Low-performing multi-academy trusts (MATs) tend to have a more prescriptive approach to how teachers in their schools teach, a new Department for Education-commissioned study has found.
Today’s research report, written by Toby Greany, a professor at UCL Institute of Education/University of Nottingham, also found that MATs often struggled to introduce standardised pedagogy across their schools.
“Whether or not a MAT or federation chooses to align or standardise its approach to pedagogy broadly correlates with performance," it says.
“Below-average-performing MATs and those working to stabilise underperforming schools tended to be more prescriptive, while above-average-performing MATs and those working with higher-performing schools tended to allow more autonomy to schools and teachers.”
The report says that people who support standardisation “tend to argue that it ensures consistency in the application of ‘proven’ approaches, saves time for teachers and makes it ‘easy [for them] to be successful".
“By contrast, proponents of autonomy argue that schools and teachers should have access to ideas and evidence from elsewhere, but that they will be put off by a ‘compliance’ culture and will not be able to adapt their practice for different contexts.”
It says the approach that a trust takes can depend on whether key leaders “see teaching as a set of routines or as a more complex professional endeavour”.
The report also finds that the trusts that had more aligned or standardised approaches to pedagogy had “often encountered difficulties in shifting practices across their schools”.
It quotes the school-improvement director of a medium-sized MAT with an average performance who said: “There was resistance in the early stages to the pedagogical approach.
“We realised that it took longer when you’re not implementing at your own school where the model has developed. We couldn’t just take it and implement it.”
Despite running many staff-training sessions, the trust “still found the approaches were not always being implemented”.
The report says the staff member believed the trust tried to implement the change too quickly, but the process had helped staff in the lead schools to clarify their own pedagogy and explain it to others in a different context.