Delivering strong governance in a Multi-Academy Trust
August 9, 2017
Ultimately, it is likely that more academy schools will become part of a Multi-Academy Trust as a result of both Government policy and reductions in funding. Whilst there are numerous benefits in operating within this structure, an increase in the size and complexity of operations is likely to require a different approach in terms of oversight by the Trustees. Strong and effective governance is key in ensuring the success of the Trust but how is this best achieved?
Understand your role and responsibilities
The responsibilities of the Trustees of an Academy are much more onerous than those of the Governor of a maintained school.The Trustees have responsibilities as directors under the Companies Act and must also comply with charity law requirements.
As part of the establishment of the Trust, a clear scheme of delegation should be put in place which sets out the responsibilities of the Trustees and the various Committees set up to manage the Trust. It should also set out what responsibilities have been delegated to the Local Governing Bodies of the individual schools. Where responsibilities have been delegated, the Board of Trustees should still retain oversight as they are still accountable for these activities.
Perform a skills audit
The Board has a responsibility to ensure that it has the skills it needs to be effective. The Board should set out the skills necessary for the effective governance of the Trust and then evaluate whether the current members have the required skill set. There are numerous tools available to complete a skills audit for Governors. Once the audit has been completed, the Board can then make a decision as to how any further required skills can be obtained. This could either be through training of existing Trustees or recruitment of additional Trustees.
Complete a recruitment process
Where the Board decides to recruit additional Trustees, there should be a formal recruitment process. It is recommended that this involves an interview process. Once recruited, there should be an effective induction process so that the Trustee is fully aware of the history and current issues of the Trust.
In the current Accounts Direction, there is a new requirement to disclose in the Governance statement information about the quality of the data used by the Board and why the Board finds it acceptable. In evaluating information, it is important that the Board is satisfied that consistent policies and procedures are in place that ensure that information for each School is produced on the same basis and is comparable. Information should be received on a timely basis such that Trustees have time to review it before meetings. The accounting package used will influence the information produced as if schools in the Trust are using different packages it is more difficult to ensure a consistent approach.
It is also important that in addition to information on historic performance the Board also reviews information on the longer term future of the Trust including budgets for the next three to five years. This will assist in informing decisions and future plans.
The Trust should consider regular Trustee appraisals to ensure that individuals are performing with the required level of enthusiasm and professionalism and identify any further training needs.
Once the Trust is established, it is important to continuously review the governance structure. This will establish whether it is still working effectively for the Trust, providing the right level of challenge and expertise. Things can change very quickly in the sector and it is important that the Governance structure is able to address the challenges faced and opportunities arising.
The National College for Teaching and Leadership have produced some guidance on governance in Multi-Academy Trusts which incorporates case studies of best practice.
If you would like to discuss governance in Multi-Academy Trusts, or you would like to speak with a member of our team, please contact Nicola Mason or call 01772 821021 to be put in contact with a member of our Academy team.