In any year, there are always surprise whitewaters for school leaders to navigate. After the unprecedented disruptions of recent years, the ongoing challenges for schools and trusts affected by RAAC are an example of how our sector is starting a new year in yet another unexpected way. And meanwhile, trusts across the system continue to get to grips with more routine challenges.
QSG exists as a supportive network for trust leaders as they grapple with both the unexpected and the every-day challenges alike. Our members support each other to face the future with confidence and hope, and drive improvement for all their pupils.
To that end, over the coming year we are focused on three key priorities, which we hope will shape the national conversation about education and model the kinds of solutions that will make the long-trailed idea of a MAT-led system into a positive reality.
The next generation of leaders
Recruitment and retention are difficult for schools at all levels, including trust leadership itself. The first wave of leaders are retiring while trusts are growing in number and size.
And it’s not just the number of vacancies to fill, but who fills them. The sector is alive to the under-representation of female and more broadly diverse voices in the MAT leadership space. There is a significant drop-off in representation between head of school (or business department) and executive board levels.
To start the ball rolling on promoting a new generation of leaders who reflect the communities we serve, our second annual conference in February will focus on how we can create organisational cultures where all leaders thrive and believe that leadership is for them.
We will be bringing together education, business and finance leaders from our trusts across nine regions to create a nexus of national and regional relationships to inspire, mentor new talent in a positive, ego-light way. We are aiming to reach a broad range of potential leaders, and to link them with mentors from within their own regions and other parts of the country.
Promoting inclusive education
The SEND and AP reforms are welcome and timely. However, MAT CEOs are rarely the foremost SEND experts in their trusts.
So over the coming year we will upskill our CEOs in this critical space. We will also create an expert group dedicated to SEND, with membership drawn from our own strategic SEND leaders. They will be tasked with setting out what is it that the trust CEO needs to in order to help shape future structures and provision within their own trusts and in the sector more widely.
Our aim is two-fold: to identify the best examples of effective practice and to develop best practice models for trusts to evaluate their SEND and AP work, and to engage with policy makers to ensure these reforms drive forward inclusive practice in all trusts.
Regulation and inspection
There is an opportunity to refresh and reset the relationship between the inspectorate and the sector in such a way that inspections serve children and families well, while being seen as proportionate and consistent. Doing so will grow high trust with schools and groups of schools.
With a new HMCI taking up post and the DfE embedding the recommendations from last year’s regulatory and commissioning review this month, QSG is keen to support strong implementation of new ideas on trust accountability.
We have always provided Ofsted with intelligence about trends and consistency of inspection practice as experienced across our 700 schools. So we will engage fully in the period of listening that has been signposted by the incoming HMCI, and we will continue to contribute to the discussion about how to make trust inspection as purposeful and informative as possible.
By working together, we can ensure that we promote the best within our system irrespective of background, that they are supported to serve their whole communities, and that they are held accountable in a fair, proportionate and consistent way. And if we achieve that, we’ll have set the MAT-led system up to chart a confident course through any rapids it will meet in future.