Leading academy schools differ in the ways they set out to deliver school improvements, with some opting to preserve the autonomy of individual schools, and others advocating consistent teaching and pedagogy.
The finding forms part of education charity Ambition School Leadership’s new report on leadership, vision, strategy, and the operations of multi-academy trusts (MATs).
It worked with more than 40 MAT CEOs and staff at 22 trusts, in a study which it described as the largest of its kind to date.
The charity looked at three primary questions: how does a MAT’s vision translate into its school improvement strategy, how are a MAT’s strategy and operations affected by growth, and what differentiates high and low performers.
It advises that its findings, seen below, are most vital for CEOs of small and medium-sized academy chains.
- MAT vision and mission statements differ in how clearly and specifically they describe the outcomes they want for their pupils and in how much emphasis they place on academic performance above other measures of success. Higher performing trusts appear more likely to explicitly cite standards and outcomes when defining their overall vision.
- The key strategic choice for MATs is how to deliver school improvement. Two dominant approaches emerged from our research which reflect opposite ends of a strategic spectrum: preserving the autonomy of individual schools; or achieving consistent teaching and pedagogy across schools.
- MAT leaders that choose a school improvement strategy of achieving consistent teaching and pedagogy will need to achieve alignment across their schools. They have to make a cultural choice about whether to achieve this through central direction or collaborative convergence. These approaches are not mutually exclusive; different approaches can be used in different areas of alignment.
- MAT operating models face ‘break points’. This is a moment of non-incremental change where a MAT has to stop a previous operational approach and make a shift. MAT leaders have to look ahead to adapt their operating model to future context and needs.
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