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Five questions the academy sector must ask itself

The next 12 months must be about building confidence in multi-academy trust model – and here’s how, says Leora Cruddas

Leora Cruddas says that the academies trust sector needs to build confidence in itself

I’ve just finished reading Patrick Lencioni’s excellent book The Advantage. It is a treatise on the importance of organisational health. At the launch of the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) tomorrow, I will be saying that it is as important that we establish a common culture across school trusts – a culture of system health.

This means asking five of Lencioni’s critical questions.

1. Why do school trusts exist?

At the heart of the articles of association of every school trust in England lies something grand and aspirational – to advance education in the public interest. This is about making children and young people’s lives better – changing lives. Kofi Annan, previously the United Nations general secretary, said: “There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children.”

As we build our system of school trusts in England, we must make a collective promise – to hold trust on behalf of the nation’s children.

This is why we exist.

2. How do we behave?

If, as a sector, we are tolerant of everything, we will stand for nothing. We need a set of principles that guide our behaviour. I can think of no better set of principles than those determined by the Committee on Standards on Public Life.

So all of us must be able to say, collectively and organisationally, that:

  • All our decisions have been taken in the public interest;
  • We have acted with integrity – we have not acted or taken decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for ourselves, our family or our friends;
  • We have taken decisions in an open and transparent manner;
  • Our decisions have been taken impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias;
  • We are comfortable submitting ourselves to external scrutiny;
  • We have been truthful in our actions, decisions and reporting;
  • We have demonstrated the highest standards of public life in our individual and corporate behaviour.
     

The vast majority of trusts are confident about this. But how do we ensure that these principles permeate into the deepest organisational cultures of every trust in the country?

3. What do we do?

Our core business is education – we are knowledge organisations. We educate children and young people and change lives for the better. We need to consciously and deliberately build public confidence in this simple message.

4. How will we succeed?

We must be the go-to part of the sector for the best educational practice and the best long-term education, social and civic outcomes; real repositories for educational expertise and knowledge, not quick-fixes.

5. What is most important right now?

If we accomplish only one thing in the next 12 months, it should be building public confidence. Where there is misinformation, irresponsible generalisation or error, the CST will stand up for schools' trusts. And where there are problems, we need to be seen to solve them. We are already more transparent and accountable than any other part of the school sector.

If we, the executive and governance leaders of the system, can work together to agree these answers and align our trusts around these answers, then we will dramatically increase our likelihood of creating a great education system.

Leora Cruddas is chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts (CST), the sector body for school trusts in England. CST holds its inaugural conference and launch on Thursday 11 October at the British Library, at which the education secretary, Damian Hinds, will deliver the opening keynote speech. Tes is the media partner

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