In July 2020, and in partnership with CJK Associates, IMP Software published a Pooling Reserves and Budget Centralisation in Multi-Academy Trusts report. Our findings, and subsequent discussions with MAT leaders, identified that the question is not so much about whether to centralise or not, but actually ‘how’ and ‘to what extent’. A gap was identified by Trust CEOs, COOs and CFOs around good practice and knowledge-sharing. There was a clear appetite for better, more in-depth, insight on centralisation journeys amongst this community.
We therefore commissioned further research with a small number of MAT leaders in autumn 2020 to explore how Trusts have developed their operating models in light of academy freedoms – specifically around GAG pooling and other forms of centralisation (financial and non-financial) to provide more efficiencies. We asked them about the operating model they had chosen to take (and the strategic drivers behind it), their views and experiences of implementation (what has worked especially well and they would repeat, as well as what has worked less well and what they would do differently if they did it all again), and the benefits and impact on their systems and the Trust as a whole.
A Growing Philosophy: How are Multi-Academy Trusts developing their operating models through centralisation? provides compelling insight on how Trusts in different UK regions and of different sizes are approaching this question, and with what effect. Significantly this report also identifies the importance of centralisation as a strategic choice, linked to the ethos and culture of any one MAT, and that it should be viewed as part of a bigger discussion than simply one about financial management and related processes.