A Year of Change: School Staff Perception of Trusts During the Pandemic
School Trusts have been working tirelessly during the pandemic to support their schools and communities. But has that been appreciated by staff working in schools? Have their efforts helped to build confidence in the school Trust model or have they been seen as a layer of complexity? Which practices from Trusts have worked well in response to the pandemic?
These are some of the
questions that we set out to answer in a new report, Trusting in Trusts, that we are launching this week. The report is based on over 10,000 staff
member responses to the Edurio Staff Well-being and Working Conditions Review,
where we have focused on how the perceptions of the Multi-academy Trust for
school staff have been affected during the pandemic.
Growing confidence in the value of Trusts
The overall results are highly encouraging. Of the survey respondents that took part in the review in the autumn term of 2020, 44% said they were completely or very confident that being part of the Trust is beneficial - this is up from 38% prior to the pandemic, which is one of the largest single-year changes we’ve seen in our surveys. The share of respondents who feel negatively about the value of the Trust has shrunk materially, from 35% to just 23% - a reduction by a third.
Comments made by the respondents highlight that frequently the Trust took a far more central role than before the pandemic, coordinating support and managing communication. When the leadership of the school gets stretched to the limits, the existence of a group of peers and central support makes the task feel easier and less lonely.
Deeper analysis reveals that confidence is the highest for senior leadership. That is perhaps not surprising, as senior leaders have the closest collaboration with the trust and SLT appointments are made with direct involvement by the Trust team. Teachers, however, are less convinced, with just over a third of teaching staff being confident that Trust membership is beneficial. This shows that the vision where the Trust’s workforce is a single faculty of education, expressed by David Carter in his recent book "Leading Academy Trusts”, is still a way off in many Trusts.
Understanding the needs and priorities of school staff through gathering regular feedback and ensuring that support reaches beyond the senior leadership will help the sector move even further in building a sense of shared values, goals and support.
The contributing factors
We explored three important elements of the Trusts’ interaction with school staff - setting and implementing Trust values, communicating about issues relevant to their work, and supporting staff to address their professional needs.
Our research shows that staff understand and agree with the Trust values (7 out of 10 staff members giving a positive response). Communication also shows a positive picture with 44% saying the communication has been very or quite useful, and just 21% claiming it has not been useful. 75% of respondents claim that the amount of communication has been just right - this is a noteworthy conclusion as many Trusts have radically increased their frequency of communication with school staff during the pandemic.
Staff support shows a more varied picture. While overall 42% of staff are confident that the Trust is working to address their needs, the share of respondents who are not confident (27%) is also material. Furthermore, just 23% of respondents say that it is easy to voice work-related concerns to the Trust.
School Trusts have a lot to be proud of about their role during the pandemic - their support to school leaders and staff has helped the sector weather the storm. I have heard from a number of trust leaders that the interest from schools in joining the Trust has rocketed over the last year. It is important to know that those within the Trust’s schools have also appreciated the role of the Trust more, showing that we are indeed more resilient together.
There is of course more work to be done. Understanding the needs and priorities of school staff through gathering regular feedback and ensuring that support reaches beyond the senior leadership will help the sector move even further in building a sense of shared values, goals and support.
Edurio is a CST Platinum Partner.
The full report was written by Edurio and contains contributions by Leora Cruddas, Steve Rollett and Sir David Carter. The report also has case studies with Academy Enterprise Trust and South Pennine Academies. You can download and read it here: https://home.edurio.com/trusting-in-trusts