Improving School Trusts

Improving School Trusts

Bringing CST and DfE guidance to life
with feedback from 175,000 stakeholders

Bringing CST and DfE guidance to life with feedback from 175,000 stakeholders

What will really improve school trusts?

Our new research brings the CST's Building Strong Trusts guidance and DfE's High-Quality Trusts framework to life with feedback from 175,000 staff, parents, pupils, and trust leaders across English schools.

The first-of-its-kind report - “Improving School Trusts” - offers a unique bird's eye view of stakeholder perspectives on trust performance.

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

  1. Curriculum and Learning
  2. Pupil Behaviour
  3. Trust-led Knowledge Sharing
  4. Workforce Dynamics
  5. Stakeholder Feedback Integration

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The responsibilities of trust leaders are broad and there is a lack of guidance on where to focus efforts to become a strong, high-quality trust.

In response, this report examines the frameworks developed by the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) and the Department for Education (DfE), outlining what they believe are strong, high-quality trusts.

We amplify stakeholder voices – staff, leaders, pupils and parents – to show where they feel the focus is most useful concerning these frameworks.

We have written this report because striving to become a strong, high-quality trust will not only improve pupils’ educational outcomes but also enable trusts to expand and make a lasting impact on the education sector in England.

Who will find this report useful?

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.

What makes a strong, high-quality trust?

In 2023, the CST and the DfE proposed frameworks that outline what they believe constitutes a strong, high-quality trust. This section explores the commonalities between these two frameworks.

In a position paper, Building Strong Trusts, the CST provides a framework for the improvement of trusts by focusing on Strategic governance; Expert, ethical leadership; High-quality, inclusive education; School improvement at scale; Workforce resilience and wellbeing; Finance and operations; and Public benefit and civic duty. The framework aims to foster a culture of continuous improvement, collaboration, and shared purpose among trusts, ultimately contributing to a more resilient school system.

The DfE’s High-Quality Trust Framework presents five key pillars: High-Quality and Inclusive Education; School Improvement; Workforce; Finance and Operations; and Governance and Leadership. The DfE introduced this framework because they believe high-quality trusts are necessary for building a strong and resilient school system that delivers the best possible outcomes for all children. The DfE is also committed to helping high-quality trusts grow by taking on and improving more schools. This framework is a clear step towards fulfilling this commitment. For trusts, it is essential to know that meeting the framework's pillars will allow them to expand and take on new schools.


In crafting this report, we drew insights from a cross-survey analysis of our Edurio surveys consisting of responses from over 107,000 pupils, 46,000 staff, 20,000 parents, 300 trust leaders during the 2022/23 academic year.

Ever wondered how your staff's experience compares to the national average?

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