Strategic narrative in multi-academy trusts in England: Principal drivers for expansion

Baxter, Jacqueline and Floyd, Alan (2019). Strategic narrative in multi-academy trusts in England: Principal drivers for expansion. British Educational Research Journal, 45(5) pp. 1050–1071.



Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) are now a common feature of the English educational landscape. yet numerous high-profile failures indicate that they present substantial challenges in terms of leadership and governance. One of areas that most exercises school leaders and boards is the setting of strategic direction for the MAT. This includes elements such as its expansion. This paper draws on 30 interviews with school leaders and trustees from 6 MATs and 10 interviews with National Leaders of Governance in looking to respond to the research question: What are the principal drivers for strategic expansion in MATs? The paper begins by contextualising the research in light of recent policy, then moves to consider why theory on strategy as narrative was chosen in preference to other strategic approaches, and how it was employed to analyse data. The paper concludes that within this sample there are a number of drivers for MAT expansion and that these fall under six principal categories: Opportunities, values, pressures, feelings, risks and resources. It also concludes that resources and business viability play a substantial part in decisions to expand, and that strategy appears to be an iterative learning process. As such it contributes to theory on the governance of multi-level organisations and to practice in terms of the Department for Education focus on MAT growth.

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