Senior management and boards of numerous single academy trusts are now reviewing their structures and trying to work out whether they are suitable for their long term plans.
Converting to a multi-academy trust (MAT) allows:
- other schools to convert and formally join. This enables the existing academy to support other schools who may not want to convert alone or are in danger of being forced to convert. It will also create a larger trust with potentially more financial sustainability; or
- existing academies to join together; or
- an existing single academy trust to become a sponsor of under-performing schools.
The debate around single academy trusts and conversion to a MAT has become more important for many academy trusts following the announcement of proposed Government changes which will result in an increase in forced academisation.
The process for a single academy trust to convert to a MAT is:
- permission from the Secretary of State for Education via the EFA is needed. There is a defined process for this and it will include preparing a business plan. Details of the proposal including key information on finance and governance will need to be provided;
- consultation with key stakeholders;
- amend the existing articles of association, and perhaps the name, of the academy trust. This allows the necessary governance changes to be implemented;
- enter into a deed of variation to convert existing funding agreement into a master funding agreement and enter into new supplemental funding agreement(s); and
- review the board of the single academy trust and constitute a local governing body for each of the schools within the MAT.
This two tier governance structure is often new to single academy trusts and it is important that governors understand the difference to their role that this structure creates.
There is no requirement for a MAT to have more than one school within it initially and so many single academy trusts convert in preparation for working with more schools. It is difficult to say with certainty how long it takes to convert but an academy trust should allow around 4-6 months in total which takes into account the required consultation period. This also gives an academy trust the ability to fully consider governance arrangements post-conversion.
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