Umbrella Trusts, Strategic Learning Partnerships and Multi Academy Trusts

Benefits of collaboration

The changing relationship between local authorities and schools brought about by the academies programme has provided the catalyst for schools to increasingly look to each other for support. Greater collaboration has many benefits:

  • it facilitates the transfer of skills allowing for the sharing and development of leadership and management capacity;
  • it encourages the pooling of resources with a focus on shared procurement, leading to efficiencies and cost savings;
  • a common identity focuses messages and a shared vision and values engenders a sense of belonging and responsibility;
  • it promotes consistency without necessarily losing identity and uniqueness;
  • it facilitates strategic thinking and long term place and resource planning.

Formal collaboration

Whilst informal collaboration is common and effective, we are increasingly seeing a desire to formalise the way in which schools work together. In the past schools wishing to collaborate formally would have federated but since 2010 the Department for Education expect to schools to form a “multi academy trust” and hence become academies. In the 2015 version of the Governance Handbook and now restated in the version published in January 2017, John Nash states:

“These benefits are most fully realised when school-to-school collaboration is consolidated through formalised cross-school governance arrangements.”

The need to formalise collaboration may be in response to an agreement to jointly fund a specific project or to facilitate the longer term planning of resources, whether to protect provision or to support teaching and learning. Collaboration need not be dependent on academy conversion and there are a number of ways for schools including academies to work together. Examples include:

  • a strategic learning partnership
  • an umbrella trust
  • a teaching school alliance
  • a multi academy trust
  • a trading subsidiary

There is often confusion in the terminology. The solutions can be very different. It’s important to understand the legal implications of the model being adopted and the degree to which the vehicle being used to collaborate is separate from those collaborating. 

Strategic Learning Partnership...

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