Major new inquiry into how school trusts can improve education

19th March 2023

A major new inquiry into how education in England can keep improving is being launched today by the national sector body for school trusts.

The Confederation of School Trusts is bringing together diverse school trusts with a broad range of education experts to explore the theory and practice of improvement within school trusts.

The Inquiry on Sector-led Trust Improvement will seek to answer four key questions that will help trusts deliver constantly improving education for their pupils:

  1. How can trusts gain assurance about the quality of their work and capacity to improve?
  2. What are the common goals of trust improvement?
  3. Which practices do trusts mobilise towards these goals?
  4. What are the implications of the above for building sector capacity and capability?

The inquiry will review and build upon existing evaluative tools such as the Department for Education’s MAT Assurance Framework and aim to create additional resources focused on how to improve trusts.

The inquiry panel will draw on expertise from a range of school trusts, of different sizes, geographies and operating models, as well as experts in education evidence from other organisations.

Participants include Professor Becky Francis CBE, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation; Rob Coe, Director of Research and Development at Evidence Based Education; and Tom Rees, Executive Director of the Ambition Institute.

Panel members from school trusts include Rob Tarn CBE, Chief Executive of Northern Education Trust, and Jennese Alozie, Chief Executive of University of Chichester Academy Trust.

The inquiry will be chaired by CST Deputy Chief Executive Steve Rollett.

Announcing the inquiry, Steve said: "We believe developing the professional capacity to improve trusts and schools is the responsibility of the sector itself, which should be supported but not prescribed by government.

"School trusts have already made a massive difference to the lives of thousands of children and there is some great work going on across the sector to do even more. This inquiry is about understanding what works and why, and how that can be applied so that everyone benefits.

"If all children did as well as pupils in the best school trusts, Key Stage 2 performance would be 14 percentage points higher nationally. The inquiry will seek to better understand how we can work together to make that ambition a reality."

"We don’t believe there is a single model of how to run or improve trusts, but we do think there is more we can collectively know about trust improvement, with insight into concrete practices and approaches. This inquiry will not be the last word on how trusts improve but we hope it will make a significant contribution and be of benefit to the sector.”

Panel member Greenshaw Learning Trust Chief Executive Will Smith said: "I am delighted to be part of a sector-led, CST-inspired inquiry that we hope will help trusts to develop strong and sustainable frameworks for improvement.”

The inquiry panel will consist of:

  • Professor Becky Francis CBE, Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation
  • Dr Dan Nicholls, Deputy Chief Executive, Cabot Learning Federation
  • Dawn Haywood, Chief Executive, Windsor Academy Trust
  • Ed Vainker OBE, Chief Executive, Reach Foundation
  • Jennese Alozie, Chief Executive, University of Chichester Academy Trust
  • Jenny Thompson, Executive Director, Dixons Academies Trust
  • Dr Kate Chhatwal OBE, Chief Executive, Challenge Partners
  • Lekha Sharma, School Improvement Lead, Avanti Schools Trust
  • Rob Coe, Director of Research and Development, Evidence Based Education
  • Rob Tarn CBE, Chief Executive, Northern Education Trust
  • Tom Rees, Executive Director, Ambition Institute
  • Warren Carratt, Chief Executive, Nexus Multi-Academy Trust
  • Will Smith, Chief Executive, Greenshaw Learning Trust

 Matt Stevenson, Deputy Director of the Department for Education's South West Regions Group will attend as an observer.

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