A new survey by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that the UK government’s previously stated ambition for all schools to be part of a multi-academy trust by 2030 is unrealistic.
Paul Whiteman is the general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT.
He said when NAHT surveyed its members last year, 76% disagreed or strongly disagreed that a fully trust-led system would improve pupil outcomes.
Mr Whiteman said: “The government’s focus on school structures is an unnecessary distraction when there are much more pressing issues such as school funding; recruitment and retention; pay; and the crisis in SEND provision that all need urgent attention.
“There are great schools in multi-academy trusts, great standalone academies, and great schools that are maintained, but the choice to join a trust should lie with the school and never be forced upon them.”
In May, the Department for Education announced the goal set out in the Schools White paper for every school to be in, or in the process of joining, a trust by 2023.
The department said the focus on strong trusts is intended to help children fulfil their potential.
Mr Whiteman said: “While some of our members in multi-academy trusts have reported benefits, the government still hasn’t convinced many local authority schools that the switch is the right thing for them and their communities.
“If the government is to press ahead with its plans, more meaningful engagement with the sector will be crucial to ensure future structures encourage rather than distract from and hinder school improvement.”