Partnerships – Do you really need them or can you go it alone?

With the continued rise of Multi-Academy Trusts (MAT) and Federations, it’s easy to be rushed into a decision when considering partnerships. In this week’s insight, we take a look at the challenges facing schools when forming partnerships to help guide the best decision for your school.

Partnerships between schools have grown at an exponential rate since the introduction of the Learning and Skills Act in 2000. Currently, the UK has in excess of 800 Multi Academy Trusts, some with over 50 schools. Federationsare a growing alternative to academisation. In 2016, there were over 1000 schools that were part of a federation.

Partnerships between schools are formed primarily to improve standards by making the most of both cash and physical resources. Although research on the impact of federations and MATs is inconclusive as to how successful they are.

This makes the decision of forming a partnership an incredibly important one, ensuring that your school not only chooses the right type of partnership, (Federation, MAT or just collaboration on a project) but also choose the right partner.

The first steps to any partnership requires analysis of your current position objectively; where are you now?

What are you striving to achieve? Where do you want to get to? It is only once you understand your own position fully you can begin to discuss any potential partnerships.

What you decide will dictate the type of partnership that is right for your school.

Choosing a partner that has the same ambitions as your school will allow for a reciprocal relationship that delivers on both parties goals. This is not an easy thing to achieve or to be objective about, so enlisting support from an impartial professional to help provide support and guide you through the process is highly recommended.

Unfortunately, finding the right partner isn’t the end of the journey, it is just the beginning. Once you have found a partner, the decision on the type of partnership you will form should be based on the format that will best allow you both to achieve your goals.

If your chosen route is to become an academy and join or form a MAT then a number of factors need to be considered, including how stakeholders are to be consulted, the impact from building & land transfers and TUPE requirements.

The planning and preparation required for converting to an academy is time consuming. Appointing a project manager with sufficient capacity, capability and experience to deliver the conversion as smoothly as possible is vitally important. Doing so jointly as a partnership ensures consistency in the process.

If your chosen route is to form a federation, whilst easier, it still comes with its own complications and decisions. Will you disband local governing bodies and have a single over-arching governing body that is responsible for all schools?

or will you maintain your local governing bodies and simply form joint committees?

In conclusion, partnerships are a valuable tool that can help drive us to our goals and deliver economies of scale that maximise our use of both cash and physical resources.  However, this is only possible if you make the right decisions on who our partners should be and the type of partnership you enter.

The goal should always be to improve the lives and outcomes for our children andyoung people. If a potential partnership does not offer ways in which you candeliver this, then the partnership is not in the best interests of your school, so going it alone can be the better option.