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The voices of youth: The truth behind Multi-Academy Trusts

As part of the Future Workshop Programme, we have been working on a youth-focused event to bring the voices of the next generation to the fore in discussions about our future communities and society.

As part of this, we have asked several young people from Peterborough and Huntingdon to contribute blogs on key themes. This is the first, by Peterborough Youth Councillor, Adam Marshall:

Unveiling the impact of multi-academy trusts (MATs): A complex landscape in the educational sphere

MATs, or Multi Academy Trusts, are a big deal in Peterborough and the educational world. When a bunch of academies join forces under one organisation, they become a MAT. It's all about teamwork and working together to improve education. Each academy still has its own governing body to make sure they're upholding high standards. But by joining forces, they can share resources and expertise to benefit everyone involved. The government supports MATs because they see the potential for collaboration and delivering quality education. Of course, there will always be challenges along the way, but overall MATs were to be a real game-changer in the education sector.


Academies were first introduced by Tony Blair's Labour government back in the 2000s, and then Andrew Adonis took over and handled things from there. By the time he took over, Academies had spread to Peterborough. Eventually, in 2010, the Conservative government came along and said that schools could transform into an academy if they wanted to. But then in 2016, the government said that if schools are not up to standard they will be forced to transform into an academy. And guess what? By 2017, multi-academy trusts were all the rage with a whopping 1,170 of them running the show in England. In January 2022, a huge chunk of secondary schools (80%) and even some primary schools (39%) have jumped on board the academy train. It's worth mentioning that this whole setup is only happening in England though. Schools in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are keeping things under local authority control and after I say why, most won't blame them.

Make up of MATs

Trusts often have a private sponsor, like a business or individual, usually hedge fund managers or businessmen. These sponsors have a lot of say in how the school is run, including choosing the headteacher and governing body. According to a study by UCL, attending those big multi academy chains doesn't actually do much for children’s education. In fact, it turns out that students in these chains tend to do worse academically. So, maybe it's not all amazing after all. Academies have also been found to have a higher likelihood of hiring teachers who do not meet the necessary qualifications, particularly in economically, disadvantaged areas, and get this, a bunch of academy bosses are actually raking in over £100k from taxpayer money. Can you believe it? And to top it off, they're adding another £106 million to the total expenses of managing these schools. Meanwhile, the hardworking teachers in these academies are earning £1,300 less each year, no-wonder they are striking!

Academies in the UK have this habit of excluding students instead of helping and supporting them. For them it’s all about the results and they want nothing but the best. There's been a crazy increase in permanent exclusions, a whopping 71% from 2013 to 2020!. And you know what's even worse? Children who get excluded have a higher chance of ending up in prison as adults.

The public accounts committee has found a significant lack of transparency, making it impossible for parents to hold schools or the government accountable. As a result, we have a two-tiered schooling system that neglects smaller schools and pours excessive amounts of public funds into large academy chains.

Education system for the future

Despite all this, we have an awesome chance to create an education system that caters to everyone's specific needs. It's so important that we make sure our educational framework in Peterborough and the UK is transparent and accountable so that every child has the same opportunities to grow and succeed. If we all work together, we can build a future where every school is valued.

How wonderful would it be if your child's school could be managed locally, with dedicated oversight from democratically elected councillors and governors? Imagine having teachers who truly care about your school leading the way, instead of a faraway academy chain. It's a joy to think about the positive impact this could have on our children's education.

Not just Peterborough, but the whole country's education system should never be about making money at the expense of our children. It's completely unacceptable for individuals to take advantage of our education system for personal gain. Right now, I feel it's outrageous how academy executives are receiving huge salaries while teachers are getting their wages reduced and the quality of education is being compromised. Peterborough deserves better. We need our education system to operate with fairness, providing equal opportunities and support to all students.

Adam Marshall, 15, Peterborough


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