What follows is my best explanation of how we go about things at Thrive. The best bit for staff readers is probably the section on Thrive Think Tanks at the end of this blog.
We are a multi academy trust, a MAT - 9 schools, 840 staff, 4600 pupils, 11 Trustees, 5 members, 90 local governors - so when I became CEO in September 2020 did I feel the pressure to come up with all of the bright ideas?
The answer partly lies in the cycle of things - we have a strategy day in July at which point we nail down the next 3 years. It’s a deadline that requires an whole host of answers. A moment in time when 11 expectant trustees look at a slightly nervous CEO for the big ideas.
The answer partly lies in the reward structure - I am paid the most therefore I feel the need to come up with the big answers.
The answer partly lies in the time available - I have the relative luxury of time to think about such things while everyone else gets on with ‘operational’ stuff; you know, responding to the latest COVID advice, rejigging processes around altered assessment arrangements, trying to keep staffing sufficient as sickness absence bites.
The answer partly lies in our history and the expectations that follow - that’s the way it happens around here.
What I’ve come to realise
It’s the process for devising strategy that is my responsibility, and this is best achieved through a collabora
tive process involving many players (in fact all those listed above). Strategy comes through many cycles of listening/reading and debate. And then there comes a moment in time when I take responsibility for taking some ideas and not others, for working out timescales and delegation routes, and for checking that the strategy chimes with, and not against, our values, and it’s at that point that draft 1 is launched with Trustees.
Devising strategy is always a work in progress, and deadlines aren’t always helpful. Our theory on this has always been that we set strategy in July, then delegation flows through into individual staff members performance development reviews (PDRs) early in the Autumn term. The problem with the theory is that staff members seem to come up their own nuanced take on strategy and have the audacity to suggest tweaks, nay changes! And so, where appropriate, I make tweaks and changes and keep Trustees informed as we go. An example this year has been our plan to roll out a Thrive pupil character development programme. I wrote it in as a key ‘start now’ item only to be later convinced that there were 2 other pieces of the jigsaw that needed to be in place and so a start Easter next year would be a better idea. It sounds fairly trivial but it meant rejigging a fair number of things, and I’m the sort that likes things neat and tidy - I’m learning.
Thrive Think Tanks (TTTs)
To keep the conversation around forward strategy flowing we currently have 5 TTTs this year so that we can keep the flow of best ideas happening across the year with a view to have included a range of voices from right across the organisation as we work towards launch dates in this academic year and for September 2022. The current 5 are;
Developing Thrive School Councils to ensure that pupil voice is heard in the 2 key areas identified by The Children’s Commissioner when she said children want ‘a fairer, greener society’ This TTT is coordinated by myself and involves all 9 school council le
ads and those in school with an interest in pushing forward the Eco Schools agenda. I’ll be blogging about this separately shortly.
Devising a Thrive Teaching Standard that takes the best from the wider MAT landscape, and internationally, so that we devise a Thrive Teaching Standard that is rigorous, accurate and workload manageable. This TTT will investigate difficult questions such as what can realistically be concluded in a drop-in, and how can we best listen to pupils about their learning, and how important is it that an assessor is a subject specialist in the subject they are assessing?
Devising a Thrive Wellbeing Charter for staff and pupils that sits alongside the DfE Charter.
Creating a Thrive character development programme for launch September 2022 enabling each school to map out a bespoke programme for each pupil that will build on current good practice and will broaden horizons and deepen cultural capital.
Devise Thrive Mar
keting and communications strategies that clearly identifies audiences and contact strategies across each school and across Thrive.
Of course there are numerous other conversations that are currently happening across Thrive. The 5 cu
rrent TTTs are just beginning. I’ll be blogging about progress as we go. My profound hope is that I am on the receiving end of a lot of conversation and debate as we travel through this academic year and better positioned to push our tweaked strategic plan forward through the next three years. I'm responsible for the plan, and it starts with listening.