Unfortunately, many of you will now have heard the news that our beloved CEO, Keith Hollins, passed away on 23 September 2021 after a battle with Coronavirus.
Keith was instrumental in making this Trust what it is today – one of the largest and leading MATs in the UK. His passion and vision were remarkable and collectively, those within the Trust will continue his legacy in the same manner that Keith would have.
We’d like to celebrate his incredible life and pay tribute by highlighting just some of his many wonderful and impressive achievements.
Very recently, Keith was interviewed by School’s Week, where he was celebrated for his achievement with SUAT. In six years, 17 schools have joined the Trust, however, Keith, as modest as ever, insisted “It’s got nothing to do with me.” Those who knew him well, will know that isn’t true.
His success with the Trust came from a wealth of experience and his belief in collaborative working. Throughout his outstanding career in education, Keith has pioneered innovative ways to enable effective collaboration and excellence in education that has been recognised throughout the sector at the highest level.
Described as ‘inspirational’, a ‘super head’, ‘high flying’ and ‘in a class of his own’, Keith has committed his life to driving up educational standards, turning around underperforming schools and forging powerful partnerships that have ensured the pupils of Staffordshire schools have had the very best educational opportunities possible.
He began teaching in 1976 and worked at schools in London, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire. He has made a huge impact on education in the Staffordshire region which ultimately led to him receiving an Honorary Doctorate by Staffordshire University in 2018.
In 2004, as the newly appointed Headteacher of Westwood College in Leek, Keith led the college to Specialist Schools status and to Beacon School status by 2005. By 2007 he achieved an Ofsted rating of Outstanding.
Keith was the architect of the South Moorlands Learning Community in 2009, which is a partnership of the six schools in the pyramid of The Cheadle Academy.
He also engineered the current Leek Education Partnership (LEP), of 20 schools in the Staffordshire Moorlands, and was the Chair of LEP for four years. This is a quasi-legal organisation that links all 20 schools in the Leek District, including First, Middle, High and Special Schools.
He also became a National Leader of Education (NLE) from 2007 to 2015 and Westwood College was a National Support School. His services were in high demand; he was continuously deployed from 2007 and was instrumental in helping to lead four North Staffordshire High Schools out of Special Measures in six years.
In September 2007, Keith became the Executive Principal of both Westwood College and Cheadle High School, a Staffordshire Secondary school which was then in Special Measures. This was the first leadership model of its kind in Staffordshire. Cheadle High was removed from Special Measures eight months after his appointment. Soon after, Cheadle High School was awarded ‘good with outstanding features’ at full inspection in May 2010. In August 2011, Cheadle High School converted to become The Cheadle Academy.
In 2008, an Ofsted inspection of this leadership model gave it an ‘outstanding’ judgement. At this time, Executive Headship was quite rare and Keith was asked by DfE to give evidence to STRB (School Teachers’ Review Body) on the way in which he was remunerated. This model was adopted in the STPCD (School Teachers’ Pay and Condition Document) and is still the preferred model for calculating the pay of Executive Heads.
At this point, his career was already considered exceptional, and he was a beacon for Staffordshire’s education community. We then, at SUAT, were lucky enough to have him join the Trust as our CEO. His leadership allowed SUAT to realise its ambitious growth objectives. The Trust is now held up as best practice in educational circles such as the Local Authority and the Diocese. Most recently, Keith has been nominated for another Honours, thanks to his exemplary response to the Covid-19 pandemic. His leadership over this difficult period has further endorsed his relentless commitment to education and the support and wellbeing of those involved with the Trust, pupils, teachers, staff and school communities alike.
Whilst Keith loved his work and knowing that this made a positive difference to the education of young people, he also had other passions and many hobbies. As a proud “Stokie”, he loved Stoke Football Club. When he wasn’t cheering his hometown team on, he was gaining enjoyment from his motorbikes or spending time with his beautiful family, whom he adored, and his three loyal dogs.
Keith has paved the way to excellence and everyone at the Trust is committed to carrying on his truly inspirational work. He will be greatly missed and always remembered.