Revealed: Councils bidding for DfE MAT trial

At least eight local authorities have expressed interest in the government pilot to develop council-run MATs
3rd August 2022, 5:00am

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Revealed: Councils bidding for DfE MAT trial

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/revealed-councils-bidding-dfe-mat-trial
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At least eight local education authorities have asked to take part in a government trial to develop multi-academy trusts (MATs) run by councils.

The trial follows plans for councils to establish MATs for the first time, as set out in the Department for Education’s Schools White Paper.

As part of the plans, the DfE has invited councils to register an interest in being involved in a “test and learn” pilot exercise to help develop council-established MATs.

Eight councils from across the country have confirmed to Tes that they were applying to be involved in the project. The DfE deadline for applying was Saturday 31 July.

The councils that have said they are registering an interest to be involved in the test and learn project are:

  • Cheshire East
  • Hampshire
  • Dorset 
  • Herefordshire
  • Kent
  • North Northamptonshire 
  • Northumberland
  • North Tyneside

Cheshire West and Chester Council and Essex County Council both said they were interested in the scheme, but did not confirm whether they had applied. Essex was among a number of authorities that have previously told Tes it was interested in establishing a MAT.

Meanwhile, more than 40 councils have told Tes that they have not registered an interest in being involved in the trial.

In June, former education secretary Nadhim Zahawi told the Local Government Association conference that there had been an “overwhelming” interest from councils in establishing MATs. 

‘Test and learn’

When the DfE launched its plans for a test and learn project earlier this year, it said that all maintained schools (primary, secondary, special or alternative provision) and academy trusts were eligible to be part of a local authority-established MAT.

The department also said it expects council-established trusts to be small initially, with fewer than 10 schools or 7,500 pupils. The department would manage the size of new trusts to ensure they were strong before considering growth, it said.

The DfE has set the goal of having all state schools in or moving towards being in a MAT by 2030.

It has said its starting position will be that maintained schools should, where possible, join strong MATs rather than form new ones, whether established by a local authority or not.

‘High performing and diverse’

It has said its test and learn exercise will support a small number of projects. The DfE said it was looking for “a broad mix of high performing LAs, which, together, reflect the geographic diversity of the country and a mix of school types and phases.”

The aim of this test and learn approach will allow the department to work with a small number of councils to test the concept of an LA-established MAT.

The DfE is now reviewing applications for the “test and learn” exercise and is expected to set out the next steps to local authorities in due course.

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