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Gov't 'should adopt a more flexible approach to academies'

The NAHT says that it's not the size of MATs that are the issue, but the rate at which they expand

Posted by Hannah Vickers | February 28, 2017 | People, policy, politics

Commenting on the report published today by the Education Select Committee on multi-academy trusts (MATs), Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, says that they welcome the Education’s Committee’s “thorough and timely report” but that the Committee should have also recommended that schools be able to leave MATs if they feel they’re not working.

“We know that where MATs work well, pupils can benefit from the close collaboration between schools, particularly the sharing of subject expertise. However, this relationship works best when schools are empowered to make their own choices about joining a MAT. 

“Other groups of schools, such as umbrella trusts, federations and other less formal groupings of schools have enjoyed similar benefits to MATs. We fail to see why these other collaborative options are no longer available to schools,” he said.

We need to harness what works, not dismiss it because it does not fit into a particular model that would be more convenient for the government to administer - Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT

“We welcome the recommendation that local authorities with a track record of strong educational performance should be allowed to set-up their own MATs. This is something NAHT has repeatedly called for. Within education, we need to harness what works, not dismiss it because it does not fit into a particular model that would be more convenient for the government to administer.

“The size of MATs is not the issue, but the pace and scale at which they expand. Too fast, and the benefits of collaboration can be lost. The Committee is right to stress that MATs should only take on more schools when they have the capacity to do so.” 

We are in the bizarre situation of having a mechanism to allow countries to leave the European Union, but not for schools to leave a MAT - Russell Hobby

“We would have liked the Committee to have made a further recommendation to allow schools to leave MATs if they believe that this is the best course of action for their pupils. We are in the bizarre situation of having a mechanism to allow countries to leave the European Union, but not for schools to leave a MAT. The government needs to make sure schools feel empowered to make decisions about their future, not to having to view joining a MAT as an irreversible act,” added Hobby.

James Bowen, director of middle leaders’ union NAHT Edge, said that the Committee was right to say that the role of local authorities needs to be clearly defined. 

“It is unsustainable to have a mixed system whereby local authorities do not have powers to direct MATs to provide school places, but still possess responsibility over place planning.

“We often see that small, rural primary schools are the least attractive to MATs because of their high costs, and the Committee is right to highlight the differences we see in primary and secondary conversion rates. Nurseries should also have the same rights and freedoms in relation to becoming an academy as other schools. The current system is mixed and confused, and this report is a welcome addition to the academies debate. The government has a lot of answer to provide,” he said.

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