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School structures and groups of schools

NGA's position statement on school structures and groups of schools

school-environment unorganised classroom desk

School structures in themselves are not enough to guarantee good outcomes for pupils. However, schools working together has proven extremely valuable in offering increased opportunities and benefits including financial sustainability, staff development, school improvement and in improving governance. The benefits of schools working together are more likely to be realised under a single governing structure, such as a multi academy trust, with a governing board accountable for the schools within the group.

A multi academy trust (MAT) is one organisation driven by a common set of values with a shared vision that the members, trustees, executive team and the schools within the trust, including the local governing bodies, need to recognise.

Autonomy and the freedom to self-govern are not on offer for individual schools, as accountability rests with the board of trustees. The benefits of being part of a MAT are more likely to be achieved when schools are in reasonable geographical proximity to each other.

A federation is a group of two or more local authority schools which are jointly governed by a single governing body. Federating offers many benefits to the schools within them.

Where schools are underperforming, governing boards need to be honest and realistic about their own performance and ensure that an appropriate plan to improve the school is put in place. This will almost certainly involve assistance from outside agencies. Sponsored academy conversion is not the only route to school improvement.

The NGA is of the firm view that for good and outstanding schools, it is right that the decision to join a MAT should remain with the governing board of the maintained school or single academy trust (SAT). Any decision should be taken after full consideration of the vision and values of the trust and ensuring that organisational cultures are compatible.

The governance arrangements of MATs must be thought out carefully, with clarity provided on the level of delegation from the board of trusts to local governance level and recorded in the trusts scheme of delegation. The growth of MATs should be part of a clear strategy to achieve the trust’s mission of improving education for pupils.


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