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The Arbor Blog

Expert ideas for a better working life at your school or trust

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Amy Underdown - 29 March, 2022

Category : Blog

How to create a shared culture in your Trust

Click here to read our latest ebook, exploring how different trusts are building a shared culture.  The debate around autonomy vs. alignment for schools in Trusts has been animated over the past few years, with some MATs giving their schools independence over their policies and others preferring a more centralised approach. If we accept that

Click here to read our latest ebook, exploring how different trusts are building a shared culture. 

The debate around autonomy vs. alignment for schools in Trusts has been animated over the past few years, with some MATs giving their schools independence over their policies and others preferring a more centralised approach.

If we accept that trusts will always differ on how centralised to be, perhaps the more interesting question becomes: how do you create a trust which works really well together as one organisation, regardless of where you sit on that scale? 

What are the factors which create a successful, shared culture in a MAT? And how do you make sure the academies in your trust benefit from being part of a greater whole? 

The importance of creating a shared culture in a MAT

To get a sense of the national picture, in February 2022 we surveyed 164 trust leaders from around the country. 94% of respondents agreed it’s important all schools in a MAT feel part of the same culture. In fact, many indicated that having a shared culture was fundamental to a MAT’s purpose; one respondent wrote,  ‘I would wonder what ‘the point in being a trust would be if there was no sense of a shared culture.”

Having said this, nearly 1 in 5 respondents said that their trust did not have one cohesive culture which all schools feel part of, with many emphasising that this was an ongoing journey for their MAT. 

One participant put this down to “each school [being] reluctant to take on ideas and processes the other schools use”, whilst another explained that “we have not had time to build a common ethos beyond our founders’ vision which was entrepreneurial.” For some MAT leaders, a shared culture is simply “a difficult thing to achieve when you are a big, mixed-phase MAT across different authorities.”

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What are the foundations for a strong culture?

We asked those who felt they had already achieved a strong culture in their MAT about what they thought were the main factors that had led to this success. 78% of respondents to this question said that having a shared vision and values were the most important, with having clear leadership and shared staff opportunities also proving to be popular choices. One participant explained that, “shared vision and joined-up leadership are a precursor to successfully implementing any other measures.” 

This speaks to a wider trend, where respondents seemed to value structural, trust-level factors over teaching and learning or pupil-driven factors, such as having a standardised curriculum, sharing the same visual identity (e.g. uniforms) and having shared opportunities for pupils across the trust. 

 

What does the future of MAT culture look like?

With nearly 1 in 5 respondents saying they were yet to achieve a shared culture in their trust, we wanted to explore what some MAT leaders felt were the key drivers and best practices when it came to meaningful cultural change. To do this, we’ve compiled leaders’ viewpoints from five MATs across the country and put them together with our survey insights to create our latest ebook for MAT leaders, called Creating a Cohesive Trust. As well as our survey results and a question guide, hear from MAT leaders on how their trusts work together as one organisation, including discussions on:

  • How to make meaningful cultural change in a Trust
  • How far is too far when it comes to distance between schools?
  • Why total honesty is the bedrock for a good MAT culture
  • Prioritising pedagogy over Trust culture
  • How to tailor communication and avoid creating a monoculture

Click here to download the full ebook.

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Want to read more MAT content? Get stuck in with our MAT MIS series, perfect for MAT Central Teams.

Amy Underdown - 1 March, 2022

Category : Blog

The MAT MIS series – three top tips for an effective communications strategy

Why is a good communication strategy important for your MAT? Your communications strategy should help give all your staff visibility around key information, data and policies at your trust. In turn, it should help staff feel supported and like they have access to the information they need. As important as this is, your communications strategy

Why is a good communication strategy important for your MAT?

Your communications strategy should help give all your staff visibility around key information, data and policies at your trust. In turn, it should help staff feel supported and like they have access to the information they need.

As important as this is, your communications strategy isn’t limited to staff only. It should also encompass students and guardians, making sure that everybody is in the loop when it comes to your trust. Plus, centralisation shouldn’t only promote a trust-down approach. Your academies want to be assured that what’s happening at school-level is being fed upwards and informing the trust’s direction. Information and actions should flow both ways: school-up and trust-down.

Getting started with your centralised communications strategy 

A great comms strategy should support two-way communication, while also helping to reduce unnecessary back and forth. We’ve put together three top tips on how your MIS can help to streamline comms at your MAT.

1. Create and deliver a centralised communications strategy

Centralisation is the first step towards an effective communications strategy, as it helps to move work from your schools to your central team. 

Having one place to communicate with pupils, parents and staff across your trust helps to dramatically reduce staff admin. At the same time, centralisation means your comms are consistent, building on the sense of a shared culture within your trust.

In Arbor, you can send comms to any selected group, from guardians to a set group of staff or a particular group of students. For example, at the push of a button you could let all your NQTs across your trust know about an upcoming training day. 

2. Take action within your central team straight away 

You should aim to make it easy for your central team to act on data within the system for fast, contextualised decision-making. Your MIS can – and should – do most of the heavy lifting for you, by showing you the live data you need without the hassle.

If your trust is using Arbor MAT MIS, you won’t need to login to individual schools to see your data. This means your team doesn’t have to waste time looking for the information they need or sending multiple batches of comms to different schools. 

You also don’t have to log into individual school MIS to send comms. For example, in Arbor, schools can move the task of following up with absent students from individual schools to the central team. This means that all absent students across the trust on a given day are accounted for through one set of comms, reducing workload at individual school level. 

3. Have a consistent voice across all your trust’s schools

Running your trust as one cohesive unit can feel challenging, but having a consistent voice from your central team is essential. This helps create a shared sense of belonging among students and staff.

Plus, sending comms out centrally means workload isn’t being unnecessarily duplicated across your schools. 

For instance, if you need to send an urgent message to all your staff or guardians, Arbor allows you to quickly build, write and send an email from your central team. This means that individual schools don’t have to worry about sending their version of the comms.

Ultimately, centralising your communications should help you work as one organisation, and not many. Arbor’s MAT MIS is designed to be a mission control for your central team so that you can streamline processes and reduce unnecessary admin within all your schools. 

Already using Arbor? Get started with using our centralised comms features right away – login to MAT MIS here

Not yet using Arbor MAT MIS across your trust? Click here to book a call with our team of multi-academy trust experts and get started.

Amy Underdown - 31 January, 2022

Category : Blog

The MAT MIS series: How to make data-driven decisions for your MAT

As a MAT central team, it can be difficult to make sure you are getting the most out of your data and making data-driven decisions. Whether you have many or fewer schools, making sure you have the right data to hand without the right tools in place can often be manual and time-consuming. We’ve put

As a MAT central team, it can be difficult to make sure you are getting the most out of your data and making data-driven decisions. Whether you have many or fewer schools, making sure you have the right data to hand without the right tools in place can often be manual and time-consuming. We’ve put together five top tips on how to make the most of your data using your MIS, without the hassle of having to do everything manually.

 

1. Start with the basics: Identify what data you want to track, and make sure you can track it

Once you’ve identified this, map out which systems the data sits in, how you get it out to analyse, and how often you want to do this.

MATs using Arbor can see this kind of data immediately on login, no fiddly setup required. Our dashboards are designed so that you can monitor your KPIs and see them in context. 

This live overview is designed to give you the most important data at-a-glance, where you can benchmark phases, demographics and individual schools against one another. 

As soon as you login, you’ll be able to see:

  • Attendance data across your trust, meaning you can spot persistent absentees right away. 
  • Behaviour data, such as exclusions information 
  • Assessments data, so that you can instantly recognise which subjects you are still waiting on for assessment marks.  

2. Use the best tools for the job

As a MAT central team, sharing data with governors and stakeholders is a key part of your strategy – but it is often challenging to gather this data easily and quickly. Your MIS should help rather than hinder you with this process, as well as complementing your favourite integrations.

All your at-a-glance updates are available on your Arbor dashboard, but for instances where you need to create in-depth reports to show to the board, there’s plenty more in your toolkit as you explore your data further. 

Arbor’s Custom Report Builder, for example, is designed so that you can make in-depth reports in minutes. The end results are easy to read and share with governors or stakeholders, and you can schedule them to send weekly, monthly or termly.

For more bespoke analysis, use the software you already know and love – such as Microsoft Power BI, Excel and Google Data Studio. If you’re using Arbor, our Built-In Live Feeds allow you to export your data to all these integrations. 

3. Take advantage of MAT MIS as your mission control

It can be challenging to zero in on individual pupils within your MAT, but this doesn’t mean it’s not important. 

Having a holistic view over all your schools is crucial to the overall strategy of your MAT, but it’s equally vital that any blips at a student-level don’t get lost in the system. 

Did you know that, with Arbor, you can see every assessment mark for each student in your trust over time? This is designed so that you can quickly identify any actions you need to take, be it trust-wide or student level, giving you just one example of how your MIS helps you to zoom in and out of the data you need.

4. Make sure your reporting is consistent

Trying to compare data when individual schools are measuring themselves against different benchmarks is a challenge. 

Encourage your schools to think as a consistent unit. You can help to lead this way of thinking by creating consistency in reporting. By setting up user defined fields (UDFs) that are unique to your trust, you can push down standard ways of reporting across each of your schools. 

If, for instance, you wanted to know how many students across your whole trust walk to school or have a personal laptop, you can set these up as a unique field in Arbor MIS. All of these details will then show up on each student profile, letting you see and compare responses across all your schools. 

5. Leave the hard work to your MIS

In short, your MIS is a powerful system – let it do the heavy lifting for you! 

We believe your MIS should be a mission control for your MAT, with all the data you need at your fingertips. Making the most of what your MIS has to offer means you can easily act on the data points that will help your overall trust improvement plan, be it preparing for the next Ofsted inspection or to help rethink your internal policies. 

Arbor’s MAT MIS is designed to be intuitive, so that nothing has to stand between you and your data. We take pride in making sure our software works around your MAT. It actively helps you work towards your goals, giving you the right data when you need it. 

Get started with using some of these exciting features for your data-driven strategy right away – login to MAT MIS here. 

Not yet using Arbor MIS across your trust? Click here to learn more.

Anna Christie - 7 December, 2021

Category : Blog

Introducing: The new MAT MIS

The wait is over – our biggest ever release for MATs is here! When we launched our group-level MIS a few years ago, we knew that we wanted to give trusts and other central teams clear visibility into their schools, an easy way to manage reporting, and a seamless login to school MIS experience. Today

The wait is over – our biggest ever release for MATs is here!

When we launched our group-level MIS a few years ago, we knew that we wanted to give trusts and other central teams clear visibility into their schools, an easy way to manage reporting, and a seamless login to school MIS experience.

Today we’re excited to release the next wave of features to build on that goal. We’ve listened to your feedback and have been busy over the past few months. We have re-shaped our vision and built out new features to make MAT MIS a true mission control for your central team.

Rather than just helping you to see and share your data, our updated MAT MIS is now built to help you run your trust as one cohesive unit, take context-driven actions, and support your central team in adding value to your schools. 

What’s new:

Assessments

We know that MATs handle assessments in lots of different ways – some prefer to standardise their approach, whilst others let individual schools decide. 

Previously, MAT MIS let you see summative assessment data across your trust. In this new version, we’ve added the tools to help you create and roll out your assessment policy centrally. What’s more, we’ve added a range of detailed assessment analysis charts too, making MAT MIS perfect for both managing and reporting on assessments across your schools.

You can now create assessment policies at a trust level and push these down to your schools, to give you a joined up assessment offering. The new Mark and Cohort Level Analysis lets you see every assessment mark for every student in your trust, view the raw data and live feed it out for further analysis. View assessment marks over time for every student, plot their progress and identify any actions you need to take. 

We’ve also introduced Attainment Over Time reports. Compare grades across schools and filter by year group, demographic, ethnicity or gender instantly. Compare over time and drill down to Student Profiles to take action.

People and HR

Your central team now have a dedicated space for their staff records! MAT MIS now uniquely includes simple HR features alongside your MIS and Assessment data. Say goodbye to spreadsheets: you can now access your Single Central Record and manage staff records, contracts and checks, all together.

Reporting

When it comes to creating reports, our Custom Report Writer has always been there to give you lots of flexibility. But we know that sometimes you just want to create standard reports quickly and easily. 

To take Custom Report Writer to the next level we’ve added templates for key student and staff data sets, making it faster to get going with the reports you want. Use our report templates as your starting point and customise based on your needs.

Need to report on something unique to your trust? Now you can – you can now create user defined fields (UDFs) in MAT MIS unique to your trust and push down to your schools to give consistency across reports.

Centralised communications

Need to send an urgent message to all your staff or parents? Want to move absence follow ups to your central team? Do you have a centralised comms strategy but no easy way to deliver it? MAT MIS is here to help.

We’re excited to announce that we’ve added centralised email to MAT MIS – giving you one place to communicate with all your contacts across your trust. You can email specific schools, year groups or staff roles, and target the messaging for each.

And because we all want to know if someone actually received our emails or not, you can check what’s been sent and when, and be reassured your emails have successfully been delivered. 

Live overview

We always wanted MAT MIS to give your team a clear view of your schools’ data on login – no fiddly setup required. But we knew that the dashboards on your homepage needed a bit of an upgrade to make them easier to use. It might look and feel similar, but your new homepage has just become a lot more powerful! 

You can now filter by school or cluster, and with sticky filters you can create a filter and it will stay there until you change it. You can then share with colleagues by copying and pasting the unique filter URL.

See the schools associated with you in the new My Schools section – letting you focus on what needs your attention most. 

We’re excited to launch this new feature set, and hope they’re a real game changer when it comes to managing your trust and collaborating with your schools. 

If you don’t yet use Arbor, we’d love to speak to you: email hello@arbor-education.com and one of our lovely team will be in contact. 

Already using our MIS and want to get started? You can do so by reading our Help Centre articles or speaking to your Account Manager.

We look forward to hearing your feedback.

If you’d like to read more blogs perfect for MAT staff, get stuck in with our MAT MIS series. 

P.S. You may know MAT MIS as Group MIS. New name, same vision but with added features!

blank Cosima Baring - 11 October, 2021

Category : Blog

Academies Enterprise Trust chooses Arbor as the MIS for its 57 schools

We’re proud to announce that Academies Enterprise Trust, one of the largest mixed-phase academy trusts in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 57 schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the three largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK! AET’s schools will join our growing

We’re proud to announce that Academies Enterprise Trust, one of the largest mixed-phase academy trusts in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 57 schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the three largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK!

AET’s schools will join our growing community of over 2,000 schools and 200 MATs who have all chosen Arbor to help transform the way they work – including REAch2, the largest primary school MAT, who moved to Arbor in 2018, and United Learning who moved in 2020.


James Browning, CIO at Acadmies Enterprise Trust said:

“We are delighted that our schools will soon be able to benefit from the partnership we have formed with Arbor. As a trust we are striving to provide the best possible data and technology services to schools and Arbor MIS will form a critical part of these services. 

We recognise the strategic importance of a partner too; one that can support our ambitions in using technology to support brave data led decisions and ultimately help launch children into remarkable lives, and Arbor have proven themselves to be fully aligned to this vision.” 


James Weatherill, CEO at Arbor, said:
“We are incredibly excited to be working with James and the team at AET to use Arbor to help schools transform the way they work and make a lasting positive impact to outcomes for their students. We’re proud that Arbor is now the MIS of choice for the largest mixed-phase MATs with secondary schools and can provide the infrastructure to help trusts scale sustainably from start-up to scale-up and beyond.”


Arbor’s cloud-based MIS has designed with features to suit every phase:

For MATs: Arbor’s MAT MIS lets you work across all your schools from one central system, so you can collaborate more easily and really understand what’s going on. Arbor allows you to track performance from a distance, compare data across schools, manage your staff, and communicate with everyone centrally.


For Secondary Schools:
Our MIS for Secondaries lets you analyse your data in any way you like. Choose our out-of-the-box Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards, or securely export your data to external analysis tools like PowerBI, Google Sheets or Excel. Roll out your behaviour policies consistently and automate time-consuming follow-ups such as booking detentions and notifying parents. Arbor also includes end-to-end exams management, cover planning, timetabling, and interventions management.


For Primary Schools:
With Arbor for Primaries, daily jobs like chasing absent students and following up on incidents are simple and painless. Our MIS brings all your student and staff data together so you can easily spot patterns, and get the data you need at your fingertips to tell the full story of each pupil as they progress through school. Our primary schools love our lightning-fast registers and simple census tools too.


300 MATs have chosen Arbor MIS in the last 4 years…

Academies Enterprise Trust is the latest MAT to choose Arbor – joining trusts like United Learning, REach2, Aspire, Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, Red Kite, LEO Academy Trust, Wellspring, and Hoyland Common Academy Trust who have all moved to Arbor in recent years. 


…and 100 more MATs will switch MIS this school year

Over 1,000 schools, and 100 trusts, are likely to switch MIS this year. See why more choose Arbor than any other provider at: www.arbor-education.com 

If you’d like to read more of our content for MAT leaders, get stuck in with our MAT MIS series, or our latest ebook on how to create a cohesive culture across your trust.

blank Rebecca Watkins - 29 June, 2021

Category : Blog

How to build a resilient trust: Interviews with MAT leaders and industry experts

Last term, we launched Part Two of our popular webinar series for MAT Leaders – “Building a Resilient Trust”. In each webinar, Arbor’s CEO, James Weatherill spoke to MAT leaders and industry experts about their strategies for running a trust successfully during Covid-19 and beyond. The series explored different facets of “resilience”, including culture, change

Last term, we launched Part Two of our popular webinar series for MAT Leaders – “Building a Resilient Trust”. In each webinar, Arbor’s CEO, James Weatherill spoke to MAT leaders and industry experts about their strategies for running a trust successfully during Covid-19 and beyond.

The series explored different facets of “resilience”, including culture, change management, school improvement, and finance, and gave MAT leaders the chance to hear from peers, share ideas and leave with practical tips to take back to their own trust. 

In case you missed the series, don’t worry! We’ve written up all the talks in an exciting new ebook. Download your copy of the free ebook for MAT leaders here.

MAT-book

What’s inside?

In your ebook, you’ll find interviews with established MAT leaders (from Ormiston Academies Trust, Academy Transformation Trust, Romero Catholic Academy Trust and more) as well as industry experts, sharing all the lessons they’ve learned from the past 12 months. They also share their advice for how to rewrite your five-year trust development plans with new, more ambitious goals. 

You’ll discover how to manage change more effectively, hear ideas on what assessment can and should look like in the future, as well as the steps to making your trust more financially sustainable.

You’ll find yourself reflecting on how to prioritise the things that have the greatest impact at your trust, like how to create a culture of learning to attract and retain the best staff.

Here are the interviews you’ve got in store:

  • The road to financial sustainability as a trust, with Patrick Taggart, Director of Operations at Romero Catholic Academy and Mark Tadman, CEO of School Business Services (SBS)
  • The future of assessment: How Ormiston Academies Trust is capturing more than grades, with Nick Hudson, CEO of Ormiston Academies Trust
  • Managing change in a crisis — Why Orwell MAT moved MIS during Covid, with Anna Hennell James, CEO of Orwell MAT
  • How Academy Transformation Trust created a culture of people development, with Abby Bayford, Director of ATT Institute and Kirsty Woolls, HR Director at Academy Transformation Trust
  • Back on track: Fewer things, greater depth, with Mary Myatt, Education Adviser, Writer and Speaker

How to get your copy

Fill in your details on this page and we’ll email you a PDF copy of this new ebook, for free. We’ll also include “Building a Resilient Trust” Part One, so you can read how another group of MAT leaders navigated the first wave of the pandemic.

Future events with Arbor

Our “Building a Resilient Trust” webinar series is part of our wider MAT events programme, attended by over 600 trust leaders this year so far. We’ve got lots of other great events coming up this term with spaces still available. 

Conversations with MAT Leaders: A Roundtable on Scaling, Systems and Change Management

On 1st and 8th July, we’re holding two intimate and interactive roundtables online (limited to 12 places each) on scaling, systems and leading successful change at your trust. The discussion will be led by our co-hosts Owen McColgan, CEO of Howard Trust and Nick Doy, Head of Data Quality at Nicholas Postgate, who’ll share how they approached a recent trust-wide systems change.

Read the full agenda and book your free spot at a roundtable here.

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Switching Made Simple: The benefits of the cloud

If you’re starting to think about a move to the cloud but don’t know where to start, our Switching Made Simple webinars are perfect for you. We’ll talk you through the process from start to finish so you can see what’s really involved in switching MIS and what the next steps would be for you. Perfect for your school level staff.

switching-simple

Click the links to book your spot below:

5 Ways Arbor Will Transform the Way That you Work
Wednesday 30th June, 10am; Thursday 8th July, 2pm

Switching MIS Made Simple for Primary Schools 
Tuesday 29th June, 2pm; Wednesday 7th July, 10am

Switching MIS Made Simple for Secondary Schools 
Tuesday 29th June, 10am; Tuesday 6th July, 2pm

blank Harriet Cheng - 17 July, 2020

Category : Blog

United Learning chooses Arbor MIS for all 72 of its state schools

We’re proud to announce that United Learning, the largest mixed-phase MAT in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 72 state schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the two largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK! From Autumn Term 2020, 34 secondary schools and 23

We’re proud to announce that United Learning, the largest mixed-phase MAT in England, has just chosen Arbor MIS for its 72 state schools. More schools switch to Arbor than any other MIS, and we now support the two largest primary and secondary MATs in the UK!

From Autumn Term 2020, 34 secondary schools and 23 primary schools in United Learning will move to Arbor – joining the 15 United Learning schools who already use us. Together they’ll join our growing community of over 1,000 schools and 100 MATs who have all chosen Arbor to help transform the way they work – including REAch2, the largest primary school MAT, who moved to Arbor in 2018.

The MIS of choice for schools across all phases:

As a large mixed-phased trust, United Learning chose Arbor to help them analyse information across all their schools simply and effectively, automate repetitive administrative tasks and operate remotely at scale all from one system. 

Dominic Norrish, Chief Operating Officer at United Learning said: “United Learning are excited to realise the benefits that a modern cloud-based MIS such as Arbor will bring to our schools – resilience, mobility, security and the reduced costs of a single, highly capable tool.”

Arbor's Group MIS

We’ve taken the time to build out features tailored to each school phase:

  • For MATs: Arbor’s Group MIS lets you work across all your schools from one central system, so you can collaborate more easily and really understand what’s going on. Arbor allow’s you to track performance from a distance, compare data across schools, manage your staff, and communicate with everyone centrally.
  • For Secondary Schools: Our MIS for secondaries lets you analyse your data in any way you like. Choose our built-in Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards, or securely export your data to external analysis tools like Power BI, Google Sheets or Excel. Roll out your behaviour policies consistently and automate time-consuming follow-ups such as booking detentions and notifying parents. Arbor also includes end-to-end exams management, cover planning, timetabling, and interventions management.
  • For Primary Schools: With Arbor for primaries, daily jobs like chasing absent students and following up on incidents are simple and painless. Our MIS brings all your student and staff data together so you can easily spot patterns, and get the data you need at your fingertips to tell the full story of each pupil as they progress through school. Our primary schools love our lightning-fast registers and simple census tools, too.

100 MATs have chosen Arbor MIS in the last 3 years…

United Learning is the latest MAT to choose Arbor – joining trusts like REAch2, Aspire, Diocese of Salisbury Academy Trust, Red Kite, LEO Academy Trust, Wellspring, and Hoyland Common Academy Trust who have all moved to Arbor in recent years. 

…and more schools chose Arbor in 2019 than any other MIS system

320 schools started using Arbor between January-December 2019, joining the growing movement of schools switching to the cloud to transform the way they work. Recently we’ve been focused on helping our schools work flexibly and remotely during Covid-19, with over 250 schools having moved to Arbor during lockdown! We’ve built out our MIS to help schools manage staff rotas, communicate with parents, and set classwork remotely (see more on that here).

You can read more about our cloud-based MIS in our brochures for primary and  secondary schools (click here), and MATs (click here).

Interested to see whether Arbor could be a good fit for your school or trust?

We’d be more than happy to arrange a remote, personalised demo for your team – just click here, or reach us at hello@arbor-education.com or call 0208 050 1028. 

blank Cosima Baring - 30 October, 2018

Category : Blog

Scaling your MAT sustainably: Different ways to centralise to achieve economies of scale

Last April, we held the first in our series of free MAT CEO conferences. Over 100 Executive Leaders representing 72 MATs nationally came to London to network, exchange best practice advice, and listen to our speakers discuss strategies for achieving sustainable growth. We had such a positive response from attendees that we’ve decided to hold

Last April, we held the first in our series of free MAT CEO conferences. Over 100 Executive Leaders representing 72 MATs nationally came to London to network, exchange best practice advice, and listen to our speakers discuss strategies for achieving sustainable growth. We had such a positive response from attendees that we’ve decided to hold a second – this time at the Co-Op Academies HQ in Manchester!

The landscape for MATs in England is constantly evolving, and the debate continues around the best ways for trusts to successfully manage growth, including questions over how much autonomy MATs should afford their schools. Whilst a number of studies have been published by the DfE and other research bodies in an effort to guide new and existing MATs as they grow (including this Expectations for Growth Report from 2016), exchanging and learning from good practice remains an effective way for MATs to navigate this landscape.

With that in mind, the next instalment of Arbor’s free MAT conference series will bring together Executive Leaders from across the country in Manchester to hear other MAT CEO & Senior Leaders from different-sized MATs tell their stories about scaling. Speakers including Luke Sparkes (Dixons Academies Trust), Claire-Marie Cuthbert (The Evolve Trust), Mark Williams (The Co-Op Academies Trust) & Karen Burns (Victorious Academies Trust) will discuss scaling everything from their strategy, operations, central team process & systems to their reporting, governance and culture. Also on the program is a presentation from Ofsted’s Regional Director for the North West, Andrew Cook, who’ll talk about what Ofsted looks for in a MAT’s ability to provide school improvement. We’ll finish with a open, roundtable discussion between Northern MAT CEOs about what has and hasn’t worked for them on their journeys so far.

Click here to see the full agenda and sign up for your FREE ticket!

With over 100 delegates from MATs across the country expected to attend, we’ve left plenty of time between talks (and organised a free buffet lunch!) to allow for networking and conversation between delegates. Guests will leave with a series of relevant, practical and implementable steps to take back to their MATs and help them grow sustainably, as well as new MAT contacts to keep in touch with.

Finally, if you can’t make it, don’t worry! We’ll be publishing all the presentations from the conference on our blog, so keep an eye out and keep checking our Twitter & LinkedIn for updates. In the meantime, why not have a read of the presentation given at our last conference by Dominic Norrish, Group Director of Technology at United Learning, about how and when to scale systems within your MAT?

Full programme for the day:

09:45 – 10:00: 4 different ways of centralising data & ops across your MAT

James Weatherill, CEO, Arbor Education

10:00 – 10:30: How to scale culture across your schools

Mark Williams, Director of Education at Co-op Academies Trust

10:30 – 11:00: Ofsted’s new framework & MAT’s capacity for school improvement

Andrew Cook, Regional Director for the North West, Ofsted

11:00 – 11:30 : Networking break

11:35 – 12:05: How to centralise your back office to help scale

Will Jordan, Education Sector Manager, PS Financials

12:10 – 12:40: Improve collaboration within your MAT and across school phases

Claire-Marie Cuthbert, CEO at The Evolve Trust

12:40 – 13:40: Lunch

13:40 – 14:10: A new model to make your MAT structures more agile & responsive

Luke Sparkes, Executive Principal at Dixons Academies Trust

14:10 – 14:50: Roundtable

Phil Crompton, Former CEO at Trent Academies Group

Karen Burns, CEO at Victorious Academies Trust

Chris Kirk, Ex-Partner for Education at PwC, formerly GEMS DfE & Director at CJK Associates

14:50 – 15:20: MAT Mergers: what to do right and what to avoid!

Speaker TBC

15:20 – 16:00: Networking break

blank Arbor - 19 April, 2018

Category : Blog

The common barriers to scaling a MAT

We brought together 100 MAT leaders to discuss how to ‘scale sustainably’ In April this year we brought together 100 MAT leaders from over 70 organisations to discuss different strategies for scaling their MAT sustainably, with a focus on how these varied by the degree of centralisation vs. autonomy the MAT chooses to give to

We brought together 100 MAT leaders to discuss how to ‘scale sustainably’

In April this year we brought together 100 MAT leaders from over 70 organisations to discuss different strategies for scaling their MAT sustainably, with a focus on how these varied by the degree of centralisation vs. autonomy the MAT chooses to give to schools (click here for the agenda). This generated some great presentations from our speakers from Elliot Foundation, United Learning and others which we’ll write up on this blog over the coming weeks, as well as some lively debate about what challenges senior leaders are having with scaling. We held the conference to highlight emerging good practice beyond the highly centralised model of MAT operations that is highlighted in the press. It’s clear that a one-size-fits-all approach is overly-simplistic, and that strategies and barriers to scaling vary both between different MATs, and within a MAT as it goes through 6 phases of growth.

Scaling strategies vary by MAT culture, size and type of school

The first point that was noted was that a MAT’s scaling challenges varies by the culture and size of the MAT. We’ve written previously about how culture and the degree of MAT centralisation vs. school autonomy is a key driver of how a MAT scales systems, processes and people, and how different strategies may suit different school types. For example a MAT of outstanding schools will often have a different culture and degree of centralisation than a MAT of turnaround schools.

Being deliberate and setting clear early expectations about what you will centralise (systems, processes, roles) and what you will devolve autonomy to heads to decide was seen as essential in helping smooth the scaling process, and get ahead of problems that would be exponentially harder to solve retrospectively as the MAT grew. Most speakers agreed that despite it seeming easier to devolve decisions to schools at the outset, making bold decisions to centralise some aspects and capitalising on early enthusiasm would help in the long run.

Building the infrastructure to scale early on

The mean average number of schools per MAT in the conference was ~5, which as we’re previously written about is exactly the time that MATs should be looking to put in place the infrastructure to help scale, typically involving the centralisation of systems. Most MATs in the room had centralised their finance function early on, and were now looking to capitalise on early momentum to centralise their MIS, assessment and HR functions, as this helps to get a single view of MAT data, improve transparency and audit of process, and provide the foundation for scaling your central team. As we’ve mentioned previously, it’s at ~5 schools (depending on phase) where manual processes and systems cause your team to break. Try to tackle this before it becomes a problem.

Common barriers to scaling, including crossing the ‘catch 22 chasm’ of growth

We polled our audience of 100 about what their greatest barrier to scaling was, shown in the chart below. The biggest response by far was the ‘catch 22’ of scaling – needing funding to scale the central team/impact of the MAT, but requiring scale to access more funding. This was commonly reported by all MAT types and sizes, but most prominently in MATs of 4-15 schools who were struggling for financial viability. These MATs were often entering into a period of unsustainable growth, driven by the imperative to become financially viable – the conversation was focused on what MATs could do at this stage to smooth what is always going to be one of the hardest phases of scaling. Recognising this early, and preparing the infrastructure and team was seen as vital, reflected by the fact that centralising roles and systems came in at number 2 and 3 on the list. Setting up clusters and changing operating models was commented on by larger MATs as a challenge (often linked to how to manage these), as well as finding suitable schools to join the MAT. Several MATs were changing their governance model, and debating how far to centralise committees and responsibilities. Perhaps most surprising was the fact that finding the right people came so low down the list of barriers. The pool of talented individuals with experience in scaling impact across schools isn’t vast, and perhaps MATs underestimate this challenge or overestimate their capabilities in this regard.

Barriers to scaling a MAT

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We will be updating this blog over the coming weeks with presentations from our speakers covering how MATs can effectively scale their culture, strategy, systems, processes, procurement, and governance. For now, click here to see my presentation including some of the points above.