Crystal ball gazing – Multi Academy Trusts, what next…
With a number of early converters approaching the 10 year point since their creation we thought that it was time for some navel gazing to see where we reckon the future lies. In legal terms, 10 years is the blink of an eye, and the academies sector is still very much in its infancy when it comes to development. So how do we see the market expanding over the next decade?
As Trusts are essentially independent companies (albeit with a good dose of DfE oversight), there is huge amount of untapped potential in terms of what they can do in order to support and supplement their key role of delivering education. Forward thinking Trusts have realised this and, as a sector, we are seeing more and more innovative ways of MATs securing additional income through the diversification of their activities. This could be through a simple trading subsidiary running a sports pitch, or a more complex entity providing financial or HR services to neighbouring trusts. We understand that the RSC is particularly keen on this type of shared business services model, so we anticipate a significant increase in roll out of this type of function.
The key message coming from the RSC is, ' If you are going to form a MAT then you have to do something that is better than what went before'. Although this is squarely aimed at newly incorporated trusts the rationale extends to established ones. As some of the older trusts approach the 10 year point, we are starting to see a generational change as the original CEOs come up to retirement age, and with 80% of current MATs comprising of trusts with 5 schools or less, the RSC is keen for boards to consider, as part of any new CEO appointment, whether the member schools would be better served if the trust were merge with another.
Whilst merging may not be at the top of many trust's wish lists, the economies of scale associated with larger school/pupil numbers are undeniable. Trusts not willing to merge should therefore consider the merits of sharing back office functions with neighbouring schools. This type of collaboration could go a long way to ensure the future viability of smaller trusts that might be struggling to cover the required levels of expertise in their central functions.
Invest in staff
Numerous reports have been compiled over the past few years identifying the characteristics of the most successful trusts, and the chances are if you are reading this then you will be familiar with the principal themes. Governance and school improvement remain key, though there is an increasing trend towards instilling a collegiate feel to MAT employees, so that they identify with the trust, not just the school at which they work. Achieving a trust wide workforce has been associated with greater staff retention past the critical 3 year point, as the range of positions and opportunities across a MAT is so much greater than at any individual school.