Sunday, 23 September 2018

25 questions for Multi-Academy Trusts

The recent episode of Panorama, 'Profits Before Pupils' revealed worrying issues regarding the financial management of a number of Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). The academy landscape is complex and difficult to navigate; so how can parents and local communities keep themselves fully informed about potential changes and short and long-term impact of academisation?  

This crowd-sourced question list attempts to give a steer to parents. While it particularly focuses on consultations where schools are joining MATs, the questions may be useful to pose to any school considering changes to governance.  Many thanks to everyone who contributed.

1. What are the potential benefits and disadvantages of joining the MAT?

2. What will the change actually mean on the ground, for the children in the school?

3. What other options are possible and have been considered?

Values and Identity

4. What are the values of the MAT?

5. What discussions are being had about compatibility, in terms of values?

6. How will the individual identity of the school be preserved? What steps will be taken to ensure this actually happens?

7. How diverse is the Board?  What is the representation of women and people of colour?

8. What work is the MAT doing around equality and inclusion? Do they invest in resources (materials, books etc) that reflect the diversity of the communities they serve?

9.  What are the demographics like in the other schools?  Will constant comparison be made to these schools?

10. What is the view on uniform? How is affordability prioritised? 

Governance and Finance

11. Will the MAT have local governance?

12. Is there a clear scheme of delegation?  How do we access it?

13. Has the Chair been visible and an active participant in discussions about joining? 

14. Will the school's top slice not only provide better value for money, but higher quality services including CPD, curriculum resources, supply staffing, recruitment support, employee benefits and technology/site management support?

15. Is the school committed to supporting the MAT's other schools and is that commitment reciprocated?

16. Will staff be able to contribute their expertise and best practice to feed into MAT-wide improvement/innovation or will they be passengers?

17. Will PTA fundraising be ring-fenced?

18. Will any cash reserves the school brings be ringfenced for our school?

19. To what extent will any one school's funding be used to top up another in the MAT who might be in deficit? Is this capped?

20. Can the MAT evidence a clear breakdown of the central service top-slice charges?

Policy

21. What do the behaviour, inclusion and SEND policies look like?

22. Who will carry out school improvement support?

23. What are the planned strategic and sustainable benefits for staff professional learning and development across the trust? 

24. How often do executive leaders spend time in school, with teachers, students or chatting to parents?

25. And an important reminder from @JulieEClarke to consider Tony Benn's '5 Essential Questions of Democracy' - which cut to the heart of the matter:

What power have you got?
Where did you get it from?
In whose interests do you use it?
To whom are you accountable?
How do we get rid of you?

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