Joining an existing academy group

Now that many schools have already converted, an alternative to setting up a new academy partnership is to join an existing, established group. It is not surprising that schools are looking at this option seriously, especially when you know you will be supported by schools that have already been through the process successfully.

One form of collaboration model which has become popular is the Multi-Academy Trust, or a ‘MAT’. In a MAT, schools join together as part of one academy trust company. The company has directors who will deal with the strategic running of the MAT. The day to day running is then delegated to each school’s ‘local governing body’.

This structure has become popular with schools who would like to work closely together, or have already been working together, perhaps with a shared leadership team.

Before you settle on a collaboration model, whether that is a MAT or otherwise, you will need to consider various matters very carefully. For example, be clear on the aims for your school. Will they work with those of the other schools in the group, or will they conflict? There are different models to choose from, depending on your objectives.

If you are looking at joining an existing MAT, they will probably already be taking legal advice from their own solicitors who will be preparing the documentation for your school to sign. Schools thinking of joining an existing MAT should carefully and objectively review any such paperwork and the other relevant documents which will suddenly apply to your school too if you go ahead and sign them, taking advice from an independent legal adviser.

You will want to make sure that the paperwork and the structure going forward are going to be in the best interests of your school as well as that of the whole group. Will your school be appropriately represented at all levels of the MAT? Do the documents reflect a different situation which will perhaps unintentionally leave your school open to risks?

In many situations it is likely that there will be a conflict of interest if you only rely on the MAT’s professional advisers at this stage, given that they must act in the best interests of their client (which at that point will not include you).

Take expert advice at these early stages to help you develop the proposed model and to review exactly what your school is signing. They should be appropriate and tailored to everyone’s requirements. Funding is provided to schools who are exploring conversion to cover the cost of such professional advice. Schools can then concentrate on what they do best – educating the pupils – instead of being left with the risk of management arguments in the future.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.