Nikki Edwards speaks to Education Executive about MAT Life
Nikki is the finance and operations director at a growing MAT, consisting of six primary schools and a teaching school, in Cheshire. She gave us her take on what it is like to work within a MAT.
Nikki believes that MATs face a higher level of accountability than other schools. “There’s a much greater focus on accountability in a MAT,” she says. “We have a lot more reporting to do. Internal audits used to happen once every four or five years but now we have internal and external audits annually, as well as scrutiny from the DfE.”
Despite the bureaucracy, Nikki also believes that there are many benefits to joining a MAT. “There is much more freedom, and flexibility, and we have had access to more capital funding than we would have had as maintained schools. I think another positive is that you become very sharp on benchmarking yourselves against other organisations. You are reviewing and improving all the time because the focus on measurement of what you do is much greater.
“I can only speak about my experience of working as a school business manager in local authority maintained schools over three years ago but, when I compare those days with my current role, it does seem faster-paced, more reflective and more dynamic. It is a completely different world. Another benefit of working in a trust is that you do develop a more intimate knowledge of everything that we do.”
Although she is currently reaping the rewards of being in a MAT, Nikki acknowledged that these benefits may change over time. “At the moment we are only six schools, and there will be a stage when we grow further where we’ll risk losing that intimate view, but I do feel that we have the freedom to be able to carefully plan how we will change in a way that will work for all of our schools.
“It’s a rewarding, but very intense, role. There is so much to be responsible for and we have to be a jack of all trades sometimes. We have been able to bring specialist roles into the trust so that responsibilities can be shared,” she says. “I’m now more part of a network at our MAT. We have an estates manager, for example, whose focus is solely on our buildings and facilities.
“It’s a constantly changing role and the good thing is that we are masters of our own destiny. What we were doing 12 months ago is totally different to what we are doing now. I’ve learned not to be frightened about the fast pace of change.”