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MAT leadership: resources, guidance and best practice
High-performing multi-academy trusts require strong leadership and a varied skillset among staff. Use these resources to help you lead a successful and sustainable MAT
Multi-academy trusts vary by size, composition, leadership structure and location across the country. There is no right model or single way to create a MAT, but successful ones have some things in common:
- the right leaders with the right skills
- strong governance
- clear accountability structure
- robust financial management
- quality assurance systems.
Right people, right skills
MAT leadership teams need a range of expertise and the right mix of knowledge, experience and skills to be successful and sustainable.
Our range of skills audits, including ones for a CEO and a finance director, can be used to help evaluate skills and knowledge, identify skills gaps and determine training needs.
Putting leaders in place as early as possible to be responsible for overseeing the effectiveness of various trust functions (e.g. a chief operating officer or finance director) is key to getting the basics right and running a successful MAT.
Having the right people on board applies to MAT trustees too. Chair of trustees Tiffany Beck discusses how she built a partnership with her CEO based on honesty, trust, challenge and support.
The result is 'a shared vision and culture that strives for fantastic outcomes for children and a working environment that people want to be a part of.'
A robust due diligence process when creating or expanding a MAT is carried out to ensure your organisation is not at risk.
Your due diligence should typically cover the following areas:
- educational performance (external and internal data)
- financial (historical information, capital assets, pensions, contracts etc)
- organisational (staffing structure and ratios, curriculum model, governance etc)
- legal and regulatory compliance (land, assets, contracts, existing liabilities)
- commercial (for example all current arrangements and any possible new contracts).
You will want to make sure that you understand exactly what you are acquiring, that the transferor has the legal right to transfer such assets and the full extent of any liabilities for which they will become responsible.
The perfect partnership
MATs may also want to consider the following when undergoing due diligence (which will be relevant when deciding on the approach you want to take):
- identifying synergies and priorities to support the effective integration of the new joiners
- starting the relationship off with the right tone. The way due diligence is carried out will say a lot about your organisation’s culture and values.
Will you take a top slice from school budgets or GAG pool funds and allocate to schools? Each MAT will need to decide what works best for them, taking into account factors such as:
- the amount of schools they have
- the size of schools/pupil number
- whether they want to grow
- their current financial health.
Whichever you choose, a clear financial benefit of being part of a MAT is the greater procurement power. MATs have strength in numbers and collective procurement power increases for high value purchases. Quotes for legal support, for example, will be cheaper when done collectively.
Our 10 point plan to getting procurement right is a useful reminder of what to consider when procuring services to achieve value for money.
Whichever you choose, no MAT will be effective if its finances are poorly managed. With the aim of saving time and money (by removing duplication and streamlining processes), MATs commonly centralise some functions including HR, data management and IT.
It can be difficult to know where to start, or where to go next when you centralise services, so our guide to the what, how and why of centralisation will come in handy. You should also consider the following questions.
- Will centralising save money?
- Will the quality of the service be better?
- Will any knowledge, skills or expertise be lost?
- Will pupils and staff benefit?
Another area where it is common to centralise is your policies. The MAT policy and statutory document tracker helps you ensure policies are up to date across all schools, reviewed regularly, and identifies who is responsible for them.
The benefit for MATs in creating central teams that have expertise in finance, HR and IT for example, is that school leaders and teachers are given more time to focus on what they do best – teaching and learning and improving outcomes and wellbeing of pupils.
Get your schools working together and subject leaders sharing best practice by using the 10 ways for them to collaborate. It includes suggestions that are time and cost saving, that promote high quality T&L and that provide CPD or training opportunities.
Regularly reviewing practice through self-evaluation helps when considering how to further your trust. The five stages in carrying out a SEND review are outlined by Natalie Packer, offering questions to reflect on and ultimately help to improve your provision.
Last Updated:28 Mar 2022