Multi-Academy Trust Consultation

18th March 2024

Dear Parents/Carers and Staff, 

Consultation to join a Multi-Academy Trust

Mill Water School joined a Cooperative Trust in 2012. Most staff who went through the change saw no significant difference in school. 

With the changing landscape in education and the Government’s intention that all schools will be part of a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) by 2030, the Governors and Headteacher have been researching differing models of collaboration and MATs. 

The Governors’ priority is to enable our school to continue to provide an excellent education for our pupils, whilst protecting our school’s ethos and identity, and retaining its individual qualities and strengths.  

Working together with other similar schools in a MAT offers many benefits for our pupils, the school and the wider community. To retain our school’s identity and its capacity to sustain future improvements, the Governors now feel it is vital for us to work together in partnership with a like-minded group of special schools. 

After much consideration and understanding on what joining a MAT could mean for the school, the Governors and Headteacher have approached the Special Partnership Trust (SPT). 

SPT is an equitable partnership of schools and specialist provision, with schools in Devon and Cornwall. SPT are ambitious for excellence in learning and support, constantly seeking to improve the offer to young people and their families through collaboration, challenge and cooperation across the partnership. 

We feel that the ethos and vision of SPT closely aligns with that of Mill Water School. The Governors have concluded that joining SPT may now be in the best interests of the school, its pupils and the local community. 

Next Steps

The Governors of Mill Water School are now initiating the consultation process with key stakeholders. Stakeholders are invited to submit comments and questions and the responses to this consultation will be used to further assess the case for proceeding with the proposal to join SPT. 

The Governors are currently seeking the views of: 

    • Pupils, parents and carers 
    • Staff and their union representatives 
    • The Local Authority 
    • Local schools 
    • The local community 
    • Other interested parties 

So that you can find out more about SPT, the reasons why Governors are considering joining SPT, and some of the potential concerns about MATs, we have developed this consultation/frequently asked questions document. We hope it will help you to formulate your own views on this important issue. 

The consultation process will start on Monday 25th March 2024 and conclude on 29th April 2024. Questions and comments regarding the consultation can be submitted as follows: 

Letters: marked ‘Private and Confidential – MAT Consultation’ and handed (or posted) to: School Office, Mill Water School, Bicton, East Budleigh, Devon, EX9 7BJ


In addition, consultation meetings will be held at the school as follows: 

Staff: Monday 25th March 2024 at 3.40pm
(there will be an online
option later in the evening)

Parents/carers, local community and other stakeholders: Monday 25th March 2024 at 5.30pm at Mill Water School, Bicton, East Budleigh, EX9 7BJ
(there will be opportunity to join online)

Consultation documents will also be made available on the School Website. 

Only once all the stakeholder comments and representations have been collated and considered will the Governors decide whether or not to pursue joining SPT.

What is The Special Partnership Trust? 

Please follow this link to find out more about the Special Partnership Trust...


The Governing Body’s primary function is to ensure that Mill Water School delivers the best possible education for its pupils and their families. The Governors also take very seriously their responsibility to serve the local community. After much thought and discussion, Governors now believe joining a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) may offer a number of significant benefits which could support the schools drive for continuous improvement. 

 These include: 

    • Working as part of the MAT will provide more opportunity to innovate and provide higher levels of teaching. 
    • A MAT can provide additional support that the school needs to thrive as well as more power when it comes to negotiating services and getting better value. 
    • Joining a MAT of special schools will help with raising standards across the board. In other words, poorer performing academies will benefit from being closely associated and working with better performing ones. 
    • With the backing of a MAT, it is thought there will be more opportunities for teachers to progress in their careers. MATs will also be able to attract top talent more easily than a school operating on their own because of reputational bias.   

This document has been specially prepared by the Governors of Mill Water School to inform stakeholders about academies and Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) and the current intentions of the Governors of Mill Water School.

Frequently Asked Questions 

General Questions about Academies

What is an academy?

An academy is an independent, state-funded school. It still has to follow the same rules on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as other state schools. An academy receives money direct from the Government, not via the Local Authority. It is owned and operated by an Academy Trust (often a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), being one company operating a number of academies). 

What is a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT)? 

A MAT is a charitable trust which is responsible for the operation of more than one academy. Mill Water School is currently a foundation school in a Cooperative Trust and proposes to join Special Partnership Trust which is a MAT. 

The people in charge of running the MAT are the Company Directors, who are responsible for strategic oversight and management. They are also Charity Trustees and must comply with duties under company law, charity law and education law to promote the success of the Academy Trust. They determine the policies of the trust, monitor the effectiveness of each academy within the MAT, manage central services where appropriate and report to the Secretary of State. They work to ensure that each academy is performing to the best of its ability and gets the support it requires. 

The role of the Members of the MAT is largely limited to appointing and removing Directors and making key decisions such as amendments to the Articles of Association and changing the name of the Academy Trust. 

Each of the academies in the trust usually has its own local Governing Body which has authority delegated to it by the Trust Board. 

Consultation and Decision Making

Whose decision is it whether or not to join a MAT? 

The decision to join a MAT and which MAT to join rests with the Governors of Mill Water School, with approval also being needed from the Regional Directors that act on behalf of Secretary of State for Education. 

Has the decision already been made to join a MAT? 

No. The Governors are currently seeking views from all stakeholders and these views will be considered before any final decision is made. 

Who will the Governors be consulting? 

The Governors will be consulting with all staff at the school, parents and various other stakeholders, other local schools and other community members. 

How can I share my views? 

You can e-mail: or write to Mill Water School. Please mark your envelope ‘Private and Confidential – MAT Consultation.' Responses to all questions will be made available on the school website.

The question I want to ask is not in this FAQ document. How can I ask my question and get an answer? 

Questions can be submitted through e-mail or by letter as described above. 

Benefits/Push/Pull factors of joining a MAT

Why do the Governors/Senior Leadership Team think that it is in the best interests of the school to join a MAT? 

There are a number of benefits in joining a MAT: 

    • Opportunities to share expertise and best practice; 
    • Security of belonging to a larger organisation; 
    • Protection of the values, culture and uniqueness of Mill Water School; 
    • Opportunities for financial support and capital investment; 
    • Opportunities for teaching staff and associate staff to share good practice and to benefit from a wider Continuing Professional Development programme that adds value to the educational experience of the pupils; 
    • Efficiencies in administrative functions such as finance, HR and admissions which can produce cost savings, important in the current budgetary climate. 
    • The Government would like all schools to be part of a MAT by 2030. 

Why would a Cooperative Trust school want to join a MAT? 

Joining with other schools within a MAT provides opportunities for good schools to consolidate their position and enhance the educational experience for all pupils, as well as providing wider personal development opportunities for pupils and staff. 

The benefits of joining SPT in particular include: 

    • The security of belonging to a larger, sustainable organisation; 
    • The existing schools within the SPT are similar special schools, so there is an opportunity to share best practice to each school’s benefit; 
    • Opportunities to achieve efficiencies through economies of scale and sharing resources and expertise. 
    • Support to apply for Government led expansion opportunities, which are only available to MATs 

Can other schools join the MAT at a later date?

Yes, other schools can join at a later date. 

Impact on Pupils and Parents

Will Mill Water School retain its own identity? 

Yes, Mill Water School will retain its own Headteacher and it will have a local Governing Body. The school will keep its existing name and uniform. 

What changes will parent/carers see? 

There will be very little visible change as a direct result of joining a MAT, with the school continuing in much the same way as it does now with the same Headteacher and senior staff, teachers and support staff. 

Will there be any changes to the existing admission arrangements? 

There are currently no proposals to change the existing admission arrangements for Mill Water School. Any future changes would be consulted upon in accordance with the School Admissions Code. As a special school the Local Authority is responsible for admissions. There would be no change to the current arrangements. 

If we proceed, when will the change be made? 

If the proposals do go ahead, subject to all the necessary approvals, it is proposed that the new arrangements would be in place for March 2025 or as soon as possible thereafter. 

Impact on Staff

Will Terms and Conditions of Employment change for Staff? 

Academies and MATs do have the freedom to adopt their own conditions of work for staff. The Governors of Mill Water School are committed to maintaining national pay and conditions for its school employees. 

If Mill Water School were to join a MAT, then the MAT would become the employer and not Mill Water School. Staff would transfer to the MAT via a Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE). TUPE regulations protect employee rights when they transfer to a new employer. 

What effect would joining a MAT have on continuous service benefits of staff? 

Staff would retain their continuous service on transfer to a MAT. 

Will joining a MAT affect staff pensions? 

Single Academy Trusts and MATs automatically have access to the Teachers' Pensions Scheme and the Local Government Pension Scheme. 

Will staff have to reapply for their jobs on transfer to a MAT? 

No. Staff will transfer automatically to the MAT and would not have to reapply for their jobs.

We would welcome your views, whether positive or negative, on the proposal.
The consultation period will run from 25th March 2024 and conclude on 29th April 2024 and comments must be received by this time.