not to look at midnight like you did last year, it hasn’t really worked.

Finally, the data is there in front of your eyes. Percentages are calculated, subject scores combined and comparisons made.

Panic and fear slowly subside and are replaced first by a sense of relief and then an almost overwhelming sense of pride in the children and the staff. You will celebrate, you will congratulate everyone for their contribution and, most importantly, you will share your pride and your delight with the children.

But the joy of it all being over doesn’t last for long.

You focus in on the child who missed it by one mark on the maths paper, rather than the child who did better than you thought on the reading paper.

Then your mind starts to drift to next year. How will the new Year 6 cohort cope in 12 months' time? How can we improve their spelling? How can we develop their maths reasoning?

Finally, you start to think about everyone else. Are your colleagues OK? How did the schools who want to join the MAT fair? What’s happened nationally? How will we compare with the rest of the city and the rest of the country?

And then it starts all over again.

Simon Spry is the chief executive of The Learning Academies Trust, Plymouth. He tweets at @learningatceo

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