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Five next steps for MATs when a new school joins the trust

John Davies offers some guidance for MATs taking on a new school

Posted by Hannah Vickers | August 04, 2017 | People, policy, politics

While the majority of MATs are still within the one to five schools bracket, the Department for Education (DfE) and regional schools commissioners are aiming for capacity to expand significantly in the coming years.

Your MAT may be encouraged to take on more schools, local or otherwise, so what should MAT CEOs be thinking about when a new school joins the trust? Based on our experience working with established MAT leaders, we look at five things to expect from a new school joining a trust.

Ensure the school is complying with its new requirements

Once the school joins, MAT leaders should make sure that it is providing the required information to the DfE and Education and Skills Funding Agency (EFSA). For starters, just like maintained schools, academies are required to provide information about their governance. This includes the name and date of appointment about those sitting on local governing bodies.

You could delegate this task to the local governing body, or to the trust’s governance lead. All of this information is provided using Edubase, via the DfE’s Secure Access system, which new academies must activate after opening. Helpfully, the DfE provides a list of the administrative tasks new academies need to complete in its welcome pack.

For example, within six weeks of opening, new academies need to complete the EFSA’s land and buildings valuation information form. Again, it is up to you whether your MAT’s administrative team does this, or whether you delegate it to the school. You can do this online and can find the school’s valuation from EFSA information exchange.

Meet with staff and share the vision

You will already have developed a relationship with key personnel at the new academy during the discussions about it joining, but reinforcing and strengthening this once it has converted should be a focus for the MAT leadership. Holding a whole staff meeting as soon as the academy joins, led by the chief executive officer (CEO), will help create a connection between trust and school staff. Express the MAT’s ethos, as well as its positive vision of where it sees the school in two-three years. This might be an improved Ofsted grade or pupil outcomes.

For processes to run smoothly, relevant staff at both school and trust level should also meet early on. For example, your finance director could meet with their school business manager. The school might use an accounts programme designed for schools, whereas the MAT might use a more substantial accounts package, so it would be useful to talk about transition to using the MAT’s system as soon as possible.

Get teachers on board with teaching and learning

If the school joining is struggling with pupil outcomes, explaining the MAT’s approach to teaching and learning as soon as it joins will be important in turning things round. Holding a meeting with teaching staff to fully explain the MAT’s teaching and learning and behaviour policies will help to emphasise their importance to how the school will improve as part of the MAT.

You could hold workshops and CPD sessions with heads of department so that they are able to implement the policies with their staff as soon as possible. If the school is in a stronger position, you might choose to delegate the teaching and learning policy to the school. It’s important that this is clear in your scheme of delegation.

Build a relationship with parents

When a school joins a MAT, those it has a relationship with will want to know what it means for them. Communicating clearly with parents about how you see the school changing and why this will benefit their children is a good place to start. You will have already held meetings with parents during the consultation phase, but giving them another opportunity to ask questions will help reinforce this relationship. To build on this, you could think about key personnel from the MAT attending the first couple of events at the school after it joins the MAT, such as parents’ or open evenings. You might also send a newsletter to parents after the school joins, introducing the CEO and setting out the MAT vision and relationship with the school. It’s important that the school website has a link to the MAT website, as well, so that parents can read more about the Trust.

Begin school improvement

School improvement should be at the heart of every transition of a school joining an MAT. You’ll want to move the school from its original school improvement plan (SIP) to one created in line with MAT priorities. This will happen differently depending on the strength of the school and the time of year it joins the MAT. A school joining in September will be able to start afresh, whereas it probably makes sense for a school joining in April to see out its current SIP, while work begins on creating a new SIP for September. 

Each school joining your MAT will be different and need varying levels of support, but a smooth transition into the trust with these processes will make improving the school and fostering collaboration across the MAT that bit easier

Communicate to the school how the MAT will monitor that the school is carrying out the plan. If your MAT has a template SIP, ensure the school uses this to create a sense of belonging. Each school joining your MAT will be different and need varying levels of support, but a smooth transition into the trust with these processes will make improving the school and fostering collaboration across the MAT that bit easier.

John Davies is a senior researcher and blog editor specialising in academy conversion at The Key

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