To support governors of local authority maintained schools, trustees of single academy trusts and multi academy trusts (MATs), and school leaders in deciding the next steps for their school or trust, a series of linked papers on ‘taking the next step’ have been released by the National Governance Association (NGA), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and Browne Jacobson.
The Taking the Next Step papers help those leading and governing schools to understand the options available to them, outline the benefits and types of collaboration, as well as the steps they need to take to form or grow a group of schools accountable to one governing board. While there is no clear evidence to suggest that academisation in itself leads to better outcomes for children and young people, there is an increasing body of evidence that formal collaborations between schools, such as MATs, can bring substantial benefits.
At the beginning of 2019, over 50% of children in state-funded schools in England were being taught in an academy, and as more schools convert to academy status, the role that local authorities play in providing school improvement and other services is decreasing, and schools are increasingly looking to each other for support and challenge. Many MATs are looking to grow in order to provide more services and support to their schools. The papers therefore support school leaders and those governing in a period where not only are maintained schools joining MATs to provide stability and support, but single academy trusts and MATs are also actively seeking to merge with other similar organisations.
The overarching paper on considering forming or joining a group of schools clearly sets out different models for collaboration, how leadership and governance works in academy trusts, and the characteristics of successful academy trusts which school leaders and those governing should take into account when deciding on their journey. Once the school or trust has made a decision, two further papers set out the practical steps to delivering the plan – those who have decided to join a MAT and those who have decided to form a MAT.
Joining a multi academy trust sets out extensive points to be considered in due diligence and suggested questions for the school to ask itself, along with how to engage stakeholders and how the conversion process works. For those that have chosen to form their own MAT, the paper includes choosing the right partners and what to consider in scoping a new MAT .