Education secretary Damian Hinds is to consult on a new model of holding multi-academy trusts to account.
In a speech to academy chiefs at the first meeting of the Confederation of School Trusts this morning, Mr Hinds said his team at the DfE would be talking to unions and school leaders as well as convening round tables with trust chairs and chief executives – in order to gauge opinion on how to "assess" MATs.
His comments suggest Ofsted may have lost its long running battle to win powers to conduct full inspections of MATs, though Mr Hinds insisted he remains opened-minded.
"I want to ensure that schools and parents can easily access vital information about a particular trust and the performance of a system as a whole," he told his audience of MAT leaders.
"I’ve also been clear that I don’t want to introduce anything that creates more workload for teachers and leaders and governors. It’s about getting the balance right between effective assessment without imposing new burdens.
"We need to make sure our system of oversight holds MATs to account."
Asked by Tes if Ofsted had a role to play in the new model, Mr Hinds said: “I don’t want to prejudice the outcome of these discussions, but I want to remain genuinely open-minded."
He added: “Ofsted are the inspectorate of schools and they are uniquely placed to be able to give a judgement on educational quality.”
In the past Mr Hinds has been very reticent about whether Ofsted should be given greater powers to inspect MATs, and whether to strengthen the oversight of academy chains.
Today, when asked by Tes if he was scared what might be uncovered in inspections of MATs, the education secretary said: "I'm not scared of what we might find. We need to find what we might find.
"And MATs have been a force for enormous good but the reasons why we have inspections and transparency is because this is about public money and because this about the future of our children.”