Schools re-united? A new era of collaboration

09 February 2016

09 February 2016 by Bianca Silva Education

Since 2010 over 4,500 schools have become an academy as government policy continues to encourage maintained schools to convert.  After this initial period of rapid growth, there is a sense of consolidation in the sector, with a number of academies seeking to become multi-academy trusts (MATs) and many MATs looking to merge or grow. 

For schools determined to raise standards of teaching and learning across their whole community, the advantages of collaboration can be far reaching.  The benefits include greater development opportunities for leadership teams and teachers as well as the opportunity to share resources, centralise services, and share best practice and efficiencies.  Groups of schools can also benefit from reduced costs when negotiating contracts for services, benefiting from greater economies of scale and achieving better value for money than an individual school would be able to.

MATs are usually made up of between 3 and 15 schools working together within a defined geographical area, with formalised cross-school governance arrangements.  Some are made up of a mixture of primary, secondary and special schools and others are groups of schools all sharing a similar make up. 

One key advantage for pupils is that Teachers are employed by the MAT, enabling staff resources to be moved easily between academies.  This flexibility can open the door to a broader curriculum and a wider choice of specialist subjects, potentially also reducing reliance on supply teachers.

Whilst there are significant benefits to becoming a MAT, it is important to consider all of the implications and consult with all stakeholders, including the local authority. 

The principles of effective governance are well established, but a MAT needs to consider a wider strategic perspective. Governing a group of schools brings with it new challenges, which is why an independent review of a board’s effectiveness and experience is crucial to determine if it is ready for growth.  Financial acumen and the ability to interrogate data, ask probing questions and work effectively as a member of a team are all desirable attributes; as is a mind-set that supports the autonomy and opportunity being part of a MAT brings. 

The key questions you need to consider:

  • What do we want to achieve?
  • How will pupils, teachers, support staff and the wider community benefit?
  • How will the changes influence, impact and improve levels of achievement and learning opportunities
  • How will it impact governance; what will be the structure going forward?
  • What will be the financial implications?
  • What will be the support structure?
  • Do trustees have the necessary skills and are they clear about their responsibilities and accountability?
  • Do other potential schools in the MAT share similar values, vision and philosophy?
  • Do you have confidence the schools and governors can work effectively together?
  • Should an expert be appointed to manage the project to ensure it remains on track?

Specialist Partners at MHA MacIntyre Hudson have experience of establishing, merging and growing multi-academy trusts and can advise and support you every step of the way. 

For further information, or an informal discussion, please contact us.

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