Transitioning to a multi-academy trust led system: what does the evidence tell us?

Megan Lucas, Henry Faulkner-Ellis, Juan Manuel Del Pozo Segura and Jenna Julius

26 January 2023

Over the last two decades, the school system in England has evolved from a local authority (LA) led-system to a system in which today nearly half of all schools have been academised. As academisation has progressed, the Government has promoted the formation of multi-academy trusts (MATs).

In March 2022, the Schools White Paper set out the ambition for all schools to be in a ‘strong’ MAT with at least ten schools or 7,500 pupils by 2030 and outlined proposals to allow LAs to establish new MATs in areas where too few ‘strong’ trusts currently exist. Whilst the Schools Bill has now been dropped in its current form, the current Government appears to remain committed to pursuing the ambitions outlined in the White Paper.

This report provides insights into the current MAT landscape by investigating how the mainstream school system has evolved so far. It also considers the considerations and challenges in either pursuing an all-MAT system or in maintaining the current status quo and explores the role of LAs within the current school system and their views on the recent academisation policy proposals.

Key Findings

  • A substantial number of schools are yet to academise or remain in small trusts.
  • There has been uneven progress in academisation across different regions, and there remains significant variation in the make-up and performance of trusts.
  • While academies are more likely to join larger trusts than they were in the past, smaller trusts also have an important role to play in building system capacity.
  • Schools are highly likely to join a trust with a presence in their local authority.
  • LAs are interested in being able to establish their own MATs but have concerns about the practicalities of the current plans for LA established MATs.
  • Four-fifths of the surveyed LAs were also concerned that some schools in their area risked being left behind because MATs would be reluctant to take them on.