It is particularly important that all directors are fully aware of their legal  responsibilities and understand what steps they need to undertake in  order to discharge their duties and exercise good governance. Failure  to do this brings with it potential liabilities and significant reputational risk  as has been evidenced in a number of recent high profile cases.

Our top five tips for improving your Academy’s governance:

  1. Know who your directors and members are

As companies limited by guarantee, Academy Trusts have both members  and directors. The powers and functions of members and directors are different  and it is important for members and directors to understand their roles.  

Directors are essentially responsible for the overall governance of the Academy  Trust and its strategic direction.  Members exercise supervision over the  Academy Trust and hold the directors to account, but are not involved in day  to day management decisions.  

Multi Academy Trusts may also have local governing bodies who act with  delegated authority in relation to a particular school.

TIP – Keep separate sets of minutes for members’ and directors’  decisions 

  1. Know your governing document

The Articles of Association of the Academy Trust contain all the key information you require as to  how the Academy Trust should be governed. This ranges from how to appoint and remove members and  directors, to dealing with conflicts of interest, to the rules surrounding the conduct of meetings.  It is the role of the clerk to advise the members and directors of the powers and on matters of due  process. The Academy Trust’s funding agreement sets out the terms of its funding from the  government.

TIP – ensure all members and directors are provided with a copy  of the Articles and funding  agreement on induction and understand those documents. We can offer a governance audit to highlight  the key governance details of the Academy.

  1. Avoid conflicts of interest

The basic rule is that directors should not put themselves in a position where their duty as a  trustee of the Academy Trust conflicts with any personal interest.

It is vital that conflicts are effectively managed and are seen to be managed.

TIP – adopt a robust conflicts of interest policy and include declaration of conflicts as your  first agenda item at board meetings.

  1. Make sure your trustees understand their legal duties and responsibilities

Running an Academy is different to running a maintained school. Directors must be aware of their  legal duties and responsibilities and ensure they comply with the law. They can only do this if  they know what is required of them.

TIP – ensure directors are trained regularly, both on their appointment TIP – ensure directors are train and during their term of office.

  1. Ensure your board contains the appropriate skills

The board of directors should contain the right mix of skills and expertise needed for running the  Academy Trust and for effectively discharging the duties of trustees. The Academy Trust is a  charity and a company, and will have to operate in a businesslike manner, but within a strict  regulatory regime.

TIP – assess the needs of your Academy on a regular basis, analyse the skills of your board members  and where there are gaps, look to fill them. Think about succession and ensure plans are in place  to ensure future continuity on the board.