THE CENTRAL TEAM
In a Multi Academy Trust (MAT), the Central Team is the Trust's central administration team. Each MAT around the country is organised differently. Some Central Teams may appear very lean and some may appear quite large. This all depends on how the Trust operations are organised. In particular, which roles are still school based and directed and which are centralised.
Currently the Central Team is based at The Kingsbrook School, Aylesbury and has an office space in each IAT school.
The Central Team is responsible for the core operations of the Trust and the staff in the Central Team report to the CEO. At IAT the Central Team are directly responsible for:
- The Quality of Education and School Improvement
- Trust Finance
- Human Resources (including Safeguarding)
- Estates and Facilities Management
- IT Strategy, Procurement and Delivery
At IAT, our approach to establishing the Central Team responsibilities has been to consider which areas take up significant School Leaders time, taking away the opportunity to focus on core Teaching and Learning. By ensuring our Central Team undertake these statutory responsibilities, it allows School Leaders and LGB Governors to focus on our core strategic aim - to deliver a high quality, aspirational learning experience for all our students.
Quality of Education
As a MAT we are responsible for the Quality of Education and the School Improvement initiatives at all our schools. We are also more closely scrutinised than a maintained school or a Single Academy Trust (SAT). Most Academies are SATs and about 50% of schools nationally are still maintained. The Regional Schools Director and the Department for Education work more closely with MATs. Part of our remit is to have our own School Improvement Team and process. An integral aspect of this means our Trust Data Lead takes a strategic role in our Data and MIS processes including our migration to Arbor and shared processes and leadership of School Data and Examinations.
As a MAT, all school finance is the responsibility of IAT. So whether funds are sent directly to a school or to a MAT central account, the Trust is responsible for all funds received. It is also responsible for the auditing of those funds and the publication of the Annual Report for Companies House. This is very different to a maintained school. Our CEO is the Accounting Officer and is responsible for all of our funding and its deployment. Our CFOO, who is a qualified accountant, is responsible for the strategic management of our finances including all reserves. Each IAT school has a dedicated Finance Officer, but they are centrally managed within the Central Team.
Human Resources (including Safeguarding)
Every member of staff in a MAT is employed by the Trust. That means that the Trustees and the CEO are ultimately responsible for their employment and the enforcement of correct employment law processes and procedures. The Trust HR Team is there to support staff, school leaders and also the Trustees as our employers. The Trust HR Team lead on all areas of staffing from recruitment and on-boarding through to attendance, conduct, grievance, disciplinary issues and GDPR. The IAT HR Team work very closely with Browne Jacobson our external HR Provider. This ensures we get valuable, up to date legal advice and access to carefully reviewed policies that we can implement at our Trust.
The HR Team also has a Trust DSL who attends our Safeguarding Reference Group to ensure all processes and procedures that are enacted across the Trust are consistent.
Estates and Facilities Management
When a school joins a Trust, its buildings and its land become the property of the Trust on a lease agreement with the Local Authority and the Secretary of State for Education, normally on a 125 year lease. This means that the Trust is legally responsible for the upkeep and the development of each schools estate. In our Trust, all capital projects are Trust Board decisions rather than school based initiatives.
The Trust is also responsible for all statutory testing and Health and Safety. School Leaders have responsibility for keeping their site safe and reporting issues to the Trust.
IT Strategy, Procurement and Delivery
IT is a very costly area for schools, both in terms of staffing and the procurement of materials. At IAT, IT is a centralised strategy to ensure we are able to secure the best value for money options for our Trust. This includes the choice of our external IT partner, our 1:1 device provider and all other IT procurement decisions. By ensuring we have a standard approach that is tailored to our schools, we can provide an excellent IT service for schools using Microsoft or Google.
The Trust Board is the legal governing body of all schools within the MAT.
At IAT we have Local Governing Bodies (LGBs) with a mixture of appointed governors and elected staff and parent governors. The Headteacher is also a governor on our LGBs. Each LGB is a committee of the Trust Board and communication between these tiers of governance is essential for effective overall governance across the MAT. There is a standard agenda for the LGB meetings which meet twice termly, and IAT hosts three Whole Trust Governance Workshops every year. LGBs follow the Trust agenda, but also add in local context items to their agendas as required.
The Chair of Trustees and LGB Chairs meet after each round of LGB meetings, with the CEO in attendance, to provide feedback to the Trust on key items from their meetings. A member of each LGB also attends the Trust Finance & Audit Committee which meets termly.
Working in a Trust
All staff in a Multi Academy Trust are Trust staff, even though they may be based or deployed to a particular school. The Central Team provide the support to schools, staff and stakeholders. The Central Team carry out many of the duties that school Business Managers, school finance teams, school site teams and external provisions like HR will undertake in a standalone school. The Central Team is also responsible for contributing to the quality of education at each Trust school.
There can be confusion with MATs and their Central Services. Many schools considering joining a Trust look at the Central Services as a Service Level Agreement. However, this is not correct. When a school joins a Trust, it becomes part of the Trust. It is governed and managed by the Trust and is part of the larger MAT and its structure. The school is not buying back services, it is now adopting and implementing the processes and procedures of the Trust. The Heads of Service at the IAT Central Team and the CEO and CFOO, work very closely with Headteachers, Heads of School and Local Governing Bodies in a positive, collegiate manner.
Many of the members of the Central Team were previously members of staff at the schools in the Trust before they joined IAT. The key difference for a MAT is that we can achieve greater efficiency by centralising and standardising processes and procedures. This means the Central Team’s operations benefit from economies of scale, enhanced economic freedom and are more agile in relation to central decisions. It is this centralised approach, around a family of schools that drives the MAT agenda. This is coupled with a Trusts responsibility for the quality of education and also its capacity to make timely, effective and more robust interventions to improve standards.
As schools join IAT, it is reasonable to presume the Central Team will grow to meet increased operational need. However Central Team growth and development is closely monitored by Trustees. This is to ensure that funds are focused on educational and statutory provision in our schools.
Overall, we believe the Central Services Team provision:
- improves the resilience of the support provided across all schools
- shares knowledge and skills across the team and therefore benefits all schools
- delivers financial efficiencies, which can be redirected to teaching and learning
- ensures we are meeting our statutory duties across all our schools
- drives the delivery of high standards in crucial support functions.
A good independent source of information on Multi Academy Trusts for Trustees, Governors, School Leaders and other stakeholders is the National Governance Association and in particular their publication Taking the Next Step, which you can access here.