In this article we explore how trust leaders can further engage with stakeholders and foster unity within the constraints of funding and in keeping with government guidance.
“Leadership is the ability to facilitate movement in the needed direction, and have people feel good about it”, says Tom Smith from Culture Partners. The current public sector pay debates and industrial action across a range of sectors show that many people are seeking pay and conditions that take account of increased cost pressures and increased workloads. But this is not the complete picture. We know that when it comes to workplaces, as important as fair pay and conditions are, people need much more alongside. They want to feel valued, recognised and to feel that they contribute significantly to the sector and organisation they work within. They also want to feel communicated with and that they have an avenue through which they can be heard too. These aspects have been highlighted all the more as we see the growing challenges in recruiting, engaging and retaining good employees. Being clear on the trust’s role and its decision making powers (and constraints), including legal considerations, can be a helpful tool in communications and in shaping discussions around potential solutions and support on offer.
The cost of living crisis is undoubtedly impacting academy trusts, their staff and communities and creating a challenging environment. Options such as remote working and flexible schedules, which may be readily available in other organisations, can often be difficult to provide to the same extent in academy trusts – the lights have to stay on, the staff have to work from the schools the vast majority of the time, and the education of young people must come first. Working with a range of stakeholders (including students, parents and carers, staff, unions, the Department for Education and the Education and Skills Funding Agency) means diverse opinions, and requires trust leaders and trustees to make difficult decisions under pressure which are unlikely to please everyone. Keeping all stakeholders engaged and giving a transparent, realistic view of the trust’s circumstances and potential ways forward, will help those stakeholders to understand why a decision has been made and any next steps. Sometimes a trust may have to say “no” – perhaps to something which does not fall within their objects, or which they are not permitted to do, or where there simply aren’t the funds available. Matters which might fall for consideration in this category include the trust being asked to carry out additional activities, or to provide wider welfare services for the community.
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