Increasingly I speak to people who believe their role is as a governor when it’s not. The complexity of the definition of who is a governor is confusing to everyone.
Every person who volunteers their time to support schools wants the best education for children. No one wants to divert time from focussing on education to governance procedural matters but things have to be legal.
In 2010 the types of school were quite limited and mostly well understood. Community, academy, voluntary controlled and voluntary aided governors had largely similar roles. With the proliferation of UTC’s, studio schools, different multi academy trust types and free schools the structure, legality and types of governance have mushroomed.
Diversity and local autonomy have been the watchwords for the last few years and this has allowed some schools to flourish. Others however have found adapting to the challenge much more perplexing. This doesn’t help the children in those schools.
Where a school chooses to join an existing Multi Academy Trust (MAT) all executive authority transfers to the MAT board. The governing body at the school ceases to exist and the school holds no residual authority to leave the MAT.
The volunteers who were governors are often given a local role by the MAT board. Being called a Local Governing Body (LGB) doesn’t help as the volunteers are not governors in the legal sense. Who can legally act and who is legally responsible are important aspects of governance and accountability. This isn’t me being pedantic; law matters and with the current Education Bill it will become more important.
Interestingly because local volunteers aren’t governors they can be paid for the role. I wonder how many know this and are being paid?
The MAT board should have a very clear schedule of delegation to the school committee, council, senate, synod, congress, cabinet; please no more LGB it’s confusing.
The schedule should be the clear founding document explaining what the MAT board wants the local group to do on their behalf, when they want reports and what data they expect. In essence it’s a service level agreement, very similar to the terms of reference to a governing body committee which the MAT board can change as they see fit.
The schedule should help the local group to demonstrate to Ofsted and any other accountable body how they meet their requirements, don’t meddle and focus on children. Without a schedule it’s akin to doing a job with no job description. The local group will become squeezed between the MAT board and Ofsted, pleasing neither and possibly failing the school.
The temptation to accept responsibility because we care is great but when legally it’s not ours the correctly accountable group must step up.
Similarly the recruitment process for MAT boards concerns me. A middle sized MAT can easily crest £20 million annual budget. Yet the recruitment process for board members is solely at the discretion of the board. There is no requirement to include stakeholders, skills audit to see what they need or potentially more than asking someone they know to join. The national public appointments process is both transparent, skills driven and clear. Perhaps it’s time for MAT boards to be brought into the national process?
The taxpayer funding from the DfE through a MAT to schools can be significant. Yet the MAT headquarters structure is unaccountable to OFSTED. Irrespective of philosophy taxpayers money should be accountable in the same way in every school. It’s not about academies it’s about children and value for money to provide their education.
These issues may seem arcane but the temptations associated with public money and duck houses has proved oversight is critical. I know its old fashioned to keep referring back to Nolan but the simple seven principles still apply.
If the DfE intends to encourage more schools into being academies the DfE budget scrutiny and MAT board recruitment issues have to be resolved.
When you know what you are expected to do doing it is much easier. Knowing the rules of the game means you are likelier to succeed.