Digest of the ‘Schools’ Views On The Perceived Benefits And Obstacles To Joining A MAT’

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In November, the government released a report entitled 'Schools' Views on the Perceived Benefits and Obstacles to Joining a Multi-Academy Trust.' The research comes from 700 schools across the UK. 300 of these have either joined or set up a MAT within the last 3 years, 300 are maintained by the local authority and are not interested in joining a MAT and 100 are 'standalone' academies.

The paper offers a valuable insight into how schools feel about multi-academy trusts and their experiences with MATs. However, at 69 pages, it can't be classed as a 'quick read', so Keystone has condensed it to the main takeaways – perfect for a lunchtime reading session. 

Schools that have joined a MAT within the last 3 years have reported both positives and negatives

  • The overall impact of joining a MAT has been positive for most primary schools (82%) and secondary schools (74%)
  • In primary schools, the most common benefits were:
    • Better skill sharing (51%)
    • Improved staff training (43%)
    • Improved vision and aims for the school (29%)
  • In secondary schools, the most common benefits were:
    • Better skill sharing (34%)
    • Improved vision and aims for the school (34%)
    • More effective school governance(32%) & leadership (30%)
  • 38% of primaries & 23% of secondaries reported no negatives from joining a MAT
  • For primary schools, the most common negatives were:
    • Adapting to new processes and procedures (19%)
    • Increased workload (18%)
    • Reduced autonomy (16%)
  • In secondary schools, the most common negatives were:
    • Reduced autonomy (23%)
    • Reduced control over finances (18%)
    • Things take longer to get done (12%)

Some academies prefer to stand alone rather than join a MAT

  • 64% of standalone academies say that the overall impact of converting from an LA school has been positive
  • The main reasons for converting to standalone academy status were:
    • Greater freedom to make decisions (91%)
    • More freedom over the budget (75%)
    • Better outcomes for pupils (68%)
    • Most single academies know that there may potentially be benefits to joining a MAT. The main reasons to join a MAT include:
    • Economies of scale (76%)
    • Better opportunities for staff development (68%)
    • Reduced burden through shared responsibilities (66%)
  • Despite these benefits, the majority of standalone academies did not consider joining a pre-existing MAT. The main reasons for not joining when they converted include:
    • Loss of autonomy over funding (80%) or other areas (86%)
    • Loss of the school's identity (77%)
    • Unconvinced of the benefits of joining a MAT (74%) or not enough benefit to justify (65%)
  • Unsurprisingly, only 34% of long-term single academies expect their school to become part of a MAT within the next 3 years

Most LA maintained schools do not plan on converting to academy status

  • Most LA maintained schools (81% of primaries & 83% of secondaries) have considered joining a MAT in the past but are not considering the change now
  • 94% of primaries and 87% of secondaries discern some negatives if they were to convert to an academy. The most key negatives are:
    • Losing autonomy (67% of primaries & 59% of secondaries)
    • Loss of what makes their school special (64% of primaries & 49% of secondaries)
    • Not enough benefit to the pupils(46% of primaries & 37% of secondaries)
  • There is still a significant percentage of primaries (42%) and secondary schools (53%) who could be persuaded to join a MAT if certain conditions were met. The most common conditions are:
    • Increased funding (28%)
    • Guarantees of autonomy (20%)
    • Having the right schools as their partners (16%)
  • 23% of primaries & 20% of secondaries feel that joining a MAT temporarily under the Department of Education's 'Try Before You Buy' scheme would help them to decide if they should join a MAT. 

In Summary

Whether schools move from being maintained by the Local Authority to becoming a standalone academy or part of a MAT, their experience is generally a positive one. The report does not delve into if the schools who have had a negative experience would rather return to being an LA school or if they would have chosen a different MAT. Amongst schools who have recently joined a MAT, there were some difficulties in finding the information needed (24% of primaries & 22% of secondaries), finding the right skills within the management team (21% of primaries & secondaries) and working with the local authority during the conversion (27% of primaries & 32% of secondaries).

If you do need advice ,get in touch. Our team of experts have supported many schools through the conversion process and can help you to find the right trust to suit your values.

If you'd like read the report in full, click here

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