Debbie Scott is Clerk to the Board of Directors at The Canterbury Academy Trust. She has been using Governors for Schools for many years to support the recruitment of school governors and trustees within the Trust and its schools. As a specialist governance recruitment organisation, we have developed excellent relationships with many trust governance professionals over the years and worked with them to fill their boards and local governing bodies with talented new governance volunteers.
We caught up with Debbie in late autumn 2023 to learn more about how she has found using our service over the past few years.
Debbie, it would be great to hear a little about the Canterbury Academy Trust, and your role within it…
The Canterbury Academy Trust is a Multi-Academy Trust based largely in Canterbury, but also across other parts of East Kent. It consists of the Canterbury Academy, which is a large secondary school that includes a 700-pupil sixth form, and a primary school, as well as Pupil Referral Units for KS3 and KS4 aged students in Herne Bay. The primary and secondary schools are on the same campus and are interlinked; there are also two Nurseries within the Trust.
I joined the trust in 2004, and was initially employed to help explore the primary and secondary schools setting up a soft federation. This then became a hard federation, and in October 2010 the Multi-Academy Trust was launched. Today, I act as clerk for all the boards within the Trust and will often lead on new governor and trustee recruitment.
The Trust is continuing to grow and we have recently hired an Assistant Clerk who has been going through the Governance Professional training provided by the NGA. They will take on full-time clerking responsibilities within the Trust once completed, as I have reduced my working days.
With the growth and changes in the Trust, how have your governance structure and recruitment needs evolved?
Our recruitment needs have not changed too much; we always need to recruit and it is rare that recruitment or on-boarding of a new governance volunteer is not on my to-do list. Over the past five years we have introduced Local Governing Bodies to our individual academies, so recruitment to these, and retention, have been key priorities for us.
All of our trustees and governors state that it takes them a year to feel comfortable in their new role and begin to ask probing, challenging questions in meetings. Ensuring they have access to training to aid their development is an important priority for us, as we want to make sure we are investing in them. We want to ensure they feel supported and are more likely to stay in their roles long-term, but we do appreciate it is a voluntary role and peoples circumstances are changeable.
How long have you worked with Governors for Schools, and how have you found the charity has met the needs of the Trust?
I have used Governors for Schools to help us recruit new governance volunteers for a number of years now – and it has certainly been the most successful route to finding people in comparison to other approaches and services we have used. We have sourced a number of excellent volunteers through the service, with the requisite skills, and currently have volunteers from the charity serving as trustees and as governors on local governing boards.
We always complete skills audits and use these as the basis for identifying the skills we need to join the respective boards. I find Governors for Schools simple to use and communication has always been prompt. Of course, some volunteers have stayed longer than others, but overall we are really pleased with the support provided and will keep coming back. I found it interesting to learn that one of our volunteers was encouraged to become a school governor to support their own development, and gain vital experience to transition into senior management roles. That volunteer has made a good contribution in their role so far, and it is great to see their employer supports them to do so.