May 2022 edition: Introduction

Introduction

Welcome to this issue of Trust journal. As ever, it is the product of a range of voices in the school system, from School Trusts to partners offering commercial services and, of course, input from CST too. We hope it speaks to a range of trust leadership roles and that there’s ‘something for everyone’ here. This matters to us because Trust leadership is, of course, a shared endeavour.

 In the lead article, I provide a gentle reminder for us not to forget that school improvement is central to the Trust mission and to the objectives of the Schools White Paper. Essentially, the piece is a reminder that amidst the talk about system reform and Trust growth, the sector must not take its eye off the ball: making education better for children. And there’s a bit too on how CST helps to support you in this work.

Rebecca Boomer-Clark, CEO at Academies Enterprise Trust, explains how a large Trust with a national presence has thought carefully about how it ensures a connection with place. As Becks argues, "by prioritising local voices within a place-based approach, we hope to remove the obstacles which too frequently prevent parents and communities engaging positively with education and reframe an outmoded model of governance so that we recognise the importance of different perspectives and contributions.”

In his article on ‘2022-2030: Beyond the White Paper’, Sam Skerritt, CST’s Head of Policy, takes a broad view of what else is going on in the education system and the challenges that are ahead. As Sam explains, "It seems sensible, then, that if the sector is to rise to the plethora of challenges likely to arrive in the coming years, schools being part of a Trust is essential to the solution.”

Part of the reason why Trusts are robust capacity creating structures is because of their potential for building and sharing specialist expertise. Ruth Ashbee, teacher, senior leader and blogger, provides a stimulating conceptual exploration of why knowledge building is central to the Trust landscape: "we have a significant role to play as disseminators of specialist knowledge – training and developing our staff in these specialist areas, closing the gap between the knowledge that is available and the knowledge that is shared and used by school staff.”

A particularly important body of knowledge we need to be be aware of is that which relates to safeguarding. Dai Durbidge, Partner at Browne Jacobson, provides a concise and informative analysis of one of the key changes in the latest Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance, which takes effect from September 2022.

Stephanie Mason, Head of Further Education, Skills and Academies, RSM illustrates how boards must play a strategic role in managing risks: "It is critical that the board identifies the right risks and has assurance that those risks are being mitigated. Boards will be used to considering the risks that would prevent them achieving their strategic objectives, but it is good practice to horizon scan for upcoming risks and any that may have been overlooked.” Stephanie provides a helpful reminder that the challenges and reforms Sam mentions in his piece may also present important risks for boards to identify and manage.

Simon Freeman, Managing Director, IRIS Education argues that there is something of a paradox at play in the way Trusts use data – they tend to have a lot of it but it’s often unaligned, spread across disparate systems and therefore hard to make meaningful use of. This, Simon believes, is particularly important for Trusts to consider alongside their plans for growth: "As growth continues, MATs will have a surplus of data that only real-time analysis and centralisation will help turn into actionable insight.”

Picking up the thread of looking to the future, we’re pleased to feature an interview with John Dickens, editor of Schools Week. In my conversation with John, I ask him for his reflections on how the Trust sector has changed, what the future looks like for the sector, and his reflections on how the media works with Trusts.

To close out this edition we have an article from Michael Oakes, Digital Propositions Lead at RM, who walks us through the latest DfE research on digital maturity and signposts the DfE’s new digital and technology standards. We also have a thought-provoking piece from Phil Herriott, Senior Education Specialist Relationship Manager, Lloyds Bank, on the advantages of using commercial charge cards for payments. Phil argues "using Commercial Cards to make payments rather than relying on petty cash is not only more physically secure i.e. there’s less of a chance of money being misplaced or even stolen, it ensures that all expenditure is accounted for and that there is a clear paper trail when it comes to audit time.”

So, as I hope you can see, we have something for everyone in this issue. I hope you enjoy it.