So what is a ‘multi-academy trust’?

As an increasing number of state secondary schools become academies, Dr Jane Cullen examines the education system.

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How a multi-academy trust works

A ‘multi-academy trust’ is a group of schools in partnership with each other, often but not always because they are geographically close to one another. Where a trust has both primary and secondary schools, it can be because those primary schools are the ‘feeder’ schools for the secondary schools in the trust. Some multi-academy trusts can have 30 or 40 schools, some will be a much smaller group of perhaps half a dozen. The trust featured in the OU/BBC co-produced School series has seven schools in it: four secondary schools and three primary schools. There are obvious advantages to working as a group of schools, for example in terms of creating common policies, streamlining, school organisation, sharing expertise — including schools in the trust lending staff to each other.

These trusts are run on business lines — they are given funding from the government but they then make all of the decisions themselves about how the money is spent and how to balance the books — in this sense they are on their own.

Nevertheless, the multi-academy trust model also has its fair share of critics. It has been an inevitable effect of this government policy that the wide ranging support previously offered by local authorities has been diminished or even eradicated altogether. These trusts are run on business lines — they are given funding from the government but they then make all of the decisions themselves about how the money is spent and how to balance the books — in this sense they are on their own.

Head teachers and a Chief Executive Officer

The OU/BBC series School features a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) — a role imported from the business world and, though the CEO is a former head teacher, his role is senior to all the head teachers of the individual schools. Throughout the series he is seen focusing on budgets, deficits, provision of services and cost reduction — and with very little emphasis on the teaching and learning in each of the schools, except for a close interest in exam results.

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