Institute of Education


Multi-Academy Trusts implement different teaching approaches depending on how well they perform

18 December 2018

Low achieving Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) are more likely to standardise teaching approaches than other multi-school groups, researchers from the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) have found.

Teacher and students learning in class

The Department for Education commissioned report aimed to identify what these providers do to facilitate continuous, sustainable school improvement across the schools they work with. 

It found that MATs below expected student achievement levels and those working to stabilise underperforming schools tended to be more prescriptive. Conversely, above-average-performing MATs and those working with higher-performing schools tended to allow more autonomy to schools and teachers.

The research was conducted through 31 detailed case studies, a national survey of over 500 staff members in MATs and Teaching School Alliances, and focus groups, among other sources.

These highlighted the differing views on standardisation, with those who support it pointing out how it can “ensure consistency in the application of ‘proven’ approaches”, while those who advocate autonomy argued that “schools and teachers should have access to ideas and evidence from elsewhere”, and “they will be put off by a ‘compliance’ culture and will not be able to adapt their practice for different contexts”.

The publication also noted that MATs often struggle to implement standardised pedagogy across schools they oversee. 

Dr Trevor Male, one of the research team, said: 

“This is an innovative and valuable contribution to the field which identifies five school improvement ‘fundamentals’ that MATs and other multi-school groups tend to adopt and five strategic areas which we hope they will focus on to help secure sustainable improvement.”

The report was written by a research team from the London Centre for Leadership in Learning. The team was led by Toby Greany, former professor at UCL Institute of Education, who in September 2018 became Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham.

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