More and more schools are choosing to join a multi-academy trusts (MAT) which the government believes are the way forward for secondary education. Taibah Khan evaluates the pros and cons.
At a time when many schools have broken away from local authority control, the MAT concept involves individual schools teaming up to support one another.
This will enable groups or ‘hubs’ of schools to share innovative ideas and strategic resources, which supporters of the system say will raise educational standards.
What the critics of MATs say
However, critics of the MAT system point to disadvantages, including schools putting at risk their ethos and identity, as well as having less control if the school does not have a representative on the governing body.
It is also claimed that multi-academy trusts could spend more on the better performing schools to the detriment of underperforming schools. In much the same way, schools with poor reputations could adversely affect the strong reputation of better performing schools.
In addition, detractors say MAT schools are hampered by increased statutory requirements – such as having to publish their accounts – and suffer from losing the support of the local authority.
The advantages of becoming a MAT
However, advocates of MATs say the system promotes collaboration among schools as they work together to improve their educational standards. In addition, there are opportunities to operate more cost-efficiently as a result of sharing resources, including teachers and facilities such as finance, payroll and HR.
Moreover, joining a multi-academy trust puts schools in charge of own financial management, rather than relying on local authority funding, so there is greater freedom to run a school how the governing body wants.
Meanwhile, being part of a MAT increases schools’ ability to negotiate better value for money contracts for external services, as opposed to having to negotiate in isolation. Saving money in these areas means schools have more funds to reinvest in the education of their students.
Supporters of MATs also argue that weaker schools can get support from the better performing schools within their hub, while the system also offers greater opportunities for staff, who may otherwise move on to other schools.
Decisions should not be taken lightly
The decision to join a multi-academy trust is probably the most important a governing body will make as the implications are wide-ranging. Therefore, no stone should be left unturned during the decision-making process and the importance of seeking professional advice cannot be overstated.
Educational legal service is tailored to schools’ needs
With this in mind, WHN’s dedicated education service helps schools convert to academies, with the advisory team enabling schools to benefit from WHN’s expertise in key areas such as compliance, governance, employment, and property law.
In order to complete the MAT conversion procedure, schools can access our specialist legal advice on issues including the incorporation of their trust, funding requirements, and negotiating their commercial transfer agreement.
An equally important role is advising on issues including the alignment of visions and values, representation at board level, budgetary matters, and how the MAT will engage with staff and curriculum development.