Interview with Sam Henson, Head of Information, National Governance Association
Much of the discussion around MATs has to date focused on larger trusts, but as of 1 September 2017, 58% of academies were in trusts with between 1-5 schools, and a further 20% in trusts with 6-10 schools. While it is worth pointing out that this doesn’t necessarily mean these are all small trusts (indeed some MATs with 10 or fewer schools, are significantly larger than some MATs with more than 10 schools in terms of pupil numbers), there clearly are significant numbers of small to medium sized MATs out there.
Many have been formed by a group of schools in the same geographical area with a strong community ethos – MATs that NGA has come to know as Community MATs. Some trustees governing in this type of MAT have told us there is not enough support for them, with national and even regional interest residing in larger or medium sized MATs looking at continuing expansion.
In response to this and at the request of our members, NGA set up a Community MAT network to facilitate learning and collaboration for those who felt there wasn’t an easy way to meet with those in a similar position to discuss the issues faced when setting up and governing a MAT.
Community MAT isn’t a technical term – it’s a phrase to describe local, schools-led, community-centred MATs. Focus on the plural is deliberate – many of the best MATs we’ve worked with have developed a collaborative model, with all the schools in the group drawing on each other’s strengths, addressing weaknesses together. And increasingly we are seeing MATs move away from the model of one ‘outstanding’ school as the ‘lead school’ supporting all the others.
An eventful first year of the network has taught us a lot about how MATs move past the significant barriers they face on their journey; we would love to share some of these with you. Whether you are looking to form a new MAT, join an existing one, or develop the one you are in, sometimes simply stopping to listen to the stories others have to tell and the lessons they learnt along the way, can be one of the best things you will ever do. We know that many schools have either jumped into partnerships too quickly in the past, or missed out an opportunity to ask the real questions they need answers to from those who have already been there. While no one model works for everyone, many new trusts are making the same mistakes older MATs were making five years ago.
If you would like to find out more about our Community MAT network, come and visit the NGA stand D47 at this Academies Show, or pop along to one of our sessions on MAT governance.
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