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Academy Trust Development Days

Forum Education: Academy Trust Development sessions

“The development day designed by Forum Education was an excellent springboard for the development of our multi academy trust. The day enabled us to crystallise our vision, purpose and reasons for growth, working alongside stakeholders from within the trust and partners outside the trust with whom we network.

The facilitation of the day was inspirational and has supported us in stepping forward and furthering our plans. All involved in the day now have a clear understanding of the moral purpose of our MAT, what we stand for and our non negotiables.”

Karen Bramwell, Executive Principal, Forward As One Academy Trust, 2016


Forum Education has worked with a number of academy trusts on their strategic development. Our package can involve one single day session or two separate sessions delivered during the late afternoon / evening – the latter option often being better in terms of involving trustees and governors. The package also includes the development of a vision statement and a set of pledges and non-negotiables in order to support academy trusts grow with both ambition and care.

In delivering this process, we encourage trusts to work in partnership with their communities – including other local schools – to think carefully about their purpose as an organisation and to think strategically about the opportunities and challenges they face as they seek to enable children to thrive in a rapidly changing world and education system.


 We support MATs both to identify potential participants and to develop the invitation letters and publicity materials. Forum Education will develop the session materials and share these with MATs in advance of the session.

Session 1: Exploring our organizational purpose, potential and priorities.

Session overview

Our approach is based first and foremost on supporting academy schools and trusts to seize the opportunity of their new freedoms and the potential for their partnerships to set and deliver an ambitious vision for children and staff. This is the basis of all successful education partnerships and we encourage academy trusts to come to a clear position on where they wish to be in three to five years time, and to set a number of pledges – to children, to staff and to their communities – against this vision.

In doing this we help academy trusts to set a vision that will help them to thrive within a society and an education system that is rapidly changing. We support trusts to think carefully about key issues such as the changing nature of society and the economy (globally, nationally and locally), the key skills and characteristics that will be at a premium in a changing world, the recruitment and retention of high quality staff, the financial challenges faced by schools, and the impact of evolving government policy.


We encourage trusts to invite a range of interested parties who can contribute to supporting them in developing their vision. These parties include trustees, staff, community members, other local schools and teaching school partners. Attendees will be invited to consider some of the most significant dynamics both within the education sector and wider society, before reflecting on the implications, as they see it, for schools, children and staff. Attendees will be asked to contribute ideas and to ‘think outside the box’ around what strategies and approaches will support the trust to prepare children for the future whilst also maximising resources and the talent of staff. We will ask attendees to develop some SMART pledges for the trust around what they hope to achieve over the next three to five years – cementing some inspiring and ambitious organizational commitments.


Forum Education will produce a short report outlining the key outcomes / priorities. This will include a draft vision statement, a draft set of pledges and some key questions to cover in session 2.


Session 2: Exploring our organisation’s development and direction


The beginning of this session is grounded in an overview of session 1. Are we content with the vision statement? Do the pledges sit well with what we are aiming to achieve for children and young people? Is there anything else that colleagues would like to add following a period of reflection.

The session then moves on to focus on the wide-ranging case studies, research and evidence around the development of multi-academy trusts, building in regular reference to the priorities as established in session 1. It will consider what we know about:

  • The importance of strong values and a clear strategic vision
  • Effective leadership and corporate governance (including recruitment and retention, the role of delegation, and developing an effective trust board and executive leadership team);
  • Developing capacity and expertise: including the role of wider partnerships and alliances for the delivery of a inspiring, innovative and future-focused curriculum;
  • Sustainability and how successful MATs approach procurement and achieve economies of scale;
  • Assessment and the use of data/review to anticipate challenges and share best practice
  • The culture required to develop and retain great staff – including the importance of professional development, a talent management culture, and becoming ‘employers of choice’

The learning on effective MATs also takes into account where some MATs have gone wrong and have made strategic errors. We encourage participants to reflect on these – and other potential risks – before asking representatives from the MAT to do a self-assessment on what factors are ‘emerging, expected, and established’.


We encourage trust boards and leadership teams to involve the colleagues and other schools / interested parties that were involved in session 1. This enables you to progress the conversations and to invite others external to your organisation to contribute to the thinking around your MAT’s development. This often builds levels of engagement and encourages other schools and governing bodies to engage in discussions around future partnership. It also challenges ‘conformational bias’ (i.e. the tendency to automatically accept a prevailing way of thinking) that often arises in internal workshops – allowing participants to gain value through external perspective.

Session2 involves a consultative element – inviting challenge and further ideas around the draft vision statement and pledges that were drawn up following session 1, before they are fully committed to. It also encourages participants to enter into reflection and some self-critique around the successful development of academy trusts, and how the lessons can be applied to the MAT’s progress so far and its plans for sustainable and successful growth in future. We support participants to draw up a set of non-negotiables for the future development of the trust, which can then feed into future strategic and business planning activities.


The outputs of session two are:

  • A final trust vision statement and a set of ‘pledges’ to children
  • A report of the discussion, including conclusions around the MAT’s self-assessed strengths and weaknesses
  • A draft set of non-negotiables for the trust’s development – for the use of the trust board and leadership team

We also believe that the involvement of other local schools breaks down barriers, encourages ‘myth busting’ around the role of MATs, and provides a positive and values-based platform for further discussions around potential partnerships.


Both sessions require a minimum of 2 hours for delivery.

 Further information

Please contact [email protected]