Examining achievement levels in multi-academy trusts

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By Lucy Baker and Suzanne Tipping, Assessment Advisors, Cambridge CEM

Multi-academy trusts (MATs) have become a prevalent model in the education sector, aimed at improving academic outcomes and encouraging collaboration among schools.

With the Government target for all schools to be part of a “family of schools in a strong trust to level up school standards” by 2030, a crucial aspect of evaluating their effectiveness lies in analysing the achievement and progress levels of pupils within these trusts.

Performance measures

The Multi-academy trust performance measures (Key stages 2, 4 and 5) report published by the Department for Education in March 2023, focuses on the attainment and progress of pupils who attended institutions that were in multi-academy trusts (MATs) in England in the academic year 2021 to 2022. It reveals that:

  • At Key Stage 2, 59% of pupils reached the expected level in reading, writing and maths combined.
  • The percentage of pupils achieving grades 9 to 5 in English and Maths GCSEs within MATs stands at 48.8%.

This is the first time national-level MAT achievement statistics have been published since 2019, primarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Academy composition

It is important to understand that the effectiveness of MATs may be affected by the makeup of the trusts and the performance of the individual schools before they became part of the MATs.

Additionally, the report points out that ‘The composition effects mean that a simple comparison of MATs and non-academies average performance as reported here cannot be used to assess the effectiveness of either type of school organisation.’

Converter academies are largely good schools that have chosen to convert to academy status. These academies appear to benefit from their prior strong foundation and collaborative structure.

Sponsored academies were deemed by the Department for Education to be underperforming and were required to join a trust to improve their performance. The lower achievement level may indicate that these schools face additional challenges during the transition and require more time and resources to improve outcomes.

Single Academy Trusts (SATs) run just one school and in both Primary and Secondary sectors the report shows that SATs demonstrate higher levels of achievement, which might suggest alternative models that could be explored to improve academic outcomes.

Pupil achievement

In the academic year 2021/22, 59.7% of students in Key Stage 4 were enrolled in a MAT. Among these MATs, the percentage of pupils achieving grades 9 to 5 in English and Maths GCSEs was 48.8%.

  • 53.6% in MAT converter academies
  • 40.1% in MAT sponsored academies
  • 58.7% in Single Academy Trusts (SATs)
  • 50.1% in institutions that were not academies.

In Key Stage 2, the percentage of pupils meeting the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in MATs was 59% compared with 65% in 2019. The percentage of pupils achieving expected standards was:

  • 61% in MAT converter academies
  • 54% in MAT sponsored academies
  • 63% in SATs
  • 60% in institutions that were not academies.

Factors leading to academic success in MATs

It is important to note that several factors contribute to academic success, including the quality of teaching, leadership, resources and student demographics.

Regardless of the composition of your academy, gaining consistent, comparable and actionable data on pupils is key.

Baseline assessments can play a vital role in providing this information and enhancing academic outcomes within MATs and other educational settings.

Benefits of baseline assessments

By conducting an initial assessment of students' knowledge and abilities upon entry to a school or trust, educators can gain valuable insights into each student's starting point.

Baseline assessments can give you a quick insight into the students and help you understand the schools, cohort and year groups' data efficiently. This is especially true for pupils entering Reception where there is no previous data, or for the transition from Primary to Secondary schools, where data might not be consistent when pupils are feeding in from different centres.

  1. Personalised learning

Baseline assessment data helps teachers across MATs to tailor their instruction, learning activities and curriculum to meet individual needs, ensuring that students receive appropriate support and challenge from the very beginning.

  1. Comparable and connected data

Cambridge CEM’s baseline assessments for MATs provide a benchmark for evaluating the effectiveness of teaching methods and curriculum implementation, by giving trusts consistent and comparable data that helps to evaluate and standardise performance within each academy and across the whole trust.

  1. Tracking progress

Baseline assessments also allow for the tracking of pupil progress and help to identify areas in each classroom or academy that may require additional attention or intervention.

Cambridge CEM’s independent, objective and readily available analysis saves times in terms on assessment and retrieval and comparison of results as well as ultimately improving academic outcomes across Trusts.

For more information on Cambridge CEM’s baseline assessments and how they can provide better connected data across your multi-academy trust contact:

Lucy Baker (South of England) or Suzanne Tipping (North of England)


Find out more about Cambridge CEM’s baseline assessments for multi-academy trusts:

Baseline Assessments For Trusts