Essential update on Academy Governance
16 October 2020
- Members should assure themselves that the trust is effective, and use their powers to intervene if governance is failing. They also have oversight over the trustees, and may exercise their powers to further the charitable objects of the academy. They should not be involved in the day to day running of the school or assume any other powers of the trustees.
- Trustees must manage their personal relationships with related parties to avoid conflicts of interest, adhere to their statutory duties, engage with the communities and stakeholders they serve, and hold executive leaders to account for the performance of the trust. It recommends that they should be aware of 'The Seven Principles of Public Life' (which set out the ethical standards expected of those working in the public sector).
- Workload for governors
The report finds that governors and trustees spend a lot of time on their roles, but feel that they still cannot give their roles the attention they require. The report suggests addressing this by reducing the number of committees involved in governance, or dedicating committees to particular specialist areas (e.g. finance) to avoid repetition of work between governors/trustees.
- Composition of the board
A lack of separation between different levels of governance, for example trustees and executive leaders also being members, has led to concerns of a lack of impartiality. The report recommends regular monitoring and evaluation of the board, and suggests utilising the help of professional support organisations for this.
There is also a lack of diversity among governors, which the report suggests tackling by liaising with local community groups and using recruitment services.
- Recruitment to the board
Many governing bodies have vacancies which they find difficult to fill. Most rely on word of mouth and personal networks to recruit new governors and trustees, which the report warns may lead to an 'insular' approach to governance. The report suggests using connection services, such as 'Academy Ambassadors' to recruit new governors and trustees.
To avoid recruitment difficulties for Chairs of the Board, the report suggests increased succession planning, for example training of vice-chairs, to ensure that someone is ready to fill the Chair position when the current incumbent retires.
The report states that executive leaders at some academy trusts are concerned that the governing body's knowledge of school improvement, data analysis and education policy may require improvement. The report suggests training in these areas, as well as in basic finance.