AN EXPANDING North-East education trust has been awarded the highest rating after its first assessment by an international management programme.

The Advance Learning Partnership (ALP), which manages a mix of 17 secondary and primary schools in County Durham, has been accredited with the coveted platinum level by Investors in People.

It is the first time ALP has gone through an assessment by Investors in People, which is seen as an international standard for people-management, with the platinum level only awarded to 2% of organisations.

ALP chief executive, Kelvin Simpson: "We are incredibly proud of the skills, energy and dedication of every employee. It is only through each individual member of the team that we are able to provide the highest quality of education to the children within the Trust.”

Laura Mellis, Director of Information Strategy, added: "It is a fantastic achievement to be given such prestigious recognition in our first ever Investors in People assessment, and a testament to the importance we place on treating people in the right way.

“Everything we do is for the children in our care, and it is only by investing in our staff that we can get the best outcomes for all our pupils.”

ALP was also shortlisted for two Investors in People awards – Best Newcomer and Best Platinum Organisation – and Laura added: “This was our first assessment and as Investors in People support 50,000 organisations around the world, it was an amazing accolade.”

ALP has grown rapidly since it was established in 2012 when the outstanding Parkside School, in Willington, converted to academy status. The latest expansion came in July when it was announced that Greenfield Community College, at Newton Aycliffe, and the Hummersknott Academy Trust, in Darlington, had joined.

The trust’s collaborative approach across the organisation was seen as key to its success in the Investors in People assessment.

“As we grow it becomes essential that we ensure everyone’s voice is heard – from apprentices to head teachers” said Laura.

ALP has invested heavily in apprentices in every department, and the assessor sat in on apprentice meetings as part of the process.

“There is a genuine open-door policy from the top of the organisation, and that played a big part in the platinum accreditation being awarded because the assessor could see the engagement of staff, and their passion for doing the best they can for every pupil,” explained Laura.

“We’re thrilled to be a platinum organisation, but the immediate response was to ask ‘What can we do better?’ We’ve set the bar high, but the ambition is to go even higher.”

The ALP family of schools are: Bishop Barrington Academy, Brandon Primary Academy, Dene Academy, Durham Academy, Greenfield Academy, Hartside Primary Academy, Howden-le-Wear Primary School, Hummersknott Academy, Middlestone Moor Primary Academy, Moorside Primary Academy, New Brancepeth Primary Academy, Parkside Academy, Skerne Park Academy, Staindrop Academy, Whitworth Park Academy, Witton-le-Wear Primary School, Wolsingham School.