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What is an Academy?

An academy is a state school that is run by an Academy Trust. The Academy Trust enters into an agreement with the Secretary of State for Education that sets out its responsibilities and accountabilities for the effective running of the Academy. The Academy is funded directly by the Government and is no longer run by the Local Authority. The Trust is charitable, which means it will operate as a charity and not for the profit of individuals or businesses. 

What is a Multi-Academy Trust?

A Multi-Academy Trust is when two or more academies come together in partnership.  It will be possible for other schools to join the MAT in the future.

How does being an academy differ from being a local authority maintained school?

Academies within a MAT receive funding directly from the government and are run by the academy trust. The MAT has more control over how they do things than local authority schools.

Academies are also inspected by Ofsted in the same way that Local Authority Schools are. They have to follow the same rules on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as other schools and pupils sit the same exams.

What are the different types of academies?

There are three types of academies:

  • Sponsored academies are those normally falling into the Ofsted ‘inadequate’ category or deemed to be ‘coasting’. They require the maximum support within the MAT family and conversion to an academy can be the most appropriate solution as part of a range of measurements to improve educational standards.
  • Converter academies are successful schools that have chosen to convert to academies in order to benefit from the increased autonomy academy status brings, having decided that becoming an academy is the best route for the school.
  • New schools, are automatically academies when they open and can join a MAT.

Why become part of a MAT?

Joining a MAT will allow opportunities to work more closely with other schools to deepen staff understanding across the age range, sharing expertise at all levels – leadership, teaching and support staff with high quality and joint staff professional development which releases Headteachers to focus on teaching and learning in school. There is an improved career progression for talented staff, allowing MAT’s to recruit and retain high quality people.

MAT’s share central office support, saving money and providing financial security and value. There are significant financial savings around procurement as a result of bulk purchasing of goods and services.

Pooled resources will allow the MAT to access good specialist support for students with complex needs more easily. Across the MAT shared extra-curricular opportunities (trips and clubs etc) could widen the variety and access available for students. Collaboration with other schools could provide welcome opportunities to improve the quality of teaching.

Do schools have a choice about becoming part of a MAT?

Currently they do. It is the decision of the Governing Board whether they feel it is in the interests of their school community to join a MAT. More than half of children in Britain are now taught in MAT’s. In April 2021, the Secretary of State for Education set out the government’s vision “for every school to be part of a family of schools in a strong multi academy trust” (MAT). Gavin Williamson MP said that the Department for Education (DfE) will be looking to make the process of joining a multi academy trust as easy as possible”.

How will admissions to the school be affected?

Existing admissions arrangements will continue.

Would the school change its name, logo, school day structure or uniform?

The individual schools are not required. The overarching Multi Academy Trust is called One Excellence.

How are the students affected?

The students will not notice any immediate differences. They will be in the same uniform, in the same classrooms, with the same teachers. Over time the pupils may notice some changes and improvements in the way that they learn, resulting from greater training opportunities for staff and innovative learning opportunities.

Would an academy receive extra funding above that allocated to Local Authority (LA) schools?

No. The funding allocation to both academies and schools would be the same, but academies receive this money directly. An academy may spend this money directly on services, rather than the Local Authority providing services at a cost determined by the Local Authority. The purchasing power of the MAT may however allow for economies of scale and therefore best value on purchases.

What happens if one school in the Multi-Academy Trust has a budget deficit?

No schools within One Excellence Trust have deficit budgets. However as would be expected the Directors will be carrying out prior due diligence investigations on schools who wish to join.

What are the risks of joining a MAT?

It is difficult to quantify the risks involved in conversion to a MAT, as every conversion process is different. Some stakeholders involved in any conversion situation may be concerned about the financial arrangements which will be put in place in case these adversely affect their own school, about the degree of independence their school will have in managing and recruiting staff and in setting a curriculum, and about the way that leadership and governance will function within the MAT. The way to ensure that these possible concerns do not place any of the schools involved at risk is to set up the MAT in a mutually beneficial way with a strong and positive ethos in place, and to ensure that it is well-run.

It should also be noted that there are risks in not becoming a MAT. In the future, any school could be influenced to become part of a broader Academy chain. Creating a local MAT, under local direction, offers the best opportunity to sustain vibrant, successful local schools.

Can schools back out if risks are identified?

During the consultation period and due diligence investigations schools can back out at any time. This could be due to concerns articulated during the consultation period or as a result of concerns identified as part of due diligence.

Is doing nothing and remaining a SAT or a single school an option?

Technically yes, but the wait and see policy is becoming less tenable if the school wants to have a choice over who it collaborates with in a MAT setting. 

If you are in a federation, do you have to establish separate local governing bodies for each of our schools?

Not necessarily. For some time, the DfE model Articles of Association have allowed the MAT board to establish a local advisory body which oversees two or more academies.  If your schools are joining an existing MAT, you should talk to the MAT about the expectations around local governing bodies at an early stage.  If you are establishing your own MAT, you will be able to set the structure.

Would the governors’ role change if you became part of a MAT?

For more information on the governance arrangements in One Excellence Trust, please visit our governance and policy section. In a MAT, there are three tiers of governance. These three tiers will be: Members of the MAT, Directors of the MAT and Local Advisory Boards.


Members must include people with educational and business/commercial experience, and have the expertise to effectively hold Trustees and employees to account across all aspects of the Trust’s operations.

Directors (usually referred to as the Board)

Directors have a range of roles and responsibilities, including: determining the strategic vision of the Trust; providing challenge and support to senior leaders, developing and deciding strategic and operational policies; developing and overseeing the implementation of Trust action plans focussing on Trust improvement; setting and monitoring performance benchmarks; determining curriculum priorities; setting the overall Trust budget.

Local Advisory Boards (LAB)

The advantage of having this extra tier of governance is that many of the statutory duties that an academy LAB needs to undertake can be done by a highly professional and experienced group of governors. Economies of scale with the workload should result in stronger governance. The LABs will have delegated authority to run the academy school, the Trustees will be ultimately responsible for the academies it runs. The LABs will be responsible for the standards of teaching and learning in their own schools, as well as the welfare of its staff and students. In the MAT each academy will have its own LAB. These have a similar status to committees of a maintained Governing Body; the powers they have are those that are delegated to them by the Board. This will be formalised into a Scheme of Delegation.

Would the Directors be paid?

No. The Directors will not be paid for fulfilling their roles as Company Directors and Charity Trustees.

Will the ethos of the school change on becoming an Academy?

No. The ethos of the schools will continue as they always have done. One Excellence has its own vision and values but each school within the Trust will have its individual one too.

Will the school’s name change if we became an Academy?

No. The only change may be if the school decides to use Academy rather than School in its name but this is up to the LAB.

Will teachers work at different schools?

Generally, staff will remain in their own schools. Being part of the One Excellence Trust will provide many professional development opportunities. Staff from schools who are part of the One Excellence Trust could attend joint training, skills will be shared and good practice will spread between the schools.

Who is the employer of the staff in academies operated within a MAT?

One of the main potential advantages of operating an academy within a MAT is that the staff in all of the academies are all employed by the MAT. Were a school to join a MAT, its staff would transfer to the MAT pursuant to the TUPE Regulations.

Within a MAT, and subject to the staff contracts, staff could potentially be deployed across the different academies with a view to raising/ sustaining standards and securing economies of scale (for example through a central finance function). The MAT structure also avoids the need for a process to be carried out to procure the relevant services if provided from academy to academy.

Who receives the funding for an academy within a MAT?

Under a MAT structure, the general annual grant (GAG) in respect of each academy would be received by the MAT and would be under the control of the trustees. Since the 2014 DfE model funding agreement documentation was published, GAG received by a MAT can be 'pooled', i.e. it can be applied across any academy within a MAT. This can assist in ensuring the ongoing viability of an academy through fluctuations in revenue and expenditure but does of course mean that part of the budget that has in principle been allocated to one academy could possibly be used to support another academy.

What if an academy felt that its funding was being unfairly allocated to other academies in the MAT?

The trustees of the MAT have an obligation to act in the best interests of the MAT as a whole. They therefore need to have due regard to the funding needs and allocations of each individual academy. If a particular academy felt its GAG funding was being deployed unfairly, its Headteacher could ultimately appeal to the Secretary of State for Education who could impose a restriction on how the GAG is applied - in practice, provided that the trustees could demonstrate that they applied GAG in the interests of the MAT as a whole, this might not provide the remedy sought.

Can a school without religious designation join together in a MAT with a school which has been designated with religious character?

The model whereby designated academies which were previously voluntary controlled schools can join together with a non designated academy is relatively well established. Each academy will maintain its existing religious character (or not) and the provisions of the funding agreement will include the relevant requirements/ powers as to collective worship, the curriculum, the staffing powers and the denominational inspections. It is usual in these cases for the relevant Diocese to appoint a percentage of the members, the board of trustees and the local governing body.

If you are a Voluntary Aided School, you will need to discuss your options with your Diocese contacts at an early stage. One Excellence is a ‘mixed MAT’, and as such has schools which are both Voluntary Controlled, Voluntary Aided and non-Church.

What does this mean for us in terms of our school's autonomy?

Ultimate responsibility for any academy operated within a MAT, along with the decision making powers, rests with its Directors. In that respect, the current governors of the school will only be key decision makers to the extent that they are represented on the Board of Directors. That is not to say that a school cannot keep its own identity in a MAT. The local governing body can play a key role in ensuring that a school's distinctive character is preserved and many local governing bodies will have delegated authority for certain functions.

My child has special educational needs. Will the change to academy status mean any changes for her/him?

No. The Local Authority will continue to have overall responsibility for Special Educational Needs budgets. There will be no difference in the support given for individual pupils whether schools remain under Local Authority control or are part of a Multi Academy Trust.

What inspection regimes and assessment data information do academies have to provide?

All academies are inspected by Ofsted using the same framework and timescales as for maintained schools.

Academies will still have to take part in national tests and in teacher assessments of pupils' performance as they apply to maintained schools. The results are reported in performance tables in the same way as they are now.

How will becoming an Academy affect the curriculum?

There is no intention to make major changes to the current curriculum if it supports our pupils extremely well. Academies do have greater freedom over determining the curriculum but still need to have regard to any proposed changes by Government.

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