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Building strong relationships within a multi-academy trust

How can a multi-academy trust (MAT) engage its schools during times of change? Leora Cruddas, CEO of the Confederation of School Trusts, shares some top tips from trust leaders…

Working together in a trust provides schools with the benefits of mutual support and collaboration – but it can also mean changes in a school’s way of working.

So how can trusts build strong links with schools and get them on board with their overarching vision?

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate Leora Cruddas, CEO of the Confederation of School Trusts, on multi-academy trust management

Good communication is fundamental to engaging schools in your trust’s direction of travel. While many trusts share major developments in MAT policy with their schools, the everyday news can make all the difference in your communications.

Daniel Moore, finance director at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Multi-Academy Trust says, “We now have fortnightly head teacher briefings, news bulletins and promote all our good news and success stories.”

2. Tap in to your local knowledge hubs

Never underestimate the importance of local level knowledge to your trust. School business managers have a wealth of experience, and each school has its own strengths, skills and values to share with its central trust team.

As Sarah Appleby, finance director of the River Learning Trust explains, “We blend the local knowledge that the school has, which is invaluable, with the technical and accounting knowledge of the central school business partner.”

3. Promote the wellbeing of school staff

Staff wellbeing is key to building strong, sustainable relationships with schools. By centralising some systems and processes, a trust can have a positive impact on school staff by freeing them from back-office tasks to spend more time on their core roles.

“If we can save them 10 minutes in the day – every day – by centralising a process so they no longer have to do it, that means they have got a slightly better work/life balance.” says Sarah Appleby.

4. Share your trust’s vision

Make sure your schools see the big picture for the trust. Schools will be more positive about changes to their processes if they have a clear view of the trust’s goals and achievements.

Daniel Moore recommends showing schools the impact of trust-wide initiatives. “Whenever something works, like when we make a saving through pooling our purchasing, we make sure everyone knows about it.”

By building relationships and forming stronger bonds with schools, a trust can work more effectively towards improving outcomes for its pupils.

The views in this article are explored in greater depth in a PS Financials white paper, Checks and Balance which is available for download at www.psfinancials.com/checksandbalance/

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