As a NED on the board of a multi-academy trust (MAT), you know what excellent work your trust is doing to provide a high quality education for your pupils that will prepare them well for the future.
Thanks to the recent launch of the wave 14 free school funding, MATs now have an opportunity to use their commitment, passion and expertise to improve education for even more children in England.
Opening a free school presents MATs with a unique opportunity to start from scratch, to build a school up from a single year group and to engrain the trust’s ethos and values into the life of the school from day one. It is a way to replicate best practice, but it is also a chance to use flexibility and innovation to respond to the specific needs of the local community. Free schools offer a way for leaders to focus on the trust’s main educational purpose from the get-go, rather than spending precious time and resources dealing with legacy issues from converter or sponsored academies joining the trust.
Opening a free school is also a tangible way in which trusts can help solve two of the main problems affecting education currently; an acute shortage of school places and low standards of education in existing schools. The wave 14 criteria will ensure that all new free schools will serve areas where there is a desperate need for more school places, and where current provision is failing pupils, especially those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
As part of a MAT, you have access to a wealth of vital expertise that is required to open a free school. The DfE is looking for applicant groups with education experience at a senior level, academy finance expertise and strong governance, as well as expertise in areas such as HR, Estates and safeguarding. Being part of a trust puts you in a strong position to assemble a capable and competent team who will meet the DfE criteria and, crucially, be able to open a fantastic school.
There are also multiple reasons why opening a free school can benefit you as a MAT. Free schools in particular offer a unique CPD opportunity for teaching and leadership staff. Having responsibility for managing and developing a team growing from one or two staff members to a whole department can give middle leaders in particular invaluable experience.
Sustainable MAT growth is also an important consideration as opening a free school is a great way for your trust to expand into a new area. Not only that, but MAT leaders often find that the process of applying to open a free school forces them to look at the trust holistically, identifying gaps and assessing capacity across the board. This is a crucial process for maintaining the health of any trust.
Applying for and opening a free school can seem daunting, and it is certainly a process that requires a significant amount of commitment and dedication from those involved.
New Schools Network’s Development Programme is designed to help high-potential groups navigate this process by providing advice and resources to ensure groups submit the best possible application. The support available covers all the main aspects of the application, from helping ensure the trust’s governance structure is ready for an additional school to providing advice on effective community engagement strategies. Applications to join the Development Programme are now open.
Opening a free school can be a challenging journey, but it is one that is full of opportunities. The first day that children walk through the doors of your new school will be a hugely rewarding one, but the true benefits will be seen every day that children are inspired and excited to learn in their new school.
The deadline for wave 14 applications is 30th September 2019, so if your trust has a strong track record of providing outstanding outcomes and includes dedicated individuals with the right expertise, get in touch with New Schools Network or book a one-to-one meeting with an adviser to find out how we can help you make your vision a reality.