May 2021 edition: Introduction

Introduction

This edition of Trust, our journal for Executive and Governance leaders, is a special conference edition. Our authors reflect on their experiences of conference and on some of the key policy issues facing us today.

Leora Cruddas and Steve Rollett's lead article makes a compelling case for collaboration. It interprets the Secretary of State’s speech in the context of CST’s broader work. Leora and Steve conclude that: "while it might be tempting to dismiss talk about structures as a distraction from the real business of education, we are seeing growing evidence that the structure facilitates vital capacity; the capacity to educate, to improve schools, and to weather external shocks. These things matter for children – and so they matter for us.”

Picking up a theme in the Secretary of State’s speech, Tiffany Beck (Senior Consultant with CST’s platinum partner PLMR) talks about the fact that Trust partnerships are already used by many Trusts around the country. She cautions against the description of these partnerships as ‘try before they buy’. She argues that such terminology can detract from what Trusts actually are – powerful vehicles for school improvement.

Adrian Shardlow (from another of our platinum partners, Browne Jacobson) also talks about the implications of the Secretary of State’s speech and argues that the rationale behind the system is the belief that the strongest leaders can take responsibility for supporting more schools, developing staff, allowing schools to focus on teaching and ultimately bringing about improved outcomes for students.

Continuing on the theme of government policy, Minister Gibb writes about the Early Career Framework reforms and makes the case that School Trusts will play a vital role in making these reforms a success, helping teachers to continuously develop throughout their career and to deliver great teaching for years to come.

Mary Myatt, who did one of our incredibly popular ‘discourse series’, reflects that in a time where there is a lot of ‘noise’ in the policy world, and there is an awful lot of ‘stuff’ going on in schools that is getting in the way of our core business, teaching and learning, it is time to take a hard look at this ‘stuff’ and decide whether all of it is really necessary. CST strongly endorses this approach of doing fewer things well. As we anticipate the announcement after the half term on the ‘recovery package,’ Mary’s words take on a somewhat prophetic meaning.

Claire Hill and Kat Howard likewise contributed to our ‘discourse series.’ Their focus is the curriculum. Like Mary, they make the case for leaders to be in control:"effective curriculum work requires subject leaders to diagnose, dismantle and reassemble the curriculum - evaluating and refining to seek what fits, why here, why now, what makes sense, what jars.”

On the theme of curriculum, Matt Larsen-Daw (Education Manager at WWF-UK and Chair of socio-educational charity HVP Nepal-UK) looks at the importance of environmental education. He makes the case that ultimately all of society needs to shift to achieve a green economy, so students should be supported to consider how careers in all sectors can be approached and shaped around sustainable values.

Of course, a system in which Trusts as legal entities are entrusted with the education of the nation’s children requires intelligent regulation. Steve Rollett, Deputy Chief Executive of CST, who chaired the impressive conference panel of regulators, reflects on how we can strengthen regulation. He cites the international authority on regulation Malcolm Sparrow, and reminds us of CST’s ten principles of intelligent regulation.

Reflecting on our brilliant inspirational keynotes, Charis Evans (CST’s new Director of professional development), writes about the hugely powerful keynote from Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, campaigner on girls’ education and the position of women in public life. As Charis says, CST supports the global struggle for equality. We believe in every child’s right to access 12 years of free, quality education and we believe in women’s right to hold positions in economic and political life. Equality and social justice were key conference themes.

Paul Tarn, Chief Executive of the Delta Academies Trust, reflects on the equally powerful keynote from John Volanthan on the Tham Luang Cave Rescue. Paul argues that this extraordinary story is a parable for our work with disadvantaged children. He asks some powerful questions: Do we have the compassion, the tenacity and ambition to carry them to the next point where we can place the line back in their hand? Do we have the humility to recognise others may offer the expertise, knowledge and skills required and ask for their help?

Paul concludes with these words: "That rescue belonged to all who helped, no matter the part they played. We have the capacity to work together to solve problems for the most vulnerable, to be a professional friend and to collaborate. That is how we will hold trust with our most disadvantaged children.”

We were delighted to welcome the new Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza to the conference, and we are grateful to her for sharing her thoughts here. As you will undoubtedly know, Dame Rachel has launched the Big Ask. Here, she reflects on what the pandemic has been like from the child’s perspective.

On the theme of the impact of the pandemic, you may be familiar with Renaissance Learning’s work with the Education Policy Institute on learning loss. The Education Policy Institute and Renaissance Learning were commissioned by the DfE to produce research examining the extent of learning loss experienced by pupils in England as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In our Trust article, The Kemnal Academies Trusts (TKAT) writes about their dynamic and collaborative partnership with Renaissance Learning which has evolved to meet their Trust’s specific reporting and training needs following a wide-scale investment in Renaissance solutions across the schools in The Trust in 2019.

I’d like to conclude this editorial with Ken Lloyd’s article on an ethos of effective questioning. It is good to remind ourselves that effective challenge is not one person holding forth on their views or two people arguing a point. Our Trust Boards are our first line of professional accountability. Embracing and building effective Trust governance is absolutely essential.

To this end, I am proud that Leora launched in her speech to conference a very important piece of work on codifying Trust governance through the development of a Trust Governance Code. This work is being led jointly with the Chartered Governance Institute, the Professional Body for Governance Professionals, including FTSE 100 Company Secretaries. The Chartered Governance Institute are one of the organisations that led on the Charity Governance Code.

Like the Charity Governance Code, our Trust Governance Code is sector-led. It has the support of the Minister, but it is not a regulatory code. The development of the Trust Governance Code is the mark of a mature sector – a sector that is ambitious in defining standards of governance.

Regulatory compliance is necessary to address failure, but it cannot and does not define excellence. As Leora said in her conference speech, we will build our bridge to the future through deliberate and intentional knowledge-building – through the systematic use of evidence and research and by setting the standard of excellence for ourselves.