Schools are increasingly becoming part of complex networks – whether that’s a multi-academy trust, a federation of local schools, a national group (e.g. free schools or UTCs), a training alliance or an international network of private schools. One of the pertinent questions is how to grow the school as it grows itself. There are some obvious benefits in a larger organisation – cost savings in functions from IT to payroll and greater opportunities to bring teachers together to share training, for example.
But here are 5 other areas to think about and make the most of as you expand… and how to grow your school.
One of the major risks facing schools is the teacher recruitment and retention crisis – while you’ve probably already pooled recruitment and used your greater buying power to reduce advertising costs, what about using your new opportunities to develop your existing staff? As well as planning ahead to fill gaps in management and leadership positions, why not offer short-term placements, work shadowing or job-swaps to improve skills. And it’s not just for teaching staff – ISBL Fellow Matthew Clements-Wheeler is working on development opportunities for support staff in MATs – see his evolving thoughts and the vast number of possibilities here.
Customer service expert Shep Hyken is clear – ‘a brand is as strong as its weakest link’. That’s as true for a network of schools as it is for the restaurant chain mentioned in his article. As links between schools grow, there’s a clear opportunity to create policies and deliver training so that a visitor to one school can clearly see what makes the whole chain special. You could do this and save money by centralising phone contact (especially routine tasks such as parents reporting absence) and letting reception staff in each school spend more time on face-to-face interactions.
As the number of people involved in a communications network grows, the number of links between them grows exponentially. That means you can’t rely on the methods that individual schools use to share information – from whole staff briefings to notes on a staffroom noticeboard. This is another area where technology can help – there’s huge investment and interest in productivity-enhancing tools like Slack or Basecamp that allow ideas to be shared around teaching hours and teachers to become part of groups that reflect their subject specialist and wider school roles as well as where they work.
Following on from the last idea, once you’ve set up an internal communications system, why not use it to encourage staff to share ideas or test new ones you’ve come up with centrally? You can also share new assessment or teaching materials easily and encourage teachers to become more proficient in researching which ones work best – an important new school that could lead to presentations at conferences such as the growing ResearchED ones.
You might already have thought about bringing teachers together for shared CPD sessions, but what if you could share best practice and develop teachers into coaches without leaving a school? ONVU Learning’s Lessonvu video-based coaching is linking schools across increasingly longer distances with secure and scalable sharing of lessons – and we’re training teachers to become better mentors in the process. Giving teachers the opportunity to ask for help and feedback from a wider and wider group of experts might just be the next revolution in education!
To read more about growing a MAT, download this detailed report from Ambition Leadership and LKMCo, click here.
ONVU Learning offers teacher training and development tools and systems using innovative technology. Discover Lessonvu – the ultimate lesson observation tool that allows for a complete recording of lessons using 360-degree video technology and high definition audio. See how Lessonvu has helped teachers improve their practice, build confidence and have a substantial impact on student outcome on our Evidence page.