February 2020 edition: Introduction


Welcome to the new edition of Trust. With the ever present backdrop of some of the key challenges facing the sector, not least the issue of teacher recruitment and retention, this edition brings together a number of different strands of current thinking about the leadership of schools and trusts.

Tom Rees, Executive Director of School Leadership at Ambition Institute, argues that trusts create a new domain of educational leadership – and with it, a challenge to prepare leaders to be able to successfully navigate this new territory. He makes the case for more domain-specific approaches to trust leadership. Alongside this, Professor Qing Gu, Director of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning and Professor of Leadership in Education at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) explores the differences between instructional and transformational approaches to leadership and makes the case that both are necessary to make a difference.

Mandy Coulter, founder of Talent Architects, focusses on making trusts great places to work. She argues for an impactful people strategy and modernising working practices. In related pieces Jack Worth, NFER’s Lead Economist, discusses how best to create working conditions that maximise staff motivation to ensure that the right balance between coherence and autonomy is achieved, and Ben White explores how to manage teacher workload. Ben who is a teacher and research lead for Ashford Teaching Alliance who worked on DfE Teacher Workload Group asks three powerful questions: how much work, what sort of work do we require teachers to do and what do trusts do to support teachers and leaders?

Leora Cruddas’s lead article widens the lens to look at the systems of meaning within which trusts are located. She develops the theme of civic leadership, outlined in CST’s Systems of Meaning paper. She makes the case for school trusts as new civic structures and proposes five principles which should be borne in mind for trusts thinking about how they might best deliver a fruitful civic role.

We also consider two other important challenges for school trusts. Nick Smee an IP and defamation lawyer at Browne Jacobson LLP offers some practical advice on how trusts should seek to navigate the fast-evolving post truth online world to successfully manage a school trust’s reputation, while David Gooda of Navigate NDC shares his experience in relation to leadership recruitment and succession planning and urges boards not to miss the inspiring opportunity this process presents to review a trust’s ambitions and to refine or reset its strategic direction of travel.

Crucially, all these articles are as relevant to those responsible for governance as to those responsible for executive leadership. We need trustees who understand the new challenges of the current education landscape. We need boards who understand that that they have a crucial role to play as employers to make their organisations great places to work and to achieve this, recognise that the time of the hero leader is finished and that they need to recruit expert leaders. We also need trustees who understand their wider civic duties and that their trust should not be an isolated, self-interested organisation but one that actively works in partnership to contribute to wider social good.

As ever I would like to take the opportunity to thank all concerned for their stimulating contributions to this edition of Trust – I hope you will find it of interest and of real value. We continue to welcome feedback from our growing readership both on the choice and value of the topics covered so far and suggestions regarding subjects that we may seek to cover in future editions.