Governors at Maintained Schools, the topic of converting to become an Academy has either already come up or will very shortly be discussed. Whilst we can all debate long and hard about whether the direction of travel is right or not, the fact is that sooner or later all schools will become an Academy.
Governors have three core duties to perform. The first concerns setting the strategic direction. Historically this has involved ensuring the Vision, Values and Ethos are coherent throughout the school, making sure the vision plan is a living document which feeds into all aspects of school life. But now we have a new strategic direction to consider, whether to join an Academy Chain and importantly, which one to join. It is no longer easy for schools to form their own Academy as Single Academy Trusts and ‘Empty’ Multi Academy Trusts are a thing of the past. The DfE’s view is that there are enough MATs out there for schools to choose from and they are now encouraging MATs to merge together to form larger MATs.
Most Governing Boards are passionate about their schools and quite rightly so. They work tirelessly to ensure the educational experiences for their children are as good as they can be. But does an Academy Chain share that same ethos? Or do they view schools and children as commodities? It is vital for Governors to do their own due diligence and make their own enquiries. Ask to visit a selection of schools within the MAT and Governors will soon be able to make a judgement. But don’t forget, the Multi Academy Trust see any new potential school as a pot of money first and foremost. So when visiting the school, Governors should expect, and be prepared for, a sales pitch!
The next area to consider for Governors is what delegated power is going to remain at school level and what decisions they will still be expected to make. The Multi Academy Trust Board is responsible for the budget of each individual school; that is a legal requirement. But how much autonomy is then devolved back to the Local Governing Body? Does a budget go back into the school account for Governors to be responsible for or is it all decided at Trust Board level? Trustees are responsible for Headteacher Performance Management so that is a task taken away from the Local Governing Body.
Speaking of finance, what is the top slice to pay for MAT Board shared services? What shared services are already in place and do any of these overlap with services already in school? The way schools and the Trust Board communicate is critical and Governors need to know that their voice will be heard. What are the communication routes, how will the Local Governing Body know that their views are being considered at MAT Board level? Finally, what does the Scheme of Delegation look like in terms of local Governing Body constitution? There may be some shocks in store when Governors realise they need to reduce their numbers.
These are some very simple initial questions for Governors to consider. For further information on conversion, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
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