October 2019 edition: Trust is Living Well Together

Trust is Living Well Together

Reflecting on the word ‘Trust’ – the ‘T’ of our Multi Academy or Single Academy Trust designation – centres our thinking on the importance of our relationships with one another, and the extent to which they reflect our vision and values. Trust is created between institutions, teams, individuals and children, where trusting one another is a daily choice. It makes room for vulnerability, rooted in life-giving relationships, pastoral care, embracing well-resourced processes such as supervision, mentoring and coaching. Trust is built on mutual support and encouragement, and creates hospitable environments in which to share their journeys. But how might we do this is a sustained way as we grow and develop? And where trust wanes or disappears from our organisations, what might be the consequences?

The Church of England Foundation for Education Leadership was set up in 2017 to ‘develop inspirational leaders who are called, connected and committed to deliver the Church of England vision for education’. Our vision is not just for Church of England schools, but is for all schools/academies, community and independent schools. One of the 4 pillars of the vision is called ‘Educating for Community and Living Well Together’. There could scarcely have been a time in our nation where this notion of living well together in education has been more important. It has implications for the kind of education we are seeking – ensuring a core focus on relationships, participation in communities and the qualities of character that enable people to flourish together.

Our vision for living well together as leaders offered a different way of thinking about our connectedness. For leaders who are connected operate deliberately within communities of practice, positioning themselves within positive relationships that sustain and encourage all parties. They embrace interdependence, demonstrate compassion and embody service to others humbly. They create shared identity within their teams and draw colleagues around a common purpose.

Trust is built in a community through the way that our actions, decisions, diaries and budgets reflect our stated vision and values. It is the development of a coherent shared narrative – one in which our relationships confirm our values.

Leaders who trust each other are committed to shared wellbeing, social justice, and show special consideration for the disadvantaged, marginalised and vulnerable. They create and implement curriculum that liberates and empowers children and communities. These leaders build schools that bring disparate communities together, rooted in dialogue, empathy and love. Their schools become beacons of restoration, filled with peace-seeking, environment-saving, community-loving activists.

There could scarcely have been a time in our nation where this notion of living well together in education has been more important.

Andy Wolfe

In the drama of ongoing life, relationships can and do go wrong. We are created to be social beings, flourishing together in community, yet where the relationships are not right, trust can be dismantled. Our vision for relationships is neither rose-tinted nor fair-weather, but is shaped by the challenges we face together: the Bible says, ‘A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity’ (Proverbs 17.17). In the same way, leaders are called to find a way back – a journey of healing, and a recognition that there may be little hope where there are broken relationships. Wise leaders show humility, contrition, patience, forgiveness, inclusion and refreshment.

Trust inherently carries with it risk – if I trust you to complete something, there is a potential you will not meet those expectations – that is the lived reality of teams, and for school trusts where teams are dispersed, it is important to build a dependability to build across multiple sites. Policies and procedures are crucial in this, but for many of us, this is primarily mediated through our relationships. Whatever our role in our Trust, the potential for feeling alone is significant – that sense that it is all down to me, and that the pressure is mine to bear.

As we seek to live well together, and to serve the communities to which we are called, may we place the quality of relationships at the heart of our organisations – relationships that become known for encouragement, joy, wisdom, challenge, reliability, friendship and hope. As we live out these virtues (behaviours which demonstrate our values), so our organisations, called ‘Trusts’ become known for the trust, confidence and encouragement that comes from living well together.

The Church of England is delighted to be partnering with CST in the Governance Leaders programme commencing Autumn 2019, involving leaders from across the country, centred on the Church of England Vision for Education, Deeply Christian, Serving the Common Good.