MAT life: An SBL's opinion from the inside

Nikki is the finance and operations director at a growing MAT consisting of six primary schools and a teaching school in Cheshire. She told us her opinions on what it is like to work within a MAT.
Nikki believes that MATs face a higher level of accountability than other schools, she said: “There’s a much greater focus on accountability in a MAT. We have a lot more reporting to do. Internal audits used to happen once every four or five years but now we have internal and external audits annually, as well as scrutiny from the DfE.”
Despite the bureaucracy, Nikki also noted that there are many benefits of joining a MAT: “There is much more freedom and flexibility and we have had access to more capital funding than we would have had as maintained schools. I think another positive is that you become very sharp on benchmarking yourselves against other organisations. You are reviewing and improving all the time because the focus on measurement of what you do is much greater.”
She continued: “I can only speak about my experience of working as a school business manager in local authority maintained schools over three years ago but when I compare those days with my current role it does seem faster paced, more reflective and more dynamic. It is a completely different world. Another benefit of working in a trust is that you do develop a more intimate knowledge of everything that we do.”
Although she is currently reaping the rewards of being in a MAT, Nikki acknowledged that these benefits may change over time, she said: “At the moment we are only six schools and there will be a stage when we grow further where we’ll risk losing that intimate view but I do feel that we have the freedom to be able to carefully plan how we will change in a way that will work for all of our schools.
“It’s a rewarding but very intense role. There is so much to be responsible for and we have to be a jack of all trades sometimes. We have been able to bring specialist roles into the trust so that responsibilities can be shared,” she said. “I’m now more part of a network at our MAT. We have an estates manager, for example, whose focus is solely on our buildings and facilities.”
Summarising her role within the MAT, Nikki said: “It is a constantly changing role and the good thing is that we are masters of our own destiny. What we were doing 12 months ago is totally different to what we are doing now. I’ve learned not to be frightened about the fast pace of change.”
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