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Looking back at the MATs Summit 2016

Optimus Education's Lisa Griffin outlines some of the highlights of the MATs Summit 2016

Posted by Imogen Smith | October 31, 2016 | Events

The 2nd annual MATs Summit was a jam-packed event which saw over 200 delegates come together over three days in Windsor. Bringing together trust leaders to discuss the current landscape, opportunities to share and receive expert advice and guidance and look at the road ahead were in abundance.

One of the highlights of the event was the mix of keynote contributions, most notably from regional school commissioner (RSC) Tim Coulson on day one and The RT Hon. the Lord Blunkett on day two.

Both were interviewed by chair of the event Laura McInerney, editor of Schools Week. Laura questioned RSC for east of England and north-east London Tim on a number of issues, from the new health checks coming into force next year (which will determine whether a trust is in a position to expand) to building a successful relationship between trust and RSC.

Mentor MATs

Following plans unveiled this week by national schools commissioner Sir David Carter to introduce mentor MATs, a scheme which will see larger academy chains helping schools to form a multi-academy trust, Tim discussed the upcoming trust health checks.

A CEO, finance director and chair of trustees from different trusts will help an RSC decide whether a health check is met and a trust can expand. These will be volunteers from experienced, successful and larger MATs than those wanting to expand.

The relationship between an RSC and a trust can be tricky. RSCs are there to support trusts and help them expand where they are able but ultimately you are there to hold them accountable - Tim Coulson, Regional School Commissioner (RSC)

Questioned on the relationship between a MAT and RSC, Tim acknowledged that this can bring challenges. ‘The relationship between an RSC and a trust can be tricky. RSCs are there to support trusts and help them expand where they are able but ultimately you are there to hold them accountable,’ he told the audience.

He went on to say ‘the bottom line is that the main job of an RSC is to license people to get on with their work but to be pretty fierce about their performance while doing so.’

Most people would agree that a successful relationship is a two way process and Tim finished by strongly advising trusts to get in contact with their RSC and talk to them to form more of an open, collaborative relationship.

Laura McInerney and Tim Coulson

From isolation to collaboration

Collaboration was a theme over the event and day two saw Laura discussing the issue with Lord Blunkett, along with a range of other issues from funding and reputation management to wellbeing.

Former education secretary Lord Blunkett talked about the need for sharing between teachers, between schools, and between MATs. Having moved away from schools working in isolation, we don’t want fears around competition to take things backwards. As one delegate pointed out, it’s all tax payers' money and we should be making the best use of it.

Have hope

As a former cabinet minister being in the public eye is something Lord Blunkett is very familiar with and he had some advice for MATs leader who find themselves in the middle of a media storm.

‘First, take a deep breath.’ Secondly, get advice from wise and experienced people. And thirdly, be prepared with a response. In the digital age you can’t expect news outlets to wait two days for your comment on a story. They’ll expect an answer to their call or email in 20 minutes.

I have hope because education is the most wonderful way of changing the world and the life chances of others. It is bigger than all of us - The RT Hon. the Lord Blunkett

Despite current challenges and changing legislation, Lord Blunkett remains hopeful for the future, a feeling that was echoed around the room. ‘I have hope because education is the most wonderful way of changing the world and the life chances of others. It is bigger than all of us.’

Lord Blunkett’s final advice to leaders in education was to take account of the changing world, adapt, and to keep in mind their core purpose of growing young people into citizens. ‘Keep coming back to the children, and you will get it right. Because you care, you can pull it off.’ 

MATs Summit 2017 will be taking place on the 12th-13th October 2017. Registration is now open, so make sure you book your place today to avoid disappointment. 

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