What is a MAT?
A MAT stands for Multi-Academy Trust, a non-profit making charitable trust that runs state funded schools. It is a legal entity that governs a group of schools through a single set of trustees. It is set up by a group of schools, usually a local collaboration, that share a common ethos and vision. Alternatively, it is the result of previous MATs coming together into a merged MAT – as a result of a shared vision, values and ethos.
Once a MAT has been set up, further schools can join, or the MAT can be asked to "sponsor‟ a school, particularly one which requires support.
What is the Department of Education’s perspective on MAT mergers?
The Department's focus is to develop capacity for school improvement and to empower school leadership to reach beyond traditional confines. Smaller MATs are considered less financially viable in the longer term, and the Department is encouraging mergers of the smaller, like-minded MATs.
How will the merged Trust be governed?
The merged Trust will have a Board of Trustees whose responsibility is to ensure the overall strategic direction of all schools, and maximise the funding for the benefit of the pupils themselves. These will be a collaboration of trustees from the two existing MATs.
Individual schools will maintain their own boards of governors, school names, uniforms admission policies and operational integrity.
Who are these Trustees?
The details of each of the Trustees will be published on the Trust's websites, along with their attendance at meetings and their involvement in any other public organisations.
Trustees are appointed to the board by the “members” and it is these members who can also remove them. The board will conduct a regular skills audit ensuring that it has the key skills to hold the Trust’s leadership teams to account.
Trustees are unpaid volunteers –they do not receive remuneration for their dedicated service to schools.
How will we know money is being well spent and the merged trust will seek value for money?
There are many checks and balances on how the schools will spend their finances as there are currently. Most importantly, expenditure will be based on a set of core principles which place the pupils at the heart of the budget plans. The most money is used for education, for employing great teachers remunerating them properly and looking after them, knowing that staff who feel valued both in their pay and their conditions, are staff who will be most effective in teaching the pupils.
Of course, the financial plans will also seek to make savings over the longer term by developing the central services team.
Will I have to buy new uniform?
All schools will keep their own individual uniform.
Will my child’s teacher change?
If your child’s teacher changes, it will not be because of the merger. Teachers regularly move around in a school, and across schools as they seek to develop their careers, but if this happens it is not because of the new Trust.
In fact, the larger Trust should enable us to retain the best teachers more easily.
Will each school lose its financial independence and its ability to manage its own finances?
Each school is already an academy in a MAT, so there are already common financial procedures in place.
We will look to make savings through joint procurement, but this will be done in partnership with the schools.
Will there be a loss of autonomy for the Local Advisory Boards?
The responsibilities of each Local Advisory Board is to single-mindedly focus on their school and ensure that the Head Teacher is both supported and held to account for delivery of high standards of education and pastoral care.
The Scheme of Delegation will ensure clear lines of responsibilities between the MAT Board of Trustees and the LABs who would continue to make the decisions about their school. All schools in the merged Trust would retain their unique culture, ethos, high standards and working practices.
How will parent voice be affected? Will they still have a say in how the schools should be run?
All the schools are committed to the same vision which is about local community engagement and providing parents and pupils with a strong voice in how the schools should operate. This will continue.
What happens to the individual PTA’s and Friends organisations?
Where there is one, each school retains their own PTA and fundraising ideas. However, we can imagine some great opportunities for joined up socialising in the future!
Will working with other schools mean lowering our own standards or possibly detracting resources from our own school?
The schools within the merged trust are high performing, local schools. Sharing expertise can only improve this further.
What will happen to our land and buildings?
All land and buildings will be leased by the merged trust rather than by the two MATs.
Will holiday dates change?
With exception of some possible tweaks to staff training days, we will continue with the term dates that have already been set.
Will e-mail addresses change?
For staff with e-mail addresses linked to their school name, there will be no changes to any of the contact details. If, however, a staff member has an Acorn or Wesley Trust e-mail address then it would be sensible for us to change this if plans proceed. We will be undertaking a review of IT infrastructure as part of the due diligence process.
Will Trust wide projects continue?
This is a partnership where the best ideas will be shared. If a project is working well, then we will look to expand it across the new Trust.
Will staff have to work in different schools?
In the main, no. There may be occasions were some specialist roles, such as finance or leadership, may be asked to help cover for a colleague if they have to be off for a period of time.
There may also be other opportunities where we can offer promotions within the Trust to really good staff. We would only look at this if staff were in agreement.
Schools are, however, about giving our children stability and structure – so we don’t want to have lots of staff moving around unnecessarily.
Will children be told?
Children will be receiving a child friendly letter from their head teachers explaining about this letter. If they have any questions then please refer them to their teacher.
Will schools all have to use the same suppliers?
Working over a number of local authorities is not uncommon for Trusts. Of course, there will be the opportunity to individual schools to have individual agreements with their local suppliers and local authority, but we will also look at where there is opportunity to procure support as a wider group in order to help realise some efficiencies in terms of finance. As all trusts are exempt charities, it is important to stress that these savings are not “profit”. The money is reinvested in the education of our children.
Why the name Epworth Education Trust?
Epworth is the birth place of John Wesley. The proposed logo comes from an image in one of the stain glass windows in the church.
How do you propose to facilitate high quality continued professional development?
For our Trust to achieve our ambitions for our children, we need to have a strong focus on developing our staff. There is already a great deal of very strong practice across all the schools – and we can strengthen this further by sharing the best ideas and innovations. This will help to improve standards and reduce workload.
In addition, by drawing together the CPD budgets of both trusts we can achieve greater value for money and more with the budgets that we have. We are already looking at bespoke programmes and there is greater opportunity for us to meet staff requests to go through external training programmes, such as the NPQ.
How will pay be determined and awarded?
All relevant staff will TUPE over to the new Trust on their existing terms and conditions. It is important to stress that the Trust will still follow the national guidelines established in the Burgundy and Green Books. These are documents that the Unions agreed at a national level to help schools and trusts have some uniformity over what they pay staff.
One of the exercises that we will undertake in due course is, despite each of the school’s various histories and locations, to undertake a full check to ensure that there is equality in terms of pay and conditions across the whole staff body.
While staff may reach their maximum pay award on their scale, as they would in any school, being part of a broader trust does offer opportunities for further responsibility. This will help staff move up the appropriate pay scales. This will also help us to retain the very best staff.
We will, of course, continue to ensure that all staff get the pay rises that the Government also determine.
When did the discussions about the merger first start?
The objectives of both trusts has always been to grow. There has been an understanding from both boards that this was prudent not just from an educational and financial perspective, but also our Methodist ethos encourages us to reach out and support others.
During a conversation towards the start of the 2019/20 academic year, there were some very broad brush discussions about the possibilities of greater collaboration which lead to the formation of a working party. The trusts have shared a CEO from a number of months. This has been a useful exploratory period to really understand how we can work together, whether that be informally or formally, and where the challenges and opportunities could be.
How would the governance of the merged Trust be affected by any potential future additional schools joining the Trust, either amongst other existing Methodist schools in the north-west or beyond, or potentially non-Methodist schools? How would the distinctive Methodist/Christian ethos of the Trust be maintained and effectively expressed should other schools, especially non-Methodist schools, join later?
The new Trust will initially include the three schools from the Wesley Trust and two schools from the AcornTrust. All the schools are Good or better. It is likely, and our hope, that we would look to support to other schools in the future – particularly those facing challenges. Providing this support and guidance is at the heart of the Methodist ethos.
It is important to stress, however, that we have no intention for the new Trust grow in a way that is not considered, strategic and supported by a robust due-diligence process. While trustees can see the benefit of welcoming additional schools in the future, there is no desire for the Trust to grow simply for growths sake. Any future partnerships will be assessed based on ethos, capacity and the possible long-term benefits for both the Trust and the school.
There is the possibility that some of these schools may be non-Methodist schools. If this does happen, this does not mean that the ethos of faith element of the Trust will be lost. Our members and trustees set the vision and ethos. It is set out in our Articles of Association that the majority of members must be Methodist, and it is the members who appoint the trustees. Also, we do not envisage the situation where the majority of our schools would not be Methodist. If, however, a Church of England primary or primary without a religious designation (but with a similar ethos and values) needed our support, then it is in our nature as Methodists to provide that support if we possibly can.
How would any potential future expansions be effectively communicated to Trust schools?
Wherever possible, before signing the funding agreement to welcome any school into the Trust, we will run a listening period for both their community and ours to give their thoughts and views on any partnership. While the decision about whether a school should potentially join our Trust lies with trustees and stakeholders such as the Regional Schools Commissioner and Headteacher Board, the report from this listening period will be considered by trustees.