An increasing number of academies are considering joining forces to maximise their resources, and multi-academy trusts (MATs) have been created as a result of this growing trend.
The structure of MATs means that a single academy trust has the ultimate responsibility for the management of two or more academies, which can also include a mix of primary and secondary schools, whether they are academies or free schools.
The main trust, which is responsible for operating all the schools assigned to it, is considered a single legal entity.
Usually, it is made up of three governance levels including trust members, a trust board of directors and individual school local governing bodies.
To become a MAT, academies must first be able to demonstrate that they can meet the requirements of the MAT model memorandum and articles of association, as issued by the Department for Education (DfE).
Under the rules, potential MATs must have at least three signatory members, two of whom must be elected parent trustees or representatives, with the Chair of each of the local governing bodies sitting as a trustee on the main board.
MATs are funded through a master funding agreement, with an additional funding agreement to supplement each individual academy.
With one-off conversion grants available for each new school joining the trust, and the chance to bid for sponsor funding, the potential for receiving larger amounts of financial assistance gives those joining a MAT a definite advantage over individual academies and local authority schools.
Furthermore, MATs are able to benefit from centralised services, such as catering and IT support, which means that financial savings can often be made.
Converting to the MAT model also gives academies greater flexibility to take advantage of reduced overhead costs, as well as the chance to share staff between different sites when needed.