These are the final reports from our research into governing bodies that choose to join federations and multi-academy trusts (MATs). They are the culmination of a one year research project involving 14 groups of schools that have considered creating a federation or MAT. The study looked at the reasons why governing bodies consider federation, who influences the decision, and what barriers are faced. The key findings from the study are:

  • Governing boards were often motivated to consider becoming a federation/MAT for a combination of reasons, but key drivers were school improvement, saving small schools from closure and sharing a headteacher.

  • In most cases the governing board was responsible for making the final decision whether or not to join a federation/MAT and the decision is not always made unanimously. Where it was unanimous the school had often previously collaborated with their prospective partner(s).

  • Every governing body in this study that went forward with becoming a federation or MAT did so under an executive headteacher.

  • Governing boards consulted key stakeholders including parents and staff. Although governors were clear that if a majority of consultees had opposed federation they would not have continued at that point, in practice, consultation allowed governing bodies to identify and address concerns rather than decide whether or not to federate.

  • Despite this, resistance from stakeholders presented a barrier for several governing bodies. Parents were most commonly concerned with sharing a headteacher, whereas staff were often worried about their pay and conditions. Opposition was most successfully dealt with where governors took the time to fully address concerns and by effective communication.

  • Lack of information presented a barrier to some governing boards. The local authority was a key source of guidance for many, but a minority were not as well supported. Some reported that it was difficult to find objective advice elsewhere.

The Road to Federation - full report

The Road to Federation - summary report

Further reading 

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