Building strong trusts

In February 2022, CST published an influential discussion paper asking the question, ‘What is a strong trust?’ Since then, we have engaged in a sector-wide discussion to understand how our proposed domains of organisational strength and resilience aligned with sector thinking and the emerging evidence base. This paper sets out our current policy position.

Our domains map to the trust quality descriptors published by the Department for Education but are different in a few respects.

Our domains are tentative, iterative, and designed to be developmental. As the sector matures, we need to define organisational strength and resilience in a way that enables the sector to work towards a common understand of what good (and better) looks like.

The domains are indicative so that trusts have room to give creative and innovative expression to what it means to be a strong trust in their own unique circumstances.

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If we are going to build a school system in which schools are part of a group in a single governance and accountability structure, we need to be explicit and eloquent about what constitutes a strong trust. We offer this narrative paper for discussion and debate.

Trust quality: an overview of research

Trusts have become a central part of the English education system, providing the core of school-to-school support, improvement and governance. This means that it is increasingly important for us to know what high quality looks like in a trust. In this paper we have reviewed the evidence from four countries: England, the US, the Netherlands and Sweden. The latter three countries were chosen as they have somewhat similar (though by no means identical) systems. This literature review draws on a search conducted using several evidence bases, websites of government agencies, and a general google search. We also drew on the references to other studies in those sources.

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In this pamphlet, CST chief executive Leora Cruddas CBE sets out the case for the school trust, and a trust-based system. It attempts to set out why a trust-based system might be our best bet, and explains why a group of schools working together in a school trust is so much more than simply the changing of the legal structure of the school.

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Confederation of School Trusts (CST)
Suite 1, Whiteley Mill
39 Nottingham Road
Nottingham    NG9 8AD

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