Back to top

Brigantia Learning Trust

CEO Blog

Read the latest thoughts, analysis, and observations from Brigantia Learning Trust Chief Executive Officer, Mike Westerdale.

 CEO Blog - April 2023

Levelling up: policy or practice?

As ‘levelling up’ is being promoted around the country with funding and projects focussed on creating jobs and boosting economic growth, with government intent ‘investing and spreading opportunity to historically overlooked areas’, at Brigantia Learning Trust we are translating these principles and putting them into practice.

Since 2020 it has become incredibly clear that what was lost during ‘lock down’ and its aftermath was not just academic learning but experiential learning. Restoring this must become our focus but in a much more coordinated and integrated way than pre covid, placing it at the heart of how we deliver now educational improvements in across our trust from ages 2-19.

The Enriching Education Recovery discussion paper, published in October 2021, discussed the importance of ‘a comprehensive approach to education recovery that recognises the value of extracurricular and enrichment activities in supporting children and young people to overcome the impacts of Covid’.

 Partnering with The Challenger Trust (@Challenger_CT) we are committed to breaking down as many barriers as possible, taking advantage of funding that is available from a variety of sources outside of our core budget and income stream and supporting us in the delivery of the programme. The Challenger Trust ties in directly with our own commitment to Character Education, offering a wealth of visits, trips and enrichment activities which support the academic curriculum, whilst creating opportunities to broaden minds, raise aspirations, instil characteristics and values beneficial to our pupils’ and students’ adult lives and enhance their personal development.

The joy of making the impossible seem possible for our pupils and students is an investment at so many levels. We want to afford our young people the opportunity to challenge themselves, take risks and develop a wide range of transferable skills that will secure their futures and excite them to keep learning. We want to equip them with the life skills that we know future employers will be looking for including communication and negotiation, interpersonal skills, and empathy, as well as leadership and managing others.

In the short term we are looking at developing their confidence and social skills as well as their general wellbeing. We are seeking to improve their overall mental health and give them a greater sense of belonging within their peer group, academy, Trust, and wider community

Some of the indicators that will let us know that we are making a difference will typically be improved attendance, behaviour, and academic performance as well as an improvement in our children’s mental and physical health. However, looking beyond the educational environment we know that the skills they learn will support social justice, reduce criminal exploitation, and enable social mobility. All the research points to improved employability prospects and thereby a more vibrant and productive community. Win-win!

Some might say that schools have always offered trips, visits, clubs as part of their enrichment programme. This may be true, but by making Character Education a fundamental and central pillar of the educational experience we deliver can only break down the obstacles linked to privilege, geographical location and associated costs for parents or carers.

For all our young people aged 2-19 attending our academies we are looking to provide the broadest range of experiences including sports, enterprise, adventure, volunteering, performing /visual arts, and community service. As this is integral to the Brigantia delivery model we have defined three experiential categories within our Character Education programme namely Core, Enhanced and Enriched all of which are linked to the Trust’s values of ambition, care, confidence, creativity, integrity, and respect. Evaluation is key and we have now developed the Brigantia Character Education tracker, linked into the Gatsby Benchmarks enabling us to measure impact and to empower our young people to longer term success and not just short-term rhetoric

If you want to find out more about what’s going on in our academies, read the spring edition of our Trust newsletter Brigantia_Newsletter_Spring_2023.pdf (

Brigantia Learning Trust – Creating Excellence Together, through a culture of care 

Brigantia Learning Trust - Home (

#ambition #care #confidence #creativity #integrity #respect


CEO BLOG - November 2022

Working together in harmony

Much has been written and preached about a healthy work life balance. And the importance of a great workplace hits home when we find out that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. In raw terms, at least a third of our day is either sleeping or working. Therefore, discussions around culture, and a healthy versus toxic workplace has never been more important.

 A review of the harmonies and the all-important ‘vibe’ that is replicated in the ‘best workplaces in the UK’ features IT companies, financial services, transportation, and hospitality in the top 10 with IT organisations ranking strongly. They all have similar features ranging from long term employees who have genuine friendships, positive interactions both personal and professional, leaders who are visible and accessible, wins that are celebrated and a range of other factors including diversity, innovation, fairness, trust and caring.

 In terms of toxicity and damage there are numerous red flags including a lack of core values, little or no promotion from within, a high turnover of staff, a lack of acknowledgement or reward, and unfriendly employee competition.

 There is no question that company culture has grown in importance and must extend beyond traditional views with a culture-building approach endorsed by leaders and embraced and cultivated by everybody.

 In listening to our own staff across our academies, I am struck by their words and what they have shared with us :

  • I understand that I am a valued member of staff, with a wealth of opportunities to progress.
  • The Trust is an employer who invests in their staff, dedicated to growing from within.
  • Diversity and innovation are encouraged and implemented, staff have a voice, are supported and it is a place where good practice is shared and encouraged.
  • Working at the Trust has been an incredible experience: teachers at all levels are given creative freedoms to express learning in their own style.
  • I feel incredibly lucky to belong to a Trust that supports and encourages collaboration, development, teaching excellence and has a clear ambition for all.
  • Belonging to the Brigantia Learning Trust brings many benefits for both staff and students: we work as a team, support one another and enable our learners to be the best they can be within our inclusive and welcoming environment.
  • We genuinely care about one another and it’s a very supportive working environment.
  • The Trust’s strong ethos of hard work, ambition and trust creates a culture we are all proud to work within.
  • Working for the Trust is a truly unique experience, filled with opportunities for progression, and to make a greater difference to our whole Trust community.
  • Our kind and caring culture is defined by working closely with families, developing strong partnerships, and providing support – all staff go the extra mile to care not only for the child, but their families too.
  • I feel very lucky to work for a Trust that has evolved into a collegiate and integrated team of professionals working towards a common goal for all.

 As we embrace our vision and strapline – Creating Excellence Together, through a culture of care – we are clear what we want to achieve and celebrate; the importance of each individual within our organisation, celebrating our everyday heroes, everyone’s a leader, valuing ourselves and each other, and the importance of working together, to name but a few.

 As we strive to work together in harmony there are initiatives happening across all our academies from healthy minds, a new coaching model and the development of the whole child experience and the cultural capital of every young person. To find out more read our autumn term newsletter here.

CEO Blog – July 2022


 “Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” Richard Branson


Professor John P Kotter, the internationally recognised thought leader on change and leadership summarises the change management process in eight critical steps. He explains that real change runs deep and quick wins are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change. This we wholeheartedly concur with at Brigantia Learning Trust as we go through a whole trust transformation.


A summary of the 8-step process for leading change will be our checklist:

  1. Create a sense of urgency: the recent White Paper (albeit with revisions), the needs of our students, staff and community and the major opportunities ahead are our driving force.
  2. Form a guiding coalition: the senior leaders within our academies along with the central team feel empowered to become a strong, high-performing MAT.
  3. Develop a vision and strategy: our vision to help us direct change is clear - Creating excellence together, through a culture of care. Our mission is to improve the life chances and secure social mobility and justice for children and young people, and their families within the communities we serve. We will achieve this by providing an outstanding 2-19 learning journey for local children. 
  4. Communicate the vision: we will be using every vehicle and channel possible to communicate and cascade our vision and strategies, and role model the behaviour expected of our staff and students.
  5. Empower others to act on the vision: we will have an obsession with standards and our model of school improvement will be shared consistently but will evolve continually. We will be constantly talent spotting, investing in professional development and building capacity in advance of need.
  6. Generate short term wins: we will not only create those ‘wins’ but visibly recognise and reward people who make the wins possible.
  7. Consolidate gains and produce more change: our step by step processes will ensure that our structures and policies fit with the vision and reinvigorate the process with new projects and themes, including: reading strategy; knowledge organisers; feedback policy; behaviour policy and trust culture.
  8. Institute change: in order to build the change momentum we will monitor and review on a regular basis ensuring new behaviours, organisational success, leadership development and succession.

Adapted from John P. Kotter, 1996, Leading Change, Harvard Business Review Press.


Our values, the principles by which the Brigantia Learning Trust abides, are an integral part of our vision and culture: Ambition, Care, Confidence, Creativity, Integrity and Respect. Our backronym will refocus and energise our academies:

Bold leadership at every level as individuals and system-wide

Relentless drive for excellent standards throughout

Impact positively on the life chances for all

Guarantee to students/pupils to provide high quality teaching & learning

Accessibility for children and young people regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality and need

No barriers; no excuses to achieving success

Totally committed to recruit, retain and develop outstanding and committed staff

Integrity by placing the children and young people at the heart of the trust

Aspirational for all


This is an exciting time in our history as we embrace organisational transformation for the benefits of our young people, families, staff and the communities we serve.

To find out more about our plans for the future and the transformation happening in our academies download a copy of our latest newsletter here or visit our website: Welcome to Brigantia Learning Trust - Brigantia Trust

CEO Blog – April 2022

The Innovation Formula

Innovation in education is about more that new technology. It’s about solving a real problem in a fresh, simple way to promote equity and improve learning. Innovation in education matches the scale of the solution to the scale of the challenge. It draws on the creativity and experience of all its communities through its staff, students, leaders and partners.


One of the greatest innovators and entrepreneurs of recent times, Steve Jobs, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Apple, famously said: “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat.” We know that innovation by its very nature will involve change and with a clear and ambitious vision we can bring about change that will be required to achieve the best outcomes.


Is there an innovation formula and what can we learn from other sectors? In our opinion, the elements worth considering include collaboration, reflection, planning & implementation, and adding value. Here we consider each of these areas and how they apply to our Trust:


Collaboration: this is more than teamwork – building relationships, within and beyond our existing networks, and then working towards common goals. Placing greater value on each individual in our organisation, allowing them the time to think and work together, and to act on joint initiatives or complex projects, will support generating value for our academies and communities. Our ambition is to learn together, to listen and be inquisitive and curious, and then for everyone to feel empowered to act for the benefit of all our young people. It’s about agility and tapping into collective knowledge.


Reflection: we believe growth is strongest through the gradual development of the things that matter to us most and that growth need not be in a single direction. In the months and years ahead, as well as looking for other like-minded educators who share our moral purpose and mission, we are going to focus on supplementary growth in developing community hubs around our children and young people. Our priorities will be providing wraparound care from a whole range of specialist services from social care to youth work, from educational psychology to speech and language services.


Planning & Implementation: our drive to embrace a culture of change and innovation means we must engage and champion the enthusiasm and ideas of our workforce; we know that ideas are the seeds of innovation so we are encouraging the sparking of these ideas through a culture of curiosity and keeping great ideas moving forward. By setting measurable goals and realistic timelines we will be able to deliver on our change initiative vision; ensuring we communicate effectively, engaging with our stakeholders and monitoring our progress whilst adapting and making alterations along the way.


Adding Value: the purpose of innovation must be to create value for our young people. We will look beyond the narrative of the curriculum, examinations, extra-curricular and truly explore the needs of our pupils and students, their families and the communities we serve. As we know, value can be defined in many ways and our ambition is to brave, innovative and creative to enable us to ‘Create Excellence Together’ through a culture of care.


We have a future-focused innovation mindset and we foster an environment where innovation can thrive.

To find out more about our plans for the future and the real innovation happening in our academies download a copy of our latest newsletter here or visit our website: Welcome to Brigantia Learning Trust - Brigantia Trust

CEO BLOG – November 2021

 “Change is not a threat, it’s an opportunity. Survival is not the goal, transformative success is.” Seth Godin, American author


There are multiple life defining moments and with that comes change and periods of transition ranging from starting school, starting college, early jobs, relationships, moving home, children being born, promotion, career progression, your own children starting school ….. and the life cycle continues.


What we know as adults is that life transitions can be difficult because they mean change and leaving behind the familiar. According to transition theories in the world of psychology, there are phases and features of the transition cycle in terms of positive events; excitement, provisional adjustment, inner contradictions (uncertainty, losing confidence, confusion and possibly depression/crisis) with then a full escalation in reconstruction and recovery, with new confidence and transformation.


Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher said: “Change is the only constant in life”. And he has a point. For those in the know, Heraclitus was a pioneer of wisdom who lived over 500 years BC (not Before Covid!) and his thoughts fed into the writings of Aristotle and Plato. So, he instinctively knew – and we know, that coping with change has always been key issues for human survival and evolution.


If we look at the positive impact on our lives, change and transition helps us to learn how to deal with adversity and overcoming challenges; helps build our self-esteem and confidence; supports personal growth; allows us to become more flexible and adaptable to new situations and presents new opportunities.


For us as a Trust, and as part of our evolution, change encourages us to be innovative. It helps us to develop our workforce in terms of skills, talent management and succession planning. It provides a framework to be ambitious and explore new opportunities. It enables us to be part of the reinvigoration and regeneration of our communities. Our aim is to be ready, positive and agile with a network of high performing teams to relentlessly explore new ways of working to improve the life chances and secure social mobility and justice for the children, young people and their families within the communities we serve.


As a Trust with academies in all settings from 2-19 we have seen the importance of effective transition strategies in these key phase changes; to support our young people and staff – teaching and support. From induction initiatives and programmes to buddies, mentors and coaches. Flourishing in supportive, caring environments is our goal. The investment must be in our staff and young people so they are ready and prepared to embrace change at every stage of their lives and careers.


Transition is the key to transformational change and in our latest Trust newsletter we showcase the range of induction and transition programmes in each of our academies – download a copy here. To find out more about us visit: Welcome to Brigantia Learning Trust - Brigantia Trust


CEO BLOG - July 2021

 The Power of Collaboration

 There are numerous strong heady ballads in the history of time linked to 'power'; famously The Power of Love by Huey Lewis, Power of Good-Bye by Madonna and The Power of the Heart by Peter Gabriel! 


At Brigantia Learning Trust we are continually learning about the power of collaboration and this has become part of our mantra when talking about what makes us unique. As we come to the end of one of the most challenging and arduous academic years we have faced, and take stock of what we have achieved together, the term collaboration soars high in the terminology that describes our very existence.


In trying to put distance between an empty cliché and a corporate buzzword let’s interpret the importance of collaboration and what it means to us as educators, as we secure the future of our young people and make them the central theme of all that we do. In its simplest form collaboration is what makes teamwork successful.


As a Trust our mission is to come together, and for each and every one of us to contribute our expertise for the benefit of a shared objective, initiative, project or goal. Our vision is creating excellence together and collaboration allows us to make speedy decisions with better outcomes. Cooperation and partnership has created resilience and teamwork that in turn has brought agility and pace in our decision-making.


Collaboration brings in new ideas leading to more opportunities for all those involved within our academies and in a true pattern of ongoing improvements, it fills the skills gap and helps to improve our abilities leading to the further development of knowledge and experience at both a professional and personal level.


In identifying this vital way of working we have seen real change and progress taking place before our very eyes; even more so as we come through the pandemic. We have learnt, and are still learning, the by-products of working in this united and collective environment.


Partnerships & Innovation: we have been able to put together a range of mixed-skills teams who have brought their expertise to the forefront to find resolute solutions rather than operating in isolated silos. Our colleagues have been empowered with the confidence to capitalise on the skills and resources of others for the benefit of our pupils, students, families and staff. Connections between and across our academies and departments have brought colleagues closer together which has encouraged innovation and further opportunities and clear direction to take in the future.


Positive change & boosting morale: the reward of tightening connections, creating a more cohesive environment, improving communication channels and building trust has brought about positive change. There has been a profound building of momentum and excitement of working together with a common purpose and vision. This in turn has allowed us to deliver efficiency, effectiveness and quality, ensuring we have a workplace culture centred around learning and development for all.


In the words of a well-known African proverb - "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. We are delighted to announce a major collaborative project and the launch of our Brigantia Centre for Technical Learning in September 2021. The 14-19 centre presents an incredibly exciting opportunity for the Trust to extend the broad and balanced curricula offered in our secondary and post-16 academies to ensure it engages, enthuses, and crucially meets the needs and aspirations of young people in North East Sheffield.  . 


There are more exciting initiatives ahead of us in 2021/22; read our summer newsletter here for further information about the Trust.


The future is bright... the future is in the power of collaboration!

Welcome to Brigantia Learning Trust - Brigantia Trust