Research on MAT governance provides lessons learned for forming and developing MATs

25/04/2018

Following significant growth in the multi academy trust (MAT) sector during recent years, many MATs are relatively new and, understandably, National Governance Association (NGA) often hears concerns from those governing in MATs about the lack of direction available. NGA recognised a need in the MAT system for research that demonstrates the challenges experienced by MATs as they form and develop, and the lessons learned by executive leaders and those governing.

To mark the beginning of a series of in-depth case studies, three MATs have taken part in research by the NGA to share their governance journeys, learning and challenges with other MATs. There are now over 1,000 MATs made up of two or more schools in England, and in innovative research, NGA recognise the unique and local context of each MAT and facilitate case studies that give insight in to the experiences of each trust, and provide valuable learning to other MATs who may be facing similar circumstances.

The first two MATs providing case studies are:

  • The Evolve Trust, based in Mansfield
  • The Spring Partnership Trust, situated in Bromley, Kent

The third case study will be published in the near future.

Recognising the sensitivity in asking MATs to share their governance journeys, the case studies series enable MATs to share and self-evaluate their experiences in their own words. The intention in developing the case studies is to provide a resource to other MATs by sharing approaches that others have found productive and some common barriers to success, rather than best practice exemplars.

To create the case studies, NGA’s policy and research team conducted in-depth interviews with trustees, academy committee members and executive leaders at each trust, and performed an analysis of key documents (including the scheme of delegation, articles of association and trust board minutes) to supplement the data from the interviews.

Each of the MATs involved vary by size, phase and location, and have differing governance structures, reasons for formation and experiences. A wide range of learning points are highlighted throughout the case studies including “having a ‘lead school’ does not work in the long term”, “changes to the scheme of delegation are part of the process of growth” and “getting the right people around the table matters”.  

Sam Henson, Head of Information at the National Governance Association said “Each MAT has its own unique story to tell, and NGA wanted to capture this to add to the rich tapestry of governance knowledge. The trusts that have provided case studies have differing experiences and have laid bare their challenges to help other MATs on their own journeys. Our approach is sensitive towards the diversity in the MAT sector, and provides insight rather than generalisations or guidance. Our experience, particularly in listening to our Community MATs network, is that these leaning points are immensely valuable to other new and developing MATs. We would like to thank the trusts involved for their keenness and honesty in sharing their learnings with others.”

Dominic Swift, chair of trustees at Evolve Trust said “When we agreed to our trust being the subject of a case study we were determined to be brutally honest about our experience and the mistakes we have made in hope that our honesty encouraged an open and frank debate and so that others could learn from our journey. Reading the finished case study was very therapeutic – it reminded me just how far we have come and brought into sharp focus the lessons we learnt along the way.”

If you are a MAT that would like to speak to us about getting involved in this project, please contact tom.fellows@nga.org.uk.

The full details of the case studies are available exclusively to members of the National Governance Association: NGA members can click here to access the case studies. The work is part of NGA’s wider provision on MAT governance that includes the Community MATs network, Welcome to a Multi Academy Trust publication and External Reviews of Governance for MATs.

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