Almost 500 members of staff from 15 Catholic schools across Staffordshire came together for the first time for a special day of celebration and spiritual development.

The Painsley Catholic Academy comprises 13 primary schools and two secondary schools, as well as two sixth forms and a teaching school hub. The multi academy was expanded in 2018 but with the impact of having to maintain ‘bubbles’ over the past few years with Covid restrictions this was the very first time all employees have been able to come together.

The INSET day involved all staff from all schools, teachers, support staff, governors and directors and was held at the conference centre at Alton Towers resort on Thursday 1 December 2022.

Steve Bell, CEO of The Painsley Catholic Academy, said: “The motto of our multi academy is ‘Better Together’ and so to be physically together was a big occasion for the schools. It is very important to take time out to step back and consider our vision, away from the incredibly busy day-to-day school life. I am particularly grateful to Ian Crabbe, a Director of The Painsley Catholic Academy and Managing Director Resort Theme Parks at Alton Towers, who very generously provided a fantastic venue for this event.”

After a welcome from Mr Bell that focused on the overall vision of being ‘Better Together’ staff listened to guest speaker, Sister Judith Russi who spoke about the importance of empowering future generations to have a voice.

Sister Judith is the Director of Catholic educational charity ‘EducareM’ promoting the ideology of the transformation of the person for the transformation of society.

Sr Judith has worked for many years in all fields of Catholic education, teaching leadership, advisory, CSI inspection and teachers’ professional development and formation. As a passionate national speaker and curriculum developer she continues to pioneer many innovative and challenging educational initiatives.

Over the past few years the schools within the academy have realised the motto ‘better together’ with their many achievements. These include:

St John’s Catholic Primary School in Great Haywood, Stafford has gone from Requires Improvement to Good (Ofsted).

St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School in Stafford has gone from Requires Improvement to Good (Ofsted).

St Dominic’s Catholic Primary School in Stone has gone from Good to Outstanding.

Blessed William Howard Catholic High School in Stafford has seen a significant improvement in its Progress 8 score – making it the best in Stafford.

Painsley Catholic College was praised by Ofsted for its Outstanding quality of teaching and its outstanding Sixth Form.

Ofsted recognised the work of the MAC in the eight very successful inspections that it has conducted since March. For example:

‘Curriculum leaders have benefited from opportunities to work with the subject hubs across the MAC. This support has helped leaders to raise their expectations about the quality of the curriculum. It has also developed middle leaders’ confidence in subject leadership.’ (St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School, Stafford Ofsted, 2022).

In terms of Section 48 Diocesan inspections, three have been conducted since March. All three were rated as ‘Outstanding’ for Catholic Life, and Collective Worship.

St Giles’ Catholic Primary School in Cheadle and St Anne’s Catholic Primary School in Stafford were also awarded ‘Outstanding’ for all areas of the inspection process. Blessed William Howard improved its overall rating from ‘Requires Improvement’ to ‘Good’.

All 13 of the primary school in the MAC surpassed national averages across all areas in the Key Stage 2 results (reading, writing and maths) this summer and Painsley Sixth Form saw its best results ever.

The afternoon concluded with all staff celebrating Mass with Fr Eric Kemball from the Parish of St Giles’ in Cheadle and Canon Michael Neylon from the Parish of St Austin’s in Stafford.