Recent decades have seen a global shift in educational policy and practice towards various forms of ‘joining-up’, through partnerships and networks. These networks have differing aims but are broadly geared towards increasing quality and/or innovation in educational provision, although many prove messy and problematic. Policy makers in England have encouraged schools to collaborate, although parallel market pressures can also drive competition, leading to an argument that schools must engage in ‘coopetition’. More recently, policy has encouraged schools to form or join a multi-academy trust (MAT) and the government’s stated aim is that all 21,000 schools in England will be part of a MAT by 2030. A MAT is a formal legal entity with a board and Chief Executive which oversees multiple schools. The headline question we address is whether pre-existing partnerships between schools predict eventual membership of multi-academy trusts? We do this through an analysis of ego network and case study interview data collected from 20 schools across two local areas. We track these networks over a seven-year period, identifying which schools join which MATs. We find that schools do not form or join MATs with other local schools they have collaborated with in the past. We assess this somewhat counter-intuitive finding through the lens of socio-spatial theory, presenting a framework for assessing the interactions between place, scale and networks and considering the implications for policy, practice and research.