Lord Nash announces return of £75,000 grants for primaries to join multi-academy trusts

Lord Nash announces return of £75,000 grants for primaries to join multi-academy trusts

The government has brought back grants of up to £75,000 to entice primary schools to join multi-academy trusts (MATs), as Lord Nash says they are transforming the job opportunities for new teachers.

Schools Week can reveal the Department for Education (DfE) has reintroduced the incentives as it bids to increase the number of primary schools under MATs.

The DfE had stopped the grants in March this year to investigate their effectiveness.

But Lord Nash told school leaders at the Academies Show in Birmingham yesterday that three or more primary schools coming together under a MAT can claim £75,000.

Further details, released this morning, show only primary schools converting to academy status can apply.

Schools part of a group of two or more primary schools under an existing MAT at the same time can also apply for £25,000, Lord Nash said.

A small school supplement grant is also available for primaries with fewer than 210 pupils looking to convert.

The announcement yesterday came hours before chancellor George Osborne announced in his spending review that the education services grant would be cut by almost 75 per cent.

But Lord Nash, who also revealed the department had also given £11 million to 125 sponsors last year to take over schools, said the future is bright.

He said: “I’m extremely optimistic about the future of MATs and regional schools commissioners to fulfil our ambition of every child having the opportunity to go to a school which is at least good.”

Ken Kies, chief executive of Coast Academies chain in Devon, welcomed the reintroduction of the grants. “It’s a significant investment and good encouragement to expand,” he said.

His trust has already turned around a failing primary school and is set to take over another primary this week and Mr Kies said the extra money would help increase capacity and infrastructure so the trust can expand.

However Schools Week understands schools that would have been eligible for the grant during the time it was frozen will not be able to backdate claims.

The number of MATs has soared from 391 in March 2011 to 846 in July 2015. But more significantly, the number of MATs with two to five academies has risen from 224 to 517, in the same period.

Education consultant and former policy advisor Robert Hill said this marks a clear change of strategy from the DfE from investing in small numbers of large MATS, to encourage lots of smaller academy groups – which the reintroduction of the grants supports.

Lord Nash added: “The best way to improve schools is through school to school support. It has been increasingly acknowledged the best way to do that is through MATs.”

He said MATs have helped “transform the career prospects for people entering teaching in their early twenties” by offering more and quicker promotion prospects.

“It is something we must all promote with new recruits to attract and retain staff.”