National CST School Trust Report

National CST School Trust Report

Priorities and challenges for trusts 2022/23

Government's commitment

In June 2023, 395 trust accounting officers across England - the senior leader directly responsible to Parliament for their trust - shared their voices with the sector body, the Confederation of School Trusts.

The second annual report uncovers the top priorities for trusts nationally. 

Inside, you will find key facts, insights and expert commentary on:

  • Current challenges; financial sustainability and growth
  • Future priorities; improving the quality of education and workforce development
  • Strong and resilient trust insights; governance and accountability and system leadership and civic responsibility

One of the key findings was that multi-academy trusts are worried about financial stability. Read the TES article here or access the full findings in the report

CST_report_2_front cover

Priorities and challenges for trusts 2021/22

Government's commitment

School trusts have an important and growing role in education across England. The Department for Education White Paper, published in March 2022, confirms the strategic importance of the trust model and the need to build upon the successes of strong trusts, with the Government committed to all schools being in a trust by 2030, and all trusts to be serving 7,500 pupils or running at least 10 schools

CST and Edurio have been working together to gather reliable insights into where trusts are in their development and what their priorities and challenges are for the academic year 2022/23 and beyond. This has resulted in the first National Survey of School Trusts Report, co-authored by CST, Edurio and Professor Daniel Muijs, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society at Academica University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam.

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Government's commitment

The Confederation of School Trusts has partnered with Edurio to conduct the National School Trust Survey.

The survey is designed to uncover the main priorities and challenges for the sector for the upcoming academic year, as well as to provide some detail on specific approaches. The survey is informed by CST’s guidance on strong trusts, with a particular focus on the elements that make up the core responsibilities of a trust’s chief executive, as outlined in the position paper “Building Strong Trusts”, released in April 2023.

In June of this year, the survey was answered by 395 trust accounting officers across England - the senior leader directly responsible to Parliament for their trust. The survey covered trusts of all sizes, from trusts with single academies to running dozens of schools. 

Who will find this report useful?

Government's commitment

This report provides guidance and analysis for trust and school leaders, local authorities, teaching staff and parents who want to understand the nature of strong, high-quality trusts. It helps to grasp how stakeholders currently feel about some of the crucial components highlighted by CST's and DfE's frameworks.

If you are a school or trust leader thinking about joining, creating, or growing a school trust and want a bird's eye view of stakeholder perspectives on trust performance, this report is for you. Local authorities can look to this report for an overview of trust performance, aiding their monitoring efforts. Teaching staff may find information on pupil perspectives particularly intriguing and use it to inform their practice. Parents and carers seeking insight into stakeholders' feelings in schools and trusts will also find value in this report.

We have supplemented our analysis with expert commentary from Tamsin Frances, Executive Director of People, Strategy & IT at Ted Wragg Trust. Sufian Sadiq, Director of Talent and Teaching School at Chiltern Learning Trust, provides his reflections in the Conclusion section. Their experience in the sector offers valuable insights for trust leaders aiming to address similar challenges in their own settings.


Government's commitment

With the national trust report being in its second year, this has rapidly become the largest annual review of the trust sector priorities and challenges. We have received positive feedback from trust leaders, sector experts, and policymakers.

While the key priorities have remained unchanged, each of the last years has presented the sector with different challenges that trust leaders have navigated with courage, grace and devotion to their pupils and staff. 

External pressures of cost of living increases, school building lifespan and labour market shifts have meant that school trusts have had to focus on the operational challenges of budget planning, recruitment and risk assessments to ensure that teaching and learning can happen. This naturally means there is less capacity to focus on strategic school improvement and civic impact.

But there are plenty of demanding strategic challenges facing trusts.

The wider Edurio research with hundreds of thousands of pupils, parents, and staff across England shows that staff risk of resigning is at its highest point historically, pupils report a learning drop in Key Stages 3-4, behaviour challenges are affecting both staff and pupils, and all stakeholder groups desire more communication and involvement in the school’s decision making.

It is, therefore, encouraging that education quality, workforce development and organisational culture remain key priorities for trust leaders. The sector is committed to rising above the operational challenges and driving school improvement in their schools and beyond. The strongest trusts will be able to retain the momentum and crucially bring along their staff, parents, and pupils by involving them in the decision-making.

We are immensely grateful to trust leaders for sharing their priorities and challenges. This report reflects the stories of hundreds of trusts and aims to help the CST, sector bodies, regulators and trusts better understand where to direct their efforts. We will continue reporting on trust priorities and hope that the growth in participation in the review will continue across the sector. We will also be happy to hear any feedback or topics of particular interest (email the research team) we learn the most by working in collaboration!

Ernest Jenavs
Chief Executive Officer

Do you want to understand your trust's community better? Use stakeholder feedback to keep track of culture, as well as other important topics like working conditions, learning process and engagement. 

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