Academies

Regional director’s merger mission after ‘landgrabs’

Academy commissioner reveals 'countless' merger discussions with CEOs, as he defends DfE's 'coasting' policy

Academy commissioner reveals 'countless' merger discussions with CEOs, as he defends DfE's 'coasting' policy

A regional director is leading a “concerted effort” to speak to small trust leaders about potential mergers after the “Wild West” land grabs of early academy days left areas “looking quite dysfunctional”. 

Andrew Warren, the regional director for the West Midlands, has had “countless discussions” in the last year with SATs and MATs with less than four schools that aren’t growing.

“In 2020, we had more small trusts than any other region,” he said at the Schools and Academies Show, as he noted the figure was around 250.

Andrew Warren

“That doesn’t seem sustainable, or it doesn’t seem to be that that size would take advantage of the benefits of being a larger trust.” 

Warren added there has been “a concerted effort” to talk to leaders across the region to say: “I can’t actually see you growing, can we talk about other options?”

He stressed he is not a MAT “dating agency”, but he does put trusts “in touch” with each other. 

“I think if you go back to 2010, and 2011, and 2012, the behaviours are a bit like the Wild West, there were various land grabs going on,” Warren said. 

“But it’s left regions… looking quite dysfunctional. Part of the last four years, particularly, has been [about] trying to make sense geographically, because there is a real sense of place in our strategy.”

Warren also defended the government’s clampdown on “coasting” schools, stating he wouldn’t want his children to attend one. 

“It’s not a great school if it’s been two-RI [requires improvement] for a long time.”

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