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Damien Roberts

Managing the multi-academy trust

Damien Roberts from SchooliP explains how to conduct effective performance management in an MAT

Posted by Stephanie Broad | August 01, 2016 | Law, finance, HR

Executive headteachers and governing bodies of multi-academy trusts (MATs) are responsible for a great deal, such as managing the collective curriculum, maintaining facilities on multiple sites and ensuring that pupil progress across the board is positive and meeting targets.

Of course, in any school, the most precious resource is the teachers, and for MATs this is no different. But, when you're managing two, twenty or even more schools, the challenge of effectively monitoring staff performance and communicating with teachers becomes increasingly difficult.

The key challenges of performance management in MATs include: ensuring staff are actively engaging with their own self-evaluations, making progress against improvement plans and participating in appropriate continuing professional development (CPD). The whole process needs to be straightforward and transparent so that it becomes as effective as it can be, enabling staff to contribute towards the school’s overall priorities and performance. While these issues are similar to what you would expect for an individual school, MATs have a number of considerations that are unique to them.

Sizing up the issues

For MATs, there are added complications when it comes to monitoring how the schools in the trust are performing as a whole. The first and most obvious issue is the considerably larger workforce, including both teachers and supporting staff members. With Ofsted requiring all staff members to be evaluated against their performance, this means that the MAT has a lot of people to keep on track, as well as ensuring that they are receiving the necessary continuing professional development (CPD) for improving practices across the school.

Of course, as the trust is brought together, each individual school may have their own way of conducting evaluations, with slightly different appraisal questions, formats and included information. This can make it difficult and time-consuming to collate and evaluate the data needed to generate a report that shows how the MAT is doing across all of its schools. There is an additional pressure on MATs to show that this new form of autonomous management is effective, and that bringing schools into a trust will help them improve, so ensuring that this evidence is in place and clear is absolutely essential.

Digital systems have the added benefit of being able to send reminders or emails to staff members, ensuring they are notified whenever they are required to provide new evidence or information for their evaluation

Lighten the workload

The most effective way of streamlining performance management in MATs is to uniform the process of submitting evaluations and evidence. This will help to create a working document that’s continuously evolving to reflect the performance of the schools in the trust. Doing this digitally is very helpful, as it centralises everything that the MAT needs to know, whether that’s on a trust, school or individual level. This reduces the paper trails commonly associated with the performance management process and, at the same time, provides a clear overview and distinction between staff. This allows schools to identify where teachers or assistants can help to improve one another, using the extensive team to the trust’s advantage and sharing best practice between schools.

Digital systems also have the added benefit of being able to send reminders or emails to staff members, ensuring they are notified whenever they are required to provide new evidence or information for their evaluation. Gone are the days of just one annual performance review!

Another important evaluation for MATs to make is in CPD. Questions might include: What are our priorities? Which areas should we be improving? Is the CPD we’re currently using effective? Having a central database where all the priorities for training are listed and there is a clear view of the courses each staff member has completed allows the MAT to monitor where budget is being used across the board. It also helps to demonstrate how effective training has been based on the attending staff member’s improvement profile, determining whether it’s beneficial for others to take the course.

In essence, it’s about how everything pulls together and streamlining processes, whether that’s appropriate CPD or effective self-evaluations, and how it can be used to develop improvement plans for everyone within the trust. MATs are in a great position, as they are all working towards collective improvement as a whole, sharing best practice to ensure that everyone is performing well. By digitising the performance management process across the board, the MAT can be there to support this development at every turn.

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