Daniel Muijs, our Deputy Director for Research and Evaluation (@Ofstednews), and Karl Sampson, Assistant Regional Director for the South West, discuss the role of multi-academy trusts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the resilience of school staff more than anything we have recently experienced. The response from leaders, teachers and support staff has been truly admirable. During our autumn visits, we found many examples of excellent work, but also saw the challenges that leaders in particular had to deal with. Leaders in schools that were part of multi-academy trusts (MATs) told us that the support they received from their trust was invaluable. Unsurprisingly, this finding was of interest to the Confederation of School Trusts, who asked us to delve a bit deeper into the ways in which trusts are supporting their schools through the pandemic.

To do so, we asked some additional questions on the role of school trusts during our autumn visits to 80 schools that were part of a MAT. These include primary (42), secondary (30), special schools (6) and PRUs (2).

For the school leaders we spoke to, the support of their trust was crucial. They told us about support with safeguarding, interpreting COVID-19 guidelines, developing remote learning and integrating this with the curriculum. We weren’t able to verify this with our usual inspection activities, so the findings should be read with that in mind.

Safeguarding and COVID-19 guidelines

One thing school leaders valued was a strong trust-wide approach to managing risk assessment and planning. Many praised the work of MAT leaders, premises and estates managers and fellow headteachers in shaping their local response to national COVID-19 guidelines. Trusts supported their schools by helping them to manage social distancing and set up ‘bubbles’ as well as in reviewing safeguarding, attendance and behaviour policies so that new risks were accounted for and mitigated. Frequent communication from trust leaders helped keep schools up to date with the latest developments, and helped build the confidence of staff and the wider school community.

In most cases, this central support went hand-in-hand with a degree of local autonomy so school leaders could tailor policies to their own context. School leaders worked alongside other staff in the trust to share ideas, discuss aspects of the guidance on which they were unsure, and learn from each other. This sharing of ideas and experiences allowed schools to learn how they could respond in similar circumstances and ‘not be caught on the back foot’. Several trusts regularly brought designated safeguarding leads together to refine their safeguarding approach and to use their expertise to develop materials and support colleagues throughout the trust. One leader explained how the trust’s COVID-19 team systematically analyse all COVID-19-related data to learn lessons from every situation and swiftly modify policy and processes where required.

Trusts also helped their schools in a number of very practical ways. These include organising remote recruitment and sourcing PPE. This allowed school leaders to  focus ‘on what is important’ and ‘get on with the daily business of teaching and learning’.

a boy at primary school sits at a desk, writing in his book. Another female classmate sits at a desk next to him.

Remote learning and curriculum

One of the main roles trusts played was to help schools develop their remote learning offer. Trusts were described as ‘fleet-footed’ and ‘effective’ in this role, for example by quickly sourcing IT equipment for pupils to use at home. As well as equipment, trusts helped identify and develop remote learning platforms that could be deployed quickly and safely. Trusts also organised training, not just to use the software safely and successfully, but also to consider good practice in remote learning across the trust and minimise disruption to curriculum delivery. In some trusts, staff with digital expertise were deployed across schools to support leaders and teachers in developing shared remote-learning policies and implementing them.

Some trusts used their collective expertise to tackle the emerging curriculum challenges. The ability of the trust to harness subject networks and use subject specialists to share expertise was especially useful. Trusts could also reduce workload and enhance curriculum quality by coordinating curriculum development across the trust. One trust, for example, collectively reshaped and refined curriculum planning to address gaps in pupils’ knowledge in each subject following their return to school. In such cases, the trust-wide training and support for staff were praised for their quality, speed of response and adaptability. However, ensuring that children learning remotely are accessing the breadth and depth of the curriculum required, and making good progress in their learning, has been a challenge for all schools, and those in MATs are no different.

Finally, school leaders told us that one much-appreciated role of trusts was monitoring and supporting the health and well-being of all staff, and particularly those in leadership positions.

Collective learning

One of the aims of bringing schools together in trusts is to provide them with levels of support and collective learning that would not be achievable for any school on its own. These findings show how important this can be to schools’ resilience in the most challenging of circumstances, and how being part of a greater whole builds that resilience. Trusts have supported the work of school leaders throughout the pandemic, and seem to have done so quite successfully.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

AELP Events added a new event yesterday

Designated Safeguarding Lead Training in FE

Overview It is a statutory requirement for professionals meeting ‘robust 2-yearly training’ for those with a lead or designated professional role...

  • Thursday, 14 October 2021 09:30 AM
  • Online

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page