Every multi-academy trust (MAT) is unique and there is no perfect success formula. In essence, that is why they exist – to give education leaders autonomy to run their schools to achieve the best outcomes.
Based on our 25 years of experience (and counting!) of providing HR, payroll and pension solutions to MATs in varying stages of development and growth, we believe that people are at the heart of the most successful MATs. Below are some areas to consider when developing your growth strategy in order to achieve your strategic vision.
Adopt a people strategy
Develop a strategic workforce plan that reflects the MAT you want to become in the future, not just the MAT that you are today. A school’s workforce accounts for over 80% of the total budget and should be considered an asset as well as a cost.
MATs of all sizes should also consider and plan if/when central functions will be introduced; these can provide cost-savings and efficiencies, in addition to transparency and consistency across the trust. Your HR providers should work as an extension of your internal HR team.
Carefully consider how you will cluster schools together within your MAT. Many of the challenges growing MATs face are borne out of the differing terms and conditions inherited as the trust takes on schools in different Local Authority areas. This also has pension implications where schools pay in to different funds. Prior to a new school joining the trust, it is key to understand what you are inheriting and the best way to do this is to conduct a thorough and systematic due diligence process.
If you have not yet harmonised terms and conditions across your trust, you may want to consider if and when is best to do this. This will involve consultation with recognised trade unions where you are looking to change terms and conditions for some staff.
Keep up-to-date with changes in the sector
Keeping up-to-date with developments in the sector, such as increases to teachers pay and pension contributions and the impact of the support staff national pay spine restructure 2019, is imperative so that you can assess the impact across your trust on budgets and future plans. The ever-changing nature of the education sector makes future planning difficult, however the sooner you are aware of any changes, the sooner you can adjust your strategy and stay ahead of the curve.
Learn from others
What has worked for one MAT might not work for another, and the opportunities and challenges that you will face will often be context-specific. However, you can take a lot of ideas and inspiration from best practice case studies, and you should use these learnings to guide your own decision-making.
Our experience of working with over 150 MATs enable us to provide you with up to date, ‘live’ examples of the different ways that MATs approach challenges in the sector.
Carefully select third party providers
Ensure that any third-party providers that you use (e.g. HR or Payroll & Pensions providers, which might help to standardise procedures across your MAT) have the necessary experience, expertise and capacity to support growing and evolving MATs.
Where a third party provider supports all schools within your MAT, this can provide added value not only in terms of cost-savings but also for consistency and clarity across the trust, including trust-wide reporting.
EPM is this year’s MAT Summit Theatre sponsor. Join them at 11am in the MAT Summit for their interactive session titled ‘Redefining your People Strategy: Key Considerations for Academies and MATs’.