The truth is that until now, there hasn’t really been much information out there for the hundreds of Chief Executives and thousands of trustees trying to run multi-academy trusts. But then perhaps that’s not surprising. MATs are, after all, a relatively new addition to the educational landscape.
Over the last year, we are therefore delighted to have worked with Ambition School Leadership on an unprecedented research project that finally gets to grips with how MATs are run and how they develop over time.
The second element of this – development over time, is key. Our research finds that MATs are constantly re-shaping the way they work in response to a series of ‘break-points’.
These are linked to scale, geography, school characteristics and policy.
We find that:
- When establishing their vision, CEOs begin with a view as to what they want to achieve for pupils. However, whilst most MATs have broadly similar visions in terms of what they want for pupils, they having differing views on how they should pursue their goals. Trusts’ strategies are also very much shaped by what they can do, given their circumstances. All of this has major consequences for the way MATs organise their operations.
- MATs’ visions are shaped by the type of organisational culture leaders want to establish, as well as beliefs about how you achieve school improvement. This includes the relationship MATs want with their schools’ local communities and the extent to which decisions should be driven from the top.
- A key distinction between MATs’ strategies is whether the focus is on maintaining individual schools’ autonomy and individual identity, or whether to prioritise consistent teaching and pedagogy across different schools.
From the start, our goal was to produce something useful to those making decisions about MATs. We therefore hope that by setting out the questions MAT leaders need to answer, the report will be an invaluable tool for MAT leaders as they build their trusts.
This has been a huge project with tons of different elements and we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped conduct the research, including:
- Staff at Ambition School Leadership, particularly Katy Theobold;
- Alice Luetchford at Luetchford Research;
- Chris Kirk (CJK Associates);
- Anna Grotberg, Matt Robb and the team at EY-Parthenon;
- Jon Andrews of the Education Policy Institute;
- Peter Matthews.
… as well as the 47 different MATs who gave up their time to participate.