An individual school can convert into a single standalone Academy or it can convert as part of a chain with other schools.
There are three main types of collaborative structures, these are outlined below.
1. Multi-Academy Trust Model (MAT)
A MAT is an academy trust and all schools within the MAT must be of the same constitution and will be governed by a single set of members (the trust) and a board of directors. The trust itself must have three members which are normally comprised of Governors from previous governing bodies or foundation bodies. The directors of the MAT are appointed by the members, plus a staff Governor, a minimum of two parent Governors and the chair of each local Governing Body. This ensures that every Academy within the MAT has a voice, but ultimately the trust is accountable for all the academies within the MAT.
- MATs provide a strong and clear collaborative link between the schools;
- There is flexibility of moving staff members between the Academies as the MAT will be the employer of all staff;
- Each Academy within the MAT is entitled to individual funding so there is the flexibility, subject to the terms of the funding agreement, to combine some of the funds;
- The MAT may be in a stronger position than individual schools to negotiate contracts and take advantage of economies of scale; and
- There may be support by stronger schools of weaker schools.
- Loss of independence;
- An element of each schools budget may be used to support central costs; and
- One school in the MAT may affect another so there may be greater reputational risk.
2. Umbrella Trust (UT)
This is available to schools within different constitutions to become Academies, but which create and nominate representatives to sit on an UT which provides shared governance, procurement, collaboration and even a joint ethos. It is not an Academy and does not report to the Education Funding Agency. The UT acts as a sponsor and is a separate legal trust.
- It may be attractive to those schools close to each other, or perhaps a primary and secondary school;
- It is a less formal union that a MAT and its purpose is flexible as it does not enter into any agreement with the Secretary of State;
- It allows schools to retain autonomy;
- It may benefit from economies of scale; and
- Schools are not financially or legally responsible for each other.
- The UT will not have a funding agreement with the DfE and therefore will have to source its own funding.
The schools in this model will convert as a standalone Academy and there is no shared trust or formalised governance structure as there is with a MAT or UT. The Academies themselves determine the terms and formalities of an agreement to work together.
- Less formal and flexible;
- A separate entity is not required as they are independent Academies who sign an agreement to assist each other and work together;
- There is no shared governance;
- Procurement of services together.
- If a school is struggling and seeks the help of a more successful school then it must consider what, if anything, it can offer in return for the assistance;
- The trustees will be under a duty to act in the best interest of their own school and pupils and not other schools in the partnership, so there is fine balance between doing this and ensuring the partnership works.