Williamson: Government ‘looking at’ how to get more schools into multi-academy trusts

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.”

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  1. Peter Endersby

    As usual the tone deaf Williamson has his hand on the pulse of the pertinent issues facing schools. Coming up with a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, voicing it on the eve of a crucial few months for schools emerging from another lock-down and who are still waiting for guidance about imminent exams.

    • Mark Watson

      In its own words the Foundation for Education Development is all about “a long-term vision and plan for education in England”. So whilst I’m sure Gavin Williamson has things to say about the immediate future and the unprecedented challenges facing schools and children, the theme of today’s programme at the summit was “How can we move beyond our immediate challenges to create a long-term successful future for our children and life-long learners”.

      So whilst I’m sure you see this as an opportunity to bash Gavin Williamson, and heaven knows Schools Week positioned it as such, talking about the immediate challenges of emerging from lockdown and what to do about 2021 exams would have been completely inappropriate.

      • Concerned Teacher

        It is also not appropriate to welcome children back from a period of isolation and lockdown by threatening to punish poor behaviour which hasn’t happened. Let’s celebrate our young people by recognizing their amazing resilience and fortitude. They need compassion, empathy and encouragement not an endless diet of media hysteria telling them how behind they are or an incompetent Education Secretary criticising their behaviour. Time for Gavin to remove the more in his own eye.

    • Al Ker

      Whilst ministers send their children to private schools they will never take state education seriously, will underfunded it and use it to play politics with children’s lives and futures.

  2. Professor Brian Boyd

    “Teacher-led, evidence-based” is surely an oxymoron? This isn’t just 20 years out of date; it is a fundamental misunderstanding of how successful teaching and learning takes place. Someone should send him a copy of “Inside the Black Box”

  3. Phil Allman

    Now, if only individual schools had the ability to be part of an organisation with a larger capacity, perhaps with an overarching administrative function to ensure support, challenge and opportunity to drive down costs. Might be even better if it was a local one, where contextual factor could be best understood. Now, wouldn’t that be amazing

  4. Stephen Morgan

    Once upon a time schools belonged to a strong family of school improvement when local authorities were managing them. Then along came governments who seek change to win voters who broke the system up and put schools into hands of unaccountable MATS. Parents lost their voice on governors, OFSTED were told to look favourably on these MATS to the extent that OFSTED was prevented from visiting them for two years. These clever MATS moved staff around to follow OFSTED inspections, they said they couldn’t meet need when they came across SEND and they cherry picked all the children to ensure that those with challenges attended maintain schools. They off rolled by year 10 and 11 to ensure they couldn’t distort the data. They pushed out the parents who couldn’t afford by logos on trousers, shirts etc. They closed down community businesses that provide local providers of uniform. They transported children out of area and also to other schools without parent knowledge or consent.
    Now I ask which family do you prefer the family that is transparent and honest or the family that thinks government is so blinkered that it cant see what its MATS are really doing to improve education. All of the above I have experienced from a MAT so at least I can talk from experience.
    Yes Mr Williamson you are right that a string family is right but I think you need to select your families carefully. You had something not perfect but honourable and now you have a system that feels it can pull the wool over the eyes of everyone.

  5. Paul Hopkins

    The core principle of the Tory policy, underpinned by the MAT is the privatisation of education moving this away from the local community and local democracy to put control in the hands of a favoured few. There have been so many MAT scandals (just look at the ‘superheads that Gove promoted and where they are now). We used to have these ‘families’ you talked of they were locally accountable supported LEAs not effective private business with the corporate approaches, uniforms and logos. There is significantly less freedom and less autonomy like so much this has been built on lies.

  6. Janet Downs

    Schools can indeed ‘benefit from being in a strong family’. This support can be provided by local authorities. LAs can advise but decisions remain with heads and governing bodies. MAT trustees decide the degree to which their academies ‘co-operate’.
    Williamson said nothing about single-academy trusts which, like LA maintained schools, retain autonomy. This suggests the single-academy trust model is under threat. To survive, they must either become MATs or be swallowed by one.

  7. Mark Watson

    Just a thought following on from my reading of the above …

    In the last election one of the two main political parties’ education policy was clearly based on the expansion of the academy programme whereas the other’s policy was anti-academies and pro the expansion of local government oversight.

    The first party won an overwhelming majority. The people spoke. That’s accountable democracy. So like it or not, that’s the direction we’re travelling.

  8. Skeptical

    I’m willing to bet that students returning to Montessori and Waldorf/Steiner schools won’t have much in the way of behaviour issues or adjustments. Why? Because these schools encourage children to move about freely in the classroom and give them variety and allow them to pursue their interests and have independent learning. The current education system is completely outdated and should be designed to work with children’s natural tendencies and interests, not against them.

    • Martin Whittaker

      I agree. I went to a Rudolph Steiner School 1965 to 1970. I categorically affirm that discipline will not be a problem because we/they are treated with respect and trust.

      One of the latest reports on my old school was all good, but self development was “outstanding”.

      We reap what we sow.


    All this talk is about improving outcomes and reinforcing “stricter” behavioral policies.
    In the talk all i hear is fear and concern in the speaker’s voice about what it is lost..
    what is the best way to teach children if not a compassion based approaches ?
    I am in high doubt a system focused on “performances” that will be a system that will involve and include “diversity!” in any form.
    We know from research specialising in neurodevelopment that when a pupil /child is contracted in a fear based system that seeks to “punish” ( replaced word for “teach”) discipline… the child’s imagination gets contrived Surely returning back from the pandemic we need our kids to be pioneers of a NEW world full of imagination and creative solutions ?
    Creativity is being seen more and more as an essential skill in the years to come. Let ‘s not keep crashing it…. as by its nature it can only sprout stronger..

  10. So disappointed in reading this. I do not know one teacher in the profession who thinks that good behaviour just happens, of course it has to be taught and we have been doing this for years. Sigh.