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Title: The paradox of autonomy : the journey of three standalone schools into a multi-academy trust
Author: Barnes, Peter H.
ISNI:       0000 0004 9353 6823
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis examines the paradox of autonomy through the journeys of three standalone schools: one maintained, one foundation and one academy towards forming a multi-academy trust. By examining the motivations and drivers of Governors and Senior Leaders in each school, it seeks to understand why, and how, decisions are made and the impact of these upon the present and the future. By concentrating on three key transition points: the start of the journey, the point of conversion and twelve months later, it explores the challenges and opportunities that arise throughout the conversion process, identifying those factors that both facilitate and hinder successful transition into a multi-academy trust. The research draws upon the reflections of Governors and Senior Leaders, as well as the influence of school context, and national and local pressures, on choices and decisions made. Through a conceptual framework of key themes, and by using qualitative methodology, it explores whether the original catalysts and impetus for conversion are realised, and whether the multiacademy trust model enables or constrains autonomy. This research project finds that, contrary to popular perception, the majority of issues surface not prior to conversion, but afterwards, with the multiacademy trust structure limiting opportunities to innovate and change. Whilst future governance structures assume a high priority during conversion, less attention is paid to the structures and powers of the centralised function in a MAT. This can then lead to role ambiguity and conflict, with the complexity of the conversion process detracting from the bigger picture post-transition. This study finds that, paradoxically, the most popular reasons for conversion: enhanced autonomy and increased funding are hindered by the very structures intended to promote them. As a result, schools within multi-academy trusts can find themselves with less freedom than in a local-authority led system. This research project also finds that the status of the converting school is less significant than the motivations and prior experiences of those its stakeholders working within them, and that school improvement activities and professional development opportunities are enhanced by schools joining together within a multi-academy trust.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: LB Theory and practice of education ; LF Individual institutions (Europe)