Weak internal accountability at academy trust level

Ofsted has published a report into the influence of multi-academy trusts on day-to-day practice in their schools and the extent of their impact on leaders and teachers.

While many MATs are seen to play a central role in setting school policies, monitoring performance, recruitment, and training, the report found that there is weak internal accountability at trust level.

The report highlights that schools in larger trusts benefit from economies of scale, back-office support, training, career progression and recruitment. But, size can be negative, and some MATs took on a large number of schools in difficulty quickly, without always having the central capacity and leadership required to improve them.

Equally, getting everyone together in the same place can be costly, time-consuming and frustrating, particularly if the geographical spread of a MAT is wide. Therefore, the report recommends better use of sharing data.

Currently, Ofsted can only carry out summary evaluations of the quality of education provided by a MAT by inspecting a sample of their schools - it can’t inspect the trust itself nor make graded judgements.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted Chief Inspector, said: “Three quarters of academy schools now belong to a multi-academy trust, whose job it is to make important decisions - not just about the financial management of their schools, but also what is taught in them, and how it is taught and assessed. Some MATs may control as many as 50 or more schools.

“Given the power and influence of MATs, it’s important that they are properly accountable to parents. The fact that Ofsted is unable to inspect trusts directly means parents and policy makers are only given a partial view of what is happening in our schools. This presents some very real risks, which we have seen highlighted by the recent failures of some academy trusts.”

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