Release date: 08/06/2022

To support schools considering joining or forming a multi academy trust (MAT), the National Governance Association has today (8 June) published updated guidance with the Association of School and College Leaders and Browne Jacobson.

Setting out a step-by-step process for becoming part of a MAT, the guidance helps school leaders and governing boards of local authority maintained schools and single academy trusts understand the current policy landscape and explore the options available to them. The guide covers each step of the process, from identifying organisations to join with, consulting stakeholders and undertaking due diligence, to completing the process of joining or forming a MAT.

The update marks the third edition of this guidance since it was first published in 2015. It also follows the publication of the Opportunity for all White Paper, which sets out the government’s vision to see “all children benefit from being taught in a family of schools, with their school in a strong multi academy trust or with plans to join or form one” by 2030.

While the white paper and accompanying schools bill will be a key driver for schools and single academy trusts considering joining or forming a MAT, the decision to become part of a MAT remains with the governing board for all good and outstanding schools.  This guidance is designed to provide both governing boards and school leaders with a shared understanding of the process in order to make the best decisions in the interests of their school. 

Sam Henson, director of policy and communications at the National Governance Association said: “The decision on whether and when to join or form a MAT almost always resides with the governing board, and this guidance provides insight on the major considerations to give decision makers the tools needed to make the right decision for their school, communities and future pupils. NGA is delighted to have once again worked with both ASCL and Browne Jacobson in producing an updated edition of Taking the Next Step.  Since 2015 this guidance has provided practical, easy to digest steps to help schools navigate the often-complex terrain of joining or forming a MAT. It pulls together the sector leading experience of three organisations that have supported governing boards and school leaders throughout the last decade in making informed choices on the future of their schools.”     

Mark Blois, Partner at Browne Jacobson said: It was back in 2015 that Browne Jacobson first collaborated with NGA and the ASCL to prepare guidance to support senior leaders, trustees and governors of maintained schools and single academy trusts as they considered the future of their school in a system that looked likely to consist largely of academies in multi-academy trusts (MATs).  Since that time our joint guidance has been periodically updated to reflect ongoing policy and other developments in the schools sector, and we have been delighted to work again in partnership with our colleagues and friends at the NGA and ASCL on the development of this important guidance.

"I am confident that with the recent publication by the DfE of a White Paper and a Schools Bill, the latter of which is one of the most significant pieces of education legislation in recent years, the schools sector will welcome the fact that the NGA, ASCL and Browne Jacobson have decided to come together again to substantially rewrite and update the existing version of the guidance document in order to ensure that it continues to play the role it has delivered so well over the last seven years in supporting school leaders, trustees and governors to better understand the current policy landscape, to consider their options and to make the best long-term decision for their school.”

Julie McCulloch, Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders said: “ASCL is pleased to have worked with NGA and Browne Jacobson on this third iteration of our joint guidance for schools considering forming or joining a multi-academy trust. Many schools have already taken this step since we first published guidance for our members in 2015, and now play an active role in strong, evolving partnerships.

“The landscape has changed again with the publication of Opportunity for All – the Schools White Paper – and the Schools Bill currently making its way through Parliament. ASCL believes that the decision to join or form a trust should be one made by schools themselves, after deep consideration of the potential benefits of doing so, and after careful due diligence on the options available.

“We hope that this updated guidance will support all school leaders and governors considering this step to move forward in a thoughtful and carefully planned manner.”

Read the guidance

Advice available on taking the next step

Governing boards with NGA GOLD membership can access independent and confidential advice on taking the next step. Our expert team of advisers will respond to any questions regarding joining or forming a MAT, the options available, how to carry out due diligence and consult with stakeholders. We can also arrange a follow up governing board Q&A session where it is agreed that this would be beneficial.

Our GOLDline advice service is open 9am to 5pm during the working week.

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