The Multi-Academy Trust (Ofsted Inspection) Bill went through a first reading by the House of Commons in September. Introduced by former teacher and MP on the Commons Education Select Committee, Jonathan Gullis, the Bill seeks to amend section 5 of the Education Act 2005 so that Ofsted may inspect the governing bodies of Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs).
If the Bill passed into law, what would this mean for MATs?
The issues the Bill aims to address
The Bill acknowledges that there is no current power for Ofsted to inspect MATs in the same way that individual academies are inspected. This runs the risk of creating a group of education bodies that are not always held as accountable in the same way to teachers, parents and pupils.
This is viewed as a matter that needs addressing by some in light of the various scandals which have appeared in newspapers relating to MATs. These include an academy trust paying for the lease of a new luxury car for their chief executive and trusts paying for first-class travel and high-class hotel accommodation. In addition, the lack of inspection means that this information is unavailable to help with assessing whether MATs are best placed to expand.
This is an issue which has been recognised for some time and it is not the first time something has been done to try to address it. In 2018 a new approach was trialled whereby Ofsted inspected several individual academies from a MAT over a period of up to two terms. The MAT’s head office was then inspected to evaluate its effectiveness. However, accountability measures remain focused at school level and do not reflect the leadership style of many MATs.
The Bill aims to add a layer of accountability for the trustees of MATs, extending the remit of Ofsted inspectors so that they must consider:
- the achievement of pupils across schools covered by the MAT
- the success of the MAT in reversing educational underperformance
- the quality of leadership, financial management and governance of the MAT.
This would ensure that MATs are playing their full role. Crucially, it would also allow excellent MATs to be recognised.
What should MATs do now?
The Bill is still at the very early stages, so it is unclear yet whether it will progress through each stage and become law. The next stage for the Bill, the Second Reading, is scheduled to take place on 28 January 2022.
Although it is uncertain whether the Bill will take effect, MATs should take the opportunity to review their successes or failings and ensure that their governance and statutory policies are up to date.