Developing Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) inevitably look to attract new schools to grow and fully benefit from the economies of scale that a larger structure can achieve. Yet the location in which a MAT operates can have much bearing on the pool of schools available to recruit. This already sets a disadvantage for MATS starting out in rural locations, where schools are more likely to be separated geographically.
Regional School Commissioners (RSCs) act on behalf of and are accountable to the Secretary of State for Education and a major part of their role is to encourage and decide upon applications from sponsors to operate within any given region. When looking to approve new sponsors geography is a major consideration for RSCs. They’ll assess how equipped a MAT is to serve the needs of all schools within their trust, including avoidance of isolation for schools located a significant distance from the MAT hub.
So how can MAT leaders overcome geographical barriers and ensure all schools have equal opportunity to fully engage with the trust to which they belong?
Technology is already shrinking geographical barriers. The advent of Video Conferencing made it possible to connect several people in different countries, transforming global business. These kinds of advances should mean that MATs are unrestricted by geography and that every school can be involved equally.
 Source: Department for Education ‘Multi academy trusts – Good practice guidance and expectations for growth’. December 2016
Every school prior to joining a MAT will have had their own way of communicating with staff, students and parents. Combining these micro-cultures will inevitably lead to a multitude of communication methods that could leave schools on the periphery, feeling isolated. Whether MAT leaders work within a leading school or exist as a separate entity, it is important to be able to demonstrate how communication and collaboration will work for everyone. Here’s some ways in which this can be achieved with technological support:
Implementing a centralised communication system, such as a MAT intranet, ensures schools have access to the same information and enables MAT-wide communications to be shared with everyone at once. To work effectively, the MAT intranet should be easily accessible and rich with information so that schools engage with it. Establishing a protocol for MAT communications early sets expectations, so that schools don’t default to existing methods.
In a MAT every school will have strengths and weaknesses that need to be recognised for central learning. If School A gets really great results from their students in Maths what can the other schools learn from their approach? It would be difficult to identify individual successes across schools – especially geographically isolated ones – without the support of technology. It is entirely possible to connect every school to a central dashboard which would enable them to access relevant information – such as best practice – from other schools within the MAT. The MAT can also administrate access permissions so that everyone can share securely at every level. This type of interface works across any geographical network and ensures every school can contribute on an equal footing.
Training and Implementation
Whilst technology does a great job of overcoming geographical barriers, its implementation and use greatly affects performance. it is important that every school understands the role it is to play in their lives and the benefits it will bring. For this reason, training and implementation works well with a comprehensive ‘train the trainer’ strategy for onboarding newly recruited schools.
How Frog Supports MATs
Frog Education has developed a comprehensive suite of solutions that respond to the complex challenges faced by MAT leaders. As Multi Academy Trusts vary so much we fully recommend starting your enquiries with our free consultation offer. If you’d like to arrange a visit, please complete the form below and we’ll be in touch.