Ofsted’s ‘Summary evaluations of multi-academy trusts’ guidance sets out the process and range of evidence-gathering activities that inspectors carry out as part of its summary evaluations of MATs. Summary evaluations are not inspections and Ofsted carries out these evaluations with the cooperation and consent of the MAT being reviewed.

Here's what's covered in this up-to-speed article:

  • [Updated] What are summary evaluations?
  • The selection process
  • Academy inspections during stage 1
  • Notification
  • [Updated] During summary evaluations
  • Safeguarding
  • Feedback

[Updated] What are summary evaluations?


Summary evaluations are used to explore the extent to which the MAT is delivering a high quality of education and improving pupils’ achievement. Though the evaluations are not inspections, they do draw on previous inspections of individual academies within the MAT.


The overall process consists of two stages:


[Updated] Stage 1: Batched inspections


Section 5 and section 8 inspections will be carried out in a number of academies over a period of time, usually up to two terms. These can also be conducted across one week if Ofsted has reason to conduct an evaluation quickly.

[New] During stage 1, Ofsted will inspect academies within the MAT that are already due an inspection. Ofsted will expect to see academies as they normally operate and will not expect the MAT to undertake any specific preparations or activities for the purpose of the summary evaluation.


[Updated] Stage 2: Summary evaluation


Once section 5 and section 8 reports have been published, MAT summary evaluations will be conducted. MATs will be notified of summary evaluations once stage 1 has been completed – these may take place during the same term, or the term following the completion of the academy inspections. Over the course of a week, inspectors will meet with the MAT’s leaders and trustees to discuss the findings of the individual inspections and overall quality of education across the MAT.

[New] During stage 2, Ofsted, with the agreement of the MAT, will only visit a sample of academies within the MAT that were not inspected during stage 1. Ofsted will also contact some of the headteachers in academies that were not inspected during stage 1 to carry out a telephone survey. Inspectors will not visit any academy that is in a category of concern or that was inspected during stage 1, unless the MAT and the Ofsted inspectors both think it would be beneficial.


The selection process


Ofsted aims to select a broad range of MATs to visit, not just those that may be a cause for concern, and will take account of a range of information, including the number of academies within an MAT and number of pupils on roll at these academies, and any warning notices that have been issued to any academies within the MAT by the Secretary of State (SoS).


Academy inspections during stage 1 


All academies that are selected for inspection will be due to be inspected in the same academic year under section 5 or section 8 of the Education Act 2005. Academies that are inspected as part of stage 1 will be notified in the usual way and inspections will be carried out in accordance with Ofsted’s relevant framework.

During inspections, the same evidence will be considered, and judgements made, as would be under any section 5 or 8 inspection. Information will be gathered first-hand about the use, quality and impact of any support and direction that the MAT gives to its academies. If any evidence relates to the wider MAT rather than the standards and outcomes of the academy being inspected, it will be considered as part of the evidence for stage 2, but not when reaching judgements about the academy itself.




MATs will usually be notified by telephone of a summary evaluation up to five working days before the start. If an MAT has concerns about the timing of a summary evaluation, they can submit a deferral request and include reasons to support this request.


[Updated] During the summary evaluation


[Updated] On-site visit to the MAT


The on-site visit to the MAT allows inspectors to gather further evidence during a review about the impact of an MAT, and for MAT leaders to demonstrate this impact.

On the first day, the inspector will meet with the MAT’s chief executive (or equivalent) to introduce themselves and their team, confirm arrangements for meetings with key staff and providing feedback. The evaluation and discussions with MAT leaders will focus on the quality of education provided and how well pupils are performing across the whole MAT.

[New] Inspectors may ask MAT leaders to discuss how they may have adapted plans and/or strategies to support their academies and pupils to recover lost ground caused by disruption to learning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

[Updated] Inspectors will collate, analyse and assess the evidence about the MAT gathered during the inspection of individual academies, and discussions with MAT leaders -  evidence will be accepted in whatever format it is provided. Evidence should be firmly focussed on impact, both for pupils and in terms of raising standards and the quality of education offered. MATs should note that there is no expectation for them to prepare evidence specifically for the benefit of inspectors.

[New] Inspectors will tailor their areas of focus to the circumstances of the MAT. The following are areas inspectors will likely focus on (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Governance – including the impact the MAT has on its academies, how policies are made, implemented and reviewed, and the effectiveness of the leadership of the MAT.
  • Curriculum and the quality of education – including how the curriculum is designed, how the MAT balances support and intervention, and how the curriculum serves the needs of the academies and pupils in the MAT.
  • Leadership and management – including how the MAT supports the improvement of its academies, how the MAT ensures pupils are kept safe, and how all levels of the MAT hold each other to account.
  • Pupils’ behaviour – including how staff are supported in implementing behaviour policies, how the MAT monitors exclusions, and how the MAT ensures behaviour management leads to well-behaved pupils.


[Updated] Survey visits to academies


During the evaluation, inspectors may also visit academies in the MAT – these visits are not inspections of the individual academies. In exceptional circumstances, e.g. where a serious safeguarding concern arises, Ofsted may inspect the academy at a later date.

The purpose of these visits is to gather further evidence about the impact of the MAT and to provide MAT leaders with an opportunity to demonstrate the impact.

The lead inspector will agree with MAT leaders which academies will be visited, and will aim to exclude academies that were inspected during stage 1.

[New] The visits will usually only take a couple of hours and may involve discussions with staff, local governors and pupils, or other activities agreed between inspectors and the MAT leaders.


Telephone surveys


Evidence gathered from the batched section 5 and section 8 inspections carried out as part of stage 1 will be supplemented, whenever possible, by a telephone survey of headteachers of other academies within the MAT that were not inspected during stage 1.

Inspectors will carry out the telephone surveys during the stage 2 week. The lead inspector will, in consultation with MAT leaders, select a representative sample of academies not inspected during stage 1.

During the telephone surveys, inspectors are likely to explore:

  • How well the MAT understands the quality of education it offers, in particular its strengths and weaknesses.
  • The measures in place to further enhance strengths and address weaknesses.
  • How the MAT knows it is having a positive impact on the quality of education provided for its pupils.




When evaluating a MAT, inspectors may consider how far MAT leaders have put in place effective arrangements to:

  • Identify pupils who may need early help or are at risk of neglect, abuse, grooming or exploitation.
  • Help prevent abuse by raising pupils’ awareness of safeguarding risks, and how and where to get help and support if they need it.
  • Help pupils who are at risk of abuse and need early help or statutory social care involvement, keeping accurate records, making timely referrals where necessary and working with other agencies to ensure that they get the help they need.
  • Manage allegations about adults who may be a risk, and check the suitability of staff to work with children and vulnerable adults.




All findings will be subject to moderation and quality assurance by senior Ofsted staff. Inspectors will provide oral feedback on emerging findings to senior leaders, before provisional findings are presented and briefly explained to senior executives and MAT board representatives.

Findings, e.g. highlighted areas of strength and areas of improvement, from the summary evaluation will be outlined in a letter to the MAT chief executive (or equivalent) and a copy will be provided to the SoS and chair of the trust board. Summary evaluations do not result in graded judgements – any judgements made will be in narrative form.

MATs will receive a draft letter and will have five working days to submit any comments – these comments will be addressed within 28 working days from the last day of the summary evaluation visit.


What’s next?


  • For a more detailed breakdown of Ofsted’s ‘Summary evaluations of multi-academy trusts’, take a look at our 3-Minute Read.
  • For information on Ofsted inspections, expectations and more, take a look at our Ofsted and inspection topic.


Ofsted (2021) ‘Summary evaluations of multi-academy trusts’