When our school changed to become an academy and then part of a multi- academy trust (MAT), I was not optimistic about the future. Talk of sharing resources across 12 schools made me panic about budgets being stretched beyond their means and I worried about my place in the larger organisation: would I suddenly be told that I had to leave my school and work in a different one?
The fears were partly driven by the bad press MATs have received among teachers, particularly on social media. Some of the claims about what academisation and MATs might bring have been incredibly worrying.
But after just over 18 months as part of a MAT, I have found my fears have been allayed. Yes, there are some drawbacks, but there are just as many issues when you are a single school going it alone.
And there are multiple – unexpected – positives.
A key benefit has been the impact on transitions. In our MAT, there is a mix of primary and secondary schools. We now have real cohesion across our Year 6 and 7 teachers, as there are options for movement of teachers between schools and phases as part of MAT-wide CPD. Secondary and primary colleagues observe each other regularly and this has led to much better transitions.
We have also been able to create a bigger, stronger sixth form by merging provisions. This benefits both schools and children alike, as resources can be focused in one place.
One surprise I have had is that being "sent" to another school – which I feared – is actually something many teachers actively seek out. Being part of a network of 12 schools has suddenly opened up much more varied and extensive routes for career progression.
My main positive, though, has been the fact that I love being in a situation where schools are actively and properly working together. Schools are not meant to compete against each other, as league tables would have us believe; they are meant to support each other in whatever way possible in order to all get better at what we do. Every single child should have access to the best possible education available: sharing of resources, skills, money, teachers and ideas ultimately engenders a focus towards making that ideal a reality.
I am sure there are some bad MATs out there, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way of ensuring every child gets a good education is through a well-managed, thought-through MAT. I thought I would be the last person to say such a thing, but it just goes to show that sometimes you can’t believe the rumours and that direct personal experience is crucial before you make any judgements.
Katie White is a secondary English teacher in Devon