MATs will face increased scrutiny, says Ofsted chief inspector

Ofsted’s chief inspector spoke at the Education Policy Institute about a new approach to inspecting MATs

Chief inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, announced during her speech at the Education Policy Institute that multi-academy trusts (MATs) will face more scrutiny than before during inspections.

Currently, Ofsted inspects schools and academies but isn’t able to inspect MATs themselves. It has had to gauge the effectiveness of trusts by inspecting multiple schools within the same trust and report back informally.

Spielman has now said, however, that she wants to ensure “the role of the MAT is properly considered” when inspections take place.

Spielman said in her speech:

“MATs themselves come in many shapes, sizes and range of geographical spread. There is quite a spectrum, from back-office models all the way through to fully-integrated models.

“Ofsted does not have a preferred model, but there is, I believe, a debate for us to have about scrutinising the range of models and how they are contributing to the delivery of high standards of education.

“I think it is now generally understood that for MATs, it is the trust itself that is the legal entity. The trust has ultimate responsibility for all the decisions that lead to its pupils receiving a high quality education.

“Increasingly, trusts tell us that they want to have a joined-up conversation with us about the many cross-MAT decisions they make, rather than repeating essentially the same conversation with a different lead inspector on every inspection of a school in aMAT. We have been doing our best on this within the limitations of our remit. But we do know this falls short of the ideal.

“For that reason, I was delighted when the Secretary of State signalled his intention to look at the accountability arrangements for MATs in his speech to the NGA [National Governance Association] last month. And I look forward to our continuing engagement with the department on what a new assessment regime might look like.

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“We are revising our existing methodology and approach to the inspection of MATs, so as to make sure, within the limits of the powers we do have, that we are getting as much insight as we can in the most efficient way.”

This summer, Ofsted will be visiting a number of MATs to trial aspects of this new approach which Spielman hopes will improve the inspection experience for MAT leaders.

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