When your school announces it is joining a multi-academy trust (MAT), both students and parents can find this time unsettling and may have lots of questions, particularly if they haven’t been engaged from an early stage.
Having regular communication with parents and keeping them updated and involved with the process will help to ensure that the transition into a MAT goes as smoothly as possible, particularly from a student point of view.
We suggest that you develop a parent engagement plan, to ensure that you have a structured approach to keeping parents updated. This will help to prevent rumours and speculation, which can build up and lead to intensified concerns that could have been avoided.
This guide on the conversion journey for schools converting to academy status may help you to plan your communications and have a better idea of the timescales involved. It may also help to share this document with parents that request more information or customise a similar one for your school to use.
These steps should help to develop a communications plan with parents:
Step 1 – Send a Consultation Letter
When the initial discussions have taken place and it is looking increasingly likely that you will be joining a MAT, a letter to advise parents that the school is proposing to convert to academy status should be sent.
In the letter, it is important to detail the rationale behind the proposal and the benefits that students and the school will gain from joining a MAT. You should also invite any questions from parents regarding the proposal.
As well as sending the letter to parents, publishing it onto the school website is a good idea.
Step 2 – Arrange an information meeting
Organising a meeting where you can share more details with parents should be the next stage. Present them with the key information around planned timescales and the potential impact.
The presentation should contain an introduction to multi-academy trusts to help parents to understand what joining a MAT means. There will obviously be some information that may be sensitive at this point, such as staff changes which you will not want to discuss until finalised.
Try to avoid making statements based on supposition rather than facts. Be honest but don’t try to win parents over with details that you are not in a position to confirm. It is much better to admit that the reply to a specific question (in regard to future staffing levels, for example) is unknown and depends on a number of variables, than make commitments that may not be accurate.
Any details that have not yet been confirmed can be communicated to parents at a later date.
Step 3 – Regular updates regarding changes
Whilst we don’t recommend that you email or write to parents with every small detail of change, a regular update on the progress of joining the MAT will help to keep parents engaged with what is happening.
A monthly update by newsletter might be appropriate or an announcement of the bigger changes. Putting together a set of FAQs and publishing them on the school website might also handle many queries that parents have.
Delays and unexpected factors may bring some extra challenges but if you have a well-planned parent engagement/communication plan then that is the best way to prepare for the changes.
This approach will help encourage parents to support the decision and to support their children through the transitional period.