The rise of Sparta

After discussion with other governors over the last few days a thought about the long term of Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) has been rummaging around my head.

Jokingly someone suggested setting up a Spartan MAT that once established started to take over and enslave its neighbours. Sadly this doesn’t seem too far from the truth in some places.

The current wild west (apologies for mixed metaphors) of MAT growth and expansion needs to be curtailed and more detailed definitions of future MAT planning need defining.

To prevent the necessary reform of over large national or regional MAT’s which become “too large to fail” and establish local area MAT’s linked to local democracy (sound familiar?) the future of MAT’s should be planned now.

The number of schools is finite and even when 500 new free schools are factored in the maximum is about 23000. In turn this will mean that there will be a maximum number of MAT’s which can be established  When a MAT fails the schools are distributed among other MAT’s at the whim of the Department for Education (DFE). The logical conclusion is that over time the number of MAT’s will decrease.

If the current policy is followed to conclusion this will have predetermined unintended consequence that increasingly vast numbers of children’s education will be concentrated into an ever smaller number of MAT’s.

Schools can’t leave a MAT once they join. Even if the school achieves consistently outstanding and teaching school status once in they cannot leave. All legal authority is ceded to the MAT board and what would encourage them to allow a school to leave and set up a competitor MAT?

At this point remember that there are no national selection processes, criteria or best practice models for recruitment to MAT boards. Perhaps once a MAT reaches a certain financial turnover board recruitment should be brought within the national public appointments process? This is a deeply unpopular idea with some MAT boards which makes me think it could be a good thing.

While I’m on also think through that MAT boards set their own expenses. How long before we get a governor duck house fiasco?


The process by which a school can or should leave a MAT should be defined by the DfE.

Is it linked to Ofsted grade?

Pupil attainment and achievement – over how long?

How will local people be involved – parental referendum?

Could the DfE compel outstanding/good schools to leave a MAT and set up their own?

Should there be a central quango to make these decisions?

All these factors can be planned so schools can review their long term direction.


The process by which MAT’s are broken up should also be defined to enable transparent “offers” from existing MAT’s.

Perhaps the Office of the schools adjudicator should have its remit expanded to become the arbiter in this situation?

This openness will reassure students, parents and staff that at least there aren’t deals being done behind the scenes. In turn this will smooth difficult times and minimize impact on the children.


We need clear plans for the future of MAT’s and crisis planning on the hoof simply isn’t good enough for the children in our care. They get one education and we should do the best we can. Avoidable known risks should be resolved before they impact.