The Confederation of School Trusts (CST) is the national organisation and sector body for school trusts in England, advocating for, connecting and supporting executive and governance leaders.

CST is a membership organisation with a great reach, currently supporting and representing over 73% of the academy sector in England. CST’s members are responsible for the education of more than three million young people and children.

Bringing together trusts in England from every region and of every size, CST has a strong strategic presence, with access to government and policymakers to drive real change for education on the issues that matter most, shaping the education policy agenda for school trusts.

Context.

CST tasked Peridot to source a new COO as succession for the retirement of the founding COO. Peridot needed to find someone with operational acumen and an excellent understanding of financial strategy, as this new COO would be taking on a broader financial and operational remit.

With a new CRM system and recently implemented finance and people systems, the new COO would be responsible for ensuring that CST matures as an efficient organisation with robust processes and procedures. The COO should come with a strategic vision as they would be a figurehead, contributing to the next phase of CST’s strategic development through a period of political and organisational change.

They would also be the lead for ensuring that finance, HR, digital, workforce management and governance run effectively from an operational perspective.

Brief.

The new COO would have significant professional autonomy and drive organisational change alongside CST’s executive leaders. Peridot was asked to find candidates with a broad set of professional experiences who could evidence management of financial management, people and culture, business operations, digital strategy, information governance, and corporate governance.

Key responsibilities included developing financial strategies for CST and CST Professional Development Ltd., managing budgets, audits and compliance with charity regulations, so we were tasked to find individuals who could understand the regulatory framework in which CST operates.

With the COO role now encompassing finance as well, it was important that we found someone who could lead both finance and operations teams, ensuring effective systems for management information reporting and decision-making.

Because the COO will oversee all business operations, contracts, insurance, procurement, and digital strategy, it was important to find people who could evidence to ensure efficient resource use and value for CST’s member trusts.

Process.

Peridot approached over 200 professionals nationally in the search over a four-week search period. We secured 33 applications from a breadth of candidates from various professional backgrounds, including charities, multi-academy trusts, independent schools, PE-backed companies, higher education and healthcare amongst others.

Candidates were assessed at shortlist against their ability to evidence experience in building and delivering effective financial and workforce management strategy as well as their commitment to ensuring effective systems, processes, and a positive culture in an ever-changing, mission-led organisation.

Peridot worked in partnership with CST to identify which candidates could evidence the most relevancy to the diverse needs of the role and identified five candidates who were suitable for interview.

Peridot then designed a bespoke, virtual first-stage interview comprising of an interview with the CEO and Deputy CEO and a discussion with the leadership team.

Of the five interviewed candidates, two were selected for the second stage. They were tasked to complete a technical finance task and deliver a presentation to and interview with the selection panel, comprised of trustees and the CEO.

Outcome.

The appointed candidate came with over fifteen years of experience in the independent schools sector as a bursar and business manager. They began their career in the professional services sector, developing a rounded experience at a ‘big four’ firm.

They demonstrated their excellence in developing financial and people strategies in a charitable environment whilst ‘speaking the language’ of the education sector. They balanced this strategic nous with excellent operational rigour as a qualified accountant. Furthermore, they showed expertise in the wider remit of the COO, with a great understanding of IT, people, operations and workforce management.

Above all else, this person came with the right values and a genuine drive to make an impact for CST in the next phase of their development.

I cannot rate Peridot highly enough. Their professionalism and support during the process of recruiting our Chief Operating Officer was exceptional. They care about clients and candidates and were responsive, supportive and collegial right the way through the process.

Leora Cruddas, Chief Executive, Confederation of School Trusts


Eddie Caveziel Cox is Peridot’s Managing Consultant of Schools, MATs and Educational Charities Appointments. Having delivered hundreds of senior leadership and non-executive appointments into education providers, Eddie is an expert in finding leaders who make a tangible impact on communities. You can connect with him on Linkedin or send him an email to learn more.