multi-academy trusts

The government wants to see “far more schools” in multi-academy trusts by 2025, and is “actively looking at how we can make that happen”, the education secretary has said.

Gavin Williamson told the Foundation for Education Development summit this morning that partnerships between schools were “fundamental”, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

By 2025, we want to see far more schools residing in strong families than we do today, and we’re actively looking at how we can make that happen

MATs have for several years now been the government’s preferred vehicle for school improvement, and they have sought to encourage more academies to be part of larger organisations.

This effort has taken the form of growth funding for MATs, and moves to rebroker struggling academies into larger groups.

Last year, the national schools commissioner Dominic Herrington said MATs should use their “considerable” capacity and resources to help vulnerable schools recover from the pandemic.

This morning, Williamson told the summit that schools “benefit from being in a strong family. In other words, a multi-academy trust”.

“Multi-academy trusts are powerful vehicles for improving schools by sharing expertise, working collaboratively and driving improvements. It is living proof of the old adage, a problem shared is a problem halved.

“This is something we want to see more of, because it shows time and again how the multi-academy trust model consistently improves outcomes for pupils.

“By 2025, we want to see far more schools residing in strong families than we do today, and we’re actively looking at how we can make that happen.”

Schools must be ‘disciplined’ when pupils return

Williamson also spoke of the importance of good behaviour and discipline as pupils return to school after a year of disruption. All schools are due to reopen next week.

“We’ve all been through a tremendously disruptive time, and none more so than children. Even with the very best support from parents, children will need to get used once more to sitting in class, learning together, the routine of the school day,” he said.

“And of course for many children who have less support, the challenges will be greater. That is why the government will be backing teachers in ensuring children return to a disciplined, safe and orderly environment.”

He also said that “evidence-based, traditional teacher-led lessons with children seated facing the expert at the front of the class are powerful tools for enabling a structured learning environment where everyone flourishes”.

“But whatever method a school uses, consistency is the foundation of everything,” he added.

The government has often made clear its preference for strict behaviour policies, and Williamson today said that we “need to stop thinking that good behaviour is something that just happens”.

“Some children are lucky to have supportive backgrounds where they learn good habits and social skills. Some are not. That’s not their fault, but only the school can do anything about it, so school must, working in conjunction with parents.

“Behaviour isn’t always something that can be changed by just telling children what to do. It must often be taught, patiently, explicitly, consistently and over time. Now more than ever, we need schools to create an environment which makes it easy to behave and hard not to do so.”

He said that where pupils get it wrong, teachers “must constantly teach and challenge them to do better”.

“Children learn from each other. The culture must be universal and everyone should be taught to participate. The school needs to show students if they do their best to behave well then anything is possible for them.

“But if they choose not to do so, then they need to be held to account where appropriate for their actions.”