October 2017


  • Rooting for you
    Geoff Barton welcomes leaders to the new academic year and shares ASCL's renewed ambition and optimism to remain true to its roots, and serve all members. More
  • Don't be a hero
    Does school and college leadership really matter? World-renowned educationalist Professor John Hattie says yes, but it has to be the right type of leadership. More
  • Redo the maths
    Welcome though it is, the National Funding Formula requires a more sophisticated level of calculation if it is to reflect the real cost to schools of providing a worthwhile education, say Sam Ellis, Susan Fielden and Julia Harnden. More
  • Aiming higher
    Headmaster Walter Boyle says helping students to develop soft skills as well as encouraging successful academic grades can benefit staff and students alike. More
  • Changing places
    Teacher shortages and the developing role of multi-academy trusts (MATs) are two highly important issues for current education policy. Senior Economist Jack Worth says that research suggests that MATs are successfully deploying staff effectively across schools. More
  • Vital support
    Member support is the backbone of ASCL's work. Director Richard Tanton says it's been a busy year for his team, advising and representing leaders in a challenging education landscape. More
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Teacher shortages and the developing role of multi-academy trusts (MATs) are two highly important issues for current education policy. Senior Economist Jack Worth says that research suggests that MATs are successfully deploying staff effectively across schools.

Changing places

New research Teacher Dynamics in Multi-Academy Trusts by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) (see www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/NUFS02/) explores the interrelationship between these two issues using data from the school workforce censuses (SWCs) from 2010 to 2015.

As the legal employers of all staff in their schools, MAT leaders have the opportunity to redeploy teachers and senior leaders to where they are most needed in their academy trust. The research shows that MAT leaders are making use of these opportunities by encouraging teachers to move within the MAT.

The analysis looks at the extent to which teachers and senior leaders move to different schools in the same MAT over time, and how this compares to teacher movement between schools more generally. The analysis captures permanent moves and secondments from one school to another but, as the SWC is an annual snapshot, it cannot capture more informal between-school staff deployment, such as staff cover, short-term loans or teaching across more than one school.

To what extent are teachers moving within MATs?

The data shows that, on average, 1% of teaching staff who work in a school that is part of a MAT move to another school within the same MAT each year. This is equivalent to about one member of staff per year in a typical secondary school. This may appear to be a small amount of movement compared to the 10% of MAT staff who move school each year, however, this is mostly a reflection of the fact that many MATs have few schools and, in some MATs, schools are geographically dispersed across the country. The data shows that staff redeployment is highest in larger MATs (those with more than 15 schools) that are clustered together geographically.

Senior leaders are also much more likely to move within MATs than classroom teachers. This is consistent with the DfE good practice guidance for MATs (https://tinyurl.com/hpba35w), which recommends that MATs “grow and develop the next middle and senior leaders by deploying them across a group of schools”.

Analysis of how the flow of staff within MATs fits together with teachers moving between all types of school within the local teacher labour market, shows that the links between schools in the same MAT are comparatively strong. The flow of staff between schools in the same MAT is more than ten times higher than the amount of movement we would expect between any two schools that are not in the same MAT and are the same geographical distance apart. This suggests that MATs do have internal teacher labour markets that are somewhat distinct from the teacher labour market in the local area outside of the MAT.

What is causing greater staff movement within MATs?

There are several possible explanations for why staff movement within MATs is greater than between schools generally. MAT leaders may take an active role in deploying staff to different schools within the MAT. As trust leaders are responsible for a number of schools, they are better incentivised to take a strategic approach to redeployment that sees staff moved to where they are most needed. Leaders may also be keen to use the range of opportunities that exist across their MAT to develop leadership pipelines from within and give their staff career progression opportunities within the same organisation.

Other possible explanations are that information about vacancies within a MAT is likely to be more easily available to staff in the MAT than to staff outside. A greater level of standardisation and consistency of approach may also exist between schools in the same MAT, enabling smoother transitions if teachers do move.

Why may this matter for teacher supply?

A common concern among policymakers is how to get high-quality teachers into schools or areas of the country that find it hardest to recruit and retain teachers. The government put this issue at the heart of its 2016 White Paper, stating, “Educational excellence everywhere means improving recruitment and retention of new and experienced teachers in areas of greatest need” (https://tinyurl.com/gnlvr7g). However, one of the main policies for overcoming regional staff deployment issues, the National Teacher Service, failed to recruit enough teachers (https://tinyurl.com/httt7m2).

Given the strategic oversight that MAT leaders have over staff deployment across their schools, MATs may offer a potentially effective mechanism for redeploying staff to schools in challenging areas that struggle to recruit and retain staff.

Do the internal labour markets within MATs promote staff redeployment that is beneficial to the system?

The analysis shows that, in general, when teachers move school, a greater proportion move to a school with a less-disadvantaged intake (based on the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals) than a school with a more disadvantaged intake. This creates staffing gaps in schools with disadvantaged intakes, which Allen et al. (https://tinyurl.com/guj45or) found face the greatest difficulties in hiring staff.

However, in contrast to teachers more generally, when teachers move school within a MAT they are more likely to move to a school with a more-disadvantaged intake than a school with a less-disadvantaged intake.

This suggests that the strategic approach that MATs can take towards workforce management may provide a mechanism for deploying staff to schools with more-disadvantaged pupil intakes.

However, there are likely to be limits to this as a mechanism. Although MAT leadership teams may be able to influence staff deployment to some degree, movement requires the willingness of teachers and heads. Also, the geographical dispersion of the MAT influences how much movement there is between schools within a MAT, which means that schools with disadvantaged intakes in isolated areas may find it more difficult to benefit from being part of a MAT in terms of staff deployment.

While MATs are not a panacea for the current teacher supply situation, it is encouraging to see that MATs may be helping to ensure that teachers and senior leaders are deployed to schools where they are most needed.

Jack Worth
Senior Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER)