Inquiry Focused School Improvement

What is the aim of ASK?

An Improvement Partnership
Working together, we become greater than the sum of our parts

You will be joining a group of local and regional schools working together to improve the life chances of others. Evolving from an already established network of schools, the charity ASK is the next phase of, school-led, inquiry-focused improvement. We seek to create exceptional schools which secure great outcomes and are supportive places to work. We will do this by providing a forum for the development of educational professionals through evidence-based, practitioner-led inquiry. Our key aim is to empower colleagues so that they can determine their own improvement journey.

What do we believe?

We are a community of collaborative educationalists who believe in the power of a self-improving school network. Through inquiry, we inspire and challenge each other to champion great practice and promote ethical and purposeful school leadership. We believe our children and young people should have high-quality opportunities to develop their social, emotional, physical, mental and cognitive skills. To achieve this, they need extensive experiences to prepare them for the next phase of their educational journey, realising their aspirations at each step along the way.

How will we achieve this?



We will foster autonomy and a sense of agency so that all individuals and organisations assume responsibility for their own improvement.

  • We remain open minded and maintain a questioning approach to help us to find solutions to meet the needs of learners within our different contexts.
  • Evidence-based practices and research-informed inquiry help us to find our own answers to improve provision for all learners.


We will work together, across all phases, to share our knowledge and support each other.

  • We collaborate as equal parties finding appropriate ways to contribute expertise and skills.
  • Our ‘Steering Committee’ openly shares collectively made strategic decisions.


We believe that ethical kindness and unconditional positive regard should underpin all of our practices. We develop our knowledge about what will best help our learners to succeed.

  • We seek to operate with professional integrity that serves the interests of the adults and children within our schools; we are prepared to kindly, and mindfully, challenge any approach or activity that does not support this.
  • We will keep our practice under review and quality assure our work so that we build on existing knowledge and disseminate those aspects of our practice that are transferrable to other contexts.

What will we do?

Increase Knowledge and Understanding - ASK provides a forum to raise the professional awareness of colleagues so that they can consider what is possible in contexts other than their own through school visits, peer review and scrutiny of evidence

Impact Measures: What changes have been made? What difference have they made?

Share Success – ASK provides a forum for leaders of learning, at all phases of school organisation, to disseminate aspects of practice and curriculum development which have been shown to have a positive impact in their context.

Impact Measures: What opportunities have there been for schools to share good practice? What has been the effect of this in raising standards across schools?

Develop New Professionals – Working in partnership with other organisations, ASK will provide opportunities to develop new teachers and support staff and so provide high quality personnel for our schools.

Impact Measures: How many staff have been trained to enter the profession? What is the retention of these people?

Create a Longitudinal Career Pathway for Professionals – By sharing expertise across our MATs and clusters of schools, ASK provides staff with a career pathway from support staff through to Executive Headship.

Impact Measures: What is the impact of training and CPD in helping staff to fulfil their roles effectively? How prepared do staff feel for the next step in their career?

Innovate and Trial New Ideas – Using evidence from successful practice elsewhere and practitioner-led research projects, we provide an impetus for school improvement.

Impact measures: How are we using evidence from practice to inform our school improvement? What difference are our research and innovation projects making to outcomes for learners? How are we disseminating this information so that others can learn from it?

Help Schools to meet Statutory Obligations – ASK provides an ongoing cycle of training programmes and reviews that are shaped in response to the national agenda for safeguarding; specialist provision; meeting the needs of specific groups; effective governance; curriculum; and assessment.

Impact Measures: How successful are schools in meeting their statutory obligations? Safeguarding? SEND? Governance? Curriculum?

Support Adult and Child Wellbeing – ASK provides advice and support for schools to enable them to develop highly effective provision for the wellbeing of children and adults.

Impact Measures: What difference is provision making to the wellbeing of learners? What difference is it making to staff attendance, their sense of wellbeing and recruitment and retention rates within schools?

How will we do this:

  • Ongoing training with GAP tasks
  • Professional Discussion Forums
  • Leadership Development Pathway Programme
  • Apprenticeship Teachers Programme
  • Collaborative Research Projects
  • Peer Reviews
  • Peer Visits
  • Even Better Teaching Programmes
  • Wellbeing and Supervision Programmes
  • Cycle of Statutory and Safeguarding Training
  • Links with other Educational Partner Organisations

How can Schools Become a Member of ASK?

  • Membership is open to nursery, primary and secondary schools.
  • Any school or collection of schools who wish to become a member of ASK must make a short online application and agree to meet with a member of the Steering Committee. The request will then be presented to the members of the Steering Group at the next available meeting. 90% of the group must agree to the school or collection of schools joining.
  • Each school joining will be linked with a member of the Steering Committee. For Multi-Academy Trusts this is likely to be the CEO of the Trust or the Director for School Improvement who will be expected to join the Steering Committee. Individual schools will be linked with a Committee member to promote reciprocal communication. Membership of the Steering Committee is reviewed annually at the start of each academic year. At this point, schools may make a request to join the Steering Committee.
  • Schools make an annual investment, based on pupil numbers, as follows:

Up to 100 pupils - £495
101-150 pupils - £995
Up to 500 pupils - £1,495
501 pupils plus - £1,995

  • Investment fees are used to pay any salaries and audits linked to the operation of the organisation; support communication and efficiency; fund training sites; fund refreshments for CPD; cover administrative costs; and support the website and communications.
  • If schools wish to join the ASK collective of schools, then they must agree to sign the Terms of Reference as an individual school or have someone sign on their behalf, if part of an academy Trust or federation of schools.
  • If schools wish to leave the collective, they must provide 16 weeks notice in writing to the Steering Committee.

Appendix 1

How is the Strategic Direction of ASK Determined?

A Steering Committee, referred to as ‘The ASK Steering Committee’, manages and co-ordinates the work of the Charity. It also provides support, guidance and oversight to projects undertaken. It meets once a small term, totally six meetings per academic year. The daily activity of ASK is co-ordinated by an Operational Lead who is an employee of the Charity.


  • The Steering Committee of ASK is composed of CEOs and/or Improvement Directors of Multi-Academy Trusts. Individual Schools are represented by nominated Head or Executive Head Teachers.
  • The Steering Committee will be supported by the Board of Trustees for the Charity.
  • Members of the Steering Committee will have a term of office that coincides with their leadership role as part of an Academy Trust or a federation of schools. Nominated roles have a fixed term of 3 years.
  • When selecting the lead of any project, the Steering Committee will ensure a transparent, fair and inclusive process, guided by the best interests of the project. In making its choice, the
  • Steering Committee will endeavour to designate the person who has the necessary experience, aptitude and skills to lead the project.


  • The Steering Committee will define the strategic orientation and the programme of activity related to the improvement needs of schools and will also agree the quality assurance measures for the programme or initiative being undertaken.
  • The Steering Committee will establish the budget allocation for any Initiatives and communicate this to the Operational Lead of ASK.
  • The OL will inform member of any programmes or activities undertaken.
  • The OL will ensure the continuity of the work between meetings by feeding relevant media platforms with up-to-date information about initiatives through our dedicated website and newsletters, partners’ websites and/or specialised journals, etc.
  • The Steering Committee will provide guidance to the operational lead of the charity.
  • The Steering Committee members will determine what partnerships are established to further the educational objectives of ASK.
  • The Steering Committee will determine pricing structures and protocols for use of training sites to support the work of the charity.
  • The Steering Committee will ensure that the work of the Charity reflects the needs of its members and reflects the wider national educational agenda.


  • The Steering Committee will co-ordinate the evaluation of initiatives undertaken and report annually to the Board of Trustees.
  • The Steering Committee will agree a report to submit to the Charities Commission by 31st January annually.
  • The membership of the Steering Group will be updated annually on the website.


Current members of The ASK Steering Committee are:

  • Julia Alison
  • James Birkett
  • Lorraine Cullen
  • Ann Davey
  • Alison Harvey
  • Ashley Izzard-Snape
  • Jamie Pardon
  • Jo Sanchez-Thompson

Appendix 2

How does the Governance of ASK Operate?

The Board of Trustees are responsible for compliance and financial propriety. They also oversee policy, safeguarding and any matters pertaining to Human Resources. The specific responsibilities of the Board of Trustees is:

  • To ensure that ASK meets the priorities of those who provide funding streams to support its work.
  • To review budget monitoring reports linked to income and expenditure and other evidence of delegated financial control.
  • To act as a ‘first committee’ for formal procedures.
  • To ensure that correct personnel procedures are followed for any staff employed by the Charity.
  • The Board will quality assure the work of the Charity.

The Board will support and expect ASK to access high quality HR advice in dealing with employment issues.


Through designated meetings and electronic communications board members will be able to share information and resources.

It is the responsibility of board members of make it clear where a matter shall remain confidential or if there are restrictions limiting circulation or copyright for content or specific instructions in relation to the use of content.

ASK will continue to develop its website to facilitate communication and has a secure password protected area to share particular resources and information.

Board of Trustees Annual Plan

Three meetings per year, each meeting to follow the standing agenda below:

Meeting agenda

  1. Review previous minutes and matters arising
  2. Report on main focus
  3. Reports from the Steering Committee
  4. Finance Update - budget monitoring
  5. Risk Register
  6. Quality Assurance
  7. AOB

Main Focus

Meeting 1 – Business Planning and Risk Register
Meeting 2 - Policies, Practice and Safeguarding
Meeting 3 – Quality assurance and Impact of Initiatives in line with key aims

Membership of Board of Trustees:

  • Peter Banks
  • Lorraine Cullen (Chair of Trustees)
  • Ann Davey
  • Bill Dearns
  • Rebecca Martin
  • Jane Murray
  • Jean Wilkins

Appendix 3

How are Improvement Initiatives Delivered?

  • The needs of member schools determine the programme of activity and initiatives undertaken by the Charity. This is kept under continuous review by the Steering Committee.
  • The Steering group will assign a particular member of the committee to lead specific initiatives; this is determined by the skill set and capacity of each individual member. To cover any release time for NLE/SLE/LLEs/Moderators/Effective teachers/Strong Teaching Assistants/Mentor Heads/Teacher Coaches etc. to undertake work for the Charity an agreed fee of £250 per day or £175 per half day per person has been agreed. The person leading the initiative is expected to provide all of the necessary information to the Operational Lead so that information can be communicated to members in a timely way.
  • Under the direction of the Steering Committee, the Operational Lead will arrange a programme of statutory training that is communicated to members through the ASK website.
  • All bookings for collaborative activities and training events is managed through the website.
  • Where necessary, investment fees will be used to fund external facilitators. This will be based on an average of £400 per day. No more than £600 per day will be approved by the Steering Committee.
  • Training will be undertaken at member school sites. Fixed daily rates have been agreed and these will be reviewed annually. These currently stand at £115 per day for hire of a training or meeting space; £5.00 per person for lunch; £2.50 per day, per person for light refreshments (juice/tea/coffee/biscuits) and £1.25 per person for half day or evening refreshments.

Appendix 4

How will we review our work?

Review will be an integrated aspect of our practice. The following will guide our practice:

  • As all of the key leaders of school organisations will be present, the Steering Committee meetings will provide an opportunity to plan the content of our improvement activity and to consider the impact of the previous term’s activity.
  • Each lead of an initiative or programme will evaluate the impact of their activity through a pre-determined format. The outcomes of this will be published on the ASK website, identifying strengths for practice and also areas for further development.
  • The work of ASK in achieving its 7 key aims will be reported annually to the Charities Commission.
  • The financial management of ASK will be kept under review by the Board of Trustees and audited annually.
  • The minutes of Steering Committee meetings will be sent to the Board of Trustees following each meeting and available on the website.
  • At two points in the year, the Steering Committee will evaluate, and report upon, how effectively we are operating in line with our key principles; adherence and deviation from this will be noted and an appropriate response agreed, if required.
  • The Steering Committee and the Board of Trustees reserve the right to remove any person from each Board. If there are concerns that ASK’s Core Principles for operation and the Nolan Principles have not been upheld, they should be raised with the Chair of the Board or the Chair of Steering Committee respectively. The person in question will be given an opportunity to present their case so that the matter can be considered confidentially and a suitable decision made. The Nolan Principles are as follows:

Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
Integrity – Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
Objectivity – In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
Honesty – Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
Leadership – Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

Terms of Reference Download

Our Address


c/o Learning for Life
College Street

Phone Contacts

Operational Lead

Sarah Thomas :  01933 654921 Option 4 (Learning for Life Trust)

Chair of Trustees

Dr Lorraine Cullen : 07866 631 929

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