Academy trustees: who are they and what do they do?

Are you somebody with senior board-level experience, who is looking for a rewarding volunteer role where you can make a difference in the lives of children and young people? Or you may be a school governor wanting to take the leap towards learning more about academy trustees. 

You might not have considered an academy trustee position and have questions as to what the role entails. In this article, we’ll provide you with the answers. 

 

So, let’s start with how the educational landscape is changing… 

Over the past decade, we’ve seen huge changes as schools start to transition into academies. This has led to the creation of multi-academy trusts (MATs) and single-academy trusts (SATs), and naturally a lot of people have questions about how they operate.  

MATs are a group of academies (schools) that are run in partnership with one another and exist under Department for Education (DfE) control rather than the Local Authority. They receive their funding directly from the DfE and are responsible for maintaining their own sites and making their own financial decisions. Academy trusts differ from schools in that they have a CEO and executive leadership team who oversee multiple academies and support the individual academy leaders within the trust. 

 

But how do academy trustees differ from school governors? 

The board of trustees within academy trusts work at the executive level in the organisation. They are responsible for all the academies that operate within the trust. In contrast, school governors oversee just one school. Trustees are ultimately responsible and accountable for the trust. It’s their job to ensure the trust is compliant with its charitable objectives, as well as company and charity law. Because trustees are directors under company and charity law, trustees have legal responsibilities that governors of maintained schools do not.  

Trustees often delegate specific responsibilities relating to the individual academies to local governing boards (LGBs) that operate within the trust. In some cases, every academy in a trust might have its own LGB that has a specific remit. Every trust board will have a different scheme of delegation that outlines who is responsible for different decisions.  

While there are several ways academy trustees differ to school governors, the three core responsibilities are the same for both roles: 

  • Ensuring strategic direction, vision and ethos.  
  • Hold executive leaders to account. 
  • Oversee financial performance and ensuring money is well spent. 

Why become an academy trustee instead of a school governor? What are the benefits? 

Becoming an academy trustee is a challenging (but rewarding) role and is a great way to give back and support the next generation.  

Academy trustees are able to develop richer leadership and interpersonal skills, gaining non-executive director experience along the way. Academy trustees will also gain high level strategic experience and insight, allowing them to enhance their professional career at an accelerated rate. 

 

Can I become an academy trustee? What are the requirements? 

A board of trustees should be diverse and made up of people from all different backgrounds with different skills. Academy trust boards often look for people with professional backgrounds in areas such as HR, law, finance, and marketing. However, skills such as negotiation, problem-solving, and leadership are also desired.   

While there aren’t any specific requirements, those taking up the role must be skilled, knowledgeable, and feel confident enough to both support and challenge the leadership of multiple schools. Our colleagues in the Trustee Recruitment Service will assess your submission and be able to advise you. 

 

How the Trustee Recruitment Service helps academy trustees 

Thinking that a trustee role might be right for you? The Trustee Recruitment Service will guide you through the whole process of finding the right role for you. To find out more, why not take our ‘Becoming an academy trustee pathway’ which guides you through the role, benefits of the role, and the application process.  

Alternatively, you can skip straight to applying by clicking here. If you have any questions, whatever stage of the process you’re at, don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected].