In the years following the introduction of the Academies Act 2010, the number of schools that are part of a multi-academy trust (MAT) has been steadily increasing, both as an absolute number and as a percentage of the whole.
For example, in 2011, 68% of primary academies were standalone single academy trusts; by 2015, this has fallen to just 35%.
This trend is likely to continue further:
• from July 2015, Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) have been given more powers to intervene in the maintained sector, targeting schools to convert to academy – these are unlikely to be standalone conversions
• in the Education and Adoption Bill, the Secretary of State is proposing new powers to intervene and order academy conversions more quickly
• RSCs will be talking to existing academies, encouraging them to work with new converters as part of a MAT
• school budgets are coming under increasing pressure and operating as a MAT may bring cost savings.
So, what are the implications and benefits of a MAT? When establishing a MAT, consideration needs to be given to various aspects, including
• the ethos and values of the trust – will these be common amongst each of the academies that are part of the MAT?
• the strategy of the MAT – how many academies are you looking to bring into the MAT, for optimum educational and financial benefit? MATs are now being encouraged to be regionally based and most MATs have fewer than 5 academies.
• governance and leadership – usually, there is a board of trustees, responsible for the trust as a whole; separately each academy is likely to have its own school governing body, but the members of these governing bodies are not necessarily MAT trustees. However, each MAT needs to work out for itself how much decision-making is devolved to the individual academies and how much is retained at trust level.
• structure – how is the detailed management and financial control going to work? To what extent are functions centralised, or devolved? Do you have a centralised bank account, payroll processing, accounts function, procurement, etc?
Whether you are already part of a MAT, a standalone academy or a maintained school planning to convert to academy status, these issues are relevant to you, or likely to become so.
At Revell Ward, we are well placed to advise and assist you with these considerations, both with the planning aspects and the implementation.