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The Stour Federation

Multi Academy Trust

Learn, grow, succeed together


Creating alignment at leadership level is essential to building and maintaining a healthy organisation. There is probably no greater frustration for employees than having to navigate the politics and confusion caused by leaders who are misaligned. Even the slightest bit of daylight between leadership team members can have an overwhelming impact on employees.  Discrepancies in clarity, left unaddressed, can leave employees confused as to where to spend their time, how to behave and how to successfully go about doing their work.


Based on the work of Patrick Lencioni (The Advantage), we believe his six critical questions are essential for organisational clarity.  These questions may appear simple on the surface, but they can be difficult to answer and adhere to. The answers provide context and a framework for making decisions for executives and employees alike.


Addressing the six questions and creating organisational clarity will make a significant difference as schools join the Academy Trust.


The greatest untapped advantage for organisations and teams lies in being able to have the right conversations at the right time. These six critical questions are a great way to ensure our teams and schools are clear and aligned.


Why do we exist?

The Stour Federation exists to develop and grow our group of inspirational schools which instil ambition and desire in learners, open their minds, widen their horizons and equip them to flourish in a diverse and challenging world. 


We are a member of The Confederation of School Trusts, who make four propositions:

  • The goal is for every teacher in every classroom to be as good as they can be in what they teach (the curriculum) and how they teach (pedagogy).
  • For this to happen, we need to mobilise for every teacher the best evidence from research.
  • There is no improvement for pupils without improvement in teaching, and no improvement in teaching without the best professional development for teachers.
  • Strong structures (in groups of schools) can facilitate better professional development and thus better teaching and improvement for pupils.


How do we behave?

In The Stour Federation we learn, grow, succeed together with our Trust RESPECT values as the minimum behavioural standard.  Values inform expectations.  Expectations influence behaviour.  Behaviour creates culture.



What do we do?

In The Stour Federation, we establish high-performing and flourishing church and community schools which build academic and personal/interpersonal qualities and capabilities: character, citizenship, collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking, for learning and being.


How will we succeed?

  • Organisational health.
  • An ethic of excellence.
  • Aligned autonomy.
  • Growing and retaining talent.
  • Self-determination.
  • Management of change



Why Aligned Autonomy?

The optimal balance between consistency and self-determination; freedom and responsibility.  Aligned Autonomy will deliver a more agile and less hierarchical organisation:

  • Respect at every level.
  • Rules focused on clarity rather than control.
  • Roles that are needed and make sense.
  • Collaborative leadership.
  • Principles and purpose rather than practice.
  • Creates value quickly, collaboratively and effectively.



Why Aligned?

  • We share the same Trust mission and values.
  • All children and staff should benefit from our best collective practice.
  • We all benefit from collective resources, identity and reputation.
  • Staff can be more easily deployed to other schools in the academy if they wish.
  • Central services become simpler to deliver and more efficient.
  • Growth can be better controlled, supported and managed.


Why Autonomy?

  • Leadership and personal accountability are founded on ownership and self-direction.
  • If there is no variation in how we work, there will be no opportunity for us to innovate, act as pathfinders or learn from different practices.  There needs to be self-determination from individual schools.
  • Schools need to respond to changing needs and adapt to changing environments.



According to the self-determination theory, people are intrinsically motivated to grow, develop, improve and obtain satisfaction driven by three main innate psychological needs: competence, autonomy, and relationship.  Self-determination is therefore central to job satisfaction and happiness.


Management of Change

John Kotter’s 8 step change model is used to transform or execute our strategies. He identified and extracted the common success factors and documented them as the 8 Steps for Leading Change.


Kotter states that well-crafted mission and vision statements impact business results, as it guides the day-to-day behaviour and decisions of everyone in the company.  He states that if strategic initiatives are targeted, coordinated and executed fast enough and well enough, the vision will be a reality.  Leaders create change by developing strategy and vision. A good leader motivates people by communicating ideas that generate enthusiasm and commitment.



What's the most important now?

Trust Strategic Development Plan -  this sets out the Trust’s priorities and goals for the next 3 years.



  • Excellence for our children.
  • Organisational health.
  • Growth and sustainability.


Individual School Improvement Plan - each school in The Stour Federation has its own annual Improvement Plan specific to their individual circumstances, using the tiered model anchors from the EEF’s planning guide for schools.

  • High quality teaching.
  • Targeted academic support.
  • Wider strategies.


Who must do what?

This must be answered by each individual school, to reflect staffing structures and talent, relying on expertise rather than rank.

The Process

Aligning Autonomy is a process which evolves. A component of the spine one year may be dropped in another because it outlives its usefulness, or because it is a time for further innovation and rethinking.  As a Trust, we need to be agile and work at pace to be responsive to need.


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