Getting the most out of your MAT

Written by: Paul K Ainsworth | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

As a teacher, how do you get the most out of your school’s multi-academy trust? Paul Ainsworth looks at some of the opportunities MATs should be providing for their staff and what teachers themselves can do to take advantage


If more and more schools are joining MATs, then we need to ensure that we are doing so for the right reasons and that all colleagues receive something tangible and valuable from the MAT we propose to join.


What have the Romans ever done for us?

There can be a feeling in some schools of: “What has the MAT ever done for us?” It conjures up images from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian: “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

Now, while your MAT may not have brought “sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh-water system, and public health”, there will be whole list of services that are provided.

And that can be the problem: people can list the services that are provided – finance, HR, ICT support, estates, payroll – and teaching staff can feel that there is nothing for them. So the point of this article is to consider the opportunities that MATs should be providing for their teaching staff…


Career opportunities

The most obvious part of the MAT offer should be career opportunities. Many MATs will make full use of internal promotion to recruit for system leaders, headships and other senior team members. There may also be opportunities for temporary promoted roles for a whole range of different reasons.

Where routes can seem less clear is at middle leadership level, particularly if heads are reluctant to lose their rising stars even to members of “their own family”. System leaders will be much more eager to support this and hence the challenge is for those aspirant middle leaders to become known to them.

Some MATs will offer opportunities for staff to gain their teaching qualifications. Often the hurdle for many colleagues taking a training route is the loss of salary. Some MATs will offer routes for employees who are graduates to become unqualified teachers and receive a salary as they train. If you feel you have the right qualifications and this interests you, have a look to see who manages initial teaching training in your MAT and contact them.


Leadership programmes

Most MATs will offer a range of leadership programmes. These could be via the National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) or there may be an in-house offer delivered by leaders from across the MAT.

Accessing these courses provides two benefits, first of all you will increase your leadership skills and you will also come to the notice of colleagues from across the organisation.

If career opportunities do become available, they may contact you to discuss them with you. If the programmes are in-house, you will gain a greater understanding of the systems within the organisation and how they have evolved which will also help you in your current role.

For more experienced leaders there may also be opportunities to facilitate such programmes which can be a great way to build your networks.


Teaching and learning pedagogy

There may be programmes available to develop your pedagogical skills. In the past these may have been based on the ITP (Improving Teacher Programme) and OTP (Outstanding Teacher Programme), but many MATs have developed their own individual approaches.

One of the positives of Covid is that these types of programmes have become virtual activities and so you may be able to sign up for such activities without it impacting too much on your teaching time.

A recent development in many MATs has been the growth of book clubs. It is fascinating to discuss a piece of research or a professional book with colleagues in other schools. If there isn’t one in your MAT perhaps you could look at the contacts you have in other schools within the MAT and see if they would be interested in forming one.


Subject networks

Networks of subject leads have been a mainstay of groups of schools for many years now. Middle leaders are always grateful of the opportunity to see how their peers are looking to develop practice in their area. Again, the advent of virtual meetings has made these networks far easier to establish and there should be no reason why every MAT does not have them. If you are not yet a subject leader, perhaps you could ask if you could listen in to a meeting to build contacts. If your MAT does not have one for your subject area, perhaps you could be pro-active in establishing one.


Resources

Often the next step from subject networks is the development of resources that can be used across MAT schools. In some MATs, the whole curriculum is carefully mapped out and schemes of work are provided for all teaching staff. MATs are always looking to their own practitioners to keep developing these resources to prevent them from becoming stale.


Enrichment provision

A number of MATs have focused on the wider curriculum, whether through the arts, sport or residential experiences. Those with a well-developed offer are always looking for colleagues to help lead and promote these activities. Equally, if you work in MAT which does not have such an offer, this could be something you could get involved with.


Early career teachers

It will be interesting to see how MAT provision around NQT groups evolves with the new Early Career Framework (ECF) and how much they seek to offer their own provision. If you are an ECT, try and get as involved in these opportunities as much as possible as you may be amazed where it could lead. If you have experience of leading such groups, MATs are often looking for people to help with their own provision.


Wide horizons

There are so many ways and areas in which your MAT can provide a rich range of opportunities. They can only deliver this rich tapestry with the time and support of colleagues at all levels of the organisation. However large or small your MAT, there will be areas where you can make a difference and enrich your career. Keep your ears and eyes open and positively seize the moment when it arises.

  • Paul K Ainsworth has held director of school improvement roles in four multi-academy trusts and currently works with Infinity Academies Trust in Lincolnshire. He has supported leaders of small rural secondary schools to large 11 to 18 urban ones, working intensively with those in Ofsted categories. He is the author of No Silver Bullets: Day-in, day-out school improvement and a TEDx speaker. Read his previous articles via https://bit.ly/seced-ainsworth


Comments
Name
 
Email
 
Comments
 

Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
 
Sign up SecEd Bulletin