In recent years, and certainly since becoming CEO of Lighthouse Learning Trust, I have come to appreciate the benefits for schools and colleges of joining a multi academy trust.
Academy trusts, which are becoming increasingly popular across the education sector, are groups of schools working together under a single legal and administrative framework, with the aim of improving the educational outcomes of all the schools within the trust.
Here’s what I see as the real outcomes of being part of a trust set-up.
One of the key benefits of belonging to an academy trust is the shared accountability for standards – everyone pulls in the same direction. Each school or college strives to be outstanding, but a lone organisation feels the pressure far more keenly when it is solely accountable for its own standards. Being part of a trust means every member has the support of the other schools or colleges within the trust.
More collaboration can only be a good thing, it means you have access to other leaders’ experience and know-how as they work together to improve the educational outcomes of all students. There is also the added support of the trust, which is ultimately accountable for all standards and fuelling the journey to outstanding.
The shared accountability for standards also means that there is a greater focus on provider improvement within the trust. Providers within the trust are encouraged to share best practice and work together to identify areas for improvement. This collaborative approach to school improvement means that members can learn from each other and progress far more rapidly.
Sharing the load
Belonging to an academy trust gives every member access to shared services. By working together under a single administrative framework, trust members can take advantage of shared functions such as HR, finance, marketing, estates management and legal services. Sharing them makes them more cost effective, consistent and adaptable because of theeconomies of scale.
Shared services can remove the admin burden on individual members – and the time wasted on dealing with issues – and allows them to concentrate more on teaching and learning. This is particularly important for smaller schools or colleges who may struggle to find the capacity to provide these services in-house.
Upping your team’s game
An academy trust can also bring better opportunities for staff development. I have seen staff within a trust absorbing skills and knowledge from their peers and colleagues just by seeing them in action or being part of combined teams. Their confidence in their own role grows and they in turn pass these new-found skills on to other colleagues. I’ve witnessed this helpingenormously with developing a culture of continuous improvement.
If staff can see themselves growing it can also help improve retention – people are more likely to stay somewhere they feel valued and supported. The collaborative culture within atrust can help create this environment.
Summing it up
Academy trusts can make running a school or college more cost-effective and efficient, which is of course hugely important. But giving staff a sense of belonging to something bigger and more influential, somewhere where there are more opportunities to develop and progress, is the real game-changer.
If the culture is right then people will feel valued and want to be part of an organisation with the appetite for continuous improvement, – somewhere that matches their own ambitions for themselves and their students.
Even more important though is the outcome for learners. A well-run, financially secure trust driven perpetually forwards by a focus on standards shared equally by each member is exactly the educational hothouse young people need to grow and succeed.