Academy and MAT leaders have been urged to ‘collaborate more’ by the National Schools Commissioner at the SCHOOLS NorthEast Academies Conference this week.
Sir David Carter, who will be stepping down from his post in the summer, was addressing delegates on the ‘nine strategic priorities for MATs in the future’, and what leaders should do to help improve and build the system.
He said: “Multi Academy Trusts have been set up by design to be collaborative, however I’m concerned that across the system this isn’t happening.
“We need to look at how CEOs can come together to look at the challenges.”
Sir David said the possibilities of such collaboration made the future of the MAT system a “very exciting prospect, so much more so than it was 4 or 5 years ago.
“MATs need to balance the notion of competition with collaboration. There is now a new level of accountability, you need to think of how you can help improve standards beyond your Trust, in your community and in your postcode.”
Along with collaboration, Sir David advised leaders on the other objectives he believed would better the future of MAT progression, which included financial planning, being the ‘incubators of new practice for the system’, establishing consistent practice across a Trust, governance, growing the next generation of leaders, MATs as an employer to the community, MAT growth and social mobility.
He said: “The capacity of the MAT should play an even bigger role in increasing social mobility. We still talk about social mobility, but less so since (former Education Secretary) Justine Greening left.
“The gap is closing, however, with disadvantaged children. I don’t believe there is a lack of ambition in our young people, more of a ‘how do I get there’.”
Speaking on financial planning, Sir David was keen to impress on delegates that they should ‘prioritise practices that work well’, and if it is not imperative, leave it for another year.
He said: “Leaders need to resist the temptation to stockpile wild initiatives and new ideas. Financial planning is a cultural challenge, not a technical challenge.
“Don’t stop the practices that are working, the key to financial planning is to prioritise. You need to help people work better together.”
North East challenges
When questioned about underfunding in the North East in comparison to other areas of the country, Sir David said: “Funding needs to go to the areas that are the hardest to reach. In terms of a North East Opportunity Area, I believe you are pushing on an open door. However, we have finite resources, but there is still an ongoing dialogue.
“There’s no right or wrong between schools in different areas, just a different set of challenges.”
Concluding his speech, which will be one of the last he makes as the National Schools Commissioner, Sir David said: “Overall, I’ve never felt more optimistic about the parts MATs will play in the system.”
Resources from the SCHOOLS NorthEast Academies Conference 2018 can be accessed here