Looking to grow your trust? Our top 10 tips

Leadership and MAT Development Team

April 20 2023

With the Government's vision for every school to become part of a multi-academy trust, we’re always looking for ways to simplify the process and attract additional funding for our clients to support their continued growth within the academisation agenda. We know from our experience in supporting MAT growth that there are a range of issues for leaders to consider at the earliest stage of developing a strategy for growth.

If you're looking to grow your existing setting, it's worth taking the time to consider our top 10 tips to ensure that you feel confident in the process. 

1) Take time to clearly define your ambitions for growth to ensure you fully secure the support of your Board, Senior Team, and other key stakeholders. Have you considered all the benefits, risks, opportunities, and threats? As part of this process, consider how well your Trust vision describes the strengths your Trust can bring to others. Be sure to articulate what you can offer and the difference being in a trust makes to your existing Schools.


2) Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your current Trust arrangements and whether they are scalable for future growth. For example, do you need to build school improvement capacity or additional expertise in areas such as Finance? Do you need to strengthen Governance arrangements and processes? Have you ensured you have a breadth of expertise, skills, and knowledge across your central team, with clear succession plans? You may want to consider commissioning a trust-wide review of your ‘readiness for growth’, to assess your Trust against the DfE’s five pillars of a ‘strong trust’ and develop a prioritisation plan for change.

3) Consider the growth of your Trust leadership model and your overall trust-wide People Strategy. You may need independent support to navigate the employment issues arising from future trust mergers or transfers, or advice to consider new initiatives and incentives to support recruitment and retention.

4) Think you’ve found the right school or trust to work with…? Due diligence is vital! This is particularly essential around Finance and HR - do your homework and consider the benefits of using independent expertise. Your trustees are legally obliged to act responsibly, and you especially want to avoid any nasty surprises, either through converter or sponsor schools joining or through another trust merging into yours.

5) Don't underestimate the time and resource you will need to invest in growth. If you are lucky enough to have some reserves as a trust, consider securing the agreement of the Board to invest in external expertise and additional capacity, with a view to delivering long-term benefits and efficiencies.


6) Ensure you’re maximising grant funding opportunities to support growth, for instance through the Trust Capacity Fund (TCaF) and Trust Establishment and Growth (TEG) Fund. We've supported many clients to develop successful bids and can help you plan the most effective ways to use the funding available.


7) Reviewing contracts and services may not be an immediate priority, but having an eye on the future is important. There may be a need to consolidate and consider the balance between external and internal services across a range of areas, such as catering, cleaning, ICT etc, through to areas where you may have key-person dependency issues if you rely solely on in-house capacity in areas such as in Governance, HR, and Finance.

8) If a school or trusts joins you, TUPE will apply, and so it’s crucial to develop a clear understanding of any ’measures’ that may need to be declared through the process. Getting this wrong can be costly and damaging to the Trust's reputation.


9) As a growing MAT, it will be integral to get the balance of funding for your Central Team right; too much or too little will have consequences for everyone involved. How your centralised funding arrangements work might also be an area for debate: a percentage top slice of each school's budget or GAG pooling?


10) Prepare in advance and ensure you have up-to-date information about your Schools and Trust. Is your estates management information correct, with records of recently completed building work or grants received? Have your teachers been asked to check for missing service from when you were an LA school to ensure that information for the pension fund is current?


If you’re looking for advice about trust growth and MAT development or would like to learn more about our Readiness to Grow review, our People Strategy support or Finance services, please talk to us. We’d be happy to arrange a free 20-minute advice call with our senior education practitioners to understand your needs.

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