Horizon Academy Trust

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Horizon Academy Trust is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.


CEO Michael Dodd
A rich and varied curriculum
Horizon Academy Trust is a primary-only academy chain
based in Hull and the East Riding. It was created to
facilitate a strong working partnership between local
schools and to deliver a clear focus on achieving excellent
standards for all of its pupils. The trust has a proven school
improvement model to ensure that all children achieve the best
possible outcomes, fulfilling their potential. CEO Michael Dodd
explains that the staff strive to improve outcomes for young
people within its unique location, which covers coastal, rural
and urban schools.
At Horizon, we place relentless focus on breaking the link between context and
attainment through a no-excuses ethos, high levels of collaboration and challenge
and commitment to providing a quality school experience for every child. We have
one simple tagline to describe our trust, which we believe encompasses what we
try to instil in our children: “Where anything is possible”.
I became CEO in January but having previously been the headteacher at Cleeve
Primary School, which is part of the trust, I had already bought into the ethos
and culture that I believe makes this a special project. I remain the executive
headteacher of Biggin Hill Primary Academy and Cleeve, two of the founder
schools, and through this role continue to drive and establish the values that we
hope to see across the trust. Our primary aim is to make every member of the trust
an Ofsted rated “outstanding” school.
»CEO: Michael Dodd
»Founded in 2017
»Based in Hull and the East
»Services: Academy trust,
overseeing six primary schools
»No. of students: 3,003
»No. of staff: 480
Horizon Academy
Highlighting best practice
Vision and values
The trust is made up of six primary
schools – Biggin Hill, Cleeve, Spring
Cottage, Thanet, Gillshill and
Cavendish – all of which are based
in the Hull and East Riding area. All
of our academies are supported to
develop in their own unique ways,
both serving and responding to the
needs of their local communities. As
CEO, I work with the school leaders
and trust team to help achieve the best
outcomes for all of our students. We
do have a common approach to school
improvement and our trust builds both
strong relationships and a collaborative
culture in order to improve learning
and teaching for all students, so that,
whatever their background, every child
can achieve and succeed.
We believe that primary education
underpins the success of a community
and this has been a key driver in
the development of Horizon since
its establishment in May 2017. We
recognise that every school is unique
and needs to serve its own unique
community, something that doesn’t
change when a school joins the trust.
Each school within our trust therefore
maintains its own sense of identity, as
we believe that they understand how
to best serve their community. We also
believe that outstanding practice exists
in each of the academies in the trust,
which we utilise and nurture fully to
underpin continued success, rather
than overhauling it.
Raising standards
As part of further efforts to enhance
standards in our local area, we
have developed the Tidal Teaching
School. This is an alliance of partners,
including primary and special schools,
a pupil referral unit, higher education
institutes, educational consultants and
educational agencies, that looks to raise
standards and increase the breadth of
engagement for students in our region.
In our trust and as a teaching school,
we understand that not everyone is
academic and this informs how we
teach and how we approach students
on a day-to-day basis.
We want to understand what makes
our students tick and to find the
subject that can truly spark a lifelong
love of learning in them. We want to
teach skills and understanding that
can stand them in good stead going
forward to secondary school, university
and a future career. Primary school
serves as the start of this journey and
Gardeners of the future Studying nature
We believe
that primary
underpins the
success of a
I think that the manner in which we
build a broad foundation is one of our
greatest strengths.
Values such as resilience and curiosity
are emphasised throughout our
curriculum. We welcome students
from a socially deprived area where
social mobility is an issue, so these
values are very important when
looking to increase employment
chances and raise aspirations of
young people. Instilling the necessary
skills therefore goes beyond maths
and English and it involves educating
the whole child through appropriate
pastoral provision. This is truly a
modern approach for students moving
into a modern world.
Retaining identity
One of the greatest challenges that
multi-academy trusts face is finding
the balance between improving results
and changing cultures, while also
respecting the unique aspects of the
individual schools involved. We don’t
want to mask a school’s identity with
a corporate brand, but instead lean on
their experience in serving their locality.
Between the schools that are part of
the trust there are stark differences
in each catchment and therefore it is
important that they retain autonomy.
This autonomy is also balanced with
the advantages gained from pooling
expertise to retain and recruit the
best staff, while also raising standards
and improving outcomes. We are
passionate about growing our own
talent and presenting teachers with
opportunities for promotion and
development across the trust. We
truly believe in becoming stronger
together and as such have created
new school improvement roles for
existing leaders that want extra
responsibilities. This helps us prevent
our best staff from looking for
external roles and places us in a
stronger position moving forward.
In a time of significant financial
pressure that faces schools, being
part of a trust can also offer lucrative
funding streams. From a procurement
point of view, we can get better deals
together as we have more power
as a group. This should allow us to
provide our students with the best. As
we go forward we want to see all of
our schools fully integrated into the
trust mindset, while also being able
to consolidate our financial future.
Finally, we are determined to provide
an “outstanding” education for every
one of our students, in every one of
our schools.
We truly
believe in
Making friendships that
will last forever


This article was sponsored by Horizon Academy Trust. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.