Here’s a question. What’s the impact on a typical school of joining a multi academy trust?
We all know the thinking behind them, a closer financial and management linkage would enable economies of scale and sharing of best practice. With all of the staff employed by the MAT they can move around to meet the shifting needs and other resources can be focused where they are needed most.
That’s the theory, but since 2010 when the Government started to push the MAT hard the results have been mixed. In its’ most recent report the Education Select Committee at the House of Commons reflected the concerns. The best MATs continue to deliver excellent result but others have actually seen standards decline. The high performing MATs tended to be in low to mid range of schools within a restricted geographic region.
In January, a report produced by the Education Policy Institute showed that while there are some differences in the level of per pupil spend on running costs and teaching costs they are not materially significant between local authority schools, single academy trusts and multi academy trusts. Concerns have also been raised about transparency in some of the larger MATs and a reduction in parental engagement.
So it has to be said that the report card must read “Could do better”.
However, and there is a however, lets go back to the question of the characteristics of a high performing MAT. Strong leadership, sound financial management are definitely required but also a guiding principle and vision for the teaching and learning that will be provided. This vision needs to be shared across all the schools in the MAT. We may still be seeing the pressure that modern blended families have worked through among the previously independent schools in the MAT.
Perhaps its time that MATs looked at how they can help staff and students feel part of the overall organisation. It may be that standardized access to IT resources and encouragement of collaborative working could help in that respect. Getting rid of a patchwork of different systems may also be a route to some of that promised cost cutting too!