Charity Leaders and School Leaders

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Everywhere we turn school heads and leaders of groups of schools are being urged to turn to businesses as the saviours of education. Whether as sponsors, donors and - increasingly – as the sources of effective CPD for school leaders.

Leaving aside the easy wins in challenging this approach (TescoLloyds anyone?) the reality is that as schools now sit at the centre of a market driven approach with ever more need for trading approaches learning from corporates who exist in this world of sales, purchasing and the bottom line makes some sense.

However for profits are – exactly that – for profit. While that is not to say they the body corporate cannot do social good or that individuals within them do not have moral purpose or community benefit at heart the reality is they are measured by different metrics to schools (although the latest school efficiency approach is dangerously close to suggesting otherwise).

Perhaps we should be encouraging schools to look in other direction – towards charity leaders. Clearly as the Kids Company fiasco unfolds the sector cannot pretend to have it all operating perfectly. However there are thousands of UK CEOs who are grappling with the same issues as many school leaders running organisations the same size and – often - with similar legal frameworks or charitable purposes. Indeed all stand alone academies and Multi Academy Trusts are charities – all be it exempt – and their leaders need to understand the framework for charity governance and management (including the role of trustees).

We should declare an interest here – NotDeadFish sits in the space between schools and charities as do many of our clients. We have a firm belief that much of the expertise to develop and deliver an effective education for all children sits in and between schools. We also believe that this can be supported, challenged and co designed and delivered through strong partnerships with charities. Work such as the Development and Innovation Hub at Whole Education and Cultural Leaders for A New Direction epitomise how charities and schools are working with each other for better outcomes for young people.

But specifically at leadership level charity leaders have developed solutions to the same issue facing school leaders; how to collaborate in a competitive system; how to share learning and develop staff using effective approaches to CPD; how to use evidence to underpin delivery and data to measure impact. Indeed of course these challenges are familiar to for profits too.

The difference is that charity leaders juggle these challenges – and those of balancing the books – with an eye to social benefit rather than the profit line. However much great work for profits contribute to society (and this is something we will come back to in future blogs) there is no doubt that being held to account by financial measures sets a different framework for decision making than being led by the impact of your work in individuals and society.

From the £200million charities through to those running efficiently on hundreds of pounds charity leaders are adept at financial planning and management, income generation, cost control, human resources and dealing with multiple and complex contracts. Just like those proper businesses. But they can also tell you the difference that they make for users and for society and while the other stuff matters (and it does), and income flow has kept many a charity leader awake at night, what gets them up in the morning is moral purpose and making an impact.

School leaders – sound like anyone you know?