In response to the publication of the Department for Education (DfE) Opportunity for All White Paper in March 2022, Strictly Education (part of Supporting Education Group) organised a nationwide survey to gain insight into the challenges faced by multi-academy trusts (MATs).
With the report encouraging trusts to scale to at least ten schools or 7,500 pupils by 2030, MAT leaders face many management and operational challenges.
The survey conducted over the summer formed the MAT Leaders’ Survey Report 2022 and was the basis for discussions in a special webinar Strictly Education hosted last month. Having more support and guidance is a common theme from both the webinar and report findings.
As one respondent stated: “We have a strong leadership team to be able to expand and create a MAT. However, the associated costs of restructuring and aligning with other schools is a significant challenge which the DfE does not appear to be providing any tangible support for.”
This autumn, the education sector is already facing a number of challenges, including issues around resources and associated costs. The three areas most commonly cited as affecting the ability to remain compliant with education legislation, regulations, and requirements are:
With workloads increasing and additional processes time-consuming, 89% of respondents said they felt stressed at work. And, as a result almost two thirds of those surveyed were unable to undertake any form of external CPD in the last year.
Resourcing and capacity are limited. Many are struggling to keep up with their day-to-day roles without the added pressures of due diligence, finance, and legal requirements involved with onboarding new schools.
Education funding, alongside staff recruitment, workload and stress, are the biggest non-academic management challenges facing schools both now and in the future. Academy leaders are calling for funding, support, and resources that will help them better cope with the extra pressures that this transformation creates.
Almost one-third (32%) said Opportunity for All will alter their academy trust’s strategic goals. A higher number (37%) said they were unsure. To date, 31% have not changed their trust’s strategic aims. Just 14% of MATs with 11 to 25 schools said they would likely change their strategic aims. 40% of single academy trusts and 40% of small MATs (five schools or fewer) said they would change their strategic aims.
The government’s desire for all schools to belong to a MAT is ambitious. But for some working in MATs, they are a stretch that will place even more of a workload burden on school leaders.
Key takeaways from the survey and webinar
- Be proactive: Having an operational model that has the capacity to support your growth is imperative for success.
- Be clear: Trust-wide communication is imperative to ensure employee engagement.
- Don’t rush: Taking your time with the due diligence and onboarding process is vital for those looking to grow their MAT.
- Have a vision: And a strategy for growth implementation.
- Invest in employee wellbeing: Implementing wellbeing initiatives, improving communication, and providing support can help manage workplace stress.