Are MATs the answer to improving school performance?

Our latest blog by Tom Stephenson explores whether Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) can improve school performance. It highlights the advantages of MATs, such as increased decision-making freedom, collaborative learning, and cost savings, while also addressing challenges like maintaining quality and ensuring fairness.

Ultimately, MATs are seen as having significant potential to improve education, but is this actually the case? 


As we come to the end of SATs and are in the middle of GCSE season, school leaders may be asking themselves: Are MATs the answer to improving my school’s performance?

The concept of MATs has emerged as a significant strategy to overcome the challenges faced by schools and to drive improvements in educational outcomes. MATs have gained attention for their ability to provide greater autonomy, collaboration, and accountability within education.

In this blog, Tom Stephenson, Trust Partnership Manager at Juniper Education, aims to provide insights into this question and offer solutions for schools seeking to enhance educational outcomes post-results day.

What is a Multi-Academy Trust?

Multi-Academy Trusts are organisations responsible for the governance and management of multiple academies or schools. They operate independently of local authority control and are accountable for the performance of all schools within their trust. MATs typically consist of a central executive team overseeing various schools, each with its own governing body. This structure allows for shared resources, expertise, and strategic oversight, aiming to raise standards across the board.

MATs: A growing trend in Education Reform

In recent years, the UK education sector has seen a significant shift towards academies and MATs. Since the beginning of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2010, academy schools have grown substantially. In 2023, the government reiterated its support for academies, emphasising the importance of high-quality MATs in ensuring all students and schools benefit from this model.

MATs are set to continue growing in the coming years, with more schools joining trusts than ever before. More than half of academies are members of MATs, and the government is actively encouraging isolated academies to join trusts. This trend highlights the perceived value of MATs in driving improvement and raising standards in education.

What is the evidence that MATs improve standards in schools?

In an article published on The House of Lords Library website, the government has argued that requiring all schools to become part of a strong MAT would increase standards. In a whitepaper titled, ‘The case for a fully trust-led system’, published in March 2022, the government argued that MATs have a strong record in improving standards in underperforming schools. It said:

“If all pupils did as well in reading, writing and maths at key stage two in 2019 as pupils in the MAT performing at the 75th percentile of MATs on this measure, national performance would have been eight percentage points higher at 73%. At the 90th percentile, this would have been 79%.”

According to information published in the same paper, data on Ofsted ratings does not show that schools in MATs have better ratings than other schools. However, the government emphasised that many schools joined MATs because they were underperforming; therefore, they started from a lower base. The government highlighted that “more than seven out of 10 sponsored academies were now rated good or outstanding compared to about one in 10 local authority-maintained schools they replaced”.

The benefits of joining a MAT

Autonomy with accountability:

MATs offer schools greater independence in decision-making, allowing them to tailor their curriculum, staffing, and policies to meet the specific needs of their students and communities. However, this autonomy is balanced by accountability measures, ensuring that schools within the trust maintain high-performance standards. MATs encourage creativity and adaptability to local requirements by allowing schools to make decisions while maintaining oversight.

Collaborative learning communities:

One of the key strengths of MATs lies in their ability to promote collaboration among schools. By sharing best practices and expertise, MATs create a support network that enables schools to learn from each other and drive continuous improvement. This collaborative approach can lead to greater staff development, effective teaching strategies, and improved student outcomes across the trust.

Cost advantages:

MATs can achieve economies of scale by centralising certain functions such as finance, HR, and procurement. By pooling resources and facilities, MATs can reduce administrative overheads and redirect funds towards frontline services, such as teaching and learning support. This efficient use of resources enables MATs to invest in initiatives that directly benefit students, such as enrichment programs, extracurricular activities, and targeted interventions.

The challenges and criticisms of joining a MAT

Despite the growing popularity of MATs, challenges and criticisms persist. Critics have questioned the effectiveness of MATs in improving school performance, highlighting concerns about rapid expansion and uneven support for schools within trusts. Research suggests that the success of MATs in raising student attainment varies, with some trusts experiencing greater success than others.

Maintaining quality and consistency:

Ensuring consistency and quality across all schools within a MAT remains a significant challenge. Variations in leadership, staff expertise, and local contexts may impact the effectiveness of strategies implemented within different schools.

Equity and inclusion:

MATs must prioritise equity and inclusion to avoid exacerbating inequalities. Schools serving disadvantaged communities may require additional support and resources to address socioeconomic barriers to learning.


The ascent of MATs is undeniable. While the discussion continues regarding their impact on school performance, it’s evident that there are numerous benefits to schools affiliated with MATs. From enhanced collaboration to shared resources and specialised support, being part of a MAT offers opportunities for growth and improvement that shouldn’t be overlooked. As the education sector in the UK evolves, MATs are proving to be a dynamic force in shaping the future of schools and education systems.

Monitoring progress and performance in MATs

Juniper’s market-leading products have been created to help monitor progress and performance within MATs, and innovative tools such as Sonar Multi-School and MAT Dashboard offer invaluable solutions.

These platforms provide comprehensive insights into various aspects of school performance, including academic achievement, attendance, and student progress. By utilising data analytics and visualisation, Sonar Multi-School and MAT Dashboard empower MATs to make informed decisions, identify improvement areas, and track interventions' impact over time.

Ready to improve your MATs performance metrics?

Get in touch with our team or book a free demo today to discover how Sonar Multi-School and MAT Dashboard can give you data-driven insights that can improve your MAT performance.