Joining the dots

We hear a lot about the numbers of schools that have converted to academies and we hear a lot about trust and multi-academy trusts. What I hope this blog will do is to fill in a gap and show how they fit together. I posted a few weeks ago on the different types of MATs there are around and this can be seen as a statistical follow up to that.

Whilst I have my issues with DfE re transparency it would be true to say that they have improved the situation in some areas compared to previous governments. I’m sure a lot of this is down to technological improvements making the sharing of uncontroversial data easier, but credit where credit is due.

Without the release of information relating to open academies this post would not have been possible. And its going to be a bit of a boring one I’m afraid. Mainly numbers and stuff. I’m sure it will receive a limited, but numerate readership.

Firstly, the overall stats. And please bear in mind that all these numbers are based on the 14th March, 2016 data release.

There are currently 5,170 open academies (this excludes Free Schools, Studio Schools and UTCs, as do all the stats in this post). There are a further 703 schools in the ‘pipeline’ for conversion.

This can be further broken down as follows:

Phase of education Converter Sponsored Total
Primary (incl. middle deemed primary) 2,006 943 2,949
Secondary (incl. MD secondary, all through and 16+) 1,417 590 2,007
Special 140 29 169
Alternative Provision 32 13 45
Total 3,595 1,575 5,170


As percentages of all schools this is:

Type of establishment Primary Secondary Total
Academies 17% 59% 25%
Free Schools 1% 6% 1%
LA Maintained 82% 35% 74%


So far, so exactly what’s on the summary sheet of the DfE spreadsheet.

*fires up the pivot tables*

Size of Chain

This is a complete list of all chains with 10 or more schools:

Primary Secondary Other* Total
Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) 32 29 5 66
REAch2 Academy Trust 50  0 0 50
Oasis Community Learning 27 15 3 45
School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA) 28 13 2 43
Kemnal Academy Trust, The (TKAT) 26 15 0 41
United Learning 14 24 3 41
Plymouth CAST 32 2 1 35
David Ross Education Trust (DRET) 21 11 1 33
ARK Schools 13 11 5 29
Ormiston Academies Trust 3 26 0 29
Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust 20 7 1 28
Harris Federation 11 16 1 28
Diocese of Norwich Education Academies 25 1 0 26
E-ACT 11 11 1 23
The Elliot Foundation Academies Trust 22  0 0 22
Diocese of Ely 20  0 0 20
Diocese of Oxford 16 2 2 20
Enquire Learning Trust 19  0 1 20
Kent Catholic Schools Partnership (KCSP) 16 4 0 20
Northern Education Trust 10 10 0 20
Academy Transformation Trust (ATT) 9 9 1 19
GLF Schools 16 1 0 17
Outwood Grange Academies Trust 3 14 0 17
Diocese of London 11 3 2 16
Diocese of Peterborough 16  0 0 16
Wakefield City Academies Trust 9 7 0 16
ASPIRE Academy Trust 15  0 0 15
CfBT Education Trust 8 7 0 15
Active Learning Trust (ALT) 12 2 0 14
Diocese of Bath and Wells Multi Academy 13  0 0 13
Education Central Multi Academy Trust 10 3 0 13
The Hamwic Trust 11 1 1 13
The White Horse Federation 8 2 3 13
University of Brighton 11 2 0 13
Bishop Konstant Catholic Academy Trust 10 2 0 12
Cabot Learning Federation 5 6 1 12
Creative Education Academies Trust (CEAT) 4 8 0 12
Diocese of Coventry 11 1 0 12
L.E.A.D. Multi-Academy Trust 12  0 0 12
Leigh Academies Trust 6 5 1 12
The Education Fellowship Trust 8 4 0 12
The Griffin Schools Trust 11 1 0 12
Diocese of Canterbury 10  0 1 11
Diocese of Exeter 9 2 0 11
Diocese of Leicester Academies Trust  11  0 0 11
Diocese of Middlesbrough 10 1 0 11
Focus-Trust 11  0 0 11
Nottingham RC Education Services 8 3 0 11
Community Academies Trust (CAT) 6 4 0 10
Diocese of Birmingham Education Trust 10  0 0 10
The Bishop Wheeler Catholic Academy Trust 9 1 0 10
The Primary Academies Trust 10  0 0 10
The Spencer Academies Trust 7 3 0 10
The Thinking Schools Academy Trust 6 4 0 10

This is a total of 1,071 schools or nearly 20% of the total number of academies. Of the 54 chains in the list all but 11 include more than one phase of education. And they all include at least one primary.

NB the ‘Other’ column includes Special Schools, all-thrus and middle schools.

Also, I have emboldened the obviously faith-based trusts.

Also it is not possible to see from the spreadsheet which of these ‘sponsored’ groups are MATs or possibly some form of umbrella trust arrangement.

Number of different sized chain

If we group the chains by size we get the following:

Group Size Number
1 – Converters 2239
1- MAT 210
2 181
3 110
4 61
5-9 111
10-14 26
15-19 8
20-24 7
25-29 5
30-34 1
35-39 1
40-44 3
45-49 1
50-54 1
55-59 0
60-64 0
65-69 1


As you can see there are sparingly few MATs with more than 20 schools. Which is a problem going forward as financial viability probably starts at somewhere near that level if any amount of central services are to be efficiently delivered.

This is a total of 727 MATs. There are 820 ‘Sponsors’ listed on the DfE sponsor contact list which suggests that there are nearly 100 (probably more by now) approved sponsors who have no schools (however see this Schools Week article). I think it would be helpful (more transparency) if the DfE produced an easy to see sponsor list with all their schools listed so we could see which sponsors had no schools.


Trusts are spread through the regions as follows:

RSC Region Trusts 5 or more Schs %age
East Midlands & Humber 111 9 8%
Lancashire & West Yorkshire 110 3 3%
North 53 2 4%
North East London & East 115 7 6%
North West London & South Central 102 6 6%
South London & South East 136 13 10%
South West 92 7 8%
West Midlands 116 5 4%

As you can see, someone hasn’t got a workload problem!

Also the spread of larger trusts is not the same across the regions. This is likely due to the density of schools in any given area. If size of MAT is important in their sustainability this indicates that there could be an issue going forward in the different regions and that different incentives may be needed on a regional basis to make MATs work.

There are 61 trusts with schools in more than one RSC region.

Trust Regions
Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) 8
United Learning 8
Oasis Community Learning 7
Ormiston Academies Trust 5
ARK Schools 4
CfBT Education Trust 4
REAch2 Academy Trust 4
The Aldridge Foundation 4
Academy Transformation Trust (ATT) 3
Bright Tribe Trust 3
City of London Corporation 3
Creative Education Academies Trust (CEAT) 3
David Ross Education Trust (DRET) 3
Enquire Learning Trust 3
Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust 3
NET Academies Trust (NETAT) 3
Northern Education Trust 3
Outwood Grange Academies Trust 3
School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA) 3
The Collaborative Academies Trust 3
The Elliot Foundation Academies Trust 3
The Griffin Schools Trust 3
Woodard Academies Trust 3
Acorn Care 2
Aspirations Academies Trust (AAT) 2
Brooke Weston Trust 2
Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust (CMAT) 2
Diocese of London 2
Diocese of Peterborough 2
Ebor Academy Trust 2
Edge Foundation 2
Emmanuel Schools Foundation 2
Focus-Trust 2
GLF Schools 2
Harris Federation 2
Holy Family Catholic Trust 2
Kemnal Academy Trust, The (TKAT) 2
Landau Forte Charitable Trust 2
Learning Schools Trust 2
MacIntyre 2
Mercers Company, The 2
Northern House School Academy Trust 2
Orchard Hill College 2
Portsmouth & Winchester Diocesan Academies 2
Stratton Upper 2
TBAP Trust 2
The Adelaide Academy Trust 2
The Bishop Wheeler Catholic Academy Trust 2
The Central Learning Partnership Trust 2
The Co-operative Group 2
The Education Fellowship Trust 2
The Haberdashers’ Livery Company 2
The Heath Family Trust 2
The Midland Academies Trust 2
The Quay School (PRU) 2
The Skinners’ Company 2
Tudor Grange Academies Trust 2
Wakefield City Academies Trust 2
Wellspring Academy Trust 2

I have to say that this was more than I expected and is another fly in the ointment when it comes to managing these schools. Whilst there is little evidence about what makes MATs work, one of the things that seems key to causing problems is geographic spread. Whilst they could still be near if they cross RSC borders it still indicates an issue to be resolved


There are 41 primary-only trusts with 5 or more schools. Interestingly there are only 2 secondary-only trusts of a similar size. This indicates that the different incentives for creating MATs have had different effects and has caused a minor branching in MAT type. This may create issues moving forward if it is easier to create non-homogenous MATs when starting from different initial phases. This may not actually matter but it is interesting.

Other things

There are 82 all-thru schools in trusts. I suspect this may end up being a growing phenomena.

There are 12 Special School only trusts.

There were 3,595 converter academies but now there are only 2,239 academies not linked to a sponsor (even if it is themselves). This suggests that 1,356 converter academies have subsequently joined a MAT. This is many more than I presumed.

That’s it. That’s about all I can suck out of that spreadsheet.

Hope it’s been useful in helping with the understanding of what the academies landscape looks like.




[Edited 10:12 6/4/16 to add note re umbrella trusts]

[Edited 11:32 6/4/16 to add link to Schools Week article]


19 thoughts on “Joining the dots

  1. I think, Mike, that they’re back to taking anyone who can complete a form again. You may have seen the Nash letter to existing MATs from a couple of days ago, but for ease of references, it’s below:

    “I hope this email finds you well.

    As you may have seen in the White Paper published last month, we intend to recruit new academy sponsors, including high-performing schools and more sponsors from the business, charity and philanthropy sector. Expanding sponsor capacity is a fundamental part of our drive to achieve educational excellence everywhere. By the end of 2020 all schools will be academies or in the process of becoming academies.

    As a sponsor already playing an important part in this radical reform, I am writing to ask for your help in identifying the next generation of experienced business leaders who may be interested in giving their time and expertise as an academy sponsor. It would be great if you could suggest any successful business leaders who you think might be interested to find out more about sponsorship. I would be very happy to talk to them personally about the opportunities sponsorship presents and can put them in touch with other business leaders who already sponsor. I will ensure the process of becoming a sponsor is as smooth as possible and that interested individuals are supported every step of the way

    I look forward to hearing any suggestions you may have.

    Best wishes


    This is pretty desperate stuff : “Ask your mates if anyone wants to run a school. Give them my number.”

    1. Yes, I saw that and posted this in response

      I think it is back to taking whoever they can get and the even lower number of Civil Servants in the DfE now mean that there will be even less due diligence.

      1. I can assure you it was genuine, and was sent out by Nash.

        The DFE is currently being run as if it’s some local Chamber of Commerce or Round Table full of chums from a very narrow sliver of society, not a department of state supposedly managing the nation’s education system!

  2. Mike – you are highlighting some important issues. Thank you. Maybe the promised register of all involved in governance (for Prevent) will help sort out the database problems which I think are greater than you suggest. Fundamentally, there are some problems the DfE needs to sort out over what a sponsor is. Can’t help but notice that you list a sponsor which is a local authority, but one of its schools thinks it is sponsored by a large accountancy firm which has given money to the school. And surely, the reason why schools are listed as “Converter” but attached to another trust was because Academy Brokers arm-twisted their way to getting governors to seek an Academy Order rather than go down the forced academisation route. John

    1. Any governance database will only help if the intention is to provide transparency. cxIf it is provided in the same way as these datasets then it won’t help at all.

      One of the issues with MAT trusts is that the trustees select themselves. Its only at the stage where the DfE ‘vet’ sponsors that the trustees are subject to any great scrutiny. I do worry that with the desire on the part of DfE for many more sponsors and with dwindling resources within the DfE that this process may be less robust than is required.

      1. Trustees carry a huge weight of responsibility and personal risk ; this will , over time, focus attention on what matters . I think the DFE can design a very cost effective way of keeping trustees on their toes – all about transparency and the ability of RSC’s to intervene as the ultimate “owner” or “shareholder”. In short they should act and think like long term owners , set clear objectives an let the executive and board work out how best to deliver .

  3. Thank you for sharing the data on academy numbers.
    These MATs are pretty significant enterprises whether measured by pupils they teach , staff they employ , assets used , revenues and costs . They will have to grow if the white paper targets are to be met . Accordingly it is important that the trustees are selected with reference to skill, experience and what we might term drivers of behaviour and character traits – to cover the need for trustees to form good team .
    The importance of capability over representation is heightened by the extent and amount of change being demanded by the nation who cannot sit comfortably whilst there is so much to do to remove the blight that affects too many disadvantaged children. As for parental representation -it seems to me that pulling up engagement levels , especially in cold spot areas is the first order of play.

    1. I was hoping to be able to link the data tables to the finance info to get some sense of the £ size of the MATs, but too much fuzzy matching would have been required.

      Re parental engagement – they seem to be going exactly the wrong way about this with the intended removal of the requirement for parent governors and the weaknesses in the MAT governance model.

  4. There are other useful data that are not routinely published. I would like the company number of the Academy Trust: I am not even sure the DfE routinely collect this number but essential in detecting whether a school is re-brokered. And why not a monthly list of which schools are re-brokered and why? The DfE do have IDs numbers for both the Academy Trust (Multi and Single) and the sponsor which are published in the warning notice spreadsheet. Why not publish them for all Academies? Interestingly, both ID numbers have space for 100,000 before having to reuse a number! Optimistic? And many of the earlier sponsored Academies had more than one sponsor so it is difficult to know who is recorded on the Sponsor ID (presumably the one which the DfE thinks it can pin responsibility on). Finally, ID numbers are essential as it is amazing the number of times the name of a school changes, more by omission than commission I suspect. Unless researchers are expected to use fuzzy matching, ID numbers are essential now that the governance is dislocated from the schools they govern. Schools, of course, have the well-established URN and LAESTAB ID numbers.

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for the comments, which I agree with.

      I did think of trying to fuzzy match the sponsor list with the academy list to see which ones didn’t have any schools (and also to contemplate some geocharting) but it was late and it looked very fuzzy!

      It shouldn’t be difficult for DfE to put this data set together in a sensible way if they wanted to. The only conclusion I can come to is that they don’t want to. Which makes me ask the question – Why, what are they hiding?

      1. John, you get a once-a-year glimpse at company numbers in a doc that’s published alongside DfE accounts ( (PDF, via

        Before you get to excited..
        – it’s a PDF
        – we’re talking about DfE accounts here: it comes out several months after the end of the financial year in question
        – MAT ID isn’t stated in it

        You might find it of some use, if you just want to look up individual trusts, though.

        Re: MAT IDs – sounds like there’d be at least three of us who’d be very happy if a complete record of this was published somewhere!

    2. The DfE do have codes for all of those things, so if they haven’t included them in a publication you should just ask for a version with them in. They also know who’s been rebrokered as they published the number (100 schools I think) just not the actual list.

  5. Hi Mike – v useful. We’ve ran a lot of these stats to inform our stories but helpful to have them in one place.

    A few things we’ve learned from doing them:
    1. That spreadsheet doesn’t include free schools. So Harris and Ark have quite a few more schools than it looks like from this list because they have quite a few frees. I have FOI-ed the DfE for a list that includes both, and am pushing them to publish this, as anyone writing *anything* about academies is currently working off incorrect stats because of this.

    2. On the matter of sponsors with no schools, we did an investigation into this and found that not only are there some with zero schools, they got money to set up! One thing to note is that the spreadsheets don’t equally treat academy trusts which one school, have been approved to takeover other schools (so are a ‘MAT’) but haven’t done so yet. Sometimes the one school is counted in, and they show up in the spreadsheet, sometimes it doesn’t. (Yes, I know. Sigh).

    3. On RSCs, where academy trusts straddle several regions the national schools commissioner is taking over as their lead. For now. Ish.

    4. A lot of the convertors haven’t necessarily ‘joined’ a MAT, they became the founders of a MAT, and then start sucking others in. (And sometimes those others converted on their own to get set-up cash, and then went into MAT after for efficiencies – clever!)

    5. In the states, the trend is always towards taking primaries in because they are “easier” – as in, there are fewer really tough ones, pupil ability is less divergent, and they are lower risk. Make of that what you will.

    1. Hi Laura,

      Thats for the comments. There are some really useful clarifications in there.

      The Free Schools bit is irritating as whilst they are a small proportion of the overall number of schools they would make a difference on some of the current academy stats.

      I think the new sponsor thing is the next big area where we will see problems. They went through that phase a few years back when they were taking anyone who could fill in a form – I suspect that we will see something like that again.

      The thing with the convertors is the hardest to get at.Some are still listed as just ‘Convertor’ with no associated Trust. Some are listed as ‘Convertor’ with a trust which is themselves (and most of these have no other schools in the trust) and some are listed as ‘Convertor” but are attached to another trust. That requires a human to look thru it and I’m more of a pivot-table sort of guy!

      I was trying to get a look to see how trusts which involve primaries had grown. It does look like the predominate way is through groups of primaries joining together on their own. There doesn’t seem to be very much evidence for the ‘family of schools’ model. I do worry about this from a sustainability/manageability point of view as to be sustainable they will have to be large MATs, which we know tends to work against the manageability. Which brings me back to my previous point that we need much more information about these MATs so some learning can take place.


      1. The fact that academies and free schools are published in separate lists – and where important information such as sponsor isn’t given in the free schools data – is daft. One of my phone calls to the DfE in the very early days of Acads/Schools Week was actually a request for them to add sponsor name, and RSC region, in. (I don’t like it when I only get one – the less useful – of two things that I ask for.)

        While EduBase data can obviously be a bit hit and miss, have you reason to think the sponsor information in there isn’t great, Laura? I’ve always meant look at this properly and form a definite view, but on quite a quick look now I can’t see anything that looks obviously out with it – be interested to know if your experience differs. Of course, it’s hard to be able to say how good it is with great certainty when the free schools list doesn’t give sponsor information..

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