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Schemes of Delegation - what to consider when joining a MAT

The direction of travel is for all Schools to become Academies, despite the Government softening their "big brother" approach. The tipping point has been reached where more children are educated within an Academy than within an LEA Maintained School and we are seeing Local Authorities having to scale back services offered as they simply no longer have sufficient income from Maintained Schools. Academisation is not necessarily something to be feared for Governors, but choosing the right partner is vital for sustained success.

When researching a suitable partner, the ‘go to’ document is the Scheme of Delegation and prior to agreeing to join a Multi Academy Trust the Local Governing Board must scrutinise this document. The Scheme of Delegation should be comprehensive but easily understood and list the powers of all layers of governance within the Multi Academy Trust, the Members, the Trustees, the CEO, the Principals (headteachers) and the Local Academy Committees. After reading the Scheme of Delegation, nobody should be in any doubt as to who can do what and to what level of authority. 

It is important to remember that under Academy Law there is no legal requirement for Local Governing Boards and some Multi Academy Trusts operate without any local Governors. However, most do retain Local Governors but they are members of Academy Committees and more of an advisory group. When reading the Scheme of Delegation, it is important to explore the communication routes between the Local Governors and the Trust Board. Is it going to be totally top down so Governors will have to implement the decisions taken by the Trust Board? Or are there opportunities for ideas to be shared both ways? The final decisions will always rest with the Trust Board and the Local Governors can be removed at any time by the Trust Board.

Within the Scheme of Delegation there will be a table which defines every decision-making process and who is responsible, who is accountable, whois consulted and who is simply informed. Remember that the legal powers are diminished for Local Governors within a Multi Academy Trust, so study this table to ensure you are all happy with the decision-making powers that you would retain. 

Joining a Multi Academy Trust has to be a true partnership which works for all parties, because if you don’t go into this with your eyes wide open, this will ultimately lead to a breakdown in relationships. It comes back down to having shared values and a shared ethos, which coincidentally is the first of the core functions of governance.

The Scheme of Delegation is possibly the most important document for Governors. It will be very descriptive, but it needs to be a ‘catch-all’ document which covers Schools in every Ofsted category, Most MATs work on a system of earned autonomy so whilst the Scheme of Delegation will be the rule book, ask the MAT what level of earned autonomy you would get if governance is classed as being effective. 

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