Quality Assurance (QA) of education provision in a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) is an important part of the MAT’s operating structure. QA is the process of verifying that the education being provided by each of the academies meets the standards set by the Trust. The MAT should have both a policy and a process in place to ensure quality assurance of the education it provides.
The policy should provide a clear framework for the standards that the MAT expects its academies to meet. This policy should be regularly reviewed to ensure that the standards remain up to date and relevant. It should include expectations related to curriculum, teaching and learning, assessment, resources, behaviour management and student welfare. Additionally, the policy should clearly define who is responsible for monitoring and reviewing standards, and provide details on how this process of review should be carried out. This should ensure that all academies within the MAT are held to the same quality standards, and that any necessary improvements can be identified and implemented in a timely manner.
QA monitoring processes need to be well structured and thought through at school and Trust level so that they are thorough without placing an unnecessarily large burden on leaders and staff. They need to be designed to support the development of the provision, not to be a distraction from delivering it! The monitoring activity can be carried out by senior leaders within each academy, leaders from the MAT, or by specialists engaged by the Trust to focus on key areas (e.g. safeguarding). Activities can include learning walks, observations of classroom teaching, book scrutinies, interviews/discussions with staff and students, and reviews of curriculum plans and assessment structures. Governor link visits, whilst not necessarily part of the formally planned QA process, offer an opportunity to check the findings of the QA activity. Whilst most of the activity should be planned on an annual basis, events that arise in a school year may require the planned activities to be flexed.
Larger co-ordinated QA reviews are often known as “deep dives” and usually focus on one particular area in detail. Deep dive is the term used for a review process that draws on many of the activities mentioned above in a relatively short timeframe to look at a particular subject area or school activity. The range of activities provides an opportunity to gather evidence that can be triangulated to ensure the conclusions are robust. The conclusions should provide development areas for the school or team as well as individuals.
The evidence gathered from QA monitoring activity needs to be stored in a way that allows good practice to be identified within individual academies but also across the schools in a MAT. Similarly development areas need to aggregated to identify training needs for groups of staff as well as individuals. There are a range of online systems like Lessons Learned that allow the information from assurance processes to be captured and analysed, and importantly to be reviewed at individual, school and MAT level.
The results of the QA activity at school level should be shared in a summarised form (not at an individual staff member level) with the local governing body. The MAT Board or one of its sub-committees needs to oversee the QA policy and that its process requirements are carried out, summary information from the processes may also be shared particularly where there are Trust level concerns about the education provision at a particular academy.
In summary, the quality assurance of the education provision within a MAT should include a clear policy setting out expectations and a process for monitoring and responding to any issues.