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Why are we a MAT?

We’ve recently been completing some analysis of the results our first ever staff survey as a multi-academy trust (MAT).  

Although our schools have been running their own surveys on and off since they joined Schoolsworks this is our first attempt to ask consistent questions and seek to learn from our 400 or so employees what they think of working for us.  It’s been a useful and insightful process for us all…

First of all, we were pleased to receive some very positive responses about how people felt about working in our schools and in the Trust.  Naturally, for the majority of staff, their experience is their classroom, their year group, their school and Schoolsworks is not something they consider – or need to consider – every day. Yet, there were many who reported having experienced support and professional development through working across schools and with trust staff.  

Secondly, some staff reported that things aren’t always easy and their perception of change hasn’t been good. It’s important to note that none of us is under the illusion that our workplace experiences will be all sunshine and roses but I hope that working in education and with children provides us with opportunities for fun, positivity and rewarding – sometimes transforming – experiences.  However, working with people – including children from a variety of backgrounds – is always challenging, even at the best of times.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that some of our people are feeling under pressure. And that’s before we even consider the impact of 8% funding cuts in education nationally since 2010, with the result that resources are stretched and staffing numbers have had to decrease.  (By the way, this is true of all schools, not just academies).  On top of this, the expectations of what ‘success’ means, in terms of children’s’ academic outcomes, has increased over the past 3 or 4 years.  

It is interesting to note that our academy schools are among the best performing in the 5 localities where we are based, and yet our overall performance is still just below national averages. So we don’t apologise for seeking to continue to improve these outcomes which naturally requires some hard work and changes for us all.

Schoolsworks started at Edward Bryant School in 2012, and the governing bodies of the 6 subsequent schools that joined our MAT from 2013 to 2018 did so for a variety of reasons.  Now we are a single organisation with a clear sense of purpose together for moving forward. We are driven by values – like being child-centred, maximising everyone’s potential and building healthy relationships – and we are committed to schools being a distinct and individual part of their communities.  

What is clear at this point is that we are now in a position to get the most out of being a small family of schools that work closely together – and that’s what a MAT should be.  

The benefits of being part of Schoolsworks will not always be obvious to everyone for the reasons I have explained above, but we think we can do the following better together, rather than as stand-alone academies or schools within the local authority:

  • collaborate together to support schools ensuring children are getting a consistently good education
  • identify and implement great curriculum programmes that help our children exceed – like Inspire Maths and peer mediation
  • support staff through school-to-school visits and other professional development
  • provide opportunities beyond the individual schools for staff to develop their skills and their careers
  • get best value for money through economies of scale and professional business management
  • provide high-quality ‘back-room’ support to school leaders in terms of finances, HR, premises and legal issues

There is – of course – a lot more work to be done but I’m personally very proud to work with everyone in Schoolsworks and it is certainly my aspiration that all staff have a sense of fulfilment and support at their schools and across the trust.  The survey has shown us an insight into what’s needed to move on, together. Now it’s part of my job to help make that happen – do watch this space…

Chris Seaton

March 2019