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The start of a new school year is often about bedding new students in or slowly starting to gear up to coursework and examinations. 

At Samuel Ward Academy Trust, we were presented with three Ofsted inspections in our schools within the first 11 days of the new term.

Of course, the word ‘Ofsted’ – and the thought of them knocking on your door – can be a bit nerve-wracking for some. Teachers certainly take a deep breath as they head into the two-day inspection.

But it is actually something I welcomed as I started my first term as Chief Executive of the Trust. 

These external critiques are so important and our children and our parents deserve to know how we are performing.

The Trust manages its own series of annual reviews across all of the 19 secondary, special and primary schools in West Suffolk.

So there were not too many surprises from the findings of the Ofsted inspections at Coupals Primary Academy and Burton End Primary Academy in Haverhill – and another, as yet, unpublished third school.

With three inspections in such a short space of time, it has certainly been a busy start to my first full year at the Trust.

I have visited our schools in Haverhill, Sudbury, Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds and it has been crucial for me to meet as many people as possible – not just headteachers, but staff across all levels as well as many of our pupils.

One of the most important things for me was to learn about the very individual settings and communities in the different schools.

It is clear that we have a group of schools who retain their individuality but who also really want to work together.

We also have an incredible set of leaders working within the Trust. There is a great mix between those who are experienced headteachers who have been doing it for years, others who have become a head for a second time and quite a lot of new leaders who bring with them freshness and new ideas.

In October, we held our annual conference for governors – a hugely important group of volunteers who give up their time to help ensure our schools are the very best they can be for local young people.

Going forward, I feel there is a real opportunity for the Trust to further engrain itself in the local communities of each of our core geographical hubs.

A large number of families across West Suffolk send their children to one of our schools and it is clear to me that we have a huge responsibility in each of these towns. I would like to see us become an even greater part of these communities.

Tim Coulson, Chief Executive, Samuel Ward Academy Trust