Plenty of schools are now moving towards academy status with more opportunity to innovate and provide higher levels of teaching. Along with this decision, schools must also decide how they are going to be governed.

The government recommends joining a multi-academy trust or MAT as it provides the support that a school needs to thrive as well as more power when it comes to negotiating services and getting better value.

What is an MAT?

It’s a collection of schools that act together something like a hub, developing best practice and working strategically in combination with each other. The idea behind this is to provide schools with a kind of group strength which they otherwise would not have immediate access to. The options are also open as to whether a school wants to create their own MAT working under, for example, a board of directors, whether they want to create a co-operative organisation in their local area or join an existing MAT.

The Benefits of MATs

  • It’s hoped that schools bunching together will raise standards across the board. In other words, poorer performing academies will benefit from being closely associated and working with better performing ones.
  • For schools that are about to convert to academy status, they’ll also get the benefit of academies that have already gone down that route and the support and advice they need to succeed.
  • The academies will be able to work together to get better deals on services such as waste removal and hopefully save money which can then be put back into teaching.
  • With the backing of a multi-academy trust, it’s thought there will be more opportunities for teachers to progress in their careers. Academies will also be able to attract top talent easier than if they were a school operating on their own because of the reputational bias.

The Disadvantages of MATs

  • The effectiveness of any MAT is going to depend a lot on how physically close the academies are to each other. There’s some sense that if the distance is too great, the impact of working together may well be lessened.
  • Another issue could relate to how many academies are able to join a certain MAT and what the criteria will be – new additions could well have a beneficial effect but the opposite could also be true. A lot will depend on who is running the MAT and what individual the dynamics are.
  • Finally, there is some concern about what happens if an academy within an MAT begins to fail badly and what impact that has on the other schools in the trust.

The challenges facing head teachers and trustees will initially involve deciding whether joining a MAT is a good idea. If the answer is yes, the next step is which to join. There are several operational and legal challenges that need to be faced including moving funding agreements from their current place to the MAT as well as a implementing a commercial transfer agreement for all assets and contracts.

It remains to be seen whether MATs are flexible enough to offer the support and infrastructure that is needed for all schools. For many academies, however, both those that already exist and those that will be converting in the future, this is a natural next step in their evolution.