PrimarySite Research Report

COVID-19 PREDICTED TO SLOW THE EXPANSION OF MULTI ACADEMY TRUSTS New research exposes how multi-academy trusts are struggling to grow and Covid-19 adds to the challenges

Today we’re helping to launch new research, produced by PrimarySite the education branding and website company, which questions how easy it is for multi academy trusts (MATS) to grow and how Covid-19 has made expansion harder. Sustainable Growth in Multi Academy Trusts interviewed and surveyed MAT leaders and experts to get their insight on how MAT could grow. 

The research identifies five important challenges: lack of available schools wanting to join MATs, a risk averse culture, competition from other MATs, a shortage of senior leaders with the right expertise, and limited access to funding to support growth.  The research also found that managing immediate issues linked to the pandemic needed to take priority and would slow the growth of MATs plans for growth.

Rachel Panther, Managing Director, PrimarySite said: “The research shows that MAT leaders are keen to grow in a sustainable way but face numerous challenges which have now intensified due to Covid-19.  We were prompted to undertake this research ahead of Covid-19 because there is very little advice for MAT leaders on the practicalities of growth.  With the arrival of the pandemic I feel this is needed more than ever.  Our report is packed with advice from MAT leaders, and I hope that in these challenging times this will be a useful resource for MATs that have an ambition to grow.”

The research found that smaller MATs felt under pressure to grow, but options for growth were limited. One approach is for smaller MATs to merge together, or join a larger MAT. However the research found that many respondents would not consider a growth strategy based on merging with other MATs.

Stephen Morales who was a member of the research steering group and is the CEO of the Institute of School Business Leadership said: “Covid-19 is a huge disruptive challenge for the leaders of MATs and growth plans are likely to slow down. In the medium term, mergers may well increase as smaller trusts cope with the longer term impact of the crisis. However, access to the right advice and help about growth is essential. This research asks important questions and I recommend that MAT leaders, and others involved in this area of education, read it.”

The research found that MAT leaders were also cautious about managing the outcomes of rapid growth and committed to ensuring that any school joining their MAT supported its values and ethos. Mark Lacey, also a member of the research steering group and CEO of the Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust said: “It’s essential to ensure that our growth is responsible and sustainable and that’s even more important now that we’re dealing with Covid-19 as well. In the early years some MATs did grow too quickly and this led to issues. I think the whole sector has learnt from this and is now, rightly, more cautious. What’s important is that MAT leaders have a clear vision and strategy for growth which is quite specific and avoids a scatter gun, reactive approach.”

To download the free report, visit here.