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School leaders not convinced by government’s vision for a fully trust-led system

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary

Today (Sat 30 Apr), school leaders’ union NAHT releases new data from a survey of over 1,000 school leaders in England, showing:

  • 76% of respondents either disagreed or stronglydisagreed that the government’s vision for a fully trust-led system will lead to an improvement in pupil outcomes
  • Just 17% of those not already in a Multi-Academy Trust anticipate joining a MAT at some point within the next 4 years, with 62% of not anticipating their school choosing to join a MAT at any point in the future
  • Of those already in a trust, 57% reported being either very satisfied or satisfied with their experience of being in a MAT
  • Those already working in trusts cited a number of advantages to being part of a MAT structure, including: Greater collaboration between teachers and leaders across the MAT (58%); Centralised HR and finance functions (57%); Greater access to shared teaching and learning resources (49%)

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said:

“NAHT is proud to represent leaders in all different types of schools, including those in Local Authority Maintained Schools, standalone academies, as well as those in multi-academy trusts. We know that excellent teaching and learning takes place in a wide range of different contexts, and ultimately it is people, not structures that makes the biggest difference to pupil outcomes.

“We also know that many leaders already working in multi-academy trusts have found benefits in doing so.

“However, this new data shows that the government has a lot more work to do if it is to convince all school leaders that its plans for for further structural reform will have a positive impact on pupil outcomes.

“School leaders not currently in a MAT have told us that they can see some potential advantages to being part of a trust, but they also have a number of important and legitimate concerns that the government will need to properly address if it is to make progress on the goal it has set itself in the recent white paper.”

  • The biggest concerns about joining a MAT cited by school leaders and governing bodies were: a loss of autonomy as a school leader or greater centralised control (92%), a loss of autonomy for the school’s governing body or trust board (74%), concern about retaining a school’s unique local context (83%), and concern about the financial impact on the school (60%).
  • When asked what might make school leaders more likely to join a MAT, the top answer selected was greater rights to leave a trust where it is not working for the school (52%) and greater protections around funding to limit any top-slicing or pooling of funds by the trust (51%).

Mr Whiteman continued: “There are legitimate concerns about autonomy that the government needs to consider if it wants to convince school leaders and governing bodies of the benefits of joining MATs. The concerns raised about retaining a school’s local context and funding arrangements are ones that are reflected by parents and schools’ local communities as well.

“Before we move any further to a fully MAT-led system, it is vital that proper consideration is given to how schools can ‘divorce’ their MAT when things aren’t working, as well as to what interventions will be made when MATs under perform.”

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