MAT performance, accountability and expansion questioned by MPs, as DfE is criticised for “oversight” and “instability”

The House of Commons Education Committee released a critical Multi-Academy Trust report, raising “significant concerns” about their effectiveness.

Following an inquiry launched by the Committee in March 2016, the report published on Tuesday found a “high degree of uncertainty” around the effectiveness of MATs and cited no evidence yet to support large scale expansion.

The report recommends for Ofsted to be given the power to conduct full inspections of trusts, as it points to gaps in how MATs are assessed by the school inspectorate and Regional School Commissioners:

The current situation of Ofsted conducting ‘batched inspections’ is not sustainable or sufficient as MATs expand over the next five to six years. Ofsted needs a new framework for MAT inspections and should develop the resources, skills and powers to conduct full inspections of trusts.

The Committee calls on the Education Secretary to prioritise making the future role of local authorities clearer, particularly in areas with high numbers of academies. The MPs recommend that the Government should “partner with” local authorities and use their expertise to set up future trusts.

It also warns of the vulnerability of small, rural primary schools that are at risk of “being left behind” as secondary schools academise and join or form MATs, saying that RSCs are struggling to find or expand existing sponsors in rural areas, which can lead to the appointment of sponsors without a quality track record.

While Neil Charmichael, Committee Chairman, recognised the excellent results of some MATs and their valuable contribution to the sector, he added that “a considerable number are failing to improve and are consistently at the bottom of league tables.”

MATs have emerged from the Government’s plan to increase the number of academies but policy and oversight have been playing catch-up.

Only time will tell if MATs are more successful than local authorities in tackling under-performance and supporting high-performing schools. But if the Government is to pursue the goal of further academisation, it will need to work with local authorities and allow those councils with a track record of strong educational performance to use their expertise within their education department to create MATs.

The Committee stated that the Department for Education has a “long way to go” to demonstrate that the public money with which academies are funded is being used effectively. It adds that it is “far from clear” that the DfE or EFA can “cope with the further pressure on their financial oversight capabilities” that significant expansion of MATs will create.

The development of the DfE ‘growth check’ is welcomed by the Committee, but urges the Government to place tighter restrictions on the expansion of trusts.

You can read the whole report here.

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