Ofsted reveals concerns about MATs pooling school funds

Research reveals that financial worries were 'frequently raised' by staff working at schools in MATs

John Roberts

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Ofsted has revealed that some staff working in multi-academy trusts (MATs) are concerned about the way their schools lose money as finances are centralised. 

Research by the inspectorate found that the most frequently mentioned drawbacks about belonging to a MAT were financial.

Ofsted said that there were tensions over the pooling of finances across schools.

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The new research report, published today, says: “One principal noted that the reserve they had built up had been given to schools [that were] less careful.”

Ofsted also said that the way trusts top-sliced funding from schools was a “significant concern to governors”.

However, inspectors found that some financial concerns were not connected to working in MATs but because of a "general decline in budget or operating in a challenging financial climate".

The inspectorate has published the findings of its research into the role of MATs, which looked at 41 trusts and 121 schools.

Ofsted found trusts were able to hold academies to account strongly but that there was weak accountability of the MATs themselves.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman has questioned why MATs are not inspected and warned that parents are getting only a partial picture of how schools operate.

As Tes revealed earlier this year, the new Ofsted research also highlights staff concerns over the loss of autonomy.

And it says that some MATs took on a large number of schools in difficulty quickly, without always having the central capacity and leadership required to improve them.

However, it also identifies many positives that people highlighted about working in MATs.

These include schools in larger trusts benefiting from economies of scale, back-office support, training, career progression and recruitment. 

The report says that respondents were generally very positive about being part of a MAT. 

The pooling of school funds has been a source of controversy at the doomed Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT), which faced accusations that it had asset-stripped its schools.

Both Wakefield and Bradford councils raised concerns about the way WCAT had taken money out of its schools with the Wakefield authority even referring the matter to West Yorkshire Police.

A subsequent investigation found that no crimes had been committed.

And Tes has since revealed that an Education and Skills Funding Agency report actually recommended that WCAT pool its resources. 

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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