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The MAT journey

From first steps to expansion, the MAT journey is unfamiliar territory for most. Optimus Education offers their expert advice

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 14, 2016 | Law, finance, HR

Despite the Department for Education’s recent turnaround, Nicky Morgan remains determined to see all schools become academies. Indeed in a recent House of Commons speech she stated that ‘in order to share expertise and resources, we expect that most schools will form local clusters of multi-academy trusts’ (9 May 2016).

The needs and challenges of these MATs, and existing MATs, vary greatly, largely depending on their size. A small MAT (of two to five schools) in the early stages of growth will be defining what it is trying to achieve and building a structure with an efficient scheme of delegation.

A medium (five -14) MAT may be focusing on building capacity and future opportunities to grow. A large (14+) MAT will be concerned with re-evaluating KPIs and expectations as new schools join and managing an increasing geographical spread of schools.

If you are adding a school there need to be clear benefits for that school – you may need to convince a good school, who fear losing their autonomy, to join your MAT rather than set up their own. This is crucial as a successful MAT will need a number of good schools to help achieve school improvement and build capacity.

Adding too many challenging schools may drain your resources if you don’t have enough capacity and this will impact the reputation of your MAT. Getting the balance right between improving a school in challenging circumstances without harming the rest of your schools is vital.

This is where a robust due diligence process comes in. Undertaking due diligence allows you to obtain information needed to decide whether the acquisition of a new school should go ahead.

For MATs, due diligence checks would typically fall under five main headings of:

  • educational performance
  • financial
  • organisational
  • legal and regulatory compliance
  • commercial

10 top tips from the experts

From CEOs to finance directors, we spoke to a range of experts who have first-hand experience of growing a MAT. Here we’ve selected ten tips from our report, Multi-Academy Trusts: Achieving successful and sustainable growth. 

1. For MATs in the early growth stage don’t punish yourself by taking the most difficult schools on board. You haven’t yet been able to demonstrate your ability to make and sustain improvement in a struggling school. 

2. The key to encouraging collaboration is explaining the benefits. You need to consider how you take an organisation and ensure everyone buys into the vision of your MAT. 

3. When growing your MAT you want develop a system where you’re helping people to become better teachers; better subject specialists; and to be engaged with research into what works best for learners. 

4. When you grow to a medium-sized MAT you have to restructure and centralise some services. Bringing in new systems means you spend more money initially to save money in the longer term. 

5. We have to remember that none of us has a magic wand to turn every school into a beautiful swan. There are many, many different issues to face for each organisation.

6. Make sure you have a very firm basis for expansion. This is critical in terms of financial management as you need to improve your systems and processes to expand on a sure footing.

7. Actively encourage the development of your leaders. Consider deploying staff from one school to another on a short-term basis where viable. 

8. As you grow, continually review your structure and schemes of delegation to ensure you have the best fit for all the schools in the trust. 

9. When considering a school that is in special measures, your due diligence process is crucial: Do you have the capacity in both personnel and financial resources to give them that support? 

10. The due diligence process will leave you with this question: ‘As a MAT, where are those resources required to improve this school going to come from?’


With special thanks to: Nick MacKenzie, Stephen Morales, Dame Dana Ross-Wawrzynski, Mark Lacey and Alison Bevan.

Designed exclusively for MAT leaders, the MATs Summit 2016 takes place over two days in October. Find out more at www.matsummit.co.uk

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