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Central leadership teams in MATs

Research report reviewing existing practice, different leadership structures and how roles evolve over time.

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One of the specific challenges faced by multi academy trusts (MATs) is designing effective central leadership teams. In order to better understand current practice and the opportunities and challenges facing boards, we have spoken to a number of trusts about this issue. Our findings are set out in this 2021 report.

Research overview

The report is based on a series of detailed interviews with 13 MATs. We spoke to a range of key figures including chief executive officers, chief operating officers, trust chairs and governance managers/professionals. These interviews were complimented by an online review of a further 88 MATs, which focused on more general issues such as the size of their central teams and their constituent roles.

Key findings:

The report identifies that the evolution of MAT central teams can be described by three underlying trends:

  • An internalisation of functions – multi academy trusts increasingly do more themselves rather than contracting to third parties.
  • centralisation of functions – away from the academy level and towards the central team.
  • specialisation of functions – trusts increasingly recruit to specialist, defined roles over the broad ‘catch-all’ roles which are symptomatic of younger and smaller trusts.

However, our research identified varied practice in how trusts influenced and reacted to these trends, leading to three core conclusions:

  • Central leadership teams are emerging as powerful drivers for realising many benefits of trust wide collaboration.
  • Central team power and influence continues to contribute to ongoing tensions between individual school expression and trust control.
  • Governance practice in relation to designing and approving central leadership structures is inconsistent.

Guidance for trustees

Putting research into practice

Drawing on our research findings, we have published guidance for trust boards on how to develop an effective central leadership team structure.

The guidance is designed to help trust boards understand their role in reviewing the central team, when to conduct a review, and the issues to consider.

View central teams guidance

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