Key findings of a review into CET were outlined at the 2021 Governance and Leadership Conference.

Sir David Carter talked delegates through some of the major changes the review saw being embedded in the trust and its 11 academies and also what is needed to continue its development.

The Ambition Institute diagnostic review found:

  • Training and development opportunities for staff at almost every level.
  • Leaders starting to see their role not only as school, but as trust, leaders.
  • A school improvement strategy with non-negotiables clear to individual schools and their Local Advisory Boards (LAB).
  • Leaders both supported and challenged by the board of trustees.

Sir David said what was also important was they found staff could identify the benefits of being part of CET.

He said: “No matter who we spoke to there were plenty of examples of people who were able to talk about the benefits of being part of this organisation. Teachers, leaders and support staff had really clear evidence their professional lives were being impacted positively as a result of being part of the trust.”

Sir David, former National Schools Commissioner who is now Executive Director of System Leadership at the Ambition Institute, said next steps that emerged in the review included the importance of sharing the trust offer available to staff as widely as possible and building the professional development offer within a trust-wide talent management strategy.

Earlier this year, CET announced the first stage of its Leadership Development programme.

Sir David said he thought there would be an increasing dependence on CET to grow, therefore it was vital to ensure there was sufficient capacity to take on more schools and make a difference to them without losing anything already on offer to children at existing CET schools.

He said all trusts had a debate about where they wanted to be on the ‘spectrum of autonomy to standardised practice’ across their schools.

He added: “There are some things that can only be delivered at the school level and some, around curriculum design, CPD, assessment and the quality of teaching and learning that you want across all your schools, that can be done in a more collegiate way.”

Sir David described the importance of what he saw as ‘the trust dividend’; where multi-academy trusts (MATs) demonstrate they are more than the sum of their individual schools. He said where this happens it creates an equality of opportunity for all children and enables staff to be developed to become the best version of themselves.

He added: “I think the ‘more than the sum of the parts’ argument becomes more relevant when it is very clear there is a more equitable experience for every child, so that no matter which school, or teacher, they are getting the same quality of educational experience across all your schools and that’s a real challenge, but it’s a great ambition to have.”

Sir David said the key question all trusts have to be able to answer is ‘are the children in your trust getting a better education as a result of their school joining your MAT than they were before?’

Looking back over the pandemic, he said schools who have been isolated and independent have found the last 18 months incredibly tough and added: “There will be a recognition that schools cannot exist on their own in a period where finances are going to be strained because of the covid bill. We have to get schools into really strong partnerships.”