Wilkin Chapman LLP and Forrester Boyd Chartered Accountants hosted an education conference on 28th June at Glanford Park. The firms both discussed the changes in the academies landscape, what we know from Government in terms of the direction of travel, and what the DfE are planning in terms of Academy conversions.
In 2022, there were over 10,000 academies in the UK but 60% of those who have converted are still standalone academies. The government has cancelled the Schools Bill, but the Schools White Paper ‘Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child’ still hold principles that the DfE are following. Schools can no longer convert to a single academy status, they must either join a MAT or create one. Time is running out for those schools who have not yet converted. Those who are underperforming (Ofsted graded ‘Inadequate’ or two or more consecutive ratings below ‘Good’) can be forced to join a MAT and the choice of partner will be taken away from them. Meanwhile, the race is on for those not converted or single academies to start to think about what MAT they would like to join.
No-one wants to be the last one being picked for the sports team and the principle is the same here. If you don’t want to have to make do with very limited options, then the time is now to start your due diligence.
Speakers from both sides of the camp spoke of their experiences being a non-academy head and then in control of a MAT.
Whilst there is still scepticism about whether or not the Schools Bill will be reignited, one thing that is clear is that the DfE are pushing forward with encouraging everyone to become part of a MAT.
If you don’t want to be left out in the cold, what do you need to do?
The first thing is to talk to other schools that have joined a MAT. Talk to schools both inside and outside your local authority. How did they find the transition? What do they feel are the benefits? What is it like for them being part of a MAT?
If you are considering joining a MAT, go into it with your eyes wide open. Does the culture fit? Are the ethos and values aligned to yours? If you cannot find a MAT that you have an affinity with, can you create your own MAT with other schools or single academies that do have an aligned set of values?
It is also imperative that you talk to professionals. Accountants and law firms that specialise in academy conversions have been supporting clients for many years now in the conversion process. They have seen what it takes to make a successful transition, and have seen the warning signs of those that do not, so seek advice and support early on in your process.
Carrie Jensen, partner and academy specialist at Forrester Boyd said during her presentation, “Centralisation of your finances and data is a crucial consideration. Through utilising central resources and systems, there will be a host of efficiencies to be gained. Not only in terms of financial efficiencies, but processes, systems, resources. This will help to create consistency throughout the Academies within a MAT and allow for collaborative approaches in terms of CPD, resources and opportunities for increased efficiencies”
There are so many things that need to be considered, but this is where the professionals are here to help and guide you and relieve a lot of the burden from your shoulders. The key thing however is due diligence. Do your research, communicate with your stakeholders and with other schools. Make an informed decision that all your stakeholders are on-board with and then ensure that you communicate the benefits and opportunities that can be realised from your decision.
If you need help or would like to discuss your options in relation to converting to an academy or joining a MAT, please do get in touch with us. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org