Schools are being encouraged by the Department for Education (DfE) to establish Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) or join existing MATs. The DfE has indicated that the future development of academies lies in the consolidation of more schools (whether individually or as clusters/groups) into MATs as well as schools deciding to leave one MAT and join another.
Whilst taking on a new school may be perceived to offer many potential benefits, trustees have a responsibility to ensure that they make the right decision for the local community and pupils, both current and future (the academy's beneficiaries in charity terms). Therefore, trustees need to ensure they have obtained appropriate information (both financial and non-financial) on which they can make an informed decision.
The decision of a single school to join a MAT family of schools requires careful thought on both sides. For the new joiner school the head teacher and trustees will need to be satisfied that the match is a good one, the cultures are aligned and that operating at scale will bring the expected benefits for pupils. Equally, the board of the MAT will need to be satisfied that the school they are ‘acquiring’ or partnering with will fit well with the aims and ethos of the group, will not create unmanageable risks or liabilities for the future, nor de-stabilise the group as a whole.
Both parties need to spend quality time considering how they can discharge their responsibilities and what information is required to achieve this. Whilst there are common themes associated with all school transfers differences do arise simply by the type of organisation from whom they are being transferred from (Local Authority or MAT). It is therefore important that the trustees obtain sufficient information to assure themselves that they are making the right decision.
Questions to ask should include
- Why change?
- For the new joiner, what is in it for your pupils/local community by joining or changing groups?
- For the acquiring MAT, is it part of your strategy to grow by acquiring new schools? Do you genuinely have the capacity, resources and support systems to absorb and nurture the staff, pupils, buildings, contracts and liabilities you will be taking on?
- What information do you require and what do you hold?
- What questions do you have and what risks do you believe exist?
- What is your knowledge gap?
Consider brainstorm between management and trustees to crystalise your thoughts and questions. Time is never wasted when effective planning is undertaken as this could reduce ‘road bumps’ along the way.
For key factors to consider and common problems when taking on a new school, please contact Chris Mantel or download the back to school PDF.