Board functions – understanding the role of an academy trustee

To understand the role of a trustee, you must first understand the key functions of the board. Academy trusts are legal entities and so, the board is accountable and responsible for the academy trust itself. It’s the role of the board of trustees to make sure the trust is following mandatory regulations, contracts and legal requirements. To achieve this, the board of trustees provides:

  • Strategic leadership of the academy trust. The board defines the trust’s vision for high quality and inclusive education while ensuring its charitable objectives are met. To achieve this, the board aims to create and maintain a culture for the trust based on the trust’s strategy. This includes deciding what, if any, responsibilities for governance are delegated to local schools within the trust.
  • Accountability and assurance. The board is responsible for overseeing the operations and performance of the academy trust. This includes the provision of education, pupil welfare, and ensuring funding is allocated well to ensure financial performance and estate maintenance.
  • Engagement. The board strategically oversees relationships with stakeholders. The board involves parents, schools and communities so that decision-making is supported by meaningful engagement.

What does an academy trustee do?

An academy trustee’s primary responsibility is to hold their trust’s leadership team to account. This is achieved through strategic decision-making, and ensuring the trust meets its short- and long-term goals.

To do this effectively, the board:

  • Provides unique perspective on challenges faced by the trust and how to manage them.
  • Creates a vision and trust-wide strategy with clearly measurable outcomes and timelines.
  • Ensures there are robust and appropriate structures for reporting. This includes layers of governance and accountability for decision-making.
  • Identifies where there are areas of weakness or underperformance, asking questions to understand how these can be addressed and fixed.

Academy Trustees have an ‘eyes on, hands off’ mindset

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

Trustees hold the trust’s executive leadership to account, offer scrutiny and challenge, and ensure both robust governance and decision-making and good value for taxpayers’ money.

Who would make a great academy 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 the 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. Senior leaders should also be 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. We believe 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 academy trustees has never been greater. As such, the Trustee Recruitment Service works with you to find the right opportunity. We’ll match your motivations for taking up the role with the skills needed on the board.

Trusts are looking for varied experience

While some trusts look to add people to their boards with prior knowledge or expertise in education, many trusts actively seek individuals who have no previous experience or assumed knowledge. Fresh eyes and a new way of thinking about challenges can positively impact a board. It can also 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

Time commitments depend on the size of the trust. The current and upcoming challenges and priorities, and any committee roles you undertake will also be a major factor in determining how much time the role takes up. You would typically be expected to commit four to eight hours per month to the role. This would usually include meeting preparation, reading and any school/site visits. This could also include time in meetings. Roles such as Chair and Vice Chair would usually see a greater time commitment.

Additional Optional Reading:



But what are the benefits of becoming an academy trustee?

Now you know more about the academy trustee role and what it entails, it's time to find out more about the benefits and become an academy trustee through the Trustee Recruitment Service.