Board functions - understanding the role of a trustee

To understand the role of a trustee, you must first understand the key functions of the board which are…

  • Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction.
  • Holding executive leaders to account, ensuring they deliver high-quality educational experiences while successfully managing staff.
  • Overseeing the organisation’s financial performance and ensuring its funds are utilised in a way that best benefits pupils.

What does a trustee do?

With this in mind, a trustee’s primary responsibility is to hold their trust’s leadership team to account through strategic decision-making, ensuring the trust meets its short- and long-term goals.

This can involve a number of things:

  • Providing your unique perspective on challenges faced by the trust and helping to figure out how to manage this.
  • Creating a vision and trust-wide strategy with clearly measurable outcomes and timelines.
  • Ensuring there are robust and appropriate structures for reporting, including layers of governance and accountability for decision-making.
  • Identifying where there are areas of weakness or underperformance, asking questions to understand how these can be addressed and fixed.

Additional Optional Reading:

Trustees have an 'eyes on, hands off' mindset

Trustees typically require a strategic mindset and ability to adopt a view across all of the sites and academies within a trust.

The role is responsible for holding the trust’s executive leadership to account, offering scrutiny and challenge, and ensuring both robust governance and decision-making and good value for taxpayers’ money.

Who would make a great trustee?

Academy trust boards seek business leaders with senior, strategic/board-level experience. By allying the deep knowledge and skills of experienced education leaders with governance and business expertise of volunteers from the corporate sector, academy trusts can shape the sector for the next generation.

This is why we seek senior leaders well-versed in operating board or strategic leadership positions, comfortable in assimilating large sets of information and connecting dots across – potentially very broad and complex – organisations.

Finding the right match is key

Diversity is a powerful instrument for effective governance. We encourage people from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups to apply. After all, governing boards should represent the communities they serve, as well as wider society. Onboarding people with a diversity of backgrounds, skillsets, experiences, and beliefs will ensure board decisions benefit the lives of all children.

The need to identify diverse, high-calibre trustees has never been greater. As such, the Trustee Recruitment Service will work with you to find the right opportunity, matching your motivations for taking up the role with the skills needed on the board.

Trusts are looking for varied experience

While some trusts might be looking to add people to their boards with prior knowledge or expertise in education, many trusts are actively seeking individuals who have no previous experience or assumed knowledge. Fresh eyes and a new way of thinking about challenges can positively impact a board and ensure it benefits from innovative approaches and perspectives.

While the education world is full of jargon and acronyms, trusts will usually offer induction and training to bring you up to speed on important information and data you’ll need to fulfil your role.

Time commitments

Depending on the size of the trust, the current and upcoming challenges and priorities, and any committee roles you undertake, the time commitment would typically range from four to eight hours per month. This would usually include meeting preparation, reading and any school/site visits, as well as time in meetings. Roles such as Chair and Vice Chair would usually see a greater time commitment.

But what are the benefits of becoming a trustee?

Now you know more about the trustee role and what it entails - why not find out more about the benefits of becoming a trustee through the Trustee Recruitment Service?