The right people, in the right place, doing the right thing

15th October 2020

The ambition of trust boards and governing bodies everywhere, is surely to achieve highly effective governance practices and to have the right people, in the right place, doing the right thing. This is a journey that we are all on, to varying degrees from where our boards are now and where we are headed.

There really, truly, is no “one size fits all” and the key to understanding what to tackle next, is to understand where you and your boards are now. That can be by your own evaluation exercises, or with help from a third party.

The DfE commissioned an investigation report which was published recently to establish a picture into current governance practice and then to use it to inform future policy development. This new investigation report on school and trust governance by the National Foundation for Educational Research has been shared by the DfE which drew on the voices of schools and academy trusts from all parties, to input into the research on school and trust governance.

What is really interesting is how this report aligns to the key findings of governance reviews we have undertaken, and formally pulls together the voices of 1,207 school and some 2,751 individual responses.

As a National Leader of Governance, and having completed multiple training exercises by the DfE on reviewing trust/school governance, it is heart-warming to see official findings, validating the significant number of reviews I have been involved with and some key features emerging.

  • Most trustees are confident in their ability to challenge leaders and hold them to account
  • Educational performance monitoring is most commonly happening at local school level
  • The Scheme of Delegation is not always reviewed as often as it should be to reflect the needs of the trust
  • Clerks/governance professionals are key to effective governance and are potentially underutilised assets, perceived as minute takers
  • The Members’ role has not been clearly understood and valued to date
  • There is a gender imbalance towards women in governance
  • A good diversity of trustees is rarely achieved successfully and ethnicity is underrepresented
  • With many vacancies on boards/LGBs, recruitment avenues used are generally traditional (via word of mouth, school led recruitment) although Inspiring Governance and Academy Ambassadors are increasingly popular routes
  • Trustees with financial management, data analysis and local, regional and National policy knowledge are most challenging to find
  • Training is well received and valued
  • There is a mismatch between the skills the trustees think they have and those which the executive leaders think the trustees have
  • MAT boards are more positive about their skills and effectiveness than LGBs or single school trusts but also identify areas for improvement and development
  • Time pressure remains a challenge for trustees
  • Healthy open relationships are key

At Bishop Fleming we are constantly striving to share the breadth of our experience with school trusts to help increase the effectiveness of governance practices. It is not easy to get the right people, in the right place doing the right thing, but we aim to support trusts to get there. If you would like to discuss any of your governance arrangements, please contact us.


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