This literature review addresses and informs the hypothesis that ‘a culture of trust enhances performance’ in schools. Drawing on an environmental scan of research and policy literature, the authors explore the definition of trust and the ways in which trust is linked to performance in schools and organisations more broadly. The review synthesises literature exploring the relationships between trust and various measures of school improvement. It also offers a discussion of the relationship between trust and school governance.
The review concludes that there is ample evidence to support the hypothesis that ‘a culture of trust enhances performance in schools’. It notes that while there is surprisingly little research in the Australian setting, the evidence summarised in the review is international in scope and there is no reason why it ought not to apply to Australia.
The authors note that trust does not stand alone as a discrete capacity, rather it is the lifeblood of success in virtually every structure and process that involves the principal and other school leaders. Also, while a key finding is that the quality of relationships is central to the creation of trust, the extent of that quality is influenced by many factors, including the competence of the leader: trust will be lost very quickly if a leader is perceived to be incompetent. It is therefore important to build strength in and draw on intellectual or professional capital in establishing relational trust.