The Journal for Executive and Governance Leaders

Changing the story

At the legal and ethical heart of what we do as academy trusts lies something bold and aspirational – our core charitable purpose is to advance education for the public benefit, to make children and young people’s lives better. To change lives. This is why we exist.

And this has never been more important. How will we bring together a divided country? How will we chart the path for future generations? It is education that will shape the next generation who will make society whole again.

We’ve allowed the narrative about academies and multi-academy trusts to be dominated by others. By those who believe that this is about business interest – the corporatisation and privatisation of education by the back door. By those who believe we are motivated by money or worse, that we are tyrannical.

It is time we took control of the narrative. We need to say proudly, collectively, that academy trusts are education charities that run schools to give children a better future.

Let’s say, “Our trust is a group of schools working in collaboration as one entity to improve and maintain high educational standards across the group. Our trust has a single legal and moral purpose: to advance education for the public benefit.”

To parents, let’s say “As a family of schools, we improve your child’s education by sharing ideas and expertise with each other. Like any other state school, our schools are free to attend, we’re inspected in the same way, and children take the same tests and exams.” Let’s say that “we help our local communities thrive by giving children the best opportunities to learn inside and outside the classroom.”

To teachers, let’s say “As a family of schools, we work closely together and share expertise, which creates great opportunities for children and teachers. We share good practice on the important things – curriculum, assessment and behaviour. We offer structured career pathways for teachers, supported by high-quality professional development so teachers and leaders learn together.”

We help teachers and leaders spend more of their time focussed on the one thing that counts the most – the education of children. The advancement of education in the public benefit.

Let’s stop using the language of MATs and CEOs. Let’s talk about school trusts – charitable trusts that run schools, trust leaders and trustees. People who hold trust on behalf of children.

It is time we took control of the narrative. We need to say proudly, collectively, that academy trusts are education charities that run schools to give children a better future

Leora Cruddas

Let’s stop asking “Should my school become an academy?” Let’s encourage a better question – one that Steve Munby originally asked: “How can my school best collaborate with others in a strong and resilient structure to ensure that each child is a powerful learner and that adults have the opportunities to learn and develop as teachers and leaders?”

Let’s talk about the fact that in other liberal nations in the world – Canada and the Netherlands for example – schools are organised into strong and sustainable groups, legally independent from municipal authorities. This is normal in those countries. It is perfectly normal for education leaders to run groups of schools. Nobody rails against these structures in those countries.

What on earth could be wrong with creating an entity whose sole function is education – and then have this entity, a charity, run schools to give children a better future?

I’d like this to be our new narrative. To that end, CST has today published this core narrative on our website for all trust leaders to use. Let’s change the story.

This is our education renaissance. We are rediscovering the things that count the most – that make the biggest difference to the common good.

In conclusion, I’d like to thank trust leaders for the work you do every day to make a difference in the lives of children across the country – to change England and world for the better.

CST ‘core narrative’ can be read here.