Does your trust improve outcomes or save money for new schools joining the MAT?

Within the MAT/local authority divide, there are those on both sides who believe bigger is better. Running a school as part of a big group of schools should offer better collaboration, efficiency of back office provision, more aligned thinking around families, and ultimately better outcomes. But when schools run by a Trust or a Local Authority represent two versions of this same group approach, how can you prove which adds greater benefits? 

Let’s start by looking at some of the key data available to Trust Leaders to compare performance.  

  1. End of Key Stage outcomes – are they improving? 

Beyond overall school and trust performance, you can and should also know how each group of students within your trust/school are performing compared to national averages. Arbor’s benchmarking tools can be used to answer questions like:

  • One of the schools is below the Group and National average, but is it moving in the right direction? What trend is it following?
  • Does this school have a particularly challenging intake for this area? How does the KS2 data compare with similar schools?

By working through the ASP data presented by Arbor or FFT, Trust governing bodies can answer these questions for themselves, ensuring they are prepared to make use of the valuable time they get with school leaders in GB meetings. With the Arbor dashboards, Heads or CEOs can even check whether staff have used the dashboard to do their homework before board meetings, so you better be prepared! 

  1. Financial Benchmarking – are we more efficient? 

This is much harder! Academy financial data is so messy that by the time the Education Funding Agency has compared it for their own research, it’s 2 years out of date and useless for planning forwards. Arbor analyses it for you for free to give you a comparison of your income and expenditure data against local contexts. If you have historic budget tracking provided by the likes of PS Financials, Arbor’s Academy Financial Benchmarking Report also gives you a comparison of the financial performance of your schools pre and post joining.

  1. Roll – are we popular? 

Enrolment is the biggest contributing factor for income, and a change in pupil numbers would mean £4-8k per pupil in a primary school and even more per pupil in secondary schools. This means a drop in roll of just 10 pupils across several of your schools is equivalent to a middle leader’s salary!

Enrolment is the most clinical test of a school’s popularity, and the easiest thing to become complacent about in high demand areas. However, popular schools still need to market themselves to show parents what makes them special, particularly if academisation has caused bad press. A single bad news story often leads to parents turning their backs on a school for years. Equally, the knock-on effect to other schools within the same trust could mean a £10-20k loss per family that moves away.  

While joining a MAT is a complex decision for any school, considering these factors brings its impact into focus, giving schools a closer look into how its pupils and the school as a whole are affected.

I’ll be at The Academies Show Birmingham on the 22nd of November to talk more about how Arbor’s free Academies’ Financial Benchmarking Report provides the tools to measure the benefits your trust has on outcomes and financial management in each of your schools! I’ll also be talking about the trickier questions behind live data analysis and how to solve them. Hope to see you there.