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A Multi-Academy Trust’s Story

To watch an extended video including more detailed info about how WAT have been using IRIS Connect click here >



Windsor Academy Trust (WAT) is committed to achieving the highest quality learning experience and the best possible outcomes for all its students. But with a family of nine academies, 7000 children and 1000 staff, that’s no mean feat.

“We recognise that teaching is brilliant, but teaching is also difficult and it’s challenging. So, we pride ourselves in doing the very best that we can to support every teacher in every one of our academies to become the best they be, so we can deliver the very best outcomes for learners,” explains Sonya.

The Trust believes that part of their moral purpose is to unlock the academic and personal potential of the young people that they serve in their family of schools. To accomplish this, they have engaged with some of the very best educators to help guide and advise them.

A visit from Sir Tim Brighouse, where he shared his thoughts on using video for continuing professional development and some research by Judith Warren Little, confirmed for them what makes effective CPD and inspired them to invest in IRIS Connect.

“You know you’re in an effective and great school when teachers are given the opportunity to talk about teaching and learning, to teach each other, to plan and evaluate lessons together and to watch each other. These are the principles that we think underpin what effective professional learning is,” says Sonya. “We believe wholeheartedly in developing teacher effectiveness because it is this that will unlock the academic and personal potential of the children in our care.”

IRIS Connect was built on the same principles, that CPD can only be truly effective when teachers are able to work together within a supportive culture that encourages sharing of ideas and peer feedback. So, the system is proving to be a perfect fit for the goals WAT are trying to achieve.


How IRIS Connect helped

The Trust is passionate about seeking out the excellence that exists in their schools, as Dawn Haywood, Deputy Chief Executive and Education Director at WAT explains…

“What we’d always wanted to do was find the most effective practice in our family of schools or ‘hotspots’ as we call them, make them hotter and by that we mean through practitioner research and innovation, make that practice deeper and better, and then finally to spread it. IRIS Connect has been a critical tool for all of those things, enabling us to film the most effective practice, then to use the platform as a research base to make the practice hotter and lastly share it easily across the Trust. The impact has been enormous.”

The strategic leaders of teaching and learning across the Trust have also created a WAT hotspots folder on IRIS Connect containing the Trust’s 10 teaching and learning principles. Teachers from any one of the schools in their family can click on a given principal and be taken to a raft of primary and secondary clips of their most effective staff showcasing how to implement the principle. Sonya describes it as, “a brilliant bank of clips and very, very powerful.”

NQTs and RQTs

The staff are ‘very proud’ of the diverse ways in which they use IRIS Connect across their schools, including for self-reflection and as a key component of their NQT and RQT programmes, “… which IRIS Connect makes easier to run in terms of overcoming timetable restrictions, showing the NQTs and RQTs where they can improve, and making them more reflective,” says Chantelle Delaney, Assistant Head of Windsor High School.

Coaching and mentoring

It’s also being used extensively within coaching and mentoring. “We’re a Coachmark Gold school and IRIS Connect is a huge part of that. When I was coaching a colleague last year he videoed his lesson and we only watched the first 3 minutes, but in those first 3 minutes, the conversation was so powerful because we were watching it together. So from a coaching perspective, it’s very impactful,” says Helen Kinsey, Deputy Headteacher and Teaching and Learning Leader at Windsor High School. “The concept of IRIS Connect has really been embraced here because we’ve never pressured people to share. I couldn’t lead teaching and learning without it now.”

Pedagogical Champions

One of the most powerful ways they’ve been using IRIS Connect across the Trust in the last year has been with their Pedagogical Champion (Ped Champ) team.

“Our Ped Champs are probably one of the most powerful strategic approaches that we have as a trust. We’ve got almost 40 pedagogical champ teachers and teaching assistants across the Trust. They are some of our most effective teachers who are very passionate about teaching and learning and improving not only their own practice, but that of their colleagues around them.

This year, and IRIS Connect really helped with this, they embarked upon a practitioner research journey. They began by consulting within their faculties or phases and generating an enquiry question that was aligned to their school improvement priorities. IRIS Connect helped to set up a collaborative space in the platform which had not only a template to support their write ups, but more powerfully a section containing some of the most reputable bodies of evidence-based research around teaching and learning. Our Ped Champ team really engaged with that, and then they embedded clips of them trialling particular interventions in their lessons.”

In July, the Trust hosted a big research celebration to highlight and showcase the Ped Champs work. Everyone across the Trust was invited and had the opportunity to look at the strategies explored and take away what they feel might work for them within their individual schools.

“The celebration is all about developing teacher expertise so we can have a greater impact on learner outcomes and is a very intentional way of spreading the hotspots,” says Sonya. “It’s also a chance for us to ask ourselves, ‘what could we replicate and take to scale here?’, and encourage others, to get out there, identify a priority, read up on an intervention, and put it to the test.”

Results, return on investment and future plans

As a result of placing IRIS Connect at the heart of their school improvement strategy, WAT has seen learner outcomes improve considerably across their family of schools. Dawn explains,“ All of our secondary schools now have a really positive Progress 8 school and our Trust aggregate Progress 8 school from the last academic year has improved to 0.15 which is really strong. We’ve seen significant gains in our primary learner outcomes in reading and writing, but especially in maths where we’ve introduced the Concrete Pictorial Abstract approach to teaching, and IRIS Connect has been a critical tool in helping us to spread that approach.”

“IRIS Connect has way surpassed any expectations that I had,” says Sonya. “I’ve been really impressed with the service, I feel like we’ve bought more than a product, I feel like they are part of our family, they are that strong of an education partner for us. I can call up and talk to our account manager and say this is what I need and these are the reports we would like and they always support us. I’ve been genuinely overwhelmed with the support that we’ve received and hugely grateful for it, as I know have all the schools in our Trust family.”

Dawn continues, “IRIS Connect as a product in itself is amazing to drive school improvement. But with IRIS Connect you have much more than that, you have the partnership and the people, and it genuinely feels like a reciprocal relationship where together we’re working developmentally to improve outcomes for young people.”

So, what’s next? “We’d like to try the in-ear coaching tool,” explains Sonya. “As well as using it more directly with our students to build learner expertise. As designated West Midlands Regional Hub for the Chartered College of Teaching, we’re also proud that we have seven teachers on their pilot programme, and luckily IRIS Connect has aligned themselves with that so we’re looking forward to seeing how that goes and what we might be able to do further. There’s lots of potential moving forward and we never rest on our laurels.”

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