MATs will soon dominate the school landscape. Let’s make sure they’re up to itby Neil Carmichael / March 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
There has been a significant increase in the number of schools forming or joining multi-academy trusts (MATs). This trend is predicted to continue over the coming years and the government expects that most schools which convert to academy status will join a MAT. But the evidence of their ability to raise pupil performance is limited. While some academies in MATs are high flying, others languish at the bottom of the league tables.
In England, the number of MATs tripled from 394 in 2011 to 1.121 in 2016. While 1,618 academies stand alone, 4,140 are in a trust—one in five of all state-funded schools in England, according to the latest government figures. Schools Minister Lord Nash indicated to the Education Committee that the government expects a tipping point to be reached in five or six years where most schools have converted to academies and joined a MAT.
But as we press ahead towards MATs being the dominant model in our education system, questions remain about their performance. Conclusive evidence that trusts are able to achieve high standards across the board is yet to emerge. Analysis published by several organisations and the government shows that some MATs are delivering excellent results and using the model to effectively drive improvement. But a significant number of MATs are failing to improve year on year and are consistently at the bottom of the pile.
This year, the Department for Education’s exam result league tables show that two thirds of MATs had scores that were below average across their secondary schools at Key Stage 4. Just over half of those performed “significantly below” average and some of the largest MATs, including E-ACT and Academies Enterprise Trust, did particularly badly. The tables show, however, that trusts did better at Key Stage 2.
A study by the Education Policy Institute showed that being part of a MAT does not necessarily lead to better results than being under local authority control and vice versa. Research by the Sutton Trust drew the same conclusion. It found that while a number of MATs had performed consistently above average over the past three years—including Ark and Harris Federation, which are frequently cited by ministers as examples of successful trusts—a similar sized group of trusts struggled to improve their results.
In our MATs report, the Education Committee concluded…