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Joining a MAT (Multi Academy Trust)? Experience?

(24 Posts)
nat73 Fri 19-May-17 10:04:19

We are a small (<100 pupils) C of E rural primary. We are looking at joining a Multi Academy Trust. The only 'real' option is a C of E related MAT which has 9 primary schools and a couple of secondary schools in it.

Has anyone else's school joined a MAT? What are the pros and cons of being in the MAT?

One thing that is not clear for me is who manages the contract between the school and the MAT? What if you are not happy with the level of services / cost of services?

Has anyone achieved economies of scale by joining a MAT? What and where can we hope to save.

It seems this is our only option but I rather we go into it with our eyes open. It would be good if anyone else has experience of this. Many thanks.

prh47bridge Fri 19-May-17 10:34:27

I can't answer all your questions but, once you have joined the MAT, there won't be a contract between the school and the MAT. The school will cease to exist as a legal entity so can't enter into a contract with anyone. It will be part of the MAT and the MAT has ultimate decision making responsibility. You may still have a local governing body (LGB) but it will be up to the MAT to decide what powers the LGB has. However, the head teacher can appeal to the Secretary of State if, for example, the school felt the MAT was not handling funding fairly.

spanieleyes Fri 19-May-17 10:41:30

We are in the process of doing something similar, initially we were very reassured, lots of talk about independence, retaining our own individuality etc, but as we have gone further into the process, things are beginning to look slightly different! The costs are based on the OFSTED grading of the school, and are fixed. The pro's? Well, more centralised support ( rather than the mish-mash of training schools/teaching alliances/cluster schools we seem to have at the moment) centralised admin services ( and the ability to move away from the current LA provider which has been cut to the bone) a MAT which in theory has the same ethos as the school. The con's? Rather more control than initially thought, we have to use the MAT progress tracker and assessment schedule, the curriculum is "under discussion," the MAT SIP has very definite views on paperwork and policies!

We are still going in ( we don't have much option!)and the MAT is possibly one of the better ones in the area but we are still cautious!

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Fri 19-May-17 10:46:50

Questions to ask are:

- What is the MAT's top slice (the % of GAG that the MAT takes for central services)
- what is the MAT's policy on staff costs as % of GAG? (ESFA expects that between 55-70% of GAG is a good model)
- what is the MAT's reserves policy? If your school is in a good financial position but the MAT is struggling will they take your reserves to offset the deficit, leaving your school to cut its budget?

nat73 Fri 19-May-17 12:08:26

Excellent, thank you all for your input.

prh47bridge if we are 'in' and there is no contract between us what come back do we have if we feel the 'value for money' is not good? Is there a kind of MAT regulator? What if the MAT is spending all the money on team building in Paris?

AndNoneForGretchenWieners MAT will take 5% for the services. Thank you for the other questions.

We were told staff T&C's will remain the same and staff retain their pensions etc.

But what about the economies of scale? What might we hope to achieve? Is there more admin if you have to manage your own cashflow? I had hoped we could save money by reducing the admin time but I'm not sure a MAT isn't going to increase the admin time?

spanieleyes Fri 19-May-17 12:11:44

Once you are in, that's it. The only recourse you have, as far as I am aware, is to the Secretary of State. The MAT takes over and the school has no option but to be pulled/dragged/bowled along!

nat73 Fri 19-May-17 12:13:06

Oh really!! That doesn't seem very reassuring!!!

nat73 Fri 19-May-17 12:31:39

Is regulation of the MAT the job of the School Commissioners?

www.gov.uk/government/organisations/schools-commissioners-group/about#responsibilities

prh47bridge Fri 19-May-17 14:46:55

The Principal Regulator is the Secretary of State who exercises most of the responsibility through the Education Funding Agency.

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Fri 19-May-17 16:42:25

prh is correct - the Education & Skills Funding Agency are the regulators who will ensure compliance with the funding agreement and academies financial handbook, but the regional schools Commissioner monitors performance and education standards. In practice that means if you don't think the MAT are acting in the best interests of the school and are in breach of the funding agreement or afh, you can whistleblow to the ESFA but if it's an educational matter you would contact the RSC.

In principle though the trust have free reign as long as they stick within the requirements of the funding agreement/AFH.

prh47bridge Sat 20-May-17 10:27:29

We were told staff T&C's will remain the same and staff retain their pensions etc.

Sorry - meant to say that this is true. You will be protected by TUPE. The MAT must honour your existing terms and conditions.

You would expect services such as finance, payroll and HR to be shared which should reduce costs. Also MATs have more bargaining power than individual schools so may be able to negotiate better contracts with suppliers. So yes, you would expect some economies of scale.

bojorojo Sat 20-May-17 10:58:32

From my knowledge of C of E schools it is highly likely you will already have a relationship with the Education wing of the Diocese and they, with Aided schools, can have far more influence than the LA. Therefore I cannot see there will be a huge difference. You just become more firmly under the C of E umbrella. I do not think you will see savings or vast improvements to the budget because I do not suppose a C of E MAT is operating as a 'charity' and not paying themselves!

The big advantage is that you know their background and hopefully share the same values. I would consider if they are a successful MAT. Do they manage successful schools with excellent Ofsted inspections? What do the other schools think of the support they get and value for money? There is no reason why you cannot meet the Governors of these schools to find out.

I think it is a shame C of E schools can only join C of E MaTs. (Or at least this appears to be the case). The idea of federating with other schools is a much more successful way of reducing costs but if the obvious local school to federate with is not C of E the federation cannot happen. You get stuck with what you are and that is C of E for good or ill. Small schools need more flexible arrangements with other small schools but C of E seems to prevent this, sadly.

mrsglowglow Sun 21-May-17 12:44:39

We were told staff T&C's will remain the same and staff retain their pensions etc.

Sorry - meant to say that this is true. You will be protected by TUPE. The MAT must honour your existing terms and conditions.

Our school is in a similar position and will join a MAT. We too have been told our terms and conditions will be protected under the TUPE rules. Is it true however that there is a time limit to this guarantee and the MAT can after a time start a consultation of pay and terms? This is what some are worried about.

prh47bridge Sun 21-May-17 13:53:01

Is it true however that there is a time limit to this guarantee and the MAT can after a time start a consultation of pay and terms

No, there is no time limit. TUPE protection is indefinite. The MAT cannot make changes to your terms and conditions if the change is due to the transfer.

That doesn't mean they can never make changes. Just like your school, they can make changes for economic, technical or organisational reasons (often referred to as ETO reasons). However, unless your existing contract allows for a change, they cannot normally make any change without your consent. If there is a dispute which goes to tribunal it would be up to the MAT to show that their proposed changes were for ETO reasons.

admission Sun 21-May-17 17:57:30

The most obvious change that the MAT would want to make is not about salary but about the ability to get staff to work at any of the schools in the MAT. That is obviously an advantage for the MAT in being able to utilise staff where best needed. As long as the travel distance was not excessive then even under the current terms and conditions it says about following reasonable directions of the SLT and this would probably fall under such a reasonable direction.
It could also be to the advantage of a staff member if they were working across a number of near by sites as it ensures their use to the MAT.

mrsglowglow Sun 21-May-17 18:43:35

Thank you both for the useful information. That's good to know and quite reassuring. There's a great deal of rumours going around and not easy to know who to believe. One staff member has said that give it a year after the TUPE transfer and the academy will want all its staff on the same pay and conditions so will instigate a pay and review consultation for the entire academy resulting in all staff ending up on the same scales etc.

Millybingbong Sun 21-May-17 19:06:47

Do schools in a MAT have their own governing bodies or is there just one "super" governing body?

prh47bridge Sun 21-May-17 20:40:29

One staff member has said that give it a year after the TUPE transfer and the academy will want all its staff on the same pay and conditions so will instigate a pay and review consultation for the entire academy resulting in all staff ending up on the same scales etc.

They may want it but they can't do it.

Do schools in a MAT have their own governing bodies or is there just one "super" governing body?

That depends on the MAT. Many have a governing body for each school (known as local governing bodies) but it is not required. The MAT determines the powers of the local governing bodies.

admission Sun 21-May-17 21:08:27

It also needs to be said that one of the biggest issues is what exactly the local governing board is and is not.
IN a MAT the Trust Board hold all the power. They decide what can and cannot be delegated to the local governing board. More importantly they can change that at any time, whereas the local governing board does not have any power to influence any changes in the Trust Board. The really important issue is that whilst they might be called the local governing board, they are actually not governors, they are a local committee. The Trust Board is he governors of the MAT.
Anybody who is thinking of joining a MAT needs to understand this and more importantly carry out appropriate due diligence on the MAT, just as the MAT should be carrying out due diligence on the school in question. There have been examples of poor due diligence for example where a MAT took on a school only to discover a very large black hole financially, which the MAT then had to resolve.

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Sun 21-May-17 21:20:37

They can start coming sultan ion on harmonising terms and conditions but unless the unions and management can come to an agreement, they cannot unilaterally make changes.

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Sun 21-May-17 21:21:33

Consultation. Not coming sultan ion.

mrsglowglow Sun 21-May-17 21:57:14

Thanks all for really useful info.

bojorojo Mon 22-May-17 11:34:17

I would assume a C of E MAT runs along similar lines wherever you are. The Diocese will already know the finances, the challenges and the good things. You are already attached to a Diocese Education Service. Whether it is a good MAT is another matter and this will be down to the calibre of staff they employ for school improvement. This is why you, as Governors, need to seek out views from the other schools in the MAT. Is what the C of E offers any good?

nat73 Mon 22-May-17 11:34:30

Thank you everyone, really helpful stuff.

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