Academy Trusts: What is their role in education?

Over the past decade, the education sector has seen an increasing number of schools become academy trusts and enjoy the benefits trust-status can bring (including the sharing of staff, curriculum expertise, and good teaching practice).

This shift has generated some inevitable questions on what academy trusts are. In addition to this, questions have been asked as to how they differ from other schools, and how they are governed. In this blog, we’ll provide the answers.

 

What are Academy Trusts? 

Academy trusts are charitable bodies responsible for overseeing and governing a group of schools. Funding for academies is delivered directly from the government rather than through the Local Authority. This means that they operate more independently, giving them more control – as a collective – over their finances, curriculum, and other aspects of school management. By forming/joining a trust, schools can pool resources, share best practices, and collaborate effectively to drive improvements in educational outcomes. 

 

What are the differences between Single Academy Trusts and Multi-Academy Trusts? 

There are different types of academy trust including Single Academy Trusts (SATs) and Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). While both SATs and MATs operate as charitable organisations, they differ in their structure. While MATs operate over a network of schools – typically comprising two or more institutions under one name, SATs operate on their own – governing a single school, without the broader network of different institutions seen in MATs. 

Despite their differences, both MATs and SATs share the common goal of delivering high-quality education while maintaining autonomy and accountability within their respective governance structures. 

 

How are Academy Trusts run? 

At the heart of each academy trust is a board of trustees. This board is responsible for setting the strategic direction, ensuring financial stability, and holding the executive leadership of the trust to account. These trustees are volunteers from various professional backgrounds. They bring their diverse skills and expertise to the table to enrich the governance of the trust. If you’re interested in learning more about trustees or are wondering how you can become a trustee yourself, why not read our blog about the role and how you can get involved. 

Typically, the trust board in a MAT will delegate certain responsibilities to governing bodies or local governing boards (LGBs). LGBs operate at the individual school level. These bodies work closely with the school leadership to implement the trust’s vision and policies while catering to the unique needs of each school within the network. 

 

Local Governing Boards 

LGBs play a crucial role within academy trusts, serving as a vital link between individual schools and the trust board. LGBs include people from the local community, parents, staff, and sometimes people with specific expertise. This governing board provides essential oversight and support to the schools they represent. While the main trust board sets the strategic direction and wider policies and procedures for the trust, LGBs have a more focused role in implementing these policies at a school level. 

In addition to this, LGBs also oversee matters such as curriculum delivery, staff appointments, and budget management, although it is worth noting that the trust board can decide which matters it delegates to LGBs. This ensures that decisions align with the trust’s vision while reflecting the unique needs and circumstances of a school. LGBs also act as a channel for feedback and communication between the school community and the trust board. This can help to encourage transparency and accountability within the governance structure. Overall, LGBs are crucial for ensuring effective governance and community engagement within academy trusts. 

 

Find out more and become a trustee 

Academy trusts are always in need of talented, driven volunteers to join their boards. If you’re thinking about volunteering within an academy trust, why not find out more about becoming an academy trustee through our dedicated pathway? We’ve also developed resources including our free e-learning course designed to teach you about the role of trustees, and how you can make a difference within the education and governance landscapes. Alternatively, if you’re already ready to dive in and become a trustee, why not apply today?