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The evolution of multi-academy trusts

Date published: Date modified: 2023-07-11

Multi-academy trusts (MATs) are becoming more prominent across the UK, and with the government’s release of the 2022 Schools White Paper, Opportunity for All, there are plans to steer the focus towards all schools joining one by 2030.

What are multi-academy trusts and what does the future of education look like? Here, we look at the history and future of MATs.

What is a multi-academy trust?

A multi-academy trust is an assembly of academies that have joined together to form a trust or have joined an existing trust.

Academies are educational institutions that depend on state funding directly from the Department for Education (DfE) and are run by an academy trust. When academies join a trust, they must adhere to an Academy Funding Agreement. They have more control over how they do things than maintained schools.

Trusts can run a single academy or group of academies, and they employ staff and have trustees who handle the performance of the academies within the trust. Some academies are supported by sponsors – such as businesses, universities or other schools.

Even though academies are part of a trust, they are individually inspected by Ofsted. They follow the same rules on admissions, special educational needs, and exclusions as other maintained schools.

If a school funded by the local authority is judged as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted, then it must become an academy.

“Multi-academy trusts have been created by many of our best leaders, teachers and governors to improve and sustain standards in our schools. We know that the composition of MATs varies in different locations, and there is no right model.” – Sir David Carter, Former National Schools Commissioner

Why do we have multi-academy trusts?

To put it simply, the government wants to move towards a stronger, more competitive, education system. By 2030, central government visions that all schools will be part of a MAT.

Schools within a MAT can learn from each other and have the support from the trust leaders supporting them with efficiencies and sound financial decision making.

With trusts becoming more mainstream, the educational landscape will become more competitive, too. With stronger trust formations, performance standards will increase. Ofsted results will drive this change and MATs will naturally evolve from this.

Multi-academy trusts: Key facts

  • Top performing MATs include Star Academies, Dixons Academies Charitable Trust Ltd and The Cardinal Hume Academies Trust.
  • In 2019, almost 3.8 million pupils attended academies in England.
  • There are 1,460 MATs as of 2022.
  • 64% of pupils reached the expected standard in core subjects at KS2 in 2019.
  • 81% of MATS have a Data Protection Officer; 72% of MATs have appropriate reporting procedures; 90% of MATs have an information governance groups; 90% produce regular staff bulletins.

The history of multi-academy trusts: A timeline

From 1944-present, MATs have grown in existence and popularity. Let’s start from the beginning…

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What does the future look like for multi-academy trusts?

In recent news, the government hope for ‘far more schools’ in multi-academy trusts by 2025.

The 2022 Schools White Paper, Opportunity for All, gave councils the power to set up multi-academy trusts, pushing plans even further to have all schools convert by 2030.

Chapter 4 of the White Paper states, ‘By 2030, all children will benefit from being taught in a family of schools, with their school in a strong multi-academy trust or with plans to join or form one.’

‘All schools will provide a high quality and inclusive education within the resilient structure of a strong trust, 64 sharing expertise, resources, and support to help teachers and leaders deliver better outcomes for children.’ – Schools White Paper, Opportunity for All

Schools Week reported that £86 million will be invested in growing and ‘strengthening’ multi-academy trusts over the next three years, with an added £40 million for ‘bespoke interventions’ to address local issues like high absence in 24 of the government’s 55 ‘education investment areas’.

But with plans to convert all schools in nearly eight years’ time, it’s not yet known what will happen to those that decide not to make the move voluntarily.

Comparing MATs from 2019 to 2021, allows us to highlight challenges and shortcomings. These lessons will help drive MAT growth in the future. Strong governance, school leadership and parent backing will be a key driving force to successful MATs.

It’s clear that MATs still have a long way to go, but they will be a vital part in the ever-changing educational landscape.

As government and school leaders support MAT growth, they'll become increasingly prevalent in the sector.

Read more about the government's steps to improve education by reading the Schools White Paper.

The education landscape is ever-changing, let us guide you…

Our all-encompassing, cost-effective solutions are tailored for schools, academies, and trusts. Our finance, payroll and supply experts are here to provide you with the support you need, so you can focus on educational excellence and pupil care. We support MAT set-up and expansion and can aid in the end-to-end complexities.


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By SAAF Education
SAAF Education 340 110

22 August 2022


SAAF Education

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