Teachers working for multi-academy trusts worry that the growth of their organisation will reduce their influence and make management more remote, an Ofsted study has found.
The research – which is yet to be published – also found that people in some schools feel a sense of “grief” and that they have been “emasculated” by a loss of autonomy, according to one of the researchers behind the work.
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Ofsted’s MAT research project is a qualitative study involving 121 schools across 41 MATs, with 700 people interviewed as part of the process.
The report is not set to be published for some weeks. But at the Confederation of School Trust’s spring conference, Sue Lewis, a senior research lead at Ofsted, outlined some of the preliminary findings.
Ms Lewis said that “the people who took part, on the whole, were very positive about the benefits of belonging to a MAT, often indicating that wasn’t how they felt before they became part of the MAT”.
However, some interviewees raised concerns about a loss of parental influence and local decision making, particularly as MATs grew.
“We did get a very strong message from some schools, some local governors in particular, that they felt that was a challenge in their MAT, that the route that parents had in terms of influencing the MAT and the direction of the MAT was very limited, if not non-existent,” she said.
While interviewees highlighted possible benefits from MAT growth in terms of “potential for further resource and influence”, she said teachers worried about it.
“School staff in particular worried about MAT growth, and about the impact of geographical spread, and whether MAT growth would bring with it new systems that led them to be even more remote, for example from the MAT leadership and whether changes would happen which would leave the MAT going in a particular direction which they would no longer be able to influence.”
School staff and MAT leaders alike worried about “losing their distinctiveness…their identity if you like as a MAT” if they grew.
The growth of MATs has in many cases involved power shifting away from local governing bodies, and Ms Lewis said that individual schools felt this “loss of local governance”. “Even where there was a local governing body, the ambiguity around that governing body’s rights, responsibilities, accountability, meant schools were feeling at times it was a little bit emasculated,” she said.
“There was a fear and, at times, a grief around the loss of autonomy. But only a very few schools felt it constrained their work.”