Leaders in Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) face unique organisational and operational challenges. They are responsible for large budgets and a lot of people – including students, staff, governors and stakeholders like the Department for Education (DfE), Local Authorities and parents.

At the same time, they have very little control over funding or income and so face a challenging balancing act.

Our work with leaders in this area has shown us the key things that matter to the sector, and we’re using this to help us create a focused model and wider leadership thinking to assist leaders to take the next steps for their MATs, whatever their plans. An overview of this thinking can be split into three areas:

  1. Your approach to growth
    Do you have a strategy or vision for growth for your MAT? If so, what is it? For some MATs it’s around free schools, or it could be acquiring a Single Academy Trust, or taking over another MAT. Each of these strategies – and any others – requires a clear understanding of the current operating model and how it can adapt to the growth strategy
  2. Your current operating model
    How does your MAT currently operate? Do you have a model that outsources support, or insources? Are services centralised or decentralised? Is this a conscious design based on available skill sets or a historical set up? How would you manage a new school or trust coming into your MAT that operates differently?
  3. Your culture
    What does your current culture look like, and how do you manage it? Some leaders actively manage their cultures whilst others are happy just to set the tone from the top and nudge the culture along. Think about how you assimilate cultures when you start working with a new school. In particular, what are the challenges of taking over a successful school with a successful headteacher and leadership team in place?

Understanding the purpose and ethos of your MAT – and being clear about your value proposition to all your audiences is key to managing your current operating model and planning for future growth. It’s the type of strategic thinking that often benefits from an external point of view – one with education sector experience – and an understanding of how a focused approach to strategy and culture can make a difference to other management elements of your organisation.

Our recent work with a London-based MAT
The MAT is a collection of good and outstanding schools based in London. We were asked to review the Trust’s 2020-2025 strategy to analyse its effectiveness for setting a shared vision for its schools and to provide an up-to-date strategic framework and roadmap that all schools could understand and follow.

We compared the current strategy to industry good practice and current Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and next level of leadership priorities, including recovery from the disruption caused by the pandemic. We also established a baseline for SLT and LT appetite for further expanding the Trust, which would bring about some change issues.

We worked closely with the CEO and executive team to inform and update targets for further growth, setting goals for improved standards and to maintain and improve the Trust’s reputation in schools and its local communities. If your MAT needs support to design and manage operational change, we’d welcome the opportunity to have a conversation with you.

(Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash)

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