Join Mercia Learning Trust
Find out more about joining Mercia Learning Trust, a multi-academy trust of schools in Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Mercia Learning Trust is a successful 2-18+ multi-academy trust located in the south and south-west of Sheffield. We have a clear identity and reputation for educational excellence, integrity and an unrelenting commitment to children and community. We are committed to a locality-based approach to future partnership and growth.
Vision for future growth
After careful consideration Trustees believe the trust is well-placed to grow carefully and sustainably. They are convinced that the impact of the trust on its current schools is substantial, and that the trust as an organisation is strong. They believe the current model of partnership which is based on primary and secondary schools working together in a distinct geographical area and serving similar local communities is the right one.
Why Join Mercia Learning Trust?
Schools may consider joining Mercia Learning Trust for a number of reasons.
Firstly, as a multi-academy trust, the Trust can offer schools a range of resources, support and opportunities to help improve the quality of education they provide. This includes access to expertise in areas such as finance, governance and HR, as well as support with curriculum development and teaching practice.
Secondly, the Trust has a strong commitment to collaboration and a focus on helping each individual student achieve their full potential, which can be beneficial for schools seeking to improve their educational outcomes.
Additionally, being part of a larger network of schools can provide opportunities for joint projects and initiatives, sharing of best practice, and greater leverage when negotiating with external partners.
Finally, by joining a trust like Mercia Learning Trust, schools can benefit from increased financial stability and security, which can help them to better manage their budgets and resources in the long term.
Mercia Learning Trust is a strong Sheffield-based MAT
Our Trust is based around a shared mission. Working as individual schools, and in partnership, our singular intention is to ensure every child, whatever their background, will attend an exceptional school. We believe children should enjoy school, feel safe and fully supported, be inspired to learn, develop character and aspiration, and realise their full potential. We are so committed to their success and well-being that we choose to think of every child we serve as if they were our own, and to measure our actions and impact against this.
We have a reputation for leading highly effective and sector leading schools (including transforming standards in previously under-performing schools and establishing an exceptional free school). In 2023, we have 4 Ofsted Outstanding and 2 strongly Good schools. We are the only multi-academy trust in South Yorkshire to run a newly inspected Outstanding secondary school.
The quality of our trust has been nationally recognised, and we are one of only nine trusts across the country who have been invited to undertake inaugural World Class multi-academy trust accreditation through the organisation World Class Schools.
How does Mercia Learning Trust operate?
We strive to operate in a partnership ‘sweet spot’ which we call aligned autonomy. We share the same mission, but understand each school is different, has a unique identity and is led by a Headteacher and a Local Governing Body.
Our trust is committed to challenging and supporting each school to ensure that they meet our high standards. Our focus is on developing a set of common features that we expect to see in every school. These include an ethos of high expectations, care, and inclusion, as well as behaviour of the highest standards, and a culture of safeguarding.
We believe that a meticulously planned curriculum, taught consistently well by all teachers, is essential to ensuring that every child receives an exceptional education. Additionally, we place a strong emphasis on providing exceptional support for the most vulnerable children, as well as offering a thorough and inclusive personal development strategy.
We recognise that our staff are essential to achieving our goals, and so we are committed to providing them with the necessary support and development opportunities. We also believe in the importance of partnership working, and strive to involve our schools in appropriate partnerships.
At every level of leadership, our focus is on the right priorities, and we rigorously assess the quality of our work to ensure that we are continuously improving. Our CEO, central school improvement team, SEN and Safeguarding leads, and school improvement partners are all central to this strategy, and we work together to ensure that each school in our trust is providing an exceptional education to every child.
At our multi-academy trust, schools receive support from a Finance and Operations Director who leads central teams with expertise in finance, payroll, estates management (including health and safety), IT, human resources, design, and marketing. This ensures that schools are efficiently and safely managed, allowing Headteachers to focus on their core responsibilities of leading their schools.
We also pool resources for estate improvement and IT investment and direct them to areas where they are most needed. This approach ensures that our learning environments are of the highest quality, giving our students the best possible education.
Mercia Learning Trust operates using the principles of what we refer to as 'Aligned Autonomy'.
Our approach of aligned autonomy allows each school to maintain its individual identity and take responsibility for its own operations while benefiting from the support and guidance of the Trust. We prioritise sharing best practices and implementing effective school improvement strategies while providing high-quality central services that alleviate the burden of administrative and operational tasks.
By freeing schools from administrative and operational responsibilities, each Headteacher can focus on what really matters - delivering exceptional education to their pupils.
Making the choice to join a multi-academy trust is arguably the biggest decision a school leadership team will ever take. From the beginning of the journey, our school has been well-supported by all the team at Mercia Learning Trust to navigate a timeline for consultation on academisation.
The trust worked with us to ensure that the Anns Grove leadership team had everything they needed to make
a well-informed decision. On occasion, the consultation process was tricky to navigate. However, MLT partnered with us every step of the way to address issues as they arose.
Ann Farrar, Headteacher, Anns Grove Primary School
(in consultation to join Mercia Learning Trust)
The governors of the school were looking for a strong MAT with a proven track record of exceptional schools and a strong central team. The promise of meaningful partnership, expert support, and a vision for our future meant joining Mercia Learning Trust was an obvious choice for our school.
Mark Wallace, Chair of Governors, Anns Grove Primary School
(in consultation to join Mercia Learning Trust)
Mercia Learning Trust is a very effective organisation, delivering strong outcomes for its pupils in the Sheffield community that it serves. Governance at trust and school level is strong and they appear to be getting the right balance of challenge and support. The concept of Mercia Learning Trust as a single organisation is very evident and is the anchor for the next phase of development.’
Sir David Carter, Ambition Institute ‘Trust Diagnostic’ MAT Review, February 2020
One of the fantastic things about being a part of Mercia Learning Trust is that we get to follow our own vision, drive our own ethos, but also that it's aligned with the trust's vision.
Every child at Woodlands is treated like they are our own, which is one of the principles of being a Mercia school.
We get the support and challenge we need in order to drive school improvement.
Lauren Johnstone, Headteacher, Woodlands Primary School
We are so proud to be part of Mercia Learning Trust. It is a highly supportive trust, with aligned principles, but we are very much encouraged to be our own school.
There are so many projects we simply couldn't have achieved if we weren't part of Mercia Learning Trust. An example of this has been the extensive refurbishment and maintenance of our school, which is a large Victorian building. As a maintained school, we couldn't have afforded these necessary upgrades.
Michele Nott, Headteacher, Nether Edge Primary School
One of the strongest features of Mercia Learning Trust for me, is that each school genuinely has its own identity, and is encouraged to flourish. We are not a trust where we are clones of each other.
Yes we look for opportunities to align ourselves with the other schools and work in partnership, but that is not a 'straight-jacket' approach. There is definitely a degree of freedom and trust in the schools to be able to make the very best decisions for their own school's community.
Ben Paxman, Headteacher, Totley Primary School
Headteachers work really closely with the CEO and School Improvement Director. We have regular weekly conversations about the core business of what we do at our school; what we're doing in the classroom, how we are enabling our students to make great progress, what we're doing to support their welfare, and ultimately driving us to think about the next steps we need to take for our young people when they leave us.
We had a great Ofsted inspection recently. The support we received from the trust during this, not just on the days of the inspection, but in the lead up to this, meant we were fully prepared and confident in the process.
One of the real benefits as a headteacher is that not only do I get support from the CEO and the central team, there are other headteachers in the trust who I can connect with and feel like I'm part of a larger leadership team.
Emma Anderson, Headteacher, Newfield Secondary School
Being a headteacher in a Mercia Learning Trust school means there is support and capacity where I need it. My team and I can then focus on the curriculum, teaching and learning, and looking after the children. There is a team of expert people in the 'back office' of the trust who deal with all the HR, finance, estates, IT, payroll and marketing.
If I was a headteacher thinking about joining a multi-academy trust, one of the questions at the front of my mind would be "will I lose autonomy?" The honest answer is when you're in a MAT there is alignment, but our MAT is very clear that each school is distinctly different to each other because they serve their own community, and those communities have different needs. It's true, there is some loss of autonomy, but I'd want to reassure headteacher that's because we do things together. We are a team who run a group of schools together, and the benefits far outweigh any loses you may be concerned about.
Paul Haigh, Headteacher, King Ecgbert School
The beauty of this trust is that we all have different contexts, and we're able to run successful schools with the support we need. Being part of a trust means the 'talent capital' across the whole trust can be shared across all of the schools.
The trust's central team allows headteachers to focus on what really matters. Having the support around the job is crucial, so the day-to-day running of the school can take place.
To anyone who is looking for a trust to join, I would absolutely recommend Mercia Learning Trust. You will benefit from keeping the autonomy of how your school is, as well as being supported by professionals. This allows schools to be the right school for their context, with support to be the best school they can be.
Dean Webster, Headteacher, Mercia School
Guidance for maintained schools considering joining a multi-academy trust
In Sheffield, over 60% of mainstream primary schools are run by the local authority. Conversely, there is only one mainstream LA run secondary school, two in a SAT (Single Academy Trust) and all others in a MAT (Multi Academy Trust). Nationally, around 40% of primary schools, and 80% of secondaries, are within a MAT.
With the government's White Paper in March 2022 stating "by 2030, all children will benefit from being taught in a family of schools, with their school in a strong multi academy trust or with plans to join or form one", maintained schools are starting to consider their options when it comes to forming a partnership.
What are the benefits of joining a multi-academy trust?
Research conducted by the DfE in 2021 found that the vast majority of schools who had recently converted reported that the overall impact of joining a MAT had been positive.
The research found the key reason for joining a MAT was increased collaboration and sharing of skills.
Schools joining Mercia Learning Trust will not only benefit from exceptional shared practice and expertise, but also school improvement, a strong and skilled central team, and the feeling of being part of something bigger. At the same time, our schools maintain their own identities and autonomy, but are aligned to our values and common frameworks.
What are the first steps in the process?
In their guidance paper, Taking the Next Step: Joining a multi-academy trust, ASCL recommends the following:
Start a conversation with the MAT(s) you are interested in
Once you’ve narrowed down the number of MATs you’re interested in, it is sensible to have an initial conversation with their chairs, CEOs or executive heads to ascertain whether they would welcome your application to join before going any further.
All MATs should have a plan for how (or even whether) they intend to grow, and there’s no point in setting your heart on joining a MAT that doesn’t have the desire or capacity to expand or doesn’t see your school as a good fit.
A chair or CEO won’t at this stage, of course, be able to give you a categorical answer about whether you can join their MAT. The trust will need to carry out due diligence on you, as you will on them, and the final decision will be made by the Regional Director (RD). But they should be able to give you an indication of how interested they are in having you on board before you invest any more time and energy in pursuing the partnership.
To take the first steps with Mercia Learning Trust, please email us, and we'll get back to you to get the ball rolling.
Following these early stages of selecting a trust, the school and trust will work together with the local authority and DfE on the following stages:
- Two stages of due diligence
- Application to convert
- Advisory Board
- Aim for roughly 6 months to conversion
What is due diligence and how do I do it?
Due diligence is the process of investigating an organisation prior to entering into a contract with it. It shouldn’t just be focused on compliance; ultimately both parties should have confidence in the merits of your school joining the MAT. Effective due diligence is therefore essential in ensuring you find out as much as you possibly can about any MAT you are considering joining. MATs will also undertake due diligence into schools that are considering joining their trust.
You may wish to undertake due diligence in the following areas:
- Ethos and culture
- Vision and strategy
- Size and capacity
- Performance, challenge and support
- Leadership and governance
- Legal and commercial
Is there DfE financial support for a school to become an academy?
The Secretary of State has agreed to allocate a grant under Section 14 of the Education Act 2002 of no more than £25,000, which is intended to contribute towards expenses incurred by your school to support conversion to an Academy
The grant may only be used for the following purposes:
- obtaining legal advice in respect of the conversion process;
- the costs of software licence transfers;
- HR/TUPE advice;
- re-branding costs; and
- expenses incurred in setting up of the Academy Trust.
Maintained schools need to begin the process of conversion by completing a short online form to register interest in becoming an academy with the DfE. The DfE will then appoint a nominated project lead to get in touch with you and support you through the process of getting consent, converting to academy status and joining the MAT.
You can print a print-friendly version of this guidance from the document below.
Find out more about academisation and joining Mercia Learning Trust
Convert to an academy: guide for schools
Academy Trust Handbook
Due diligence: best practice guide for maintained schools, local authorities and academy trusts
Convert to an academy: documents for schools
Academy Converter Checklist for Schools This includes a handy checklist and an idea of timescales.
Taking the Next Step: Joining a multi-academy trust
If you would like to talk to us about our Trust, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The team are ready to meet with you to discuss future partnerships and can facilitate meetings with the relevant people and trips to see our fantastic schools.