A key feature of any successful MAT is its capacity to set and drive its own improvement agenda to secure high outcomes for all pupils.
A key factor when evaluating a MAT’s capacity to improve is the rigor of its school improvement systems, processes and practices so that they provide an appropriate balance of challenge, support and, where required, intervention. While all school improvement models have similar features, it is essential the model meets the unique needs and circumstances of your MAT. To achieve this, For Schools have worked with groups of schools to develop an approach whereby the model can be designed and delivered to meet the needs and requirements of the individual schools, the trust and external agencies, such as the DfE, RSC and Ofsted. This approach guides prospective MATs through the following process.
Clarity of Purpose
Although this sounds obvious, remember that whilst the members of the trust board will be experts in their respective fields, they may not necessarily be steeped in education methodology. Therefore, it is important that a common understanding about the purpose of a school improvement model is established. For example, it should support the achievement of high pupil outcomes by:
- Ensuring there is a full and accurate understanding about each school’s effectiveness
- Holding leaders to account through an appropriate balance of challenge and support
- Providing the trust board with accurate and timely information from which it can make correct decisions that are in the best interests of the schools and the trust as a whole
- Providing the necessary professional development so that all teaching staff can improve their practice
- Maximising the effective use of the trust’s capacity
The model needs to be informed by guiding principles that underpin the way in which the MAT functions. For example, areas to consider are the way in which the model:
- Reflects the vison, values and ethos of the MAT
- Works on the premise that all schools, even the most successful, can improve
- Is successfully integrated into the trust’s governance and accountability structures
- Meets any external requirements
There should be clarity about what the challenge activities look like in practice. For example, there needs to be consideration of:
- Whether challenge activities are delivered top down, peer to peer or both
- Frequency and content
- Whether the model is a ‘one size fits all’ or bespoke
- Whether there should be a uniformity of approach to areas such as monitoring and evaluation, collection and presentation of information, etc.
For a school improvement model to bring about change, the outcome of challenge needs to result in support. When establishing the MAT, there is a need to consider issues such as:
- Who will provide the support. For example, will there be a central team, a hub of excellence, an expectation that all schools have something to offer?
- Different levels of formality to the support, depending upon how successful the school is. For example, in less successful schools the accountable officer may be directly involved in the planning, delivery and evaluation of any support programme
- How outcomes of support are reported so that the trust board has an understanding about impact
While it is hoped there would not be a need for formal intervention, the school improvement model must include how this would be delivered. When setting up the MAT in a collective and collaborative approach this can be a difficult conversation. However, it is important that there is complete acceptance on the part of all schools that, at different times and for different reasons, they may be a for need intensive support and that this support may be reflected in an open and transparent scheme of delegation.
Support from For Schools
We can offer support for you through all aspects of the school improvement design process. Our experienced advisers have been involved with groups in a variety of models. We are knowledgeable about the requirements of the RSC (Regional Schools Commissioner) and what is important in putting forward a successful school improvement model.