Are you looking to sell to Multi Academy Trusts?
It is essential for any marketing campaign to understand who is responsible for final procurement decisions, because the academy sector presents suppliers with one of the more difficult systems to understand.
With this in mind, here’s More Than Words’ guide to Multi Academy Trusts and how you can target them effectively.
State schools that are independent of the local authority are known as academies.
Compared to any local authority maintained school, academies have greater autonomy over the educational process.
Their term dates can be set independently and they do not need to follow the national curriculum, although academy students sit the same exams as other state school students, and they follow the same admissions rules.
Academies receive funding directly from the government through academy trusts.
Multi Academy Trusts
Non-profit organisations that run more than one academy school are called Multi Academy Trusts (MATs).
Some academies are not part of a Multi Academy Trust, but the Government intends to move all schools into trusts by 2030, so understanding them now is vital if you want to sell to multi academy trusts.
Academy schools in the UK receive government funding directly from the Department for Education (DfE). Academy Funding Agreements govern how funding is shared between schools within a trust.
The MAT is essentially an independent charity with a single board of trustees that oversees all its decisions. Therefore in MAT schools, all staff are employed by this charity, which functions as a single organisation.
What is the purpose of Multi Academy Trusts?
It is the government’s intention to make the United Kingdom’s education sector more robust and effective.
Schools within MATs share best practices and receive assistance from trust leaders in maximising efficiency and managing finances effectively.
As a result, the educational landscape will become more competitive as trusts become more widespread, and increase financial stability by creating economies of scale.
Structure of MATs
A MAT can be structured in a variety of ways, but here is a general outline of the average trust hierarchy:
- Trust governance is ultimately handled by the Board of Directors, or Trustees.
- In many cases, a particularly large or high-performing academy is designated the MAT sponsor.
- The sponsor will appoint all or most of the members and trustees of the academy trust. As a result, the sponsor can have a significant impact on any strategic/ improvement plans for the academy school(s).
- A director’s accountability lies with the members, who are legally entitled to certain rights. Directors are generally appointed to the Board by the members.
- Members of the trust should be long-term stakeholders, including both individuals and corporations.
- Executive headteachers and/or chief executives are likely to be appointed as directors.
There may then be a selection of committees formed by the Board, such as:
An Audit & Risk Committee
In accordance with the Financial Handbook, all MATs, except those that include a number of small primary schools, are required to have an audit committee.
The committee must:
- Monitor and approve the trust’s internal auditing program
- Internally scrutinise risks and address them as appropriate
- Assess the effectiveness and adequacy of the trust’s internal procedures
A Finance committee
This committee will:
- Maintain oversight of the Trust’s financial, governance, and risk management activities and procedures, and
- Annually report findings to the CEO and Trust Board, in accordance with the Trust’s annual reporting requirements.
An Education standards committee
Local governing bodies (LGBs) at each academy are responsible for implementing decisions made collaboratively with the academy’s headteacher and executive team.
What is the benefit of selling to Multi Academy Trusts?
The greater number of opportunities
This is because other schools do not have as much freedom when it comes to spending decisions as academy schools do. Their decisions can include:
- Services related to HR,
- The provision of legal services,
- Providers of catering services,
- Buildings and infrastructure
- Service providers of utilities
Schools in MATs can take advantage of economies of scale.
For example, a MAT may have 15 academies, and each academy may use a different learning management system.
There are costs associated with each system, including:
- Education & training
This includes the cost to the Trust to get consistent data from all of these platforms, as well as the cost of retraining staff as they move between academies.
Despite of the relatively high cost of purchasing for all 15 schools in the trust, by purchasing a single solution saves money.
Selling to Multi Academy Trusts- the procurement process
If there is no dedicated framework available, the procurement process is defined based on the value of the procurement.
Purchases between £0 and £999.99
Academies and trusts use a ‘best value for money’ approach for these, smaller purchases. This means there is no official process, although suppliers do need to provide a written quotation.
Purchases between £1,000 and £4,999 (Low-value purchases)
For these purchases, academies look for the best value from the quotations received, and then they must put forward at least three for the academy Head Teacher to approve.
Purchases between £5,000 and £24,999 (Medium-value purchases)
Academies must obtain at least three written quotes and send a purchase requisition form as well as a copy of the three quotes to the Trust, based on the best value quotes available. These purchases are then approved by the CEO.
Purchases of £25,000+ (High-value purchases)
Competitive tendering is required for high-value purchases. Pre-tendering discussions should be preceded by a business case, whose contents should be sent to the COO for further discussion and or approval.
The COO will then support and/or manage complex business cases. Following a tendering process, the Board of Trustees will make the final decision once it has been evaluated as fair, and transparent.
Because MATs are funded by the Education Funding Agency, they are considered ‘contracting authorities’ under public procurement when they want to acquire goods or services on its behalf. The threshold for spending is £189,330 for goods or services, and £4,733,252 for works (buildings and maintenance)
For these purposes, the threshold applies to the whole contract provision, including across the entire MAT portfolio and the lifetime value of the contract. The process can be streamlined if the contract is low/medium value, and an individual school will have more control over purchasing here.
How can I reach Multi Academy Trusts?
There are some general rules you can follow to improve your chances of reaching decision makers within MATs, but educating trust staff about your product should be your first priority. As they are very busy it is advisable to avoid cold outreach without value, or sending general sales material.
In any outreach, make sure you give them value by providing thoughtful, educational content, inviting them to a learning event, or offering quantifiable results your previous customers have gained. In addition, introductions or referrals can be useful. While a Trust CEO is unlikely to introduce you to another, schools that have been your customers can introduce you to a Trust.
Key staff roles
In order to plan your content delivery strategy and segment your education marketing database effectively, you must understand the functions of these key staff types.
Chief Executive Office (CEO)
CEOs are responsible for overseeing all Head Teachers within Multi Academy Trusts. In addition to education, they manage the Academies’ finances and budgets, and the Trust’s operational growth.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
The MAT must have a designated Chief Financial Officer to oversee all financial matters. They will report directly to the CEO, provide advice on financial strategy, and manage the finance team.
Chief Operations Officer (COO)
A Chief Operations Officer oversees all aspects of the Trust that are not academic. This will include HR, buildings and maintenance, catering and so on.
Executive Headteachers oversee the strategic direction, growth, and partnerships of all Academies in the Trust.
By supporting the CEO and CFO with financial matters, the Business Manager ensures the Trust operates effectively.
These directors include those who are responsible for Business, Data, Information & Systems, Estates, and Human Resources.
Key purchasing facts for selling to Multi Academy Trusts
Following the identification of your key marketing decision makers, the next step is to identify the times in the year when your marketing will have the most impact.
Do MATs have a schedule for purchasing decisions?
Each academy receives its annual budget in September, this means that many purchases are made in late summer or early September, ready for the new school year.
However, there are also times in the year when academies and school leaders begin planning procurement, so this is the ideal time to approach them with informative content about your product and service, so they have your business top of mind during these discussions.
These periods vary from academy to academy, and depending on the department you are approaching. A good rule of thumb is that planning discussions around:
- Websites & Marketing
- School Improvement
…take place between October and February.
Meanwhile, academies start planning for:
- Staff Training
- Technology, and
- Learning Resources
…between April and June.
How does GAG pooling work?
In GAG pooling, MATs collect general annual grants (GAGs) centrally and distribute them to individual schools. This method offers the benefit of providing the required amount of funding to schools with different needs. When MATs decide to use GAG pooling, this takes the final decision about purchases away from individual academies and gives it to the Trust.
In this case, it is important to adapt your marketing to appeal to the Trust rather than academy decision makers. You must keep in mind, however, that only 11% of the 1,170 MATs are currently in the GAG Pool.
It is common for MATs to withhold a certain portion of their budget to spend on a more ad hoc basis throughout the year. However, these expenditures will require shorter decision-making time periods since they are less expensive.
5 ways to win more business from MATs and Academies
Don’t just market to MATs. Your product or service is ultimately influenced by the MAT Executive Team, however the individual Academy leaders almost always influence purchasing decisions. In some cases, it may be more effective to test your solution or product in one Academy before rolling it out across the whole MAT.
- There is a lot to be done in September. This is because Academy Schools begin their new academic year and financial year in September. As soon as they get their budgets in September, they can start planning and spending for the new year.
- Build a bespoke mailing list. By using a proven marketing database from a company like More Than Words you will reach only the decision-makers with the budgets and responsibility for procurement within MATS or individual academies. You will save both time and money by creating bespoke content to suit this specific segment, and should enjoy far better response rates with a highly-targeted mailing list.
- Use your knowledge of academies, trust, and education challenges.Create a marketing campaign that proves your expertise. Education decision-makers look for value for money in their low and mid-range purchases, and it is easier to gain their trust by showing that you understand the market they are working within.
- Choose the right approach. Ensure you plan your interventions to benefit the schools and students most in need, align them with business priorities, and evaluate their impact. Always lead with value and be prepared to provide evidence.
Get your UK list of multi academy trusts
Over 8,000 companies in the UK have used More Than Words as an education marketing agency to promote their products and services to a highly-targeted audience.
The following information will be provided to you when you order our list of multi-academy trusts in the UK:
- 1436 trust groups comprising 8,390 schools,
- the email addresses of Trust CEO’s and Head Teachers
- school expenditure information, and
- comprehensive market intelligence and personal information for the high-value contacts at listed schools.
Our team looks forward to working with you and your team to explore the opportunities to sell to multi-academy trusts.
Contact us on 0330 010 8300 or click here to email the team for more information or to place an order.