MAT leadership structures: Build it and they will come

In a multi-academy trust a single trust is responsible for a number of academies. Who are Members and who are Trustees? What are their roles and who is in charge? Les Walton, chair of the National Education Trust (NET), provides the answers

There are some key differences between the governance models for academies and those of maintained schools. The academies governance model, approved by the DfE, is flexible and allows individual trusts to constitute themselves in a way which meets their individual needs.

I have attempted to describe the current governance structure of NET as an example, giving an overview of the constitution of the Trust and its relationship with local governing boards in our academies.

NET has a number of layers of governance:

1 The Members, who operate at a strategic level with ultimate control over the direction of the Trust

The functions of the Members include:

  • Overseeing the achievement of the objectives of the Trust
  • Taking part in Annual and Extraordinary General Meetings
  • Appointing and removing Trustees
  • Signing off the company’s financial accounts and annual report
  • Power to amend the Articles of Association – subject to approval by the DfE.

Overall, Members usually have much more limited practical involvement in the management of the Trust than the Trustees.

2 The Trustees have responsibility for day-to-day management and operation of the Trust on behalf of the Members and their key responsibilities are to: 

  • Ensure the quality of educational provision
  • Challenge and monitor the performance of the Trust
  • Manage the Academy Trust’s finances and property
  • Manage the staff
  • Exercise reasonable skill and care in carrying out their duties
  • Ensure that the Trust complies with charity and company law
  • Operate the Trust and its academies in accordance with the Funding Agreement that has been signed with the secretary of state.

3 The Governors (the Local Governing Board)

In each academy the governors are part of the leadership of the academy. It is their role to:

  • Ensure that the academy is being run effectively
  • Hold the academy to account
  • Develop their own partnerships and collaborations
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4 The Leadership Team of the Trust

The leadership team is led by the chief executive who is appointed by the Members/Trustees. The chief executive and Trustees, in turn, appoint a group of individuals to provide support in the management of the Trust’s day-to-day activities including school improvement, finance, human resources, ICT and governance.

The chief executive is also designated as the accounting officer for the purposes of the Trust’s Funding Agreement with the Education Funding Agreement. This designation confers legal responsibility for financial and administrative matters.

The leadership team meets regularly and co-ordinates the policies and activities of the Trust in conjunction with the Trustees and the principals and chairs at each individual academy.

5 Individual academy leadership

Individual academies are led by a principal, who is also designated as the local accounting officer and the person responsible for the day-to-day running of the academy.

The principal is supported by a senior leadership team who, through their wide range of expertise and experience, work together to ensure that every pupil or student enjoys their time at the academy and reaches their full potential.

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