The Education Partnership Award Small Business: Novus Property Solutions for taking a school from brink of closure to being oversubscribed with outstanding Ofsted scores

Award Type: 

  • 5 years - the time it took partner school Thistley Hough Academy to go from ‘special measures to ‘good’ under Oftsed
  • A third of students are disabled or have special educational needs – well above the national average

An extraordinary partnership, taking a school from brink of closure to being oversubscribed with outstanding Ofsted scores.


The city of Stoke is ranked 13th in the UK Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation, and has a rate of claiming benefits 25% higher than the national average. In 2014 Stoke came fifth from bottom in the national league tables for GCSE results.

Although realistic about the impact it can have on the overall education performance of young people in the city, Novus Property Solutions wanted to do something to improve the situation. These efforts have resulted in the property maintenance business winning Responsible Business Education Partnership Award for small organisations.

The company based in Stoke and like many other organisations in the city, has struggled to fill positions locally. The company’s chairman, Stuart Seddon is passionate about his home city, and decided to take a unique approach to the problem by forming a direct partnership with a local school so that the company could have a direct input into the skills that pupils require to be ‘job ready’.

“A responsible attitude is very much part of the Novus DNA. We are a family business and have always upheld traditional values in our dealings with our workforce, our customers, our suppliers and the wider world,” he says.

It is this philosophy that kick-started the company’s Business Class initiative and the star of a special relationship with partner school, Thistley Hough Academy. The principal, Holly Hartley, was keen to take part in the scheme because her school had faced a number of challenges. Around a third of students are either disabled or with special educational needs, well above the national average, and in 2012, the Academy was placed into special measures, with poor exam performance, staffing issues and low pupil enrolment.

“By forming a strategic partnership with a school that was one of the worst performing in the City, we felt this was the best way we could play our part in being a responsible business and to deliver on our vision and mission to have a real positive impact,” says Novus.

For each year of the partnership, a needs assessment and action plan was created, aligned to the wider Academic Year Strategy of the school and tailored to the individual needs of Thistley. The overriding purpose underpinning all activities was to raise the aspirations of pupils, giving them extra support to improve their employability skills and give them the best chance in life.

Five years later, and thanks to the support of Novus, Thistley was graded ‘Good' with some ‘Outstanding’ features by Ofsted.
“From the outset our partnership with Novus has had a significant and tangible impact on life at the Academy. Our partnership is founded on trust and integrity and so it has been easy to engage, despite our significant operational differences,” says Hartley.

“Novus is now a daily part of life for us – from mentoring pupils, to offering support in a high-level Public Finance Initiative meetings, to the development of a new school allotment, or by working with students on employability based skill sessions.”

For Novus, the partnership has already resulted in improved reputation locally which is bringing direct commercial benefits. When surveyed, 100% of Novus employees who were involved in the programme said that they had developed new skills. Meanwhile, the company says it has developed strong, trusting relationships across the local education sector – something that has helped it to win more than £5 million worth of construction work.