Multi Academy Trusts
What is a Multi Academy Trust (MAT)?
A MAT is a single company with a board of directors / trustees who are responsible for the governance and management of 2 or more schools.
Why form a MAT rather than a Single Academy Trust (SAT)?
- Better management and improved educational results
The varied experiences and skills of the key people involved in multiple schools allow MATs to share best practice, and that should benefit everyone, pupils especially.
A MAT also allows different members of the management team to work to their strengths, rather than forcing them to fill various different roles; for example, a head teacher could focus more time on educational matters rather than having to devote ever more substantial amounts of time to governance issues.
- Reduced costs
a) The cost of staff members can be shared between schools.
A MAT could employ just one higher paid finance director, along with lower paid finance officers responsible for the day to day finance function. Autonomous individual schools have to replicate that system, so costs are multiplied.
A MAT can employ extra full time permanent teachers instead of supply teachers to provide cover and specialist subject knowledge to a number of different schools.
b) The costs of supplies should be lower overall as a result of improved negotiating power when contracting for goods and services
As an academy you have an obligation to obtain value for money, and as general rule, the more you buy the cheaper the unit price – e.g. building maintenance contracts, payroll services, software costs etc.…..
Buying more should also result in better customer service from your suppliers, because they won’t want to lose your business.
All in all your school should benefit from greatly improved value for money.
- Better opportunities for staff
a) A larger organisation comprising a number of different schools can open up opportunities for career progression, and improved succession planning.
b) Staff will have enhanced opportunity to work in the areas they enjoy most.
- Reduced control for individual schools in the MAT.
A MAT is a single legal entity and it has one Board of Directors (Trustees) which has ultimate control over the trust and its strategic direction. Representation on The Board of Directors will be limited for some of the member schools, so they may not be as involved as they might wish when decisions are made on matters such as the level of centralisation, cost sharing, and the degree of local control.
A scheme of delegation will be agreed at the outset to clarify responsibilities and how much control is initially devolved to each Local Governing Body (LGB) within the MAT, and the role of any Advisory Bodies. However, ultimate control lies with the MAT Board, so governance arrangements can be changed after you have joined the MAT and there may not be much you can do to influence that decision.
- Initial set up issues
The costs of the initial set up can be expensive.
All staff will be on a learning curve at the outset, and it may therefore be the case that there is not full ‘buy in’ from everyone.
As a result, the full benefits of a MAT may not be felt immediately.
All in all a MAT can have significant advantages over a SAT.
In any case, it seems almost certain that every school will become an academy by 2020-22 and the DfE are very clear that a MAT is their ‘preferred’ model. In fact, an application for permission to form a new SAT today is unlikely to be approved because the DfE believes that a MAT benefits from significant economies of scale that are simply not available to SATs.
It also seems apparent that existing SATs are likely to be forced to form or join a MAT sooner or later; particularly if they have poor finances, have experienced governance difficulties, or educational results are below expectations. Some of these issues may be beyond your control, but we are where we are, so it may be better to ‘jump now’ and join a MAT of your choice now rather than end up in a MAT with a different culture to the one you enjoy working in.
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