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Adopting the Ethical Leadership Framework in Wellspring Academy Trust


Adopting the Ethical Leadership Framework in Wellspring Academy Trust

Mark Wilson, CEO

In my view, the work of the Ethical Leadership in Education Commission and the launch of the Pathfinders are important initiatives for our sector.  There is a need.  In the absence of a standard to hold itself accountable to, any organisation can do wonderful things that add enormous value on one hand, while simultaneously doing other things that have enormous negative outputs on the other.


As educators we have an absolute responsibility to set the very best example to our young people and to behave ethically and with integrity.  I believe that the public should expect professionals in their service to always act with integrity and with a clear ethical and morally defensible rationale.   If we say that we are driven by moral purpose and we are publicly funded, we should welcome scrutiny of our actions.

The launch of the Framework

The timing of the launch of the Framework was ideal for Wellspring.  We’ve grown into a community of 23 Academies - around half of which are Primary, half Special or Alternative Provision and one is Secondary.   From the outset, the Trust has had a distinct social and moral purpose.  We take a holistic, 360-degree view of our schools, their stakeholders, the communities they serve and their role in Society.   Ofsted and league tables are not our key drivers.  We are committed to helping children and young people to reach their potential, overcome challenges and hurdles and supporting them to become good citizens of the future.

Living our values

Recruiting and retaining the right leaders is clearly essential – ones who live our values instinctively and who can be trusted to ‘do the right thing’.  As trusts grow in size and complexity there’s a greater risk of having people who don’t adhere to the organisation’s culture and values. 

Although we in Wellspring are already fully committed to an inclusive, optimistic and compassionate approach, the Framework provides a code against which we are all accountable.  Adhering to the Framework will encourage us to be consistently mindful of our behaviour and of what is guiding our decision-making.

The proposal that the Trust adopt the Ethical Leadership Framework was wholeheartedly supported by the Trust Board last Summer and was subsequently warmly welcomed by our Local Governing Bodies.  It’s been communicated extensively internally and was the key focus of a Trust Leadership Conference late last year.  We are gradually reviewing our practices / processes / policies to ensure that these are consistent with the Framework.  There’ll be a particular focus soon on our recruitment and performance management arrangements, which I think is a particularly important given our size and further planned growth.

I firmly believe that our adoption of the Framework (and what it signifies) will provide another compelling reason for like-minded colleagues to join the Wellspring community.

Ethics are relevant to so many decisions we take as leaders.  With a 125 year commitment to providing education in the communities we serve, trusts have an enormous stake in the future of those communities.  On a practical level, leading ethically means we have to look after our buildings for now and for the future.  With regard to the goods and services we source, we should look carefully at the ethics of our supply chains.  We should devise curricular that are appropriate, and so on ….  We should educate in a spirit that the future will look favourably upon.   

The Ethical Leadership Framework encourages us to think much more about those wider and long-term impacts.  I encourage any school or trust to consider making it part of their leadership approach. 

Being part of the Pathfinder network has enabled us to access a range of resources, to attend conferences and to network with like-minded people.  It has seen the Trust as the subject of some extremely positive media coverage, which has been great for our colleagues and pupils.  

Our record of never having permanently excluded a pupil attracts particular interest – perhaps due to the increased media focus on pupil exclusions, ‘off-rolling’ and the like.

We’ve been proud to refer journalists and others to our commitment to the Ethical Leadership Framework, which is in perfect harmony with our commitment to be the best that we can be, always, and to be the difference we want to see in the world.

Mark Wilson is CEO of Wellspring Academy Trust, which has Academies across Yorkshire, the Humber and Lincolnshire.  Prior to joining the Trust in 2014 Mark spent his career in primary education, most recently as Executive Principal at primary schools in Leeds and in South London.