Leora Crudas, CEO of the Confederation of School Trusts shares her thoughts on what Well Schools means for the MAT network and how it links with their framework for Civic Trusts:
The Youth Sports Trust has recently launched the Well Schools initiative. A well school has three key pillars:
- it is well led – staff wellbeing is supported, and the school is connected to the wider community;
- It is well prepared – every child has foundation of physical and emotional wellbeing; and
- It is well equipped – every child is supported to develop social capital to thrive in the world.
How does this translate into the Trust landscape? A School Trust is a group of schools working in deep and purposeful collaboration to advance education for public benefit.
There is clearly huge potential for schools working together in a Trust to embrace the Well School initiative as a collective. How powerful would it be if these principles of well led, well prepared and well equipped were implemented at scale?
A commitment to creating Well Schools across a group of schools in a Trust could be a key part of a wider commitment to School Trusts as new civic structures – something we have been thinking hard about at the Confederation of School Trusts.
In our framework document for Civic Trusts, we outline five principles which should be borne in mind for a School Trust that is thinking about how it best delivers a civic role. For each of these principles, it is possible to frame how Well Schools might fit:
Firstly, civic work has the most impact when it is delivered in partnership with other civic actors – School Trusts can take the initiative to promote physical wellbeing in the communities they serve. For example, this could be through working with councils to promote physical activity and active and travel. Could the Trust adopt an active travel policy, working with parents and the wider community?
Secondly, work should be designed around what the local communities where school trusts are based, actually want. How does the local community view physical wellbeing and what more can schools at the heart of their communities do to promote this not just to children but to the adult population? Could all or some schools in the Trust open their grounds for wider community use for physical activity and sport?
Thirdly, work should be appropriate to the scale and the strengths of the trust and its partners. It may be the case that larger Trusts will be able to operate on a larger scale than smaller Trusts, but smaller Trusts are sometimes more deeply connected to the community in which their schools are located. Geographical proximity of schools can mean in some cases that work of this nature has a greater impact.
Fourthly, civic work should be a conscious part of a Trust’s activity. Real impact comes when it is seen as a core part of the trust’s activity and strategy. This means that for civic work to be meaningful it should have an executive level sponsor as well as support from the Trust’s board, and it should receive regular scrutiny from the trust to ensure it continues to be focussed and useful.
Fifthly, civic work should sit alongside the trust’s broader strategy. It need not be a huge amount of additional work, nor should it require significant additional financial resource from the trust. There should be no conflict between the trust’s broader charitable purposes to advance education, and the civic work it engages in with its local communities.
The enactment of post-pandemic leadership will be central to the physical, health, social and economic wellbeing of children and families. Creating a culture and climate across a Trust that embraces the wellbeing of children and adults and the wider community, working with other civic actors, has never been more important.
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