The members of our Academy Trust are the conscience and moral guardians of its governance and their role is discrete and distinct; They are tasked with assessing if the Board of Trustees is performing well to ensure that the purpose of the trust is being met, it’s values are being adhered to and its charitable object (of “advancing education for the public benefit”) is being fulfilled. Although the legal minimum is three members, our Trust is committed to having five members, as recommended by the DfE and NGA, in order to maximise the scrutiny of our trust’s performance. With regards to the specifics of their role, members:
While members are permitted in law to also be appointed as trustees, we have decided that members should not be trustees. This decision has been made in order to retain a degree of separation of powers between the members and the trust board, in line with DfE and NGA expectations. Furthermore, in line with DfE-amended model articles, our members are not permitted to be employees of the Academy Trust.
2. TRUST BOARD
Our Board of Trustees is the accountable body for the performance of all MAT schools and as such must:
1. Ensure clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction.
2. Hold the Executive Headteacher to account for the educational performance of the schools
and their pupils.
3. Oversee the financial performance of the Trust and make sure its money is well spent.
As charity trustees, (within the terms of section 177.1 of the Charities Act 2011) they must also ensure that they are complying with charity law requirements by “advancing education for the public benefit.”
The Board of Trustees are responsible for the general management of the trust in accordance with the provisions set out in the memorandum and articles of association. Therefore, to achieve this, they delegate responsibility for delivery of the vision, strategy and day to day operations of the trust to the Executive Headteacher. The board then holds the Executive Headteacher to account for the performance of the trust as a whole, including the performance of the individual academies within the trust.
Even though our Board of Trustees is ultimately accountable in law for all decisions about its MAT schools, this does not mean that the board should unilaterally and directly govern all individual schools; responsibility and decision-making powers can and should be delegated to Local Governing Bodies. Furthermore, as a trust which puts great store in the core value of ‘Empowerment’, we do not believe that a LGB should be a purely advisory body which carefully monitors and scrutinizes a small number of delegated areas and then feeds information up to the Trust Board for decisions to be made. Rather, our preferred approach to the governance of individual schools is that LGBs should have significant decision-making powers delegated to it in a full range of key areas. However, although this is our preferred approach, we recognise that, as the MAT grows and develops, there may be LGBs which are at different points of the ‘delegation spectrum’ depending on the performance of the school and its governors. Indeed, the trust has the right to review and adapt its governance structure, which includes increasing or decreasing levels of delegation and establishing or amending committees.
3.LOCAL GOVERNING BODIES (LGBs)
Our trust believes that LGBs are able to scrutinise key areas of a school’s financial probity and performance in greater depth and with a more detailed understanding of the school’s context, than the trust board. Therefore, as aforementioned, in line with our core value of ‘Empowerment’, we advocate a high level of delegated responsibility and decision-making to our LGBs.
LGBs have a critical “eyes and ears” role that both the Trust and LGBs themselves need to take seriously in order to discharge the governance responsibilities of ensuring that voices are heard and account is rendered effectively in all MAT schools at local level. Our Trust Board seeks to ensure that the responsibility to actually ‘govern’ and not just ‘advise’ is vested in those who serve on LGBs, who will see and feel the impact of their decision-making in a more real, immediate and tangible way than trustees.
Being as LGBs are, strictly seeking, trust committees, the Trust Board will establish the LGB’s, appoint the chair, ensure that two parents are elected and determine what exactly will be delegated. It is crucial that the roles and responsibilities are therefore clearly defined via the Scheme of Delegation, so that that local governors are empowered to fulfil their role with real clarity and confidence. Delegation of any area of responsibility to a LGB can be added/ removed at any time by our Trust Board.
The chief executive (who is referred to as Executive Headteacher, not CEO in our trust) has the delegated responsibility, from the Trust Board, for the operation of the trust, including the performance of the all MAT schools. The Executive Headteacher, in turn, works with, supports and holds other senior executives to account, delegating executive powers to them and being accountable to the Trust Board for their performance. The senior executives include the headteachers of the individual MAT schools and the Chief Finance Officer.
The individual headteachers are responsible for the day to day leadership, management and performance of their particular MAT school. The Executive Headteacher supports, manages and holds them to account on a day-to day basis, but they also report to their LGB on matters which the Trust Board has delegated to the LGB. With regards to the performance management of the headteachers, this is the responsibility of the LGB, with significant input from the Executive Headteacher.
The Executive Headteacher is also the Chief Accounting Officer. It is important to note that the Executive Headteacher does not and must not delegate personal responsibility for assuring the board that there is compliance with the AFH and the funding agreement. However, they should delegate the delivery of the trust’s ‘detailed financial and accounting processes and functions’ to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), who will:
The Executive Headteacher collaborates closely with the CFO on a daily basis, ensuring that the MAT is run with financial effectiveness and stability, avoiding waste and securing value for money.
In many MATs, the CEO/Executive Headteacher is appointed as a trustee. However, there is an inherent conflict of interest when you consider that one of the core functions of a trustee is to hold the chief executive to account. How can the chief executive present plans, give advice and provide information to the Trust Board whilst at the same time being part of that same board that will seek to approve the plans, question the advice/information being presented and vote on resulting issues? Having our Executive Headteacher as an ex-officio trustee is one way of resolving this issue. This means that the Executive Headteacher will attend all Trust Board meetings and will play a full and active role in them, but will not be able to vote. This arrangement provides that ‘professional distance’ between the Executive Headteacher and those who ultimately hold him to account; it guards against any ‘muddying of the water’ and conflict of interests when the Trust Board are scrutinising and questioning information, taking votes and making decisions about the Executive Headteacher’s performance.
5. SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT TEAM
Through this executive forum, the Executive Headteacher and headteachers of MAT schools work together on a regular basis to give every child in our trust the best education possible, in accordance with the direction and vision of the Trust Board. They aim to do this through the development of a high quality curriculum, outstanding learning and teaching and exciting enrichment activities. This means working closely with schools in their own particular phase (be it primary or secondary) and engaging in deep and meaningful cross-phase collaboration, in order to share and develop consistency of excellent practice. Furthermore, on a need-to basis, other key personnel from our MAT and our partner MATs will be consulted and worked with.
6.CENTRAL SUPPORT TEAM (CST)
Our Central Support Team works closely alongside the Executive Leadership Team and the Trust Board, managing all core MAT business functions. The aim of the CST is to ensure that we are robust as a business so that our trust can provide educational excellence to our young people. By centralising specialist services, we are able to deliver a more effective and cohesive business, provide better value for money and relieve headteachers from burdensome and time-consuming business and admin tasks which hinder their focus on learning and teaching.
Our trust will endeavour to keep the CST as lean as efficient and lean as possible, utilising the most appropriate personnel from within the MAT schools, to ensure that unnecessary additional central staffing costs are kept to a minimum.
7. LGB FORUM
Our trust will operate a Local Governing Bodies Forum. The purpose of this forum is to provide a platform for meaningful consultation, built on positive relationships and characterised by freethinking and honest debate about the following issues:
The chair of the Trust Board, in consultation with chairs of Local Governing Bodies, will determine the most effective methods of establishing and managing the forum. The forum will be chaired by an elected representative from amongst their membership.
The Audit Committee oversees the programme of internal scrutiny that meets the requirements of the Academies Financial Handbook (AFH) as informed by our trust’s risk register. The Audit Committee will meet 3 times per year and will produce an annual report on the internal scrutiny work summarising the areas reviewed, key findings, recommendations and conclusions of the internal scrutineer. Such reports may become more frequent as our trust grows.