On 11 March 2021, we held the first of a new series of webinars designed to support trust leaders in navigating growth. Our Head of Education Strategy, Caroline Doherty, was joined by Adrian Rogers, CEO at Chiltern Learning Trust (CLT), to talk about laying the foundations for trust expansion, including where to start and how to plan for growth.
Having led the trust since September 2015, Adrian has overseen Chiltern’s growth from 3 to 11 schools. The trust is currently planning to add a further 4 schools in summer 2021. Here’s a recap of what was covered on the webinar and some wise words of advice from Adrian.
Starting to plan: trust sustainability
When starting to plan for successful growth, Adrian believes making your trust sustainable is key – have a strong vision and translate that into practice. During the webinar, Adrian talked us through the most important parts of Chiltern’s vision, including its common culture of high aspiration and wanting to do things well.
This translates to high pupil performance and strong leadership; Adrian said, “We prioritise high pupil performance and have a total commitment to improving the life chances of students – our children need results.” He added, “It should be about making life chances better and the children getting a better education by joining CLT.”
CLT has paired this with “high quality and outstanding leadership that is visible.” Adrian credits the trust’s local reputation with helping draw “high quality leadership into the trust.”
He also recommended considering capacity when looking to add schools: “When we look at taking schools on, we look at our capacity givers and capacity takers. I think that’s a really key point..”
Starting to plan: good growth strategy
When it comes to strategy, Adrian shared that “Having it written down is important. We’ve used ours for the last 6 years. When schools approach us, and they do approach us a lot as they think we’ve got something to offer, we talk about pros and cons and we look at the operational model.”
Starting to plan: prove your successes
Being able to clearly point to the successes of your trust when planning to grow is another factor in a good growth plan; Adrian told us that proving both success and capacity helps with challenges put forward by trustees.
Lessons learned: the mistakes and pitfalls
To round off the session, Adrian shared with the audience his top two do’s and don’ts to remember when growing:
> Don’t promise the earth to get schools in. He said “It’s very easy to slip into telling schools you’ll leave them alone when they join, and I think every CEO or executive head has gone out to make a deal about that, and it has backfired.”
> Do keep the chair of governors close – he added, “If you don’t keep the chair of governors close and they’re not on the side of the trust, you’re in for a very difficult ride – ethos, vision and direction-wise.”
We were delighted to have had Adrian join us for our first webinar in this series on growth.
To watch the full webinar with Adrian Rogers on-demand, click here.
Our next webinar is on 22 April 2021 and will look at ways to allow for expansion, including how you can centralise your operating model to support growth. You can learn more or sign up to receive an invitation to our next webinar here.