Staff buy-in is an important part of increasing the scope of MATs. A new survey reveals encouraging trends and work to be done, writes Leora Cruddas

The Secretary of State has recently set an ambition for many more schools to benefit from being part of a strong family – in other words, a trust. He also said: ““Multi-academy trusts are powerful vehicles for improving schools by sharing expertise, working collaboratively and driving improvements. It is living proof of the old adage, a problem shared is a problem halved.”

Yesterday Edurio published a report on school staff perceptions of multi-academy trusts. The report is based on their Staff Well-being and Working Conditions survey, which captures over ten thousand school staff views from before and during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among the report’s findings are five key lessons about what staff think of MATs and how to increase buy-in.

 

  1. School staff are more confident that being part of a trust is beneficial

It is great to see a positive trend in the proportion of staff who feel confident about the benefits of being part of a trust. This trend has increased during the pandemic with respondents to the survey saying they really appreciated their trusts’ efforts during the Covid disruption.

And it’s not surprising! Groups of schools working together in trusts have greater strategic capacity than stand-alone schools. There are a range of ways in which trusts have supported their schools including safeguarding, interpreting Covid guidelines, developing remote education and integrating this with the curriculum.

 

  1. Most school staff agree with their trust’s vision and values

Seven in 10 school staff are clear on — and, crucially, agree with — their trusts’ visions and values. A slightly lower proportion, but still a majority of school staff, see the vision and values of their trust embedded into the culture of their school. There is important success to be measured in seeing that proportion grown further.

Respondents said they really appreciated their trusts’ efforts during the Covid disruption

Dixons Academies Trust provides an excellent example for those looking to codify their values into their organisational culture. Their approach, the result of vast amounts of work, instils strong learning habits, ultimately helping students become better qualified, more successful and happier.

 

  1. Communication is really important

Almost half of school staff surveyed think the information their trust shares with them is useful. Three-quarters approve of the frequency of communication. Staff were particularly positive where information provided by the trust is directly relevant to their responsibilities.

Communication is vital, yet often incredibly difficult to get right. That so many staff value their trusts’ communication throughout the pandemic is testament to the fact that their statutory responsibilities are being carried out very well indeed.

 

  1. Trusts need to work harder to reach beyond the school leadership team

The report shows that confidence in the value of trusts was highest among school senior leaders. This too is unsurprising and reflects similar recent findings by Ofsted.

However, just under half of middle leaders, administrative and support staff – and only around a third of teachers – felt confident that being part of a trust is beneficial. A key lesson is therefore that trusts  must work harder to reach beyond school leadership and ensure staff at all levels feel confident the trust adds value.

 

  1. Staff need to feel listened to, their feedback sought and acted upon

As with communication, school staff in the survey point out that the needs of some roles are addressed more effectively than others. They highlight the importance of following up with any queries or suggestions to make sure that staff know what is being done as a result of feedback.

If we are to follow the government’s direction of travel, it is important that we learn continuously. Sir David Carter says in his concluding remarks to the report: “Can you identify three elements of the research that you want to develop within your culture over the next year? If you use the report in this way, it is hard to see that the relevance will not add significant value to the conversations you will lead in your trust.”

It is in this way, by learning from reports like this, that we can become the best system at getting better.