October 2021 edition: Introduction

Introduction

I am delighted to bring you this Autumn edition of Trust Journal. This edition is about the future – how we arise stronger from the global pandemic and build anew for our children and young people.

Dame Rachel de Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England reflects on The Big Answers: Building a New Deal for England's Children. Dame Rachel invites us to take the long-term view, but also challenges us to consider whether, in an age of big ideas, are we being ambitious enough? She says: "… out of hardship, England has a history of emerging stronger than before. Some argued we could not afford the NHS. It has now lasted for over 70 years, and we cannot imagine life without it.” She invites us to think big and bold and consider whether better answers lie beyond the policy options currently on the table.

On a similar theme but a nearer horizon, John Blake writes of Education Recovery. School Trusts have been at the forefront of managing the vast disruption of the pandemic. No one in education is under any illusion that recovery from the past two years will be straightforward. Problems we knew already existed within the education system have been further exposed and their impacts heightened. For this reason, a group of Trusts have worked with CST alongside representatives of other phases of education, to pull together an Education Recovery Plan. The ERP seeks to secure temporary funding for schools and post-16 institutions to help them mitigate the immediate consequences of the pandemic, whilst proposing clear plans for investment in early years provision and mental health services for young people, to reduce the long-term pressures on schools.

This is complemented beautifully by Nick Capstick’s thoughts on The Moment to put Child Health at the Heart of Recovery. Nick says that "We have an opportunity to learn the lessons of lockdown, shape and change the school food system and use that as a tool to build back healthier for every child, in every neighbourhood.”

Thus recovery is an enduring theme in this edition of Trust. Narrowing our lens a little, we need to think about how we respond to gaps in learning that have opened up during the pandemic. There is much talk at the moment about ‘catch up.’ But as Rebecca Allen and Sam Sims note in the introduction to The Teacher Gap: "Research consistently shows that the quality of instruction, which in turn depends on the knowledge, skills and dispositions of teachers, is a powerful determinant of pupil learning… no other attribute of schools comes close. Moving a child from an average to a top teacher’s class means they will learn in six months what would otherwise have taken twelve. … If improving the quality of education is the public policy holy grail, teachers are the ones who will find it for us.”

So teacher quality matters. It is the single biggest factor in improving educational outcomes for our children and young people. And of course, there is no improvement in teachers without the best professional development.

This is why Melanie Hoosen’s article on a New Season for Teacher Professional Development is so important. It is also why Steve Rollett’s article on the NET effect is significant. It is essential that we begin to codify how we do improvement at scale across a group of schools. Steve provides a window into an example of a Trust doing exactly this – the Northern Education Trust.

Widening our lens again and thinking about the future of our planet, on the eve of COP26, Robert Gould writes about Climate Change – Doing Nothing is No Longer an Option. Alison Bellwood’s thoughts on Educating a Generation of Environmental Inventors, Innovators and Problem-solvers seem particularly relevant in this context. Project Everyone seeks to create the World’s Largest Lesson which aims to build a generation of young "champions” for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

We also need to be building strong and sustainable organisations – strong Trusts. Part of this is a focus on our workforce. CST is doing a fair bit of work on this at the moment and I am delighted that Browne Jacobson is working with us on executive pay. Browne Jacobson’s Emma Hughes writes about our recent publication on Executive Pay Benchmarking, the first national salary benchmarking survey for executive leaders in School Trusts. This is a really important step for our sector in terms of finally having data that Boards are able to use in order to make fair, robust and evidence-based executive reward decisions.

I’d like to conclude with Oli de Botten’s beautiful article on why Modern Careers Education really matters. As we launch our young people into their future, Oli reflects on past, present and future: "past being shorthand for the powerful knowledge children need, the present standing for supporting well-being, and the future about making sure children are ready for what comes next.”

Let’s build a bridge to that future together.