Nicky Gillhespy explores the rise of the MAT and the primary SBM role

Nicky Gillhespy, SBM at Cheam Fields Primary Academy – part of the LEO Multi Academy Trust – shares her thoughts on the rise of the MAT and the role of the primary SBM

MATs continue to increase in number – and size – and it seems secondary schools are taking the lead role in them. What is the future for primary SBMs? Nicky Gillhespy, SBM at Cheam Fields Primary Academy – part of the LEO Multi Academy Trust – shares her thoughts

Why and how do you think secondary schools have come to dominate – to take this lead role?

Traditionally, in some parts of the country, only secondary schools had SBMs working at SLT level. This is not the case everywhere and there are many excellent SBMs in primary schools working at the highest level within their settings. There is also a rise in the number of primary only MATS – I’m currently working in one of these.

The main issue is long term viability; a MAT needs 5,000 pupils to be financially stable and this is easier with secondary schools as they have larger pupil numbers.

Fewer primary schools are converting to MATs, why do you think that is?

Financially it’s difficult to manage as a stand-alone school and only the larger primaries can afford to convert on their own. This can change as MATs are set up to join primaries and make the trust viable.

Exponential growth, funding benefits… academies in numbers

  • 5,758 academies in England
  • 28% of all state-funded schools
  • 3,430 primary academies
  • 2,068 secondary academies
  • 260 special and alternative provision
  • 1,004 school in the pipeline to become academies

Source: DFE as of 1 October 2016

What effect are MATs having on the education landscape?

I cannot really answer this one! Just a different structure. I cannot say if it’s better or worse – it’s just different. Funding to LAs has been reduced so many cannot afford to offer all the services required by schools and MATS are just a different way of pooling resources and enabling these services to be provided.

I see this time as an exciting opportunity for those SBMs who want to take on new challenges but re-training may well be required, or the gaining of qualifications

What I’ve heard is that many SBMs are looking to specialise – for example in finance or HR. Is this something that you see happening too? Is it the right approach?

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There is never a right or wrong approach, just an alternative way of doing things and, in my opinion, whatever works for the best in each setting is for the best. No two schools are the same and no two MATS are the same either.

How can/do primary school SBMs work to maintain or extend their ground?

I see this time as an exciting opportunity for those SBMs who want to take on new challenges but re-training may well be required, or the gaining of qualifications. We must look at ourselves and decide where we want to go, what are our strengths and weaknesses and take control of our own destinies. There will still be a need for SBMs in schools but it may be that this can be spread across more than one school or become a more operational role rather than strategic.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for those words of wisdom Nicky. Looking in the near future towards possible academy conversion I feel your answers are very honest and encouraging.

    • Thank you Rose, embracing change is essential for any SBM, it’s our job to make the best of each situation and do the best we can to provide the best for our pupils.

  2. Nicky, I think you have summed it up well, each School is individual and have a duty to look into all the options open to them and make a decision based on what best suits the children in their care. However, do think to remain as a stand alone Primary is no longer an option.

  3. I totally agree that each individual school has to decide what, in their context, works best for them. I don’t however agree that joining a MAT is the only option. I believe that collaboration is key for all schools but not necessarily within that structure.

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