We launched the Confederation of School Trusts on 11 October 2018. By this edition of Trust, we are thirty-eight weeks old and I thought it would be a good time to take stock of what we have achieved over this period.
Let’s start with our mission – to support our members to build an excellent education system in England, with every school part of a strong and sustainable group in which every child is a powerful learner and adults learn and develop together as teachers and leaders.
Right now, just over half of all children and young people are educated in school trusts – education charities which run groups of schools to give children a better future. Arguably, we are at a turning point in our reform journey.
When we launched CST, we said we would advocate, connect and support executive and governance leaders. So how have we done?
Without a sector body, trusts are dispersed with no way of organising. CST will help to mobilise the sector to make the very strong case for trusts as the best way to deliver education.Leora Cruddas
First, on advocacy, we have been relentless in our commitment to stand up for trusts and I believe we are now perceived to be a strong advocate of the sector. Ed Dorrell, Deputy Editor of TES, says he calls us when he wants to talk to ‘MAT-land.’
And we are now firmly established as the sector body in the eyes of ministers and senior civil servants. Eileen Milner, Chief Executive of the ESFA referred to us in giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee. We have held a series of high-profile round tables and meetings with ministers, regulators and Ofsted. We have influenced the new Ofsted Framework, the Early Career Framework and I am the Vice-chair of the Head Teacher Standards Review Group. We have an enviable range of partners, including the CBI and Ambition Institute.
We have just published a call for evidence on a sector-led ‘white paper’ to determine the future shape of the education system. This is because we believe a mature sector develops its own policy. We should not wait for an incoming Prime Minister and their cabinet to tell us their education policy priorities. We should be able to go to them with ours. As a sector, we must speak to government authoritatively on the full range of education policy issues.
Secondly, on connecting the sector up, we have begun the work of establishing powerful networks – bringing people together to do important work. So, for example our public relations network drawn from our membership, has recently published a compelling new narrative to future proof trusts.
Where CEO/ Trust Leader networks exist, we want to be the body that aggregates local or sub-regional insights and feeds these messages into policy discussions. We are also starting some important work on establishing formal networks for Chairs – this is being piloted in Lancashire and West Yorkshire with the Office of the Regional School Commissioner.
Thirdly, on supporting the sector, we are one of only five providers operating under license to the Department for Education to run a Governance Leadership Programme. Our programme is aimed primarily at trustees as we believe governing a trust is fundamentally different from governing a local authority-maintained school. Our draft governance standard for school trusts recalibrates the discussion about trust governance.
We are now trusted by our members to commission their executive and governance support through us.
We have also developed and launched our Funding Website – a strategic planning tool for schools and trusts to enable them to have accurate and reliable funding information in the context of the National Funding Formula.
National Teacher Accreditation (NTA), the only national Appropriate Body offering an independent service to all schools and trusts is now firmly established and used by for example ARK, Astrea and Aldridge Education.
And we have established the first digital journal in our sector – Trust, the Journal for Executive and Governance Leaders in which I write now.
The importance of a sector body
Finally, I’d like to close with the thought that in times of political uncertainty, a sector body is even more important. Without a sector body, trusts are dispersed with no way of organising. CST will help to mobilise the sector to make the very strong case for trusts as the best way to deliver education.
It is our enormous privilege to represent school trusts. The national trusts are now all in membership despite having their own channels into ministers and senior civil servants. This is because they recognise the need for a sector body. But CST is not just the organisation for the large trusts – we represent trusts of all sizes and our membership increasingly reflects this, with some of the smaller primary-focused trusts being amongst our strongest and most active members.
A sector body is only as strong as its members. If you are not yet a member, please join us and build a community of executive and governance leaders who speak authoritatively to government in a mature and principled voice. You have our promise that we will continue to advocate for you – to be the voice of school trusts.