Deep and purposeful school collaboration

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Date published 03 March 2023

Last updated 21 March 2024

Leading a school is rewarding. It’s also challenging and complex work.

One way that many school leaders seek to overcome their challenges effectively and swiftly is to learn from others. School-to-school collaboration is seen by many as a route to a self-improving system, including the option to join a trust with other schools.

In January 2023, the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) published the paper ‘Starting with Why: Why join a trust – and why a trust-based system?’ It explores the moral arguments as to why schools should consider working together in deep and purposeful partnership as part of a school trust.

Leora Cruddas, Chief Executive at CST, was inspired by a speech made in 2017 by Steve Munby, the former Chief Executive of the National College for School Leadership. Steve urged school leaders not to ask, ‘Should my school become an academy?’ but to focus on the question: ‘How can my school best collaborate with others in a strong and resilient structure to ensure that each child is a powerful learner and that adults have the opportunities to learn and develop as teachers and leaders?’

Since Steve posed this question, it has opened a wide and varied dialogue about how schools can best support each other to grow and develop purposefully with clear direction.

“I don’t think you can have a high-performing education system unless there’s deep collaboration and proper knowledge-transfer and professional learning together.”

- Steve Munby

To continue this conversation and offer school leaders food for thought on collaboration, we brought Leora and Steve together to discuss this question, five years on. Facilitated by our Executive Director of Programmes, Tom Rees, the conversation covers:

  • The importance of a resilient system and mindset for school leaders.
  • The professional development needs of leaders of multiple schools.
  • National conversations around disadvantage, SEND and the need and right for academic excellence for all.
  • The value of collaboration across schools and of a single governance structure.

This is essential viewing for any school leader looking to expand their school-to-school partnership work, thinking about joining or becoming a trust, or those new to the trust system.

References from the film

Barker, J. and Patten, K. (2022) ‘Professional development in School Trusts: Capacity, conditions, and culture’, Confederation of School Trusts. Professional development in School Trusts: Capacity, conditions, and culture

Cruddas, L. (2023) ‘Starting with Why: Why join a trust – and why a trust-based system?’ Confederation of School Trusts.

Hargreaves, D. (2012) ‘A self-improving school system: towards maturity’, National College for School Leadership. A self-improving school system: towards maturity - GOV.UK (

Munby, S. (2019) ‘Imperfect Leadership’. Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing.

Newmark, B. and Rees T. (2022) ‘A good life: Towards greater dignity for people with learning disability’, Confederation of School Trusts. A good life: Towards greater dignity for people with learning disability

Watch on YouTube

Deep and purposeful school collaboration: Insights from Leora Cruddas and Steve Munby

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