Multi Academy Trusts have higher rate of teacher turnover, new study finds

Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) tend to have higher teacher turnover compared to other school groups, a new tool has found.

The Education Policy Institute’s (EPI) new benchmarking tool compares the performance of individual academy trusts, local authorities, federations and dioceses across four key performance indicators: pupil attainment; pupil inclusion; workforce sustainability; and financial management.

The tool found that at primary, multi academy trusts are around twice as likely to have positive in-year revenue balances compared to other group types.

At secondary, MATs are almost three times as likely to have positive in-year balances than other school groups (though on average, they represent a smaller percentage of overall budgets than in primary). 

90% of MATs in the EPI’s survey said they used top-slicing (taking a fixed proportion of funding from all schools) rather than pooling funding across all schools. On average they top-sliced around 6% of school budgets.

Alongside the tool, EPI has published a new report that brings together findings from its benchmarking tool, along with results from the institute’s ‘Decisions in Education in England’ (DEEP) survey of senior leaders working in school groups. 

Key findings showed that on the school workforce, MAT leaders identify recruitment as their biggest challenge.

Amongst secondary schools, multi academy trusts have, on average, significantly higher annual turnover of classroom teachers than local authorities (16.9% in the median MAT, 14.4% in the median LA), and annual turnover is even higher in larger MATs (19.5% on average). 

The EPI said that although it ‘cannot assume causality’, at secondary, high teacher turnover is negatively correlated with overall attainment and post-16 destinations.

However, the EPI said there is no such correlation between teacher turnover and the progress of both disadvantaged and low prior attaining pupils. At primary, the institute found no correlation between teacher turnover and headline KS2 attainment.

Similarly, higher levels of efficiency are associated with higher rates of classroom teacher turnover. The EPI said this suggests that teacher turnover isn’t necessarily a negative outcome, if for example schools are adept at identifying and retaining only high-quality teachers, this could potentially help drive efficiencies.

The report also highlighted pupil inclusion and attainment, stating that larger MATs (with 10 or more schools in a phase) have, on average, higher rates of persistent absence, suspension, and unexplained exits than smaller MATs and local authorities.

The EPI these larger MATs admit greater rates of disadvantaged pupils and have higher attainment outcomes for low prior attaining and disadvantaged pupils.

The study also found that internal exclusions are not captured in national data collections but findings from the DEEP survey indicate the use of internal exclusion is more prevalent in secondary schools – less than 3% of sampled secondary schools reported not using internal exclusion at all, in comparison with almost a quarter of primary schools.

The policy issued the following recommendations:

  • The Department for Education should now publish easily accessible metrics for school groups, in line with its approach of “trust quality descriptors”. This would allow users to see the relative strengths and weaknesses of school groups and allow a more informed understanding of their performance and how they reflect their local communities. 

  • The accountability and inspection system should be reviewed, and consideration should be given to how it can better reflect the different pupil demographics and circumstances of individual schools. Schools that admit representative proportions of disadvantaged pupils or those with additional needs should not be penalised under any potential new system. 
  • The school admissions code should be reviewed with a focus on inclusion.  In particular, it should consider why certain types of school groups (such as dioceses) appear to be less likely to reflect their local areas in terms of the number of pupils from low-income backgrounds that they admit.  
  • Consistent Financial Returns should move to collecting the income and expenditure of local authority education teams akin to the data reported by trusts on central teams through the Academies Accounting Return. This would allow for better comparisons between how trust central teams and local authorities top-slice and re-distribute grant income.  

Louis Hodge, associate director for school system and performance at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said: “With large increases in academisation over the last decade, an increasing number of schools are now working as part of wider groups and networks.

“Yet our understanding of the relative strengths and weaknesses of different groups has, to date, been patchy and inconclusive. This new research provides a strong foundation on which to build a more rounded understanding of how school groups in England are performing. 

“We hope it will enable informed conversations across the education sector about the features of effective school groups and how school groups can be supported to improve their performance.” 

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