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Multi academy trusts are committed to local governance, 2022 annual survey finds


A survey of people governing in multi academy trusts (MATs) conducted by the National Governance Association (NGA) has found that the local tier remains integral to MAT governance.  

Just 1% of respondents said their trust has no local governance arrangements, with 91% using the ‘one committee, one school’ model, and 6% having committees over multiple schools.  90% of respondents agreed that their trust board is committed to ongoing local governance arrangements. The most common roles the local tier undertake are monitoring pupil outcomes (95%), stakeholder engagement (93%) and being advocates for the community (84%).

Feelings of those governing locally towards their MAT are also increasingly positive. 77% of those governing at academy level said the MAT adds value to their work of the school, rising from 69% in 2021.

Even with the positive picture, other findings show that MATs cannot afford to be complacent about engaging with the local tier. This year 61% of those at the local level agreed or strongly agreed that communication between tiers is effective and managed well, only increasing 2% since 2020, and the slow pace of improvement shows a more concerted effort is needed by the remaining two in five trusts.

The survey also found that a decreasing number of respondents felt that their MAT is effectively engaged with parents and the wider school community. Only 55% agree this year compared to 62% in 2021 and 64% in 2020. This bucks a trend set in the last two years on increased levels of engagement during the pandemic. Cover of Governing in a multi academy trust: Trust governance in 2022 report

The survey findings, published in a new report ‘governing in a multi academy trust’ also detail the views of local authority maintained schools and single academy trusts on joining a MAT a month after the government set out its vision in the schools white paper for all schools to have decided to join a strong MAT by 2030.

While the number of LA maintained schools and SATs deciding to join a MAT in the last year has nearly doubled (to 11% from 6% in 2020), the overall number actively pursuing this remains small. In the last year 17% of respondents decided against it and 43% had not considered it at all. Those in single academy trusts (SATs) were more likely to consider joining or forming a MAT.

Other key findings include:

  • MAT growth over the past year has been dominated by larger trusts. Medium to larger MATs have seen significant growth – only 21% of MATs varying from 11 to 31 plus schools said they hadn’t grown in the last year, compared with 56% of MATs with 2-10 schools.
  • The factors influencing future growth continue to shift – economies of scale (58%) has jumped from just 30% in 2021, meaning it is now second only to growth forming part of the trust’s strategy (59%). Over half of respondents (55%) listed reasons related to the white paper as one of their motivations for future MAT growth.
  • A trend of increasing separation between layers within the MAT’s governance structure continues with trustees holding fewer additional roles within the trust. 76% of trustees now do not have another role, up from 71% in 2021, marking a big shift from 21% in 2018.
  • While 29% of MATs said they were able to balance income and expenditure, retaining a healthy surplus, they are increasingly negative about the long term, feeling that they do not have sufficient funding for their vision and strategy and their confidence in the future is starting to weaken.
Sam Henson, Director of Policy and Communications, National Governance Association:

“This year’s survey results place a spotlight on the governance of MATs, as the trust sector continues to develop. While the role of governance is still not recognised in the way it should be across the sector, experiences of MAT trustees and local governors can tell us a lot of about both the challenges and successes that MATs continue to face and the way in which they are held to account.”


Emma Knights, Chief Executive, National Governance Association:

“Over half of pupils in England now attend academies, although their parents may not know much about the trust which runs their child’s school. The survey shows that some multi academy trusts still need pay more attention to engaging with parents and the wider community. It is not yet well known that it is a board of trustees who have oversight of all the schools within the MAT and hold the chief executive and their team to account.”

These findings are published in ‘Governing in a multi academy trust’, the first report in NGA’s School and Trust Governance 2022 series, detailing the findings of the 2022 annual governance survey.

Read the report