The next three or four years is going to see increasing numbers of schools join or establish Multi-Academy Trusts. Some schools will decide to jump before they are pushed and others will simply be pushed. Over the last few months a number of people have contacted me to discuss the MAT that we formed about eighteen months ago.
Before forming our MAT we spent the best part of two years discussing what we wanted to achieve, why we should come together in a formal governance structure and what that structure might look like. All Blackpool Catholic schools engaged in the debate but many decided, at an early stage, they weren’t ready or willing to commit.
What fascinates me when I meet groups who are interested in forming a MAT is whether they have a deep or convincing notion of why they want to come together. Most currently talk about forming a MAT before they are forced to; they want some control over their future. In essence many schools are coming together to carry on working separately. The overarching fear of most Head teachers is the loss of autonomy or being taken over; primaries in particular fear this if a secondary school is involved in the MAT. As such thoughts about how they would use the MAT to improve the quality of teaching or outcomes for pupils are pretty vague with lots of talk about partnership and collaboration but very little of any real substance.
My view is if you are going to come together as a group of schools you need to understand why. If you intend to form a MAT, before being forced to, so you can carry on an autonomous existence don’t be surprised if there is little or no positive impact for pupils.
Leaders need to look beyond themselves to the potential benefits of a number of primary schools working together to establish the best possible curriculum they can: agreeing assessments, resources, non-negotiables and supporting each other through shared CPD or coaching. This form of collaboration is a workload buster in a number of ways. The benefits are huge once you break out of the one school as an island mindset. Same applies to a group of secondary schools or my own favourite form of MAT; the cross phase version. There is so much to be learnt by working cross phase and transition stops being a set of marketing exercises and goes deep, very deep if you will allow it.
The years ahead will see a swathe of new MATs forming a patchwork quilt of an education middle tier. It’s high time governors, leaders, teachers, parents and pupils started thinking about the real reasons for coming together; for the benefit of the pupils and the staff.
#SaturdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week. The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short. It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger. The intention is for it to be read in two minutes as you’re relaxing or busy running around on your day off.