Your people: creating the winning formula for your trust 

Every school leader knows that it is people, primarily the teachers and leaders, who make the greatest impact on pupils and therefore are the school’s greatest asset. Without them you cannot deliver outcomes which help children fulfil their potential and address the stubborn achievement gaps in our society.  

By James Toop, CEO at Ambition School Leadership

This is even more true when you lead across more than one school as an Executive Head or CEO of a multi-academy trust (MAT). Leading at executive level means you have more staff, a central team as well as school staff, and rely more than ever on others to distribute leadership across your schools. Managing talent should be one of the top priorities for Executive Heads and CEOs.  

Yet many MATs are reporting that people development is one of their key constraints to delivering outcomes for their pupils and growth. Recruitment and retention issues lead to a lack of talent and mean that MATs lack the capacity to grow ahead of need. In a sector that is all about developing and getting the best out of our children, we should understand more about how to build our People. 

As we have moved from manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy, the nature of human resources (HR) has changed and the role of HR has shifted from service provider to business partner. From Kaplan and Norton’s The Balanced Scorecard to Keller and Price’s Beyond Performance, the question of how people are linked to performance and organisational strategy is being constantly re-evaluated. 

To grow the leaders of tomorrow in a way which drives sustainable growth, it is no longer enough to have a functional HR department. As CEO, it is your job to make your number one asset – your people – a strategic priority.  

Stay aligned to your core objectives 

Whether you’re creating a future-proof succession plan or refining your selection process to make the next smart hire, your people strategy should be aligned to the strategic objectives of your school or MAT.  

Fundamental to this is the awareness that your objectives might change. Any strategy needs to be flexible and a savvy CEO reviews their objectives on a regular basis, refining them to reflect and respond to the changing internal and external environment. 

Getting the right skills in the right place 

Securing a steady and reliable leadership pipeline relies on getting the right skills in the right place. Research has shown that successful organisations do this by linking their succession planning to their development efforts.  

Stretching employees with development on the job, as per the Centre for Creative Leaders’ 70:20:10 approach to development, challenges your employees while allowing you to assess their potential for future roles. 

Finding the best people 

Recruitment is increasingly important for MATs and responsibility for managing employer brand is shifting from HR to CEOs. Social media has intertwined company reputation with customer experience and has made employers’ reputations ever more transparent.  

Before going out to recruit, you should consider your candidate experience. Your proposition should be informed by questions such as: why should people want to work at your MAT? What makes it unique? What do your prospective employees care about? 

Growing capacity ahead of need 

Growth is a key priority for successful MAT CEOs. The highest performing CEOs are encouraged to grow their trusts, whether from starter, established, national or system MATs. 

But growth must be sustainable, and capacity needs to grow ahead of future need. This will throw up a number of challenges, from where you’ll find people to how you’ll pay for them, to how you’ll maintain performance while managing change. Be strategic about your choices – what is the one key area you need to build extra capacity? Focus on that.  

About our programmes 

Our Executive Educators: Building and leading a sustainable MAT programme is designed to equip participants with the advanced knowledge and skills to implement and sustain change across a multi-academy trust (MAT) or other federation. It will support you to lead with confidence and transform the life chances of the pupils you serve.  

Whereas, our Executive Educators: Leading several schools programme offers specialised training and support designed to help your transition from leading a single school to implementing change across a group of schools. Evidence-based training focuses on the skills, behaviours and knowledge specific to executive leadership, delivered by experts from across and beyond the sector.

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