As Chair of E21C, I see the benefits that being a member of an MAT can bring to a school every day, and it’s very easy to take them for granted. However, these advantages are not necessarily visible to parents or even to schools which are not members of an MAT.
As well as being Chair of the Trust, I am also a dad and all three of my sons were educated at one of E21C’s secondary schools, of which I was formerly head governor.
Of all the advantages for a school being within an MAT, for me, the overriding benefit is the improved education and development of students. This has to be the priority and the way in which MATs are structured and operate facilitate this. I believe, there are five key features of MATs, which contribute to helping our young people be the best they can be.
- Teachers spend more time teaching
MATs have a board which is responsible for running the business and administration side of the schools. As well as teaching professionals, the board will include professional people with the commercial experience required to deal with what is essentially a multi-million-pound enterprise. This, of course, frees teaching staff from the business aspects of school leadership and allows them to dedicate all their time to educating the students. In single academy Trusts, the head teacher is typically also the de facto chief executive of the business. Combining these two roles is an enormous challenge, especially if the head has little or no business experience, which of course is often the case
- Shared resources and best practice
Schools within our Multi-Academy Trust are encouraged to retain their own identity, as well as a governing body. However, it is the Trust that sets the strategy and establishes a shared vision and set of values. This means standards are established across all schools within the MAT, based on achieving the best possible outcomes for the students, a focus on learning/teaching and staff development. Teaching staff can learn from their peers within the Trust, helping raise standards and students benefit from access to resources in sister schools; for example, it is very easy for primary school students to visit the Trust’s secondary schools and take advantage of the facilities there, such as science labs and sports facilities.
- Support and Challenge for all Schools
The Trust’s Chief Executive is not only responsible for supporting the performance of all the schools within the MAT, but also, for holding schools to account. they are also accountable. No school gets left behind. The sharing of facilities and experience inevitably means that all schools within the MAT improve to the level of the strongest, driven by the vision and values set by the Trust. New schools partner with schools that have already successfully established themselves within the Trust structure. In this way, it is not just the educational standard within an individual school that improves but that across the whole community.
- Increased financial strength
The ability to negotiate better deals from suppliers as a result of increased buying-power, allows more of the schools’ money to be invested in the education of students. Centralised resources, such as HR, building services and purchasing, can also bring significant savings for schools and dramatically reduce administration. On a grander scale, MATs can secure funding from the Department for Education to build and run new schools, further enhancing education within the local community. At E21C, for example, we are building a state of the art secondary school, which will be completed in 2019. This will ultimately provide school places for 1,680 students, making up nearly half the 3,673 shortfall predicted in Bromley for 2024.
- Professional Development and Retention of Staff
MATs dramatically improve opportunities for teachers. They can develop their careers and improve their skills by moving to other positions within the Trust rather than having to move on. This also means that Trusts can retain the best teaching talent and build succession plans, so that teaching standards are maintained over the long term and staff are put into the right roles rather than just the role that exists. At the same time, potential future leaders can be identified and supported in their development.
Equally, non-teaching staff also have an enhanced ability for career progression as opportunities to work in more across schools, or within hubs of schools, become increasingly by available.
Nick Vincent is Chair of Education for the 21st Century (E21C). E21C was established in 2011 as a Multi-Academy Trust, dedicated to the education of young people, and the importance of supporting the development of the whole child. E21C’s vision is to achieve educational transformation by growing a family of Academies that share common principles, aims and values. Extending the E21C philosophy means that more schools have the opportunity to benefit from our school improvement agenda with better education for students and exciting career opportunities for teaching staff.