An Introduction to our CEO
Sir Nick Weller, our CEO since November 2022, answers our questions about his extensive experience and his ambitions for ATT.
What attracted you to join ATT after such a long time with Dixons Academies Trust?
ATT is a Trust with a lot of potential. I was looking for a new experience; I built Dixons over a sixteen-year period, and I think leaders can stay too long in one place and plateau a bit. Personally, I just needed a new challenge. ATT was a very attractive proposition- it’s definitely a Trust on the up, it’s had some very strong Ofsted judgements recently. I know it’s been through some difficult times in the past, but I think we are through those now. Building on that and building a more positive culture across the organisation was really appealing to me.
You’ve been with ATT for about six months now. What do you feel you’ve achieved in that time?
I think we now have a clear sense of direction going forward. We’ve done significant restructuring around the central team that I think will help. We’ve boosted up safeguarding for next year, for example, and SEND. All Trusts are facing financial challenges, so putting ATT on secure financial footing has been a key priority for me in recent months. We want to build resilience to any emerging threats, whilst building the reserves to invest in improving our estate.
What are your ambitions for the Trust moving forward?
There are four goals we are working towards. The first thing we want to do is build a greater commonality in terms of what binds us together as ATT. This needs to include things like culture and learning, and we’re beginning to do that. We’re starting to define the powerful knowledge that every student in every year group should acquire in their journey with an ATT academy. For example, there’s been some excellent work in primary geography that will give us a real structure moving forward.
We’ve made a start on restructuring school improvement and operational support services this year, to make them more cost effective and impactful. Our shared services are absolutely vital to our success, so I know there’s more work to be done with this.
We do need to improve outcomes. This is particularly challenging at the moment, with attendance figures being what they are nationally.
We’re starting to approach the idea of taking on new schools, and I think an element of growth over the next few years would be a very positive thing. We have a very large geographical spread, from Stoke down to Grays, from Walsall across to Ipswich; we need to get to a certain size in order to support that scale. We’d ideally like to be between 25 and 30 academies. Whereas in the past ATT wasn’t the first port of call when a school became available for sponsorship, those perceptions are changing, and we are starting to be approached. This is a really positive thing as our reputation grows.
Let’s talk a little bit about your background. What have you been most proud of over your long education career?
I started my career as an English teacher and taught mostly in London. It was a fairly turbulent time in the early eighties- miners’ strikes and teachers’ strikes, that was the era. I’ve always worked in challenging schools and environments with high levels of disadvantage; that’s been the one common theme through my career. I used to get some very good exam results back in the day, so of course I was always very proud of those! It was about opening up opportunities for students that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. I am of course proud of what I built at Dixons over sixteen years, working with some very challenging schools in a much more urban environment. That’s another thing that appealed to me about ATT; my experience is very much in urban schools, so it’s a change to be working in much more rural and remote settings. The challenges are very different. I’m proud of the schools we started from scratch, and which absolutely transformed learning in those communities, but also those which we were brave enough to take on and turned around. Making a difference to pupils is what it’s all about, and that’s definitely something I want to bring to ATT. Some of the communities ATT serves are probably even more marginalised and forgotten than those urban communities I have previously worked with; they’re not front-and-centre of political consciousness.
If you could describe our Trust in one word, what would it be?
I’d say high-potential.
What would you have done if you’d not decided to work in education?
I think I would have been a barrister.
What are you currently reading?
Scrum Master, by Joe Justice.
What’s your favourite food or restaurant?
I love a place called Dishoom at King’s Cross- it’s an Indian, modern fusion kind of place.
What’s your ideal holiday destination?
My favourite place to visit is Portugal.
What’s on your bucket list?
I’d love to do a trip down the Amazon. I’d like to say a parachute jump, but I don’t know that I’d be brave enough to do it!
What are your hobbies?
Aside from walking the dog, I dabble in DIY and carpentry, like building bookshelves.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?
That we do it for the pupils, not for Ofsted.