Faringdon Academy of Schools – a trust with eight schools in Oxfordshire – is the fifth multi academy trust (MAT) to share its experience as part of the National Governance Association’s (NGA) research series of in-depth and candid case studies on MAT governance.

A key insight from the case study is the success of the school improvement function across the primary schools within the trust, which harnesses the expertise of its network of primary headteachers and executive leaders to support other struggling primary schools in the MAT. The trust in part uses the centralisation of services to remove the administrative burdens upon senior and executive leaders so that they themselves can deliver this school improvement. 

The case study also illustrates the importance of 'place' within the MAT system and the benefits that can be realised from academies feeling part of ‘one organisation’. A contributing factor to the success of the school improvement function is that the schools are close enough to each other to make this model workable – some interviewees commented that support could be drafted in from another school within 15 minutes.

Trustees reflect that they want to expand to take on another secondary to make the most of their school improvement model, but are cautious that any growth should be in line with their clear vision and purpose.

Following significant growth in the MAT sector during recent years, NGA recognised a need for research that demonstrates the challenges experienced by MATs as they form and develop, and the lessons learned by executive leaders and those governing.

Lessons learned from governance at Faringdon Academy of Schools include:

  • It is important to balance a clear vision and values across the trust with respecting the individual characteristics of schools.
  • Finances are often a point of contention, particularly when it comes to reserves and the redistribution of resources.
  • Those governing at a local level have an important role to play in ensuring that the trust is governed well and, if used effectively, they can alleviate much of the work required of trustees.
  • Getting communication right between the layers of governance and management is vital but challenging. It involves putting into place a number of different approaches.

Faringdon Academy of Schools joins Sidney Stringer multi academy trust (Coventry), The Evolve Trust (Mansfield), The Spring Partnership Trust (Bromley) and Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust in NGA’s suite of case studies.

Liz Holmes, Chair of Trustees at Faringdon Academy of Schools will present highlights of the case study at NGA’s fully-booked Community MATs Network today (14 May), where governance professionals and trustees will share their experience and expertise on MAT governance.

Sam Henson, director of policy and information at NGA said “Today's new case study from Faringdon Academy of Schools illustrates many of the challenges members of the National Governance Association's Community MATs Network have been grappling with. The lessons should be extremely helpful to other MATs considering their strategy for the future. We would like to thank the trustees and senior leaders for sharing their story: this is system leadership in action. Faringdon Academy of Schools may not be a household name but is the same size as many MATs across England working hard to provide a good education for pupils in their community.”

For the next round of case studies, NGA are seeking interest from in particular:

  • Trusts in the North of England
  • Trusts where the majority of schools are secondary
  • Trusts which include a sixth form college and/or a PRU
  • Trusts using regional/ hub governance
  • Trusts formed from a merger of two trusts
  • Trusts formed of special schools
  • A Catholic MAC/MAT

Contact NGA’s research manager Tom Fellows on tom.fellows@nga.org.uk

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