MAT leadership: resources, guidance and best practice
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.
Schools within in a MAT are in a unique position to work closely and share best practice. MAT leaders have a responsibility to undertake long term strategic planning to deliver excellent pupil outcomes, develop and grow their staff for succession planning, and ensure the financial sustainability of the trust.
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:
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 doing 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?
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.
If schools are working successfully together, it makes sense to employ a common approach to quality assurance systems. Having a template QA schedule enables MAT leaders to see at a glance activities taking place on a given week, such as learning walks, staff meetings or CPD sessions.
With streamlined QA systems, MAT leaders can:
- guarantee that QA processes are being followed systematically in each school
- receive regular, easy to digest reports at relevant points in the academic year, rather than reports from different personnel, in different schools, at different times
- present findings from QA processes to trustees in a timely manner, for the board to make comparisons between schools using a common language and/or standard layout.