There are many challenges associated with creating, or joining a Multi Academy Trust (MAT). One that comes up time and again when speaking to members of staff is the cultural shift away from being a separate, independent entity, to being part of a larger trust. For many teachers, the idea of joining an academy or trust is met with trepidation or even unrest. For a MAT to be successful, it is vital that their most important assets, their staff, feel valued and invested in the direction the new organisation is heading.
As the National Governance Association state in their paper 'Staying in control of your schools destiny', ‘the hardest to quantify, but probably the most important aspect of any organisation is its ethos and culture’.
Clearly research around size, geography, and financial due diligence is extremely important, but often much more readily available and easier to digest for the researching school. One of the main reasons a partnership fails is because there is a mismatch in culture, and because the culture in a MAT is set by the trust’s members and trustees, it is vital that there is a solid identity that is founded upon clear principles and attributes. Cathie Paine from REAch2 Academy stated in Academy Today, once a MAT community has been created and a culture established, ‘it can become a formidable force to be reckoned with’.
Rightly or wrongly, many MATs are often viewed as large, faceless organisations, swallowing up smaller schools who lose their identity and culture. Teachers can feel disengaged and frustrated by poor communication and lack of cohesion between staff. However, it is important to view MATs as a brilliant opportunity to pool resources, share best practice, and provide staff with a sense of ownership and investment; ultimately providing students with the best environment to learn in.
One way of developing a strong working culture and ethos is through a well-designed and cohesive L&D strategy. A uniformed programme that pinpoints your desired learning culture and puts the vision and values at the heart of what the MAT does, helps to foster this common culture. With this shared language and approach, staff feel valued by and valuable to the MAT; allowing them to make a positive impact on their pupils.
Ultimately, if joining an academy or a MAT is something that you are thinking about, being steered towards, or have already completed, you have to engage your staff in the process. There needs to be an ethos and vision for the MAT that staff genuinely believe in and buy into. If you succeed in creating this environment, Kim Johnson from Bradfields Academy states that ‘staff will feel a sense of ownership and investment’ – they feel that they’re working for the academy trust, not the Local Authority.
Virtual College have over 20 years’ experience in the education sector and are really keen to find out how, in an ever changing education market, digital learning can support you in creating a culture to empower staff. We have created a short Survey Monkey to help us understand the challenges and requirements facing academies and trusts, and we would really appreciate you taking 2 minutes out of your day to complete. Please click here to take part in our survey.