Case Study: Pickwick Academy Trust – Testing Strategic Reach and Measuring Employee Wellbeing

Pickwick Academy Trust is a medium-sized and growing Trust based in Wiltshire, with eight community and church schools (five at the time of this survey). The Trust employs 340 staff and is responsible for the education of around 2,700 pupils (increased from 270 staff and 1,800 pupils at the time of the survey).

The Trust is committed to providing the best possible schools and outcomes for children, and to being an employer of choice, and as a result underwent an exercise of reviewing its strategic aims as part of a journey to excellence for every pupil.

Pickwick were keen to understand the degree to which its strategy was meaningful to its staff and whether those staff felt the approach translated into improving pupil outcomes. Through their commitment to being an employer of choice, they were also keen to assess morale amongst the workforce and the ongoing impact of the pandemic on wellbeing.

Pickwick approached Interdigitate to see if they could help.

After a period of collaborative conversations, Interdigitate developed a bespoke two-part surveying solution that met Pickwick’s needs.

Together, we designed a web survey that directly reflected and tested the MATs strategic business plan. The survey was aimed at every employee in the Trust – teachers, leaders, catering staff, cleaners, support staff and business managers – as we wanted to understand the reach of the strategic messaging and every element of staff morale. 173 staff took place in the web survey, giving us around 9,500 data-responses.

The quantitative survey was targeted at everyone, but to gain a deeper understanding of how people felt, we included a bespoke interview programme, following Interdigitate’s Discovery Session model. We created informal one to one environments, that encouraged staff to discuss how they felt about life in the Trust. Each 15-minute Discovery Session was focussed around three themes selected from an agreed list of six and were held with a cross section of staff from each school’s community. The result was a series of detailed verbatim statements that fed into the main survey outcomes, creating a ‘staff voice’ and rich commentary that went beyond the statistics.

The outputs from the two surveying techniques were combined into a total data set that was subsequently analysed to create a series of detailed reports and graphs. These were fed back by us to Trust executive leaders, the Board of Trustees and school leaders, and via an all-hands report shared with all staff.

The results led to a number of outcomes for Pickwick:

  • Identified where the Trust’s strategy was being received well and where there were areas for improvement.
  • Showed where employee thinking was aligned (or otherwise) with leadership priorities.
  • Reaffirmed leadership and governance strength and opportunities to make improvements.
  • Confirmed how staff had faired throughout the pandemic and their current state of wellbeing.
  • Measured cross-Trust and intra-school morale.
  • Showed where time and financial investment was considered necessary.
  • Created specific action points for improvement, which was instrumental in supporting the development of the Trust’s People Strategy.

Reflecting on the project, James Passmore, Chief Executive Officer of Pickwick Academy Trust, said “Huge thanks to Interdigitate for an exceptional and bespoke piece of work. The level of detail, reflections, analysis and summary of each section is very strong and really useful. The survey report highlights and celebrates Pickwick’s key strengths, but more importantly has identified key areas for development which will prove instrumental in helping us to shape our People Strategy, collective commitments and development initiatives moving forward, all of which will support our drive to recruit, train and retain strong staff at all levels of our organisation”

Since the study was conducted, the survey has acted as a key foundation stone for the ongoing development of the Trust, helping Pickwick to respond to the needs of their employees as they continue to strive to deliver strong pupil outcomes.

Simon Merchant, of Interdigitate, commented “It was a real pleasure to work with Pickwick Academy Trust – to help them to bring their research vision to life and to deliver an affordable survey that was meaningful for each school and employee in the Trust”.

If you would like to conduct a similar bespoke survey in your Multi Academy Trust, school, Local Authority or other workplace environment, please contact or call Simon Merchant on 07586 345 567.