Earlier this year, Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector (HMCI), delivered a speech at the Education Policy Institute conference that set the scene for changes to the way Ofsted reviews multi-academy trusts (MATs).
As HMCI set out, during the summer term we visited a small number of MATs to trial aspects of a new approach. We’ve learnt from those trials and we’re confident that the resulting new MAT summary evaluations, as they will now be called, will improve the inspection experience for MAT leaders, their academies and for inspectors. Ultimately, we want to ensure that in individual inspections of MAT schools, the role of the MAT is properly considered.
In short, this new approach will involve a number of inspections of individual academies from a MAT, taking place over a period of up to two terms. And once all the inspection reports are published, a small team of inspectors will visit the ‘head office’ to work with MAT senior leaders to evaluate the educational effectiveness of the MAT as a whole. This will draw on the inspections carried out and discussions with MAT leaders.
Why are we making this change?
- To better understand the way MATs are organised and operate, the role they play in their own right and ensure that our inspections reflect this.
- To improve our reporting on the impact that MATs are having, whether this is as part of a MAT summary evaluation or a standalone inspection of an academy or free school that is part of a MAT.
- To make evaluations of MATs more intelligent, in line with our corporate strategy.
MATs are integral to the running of their schools and are legally responsible for the quality of education that is being delivered through them. Therefore, in developing our new approach, we wanted to address misconceptions about the MAT’s role as merely an instrument for school improvement.
To ensure we are evaluating the impact of MATs effectively, the evaluations will be led by inspectors who have a deep knowledge and understanding of MATs and the way they work. This also builds on our internal strategic aim: to develop a more skilled workforce.
We have already taken steps to enhance inspectors’ knowledge of MAT structures and operations, and to improve the quality of reporting. We have brought on board Ofsted Inspectors, who are MAT leaders, to act as team inspectors for these evaluations, whenever possible.
During our visits in the summer term and in wider discussions, MAT leaders told us that the current process did not easily allow for executive leaders to be available for the final feedback meetings at academy inspections.
A decent gap in the schedule between academy inspections and the head office activities will provide MATs with the opportunity to reflect upon inspection outcomes and begin to take action to remedy any potential shortcomings.
MAT summary evaluations may also include inspectors visiting a small number of schools during the week of the MAT head office visit, in agreement with the MAT, in order to see first-hand specific evidence of the impact of the MAT, in addition to that gathered during the routine inspections. It is crucial to highlight that these visits are not inspections and may include exempt schools. We believe this will lead to a more balanced picture.
We want to make our expectations clear about our new approach for MAT summary evaluations, so today we’ve published our operational guidance to bring about greater transparency and clarity in the sector.
We want to thank the MAT leaders who have engaged with us during our visits and discussions; they have provided valuable insight through open and honest conversations.
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