With the end of the 2018 financial year now concluded, academy trusts will now be in full swing getting matters tied up for the year end and looking ahead to the next few months of hard work, attending to the statutory audit requirement and all that entails.
With this extensive exercise comes the trustees report, within which trusts have the opportunity to showcase the work that has been undertaken, the achievements of the trust, the good, bad and ugly.
New trusts are required to undertake a review of governance in their first year and established trusts should do this on an annual basis. So, as the trustee report gives the opportunity to describe the evaluation or review that has been undertaken during the year, on the impact and effectiveness of the board of trustees, including any external review of governance, the ideal would be a full external review, however the minimum should be a comprehensive skills review of the board.
There are various resources available to be able to assist with a skills review and yet it is wise to ensure that the six features of effective governance set out in the Governance Handbook are covered appropriately for each trust: strategic leadership; accountability; people; structures; compliance and evaluation.
Multi academy trusts and single academies have the same principles and competencies required, and yet differing governance demands in terms of structure. A growing trust or a larger trust for example will have different needs in terms of effective monitoring and communications within the organisational structure and the trustee report is an opportunity to showcase the effective review work has taken place to monitor how things are going.
Difficulties arise where there has been no external review, and no skills review. The challenge here is to be able to effectively demonstrate within the trustee report, that governance has been assessed and is on an upward trend. So, if you have not already started this process, time is tight to be able to demonstrate effective review and the impact of actions from last year. If the trust has not carried out this process, it should indicate when it intends to do so.
With an ever increasing spotlight on the need for effective high quality trust governance, it would be remiss to ignore the need for this exercise as a high priority. Trustees are volunteers and this is not an element to be forgotten, however the role and responsibility held could not be greater. With public funds, value for money, risk and compliance, comes great scrutiny and the educational outcomes of the children within the trust must be maximised with resources under pressure on an increasing basis.
The trustees report should be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate the fabulous work within the trust and the opportunities that are gained for the children within it. A robust skills review and an external review of governance can be very useful tools to direct trustees to raising standards of governance.
If you would like help with a skills or external review of governance, contact our academies team.