Building a successful scheme of delegation in academy trusts: lessons learned

scheme of delegation academy trust blog

A strong and clear scheme of delegation acts as the bedrock of an academy trust's governance. I have been involved in developing schemes of delegation as a Head of Governance working at one of the country's largest trusts, and as an advisor to a range of small and medium sized trusts looking to grow. Across all of these trusts, there have been some common themes to developing a successful scheme of delegation that are important to share with the wider sector.

Know your audience

A good Scheme of Delegation will be clear and understandable to a wide range of audiences. It is a useful exercise to map all of the stakeholders of your trust. When you capture the full range of stakeholders - from parents and staff to community members and Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) - this helps you to bear in mind who will be reading the document. Ofsted inspectors also read a scheme of delegation before inspecting a school. Given that each trust will delegate responsibilities slightly differently, they should be able to instantly understand your governance arrangements to act as a basis for fruitful discussion with trustees and governors.

Use a framework

Rather than describe each delegation at length in prose, many trusts use a framework to lay out in a table a summary of delegated responsibilities. The RASCI framework has been adopted by many trusts, which sets out who is Responsible, Accountable, Supporting, Consulted and Informed about each area of operational delivery. With supporting agenda and communications plans to bring these delegations to life, you will be well equipped to ensure stakeholders understand and fulfil their responsibilities.

Engage your stakeholders

It is paramount that you engage your key governance stakeholders during the process of writing your scheme of delegation. This will ensure that you secure buy-in from them, particularly for any areas that may be more controversial than others. This will ensure that the document feels 'owned' by everyone in your trust. Once agreed and approved by trustees, all Members, Trustees and senior leaders - including senior finance and operations staff - should receive and review a copy as part of their induction. This is particularly the case for any staff joining from a maintained sector where the role of local governance in particular is fundamentally different.

Test and refine

When you have a near-final scheme of delegation ready to submit to Trustees, spend some time testing scenarios using the document. Is it clear who approves the use of school reserves? What would happen in the event of a school emergency? Who has say within the trust around curriculum? By ensuring the scheme of delegation holds with real life scenarios, it will make it more likely that it becomes a go-to reference document.

Review and refresh

Even once you have your scheme of delegation approved, life goes on and over time the realities of how roles and responsibilities are delegated will change. For example, at a certain break point a medium sized trust may introduce a regional tier of staffing and/or governance. Your scheme of delegation should he reviewed on an annual basis and any key changes submitted to Trustees. This will make sure your scheme of delegation remains relevant and future proofs your organisation as it grows.

Emma Perkin has 20+ years' experience working in school governance, and is Founder and Lead Consultant at The Constant Group. She leads the Essential Academy Governance course.

Essential Academy Govenance 

An introduction to the principles and practice of academy governance

Governance managers, experienced leaders and school leaders on this course will gain a practical perspective on the complexities of academy schoold trust governnace, and how to deliver it.

You will learn how to assess and prove your own governance arrangements and get fresh ideas for the development of your board an dthe governance professionals in your trust.

CPD hours: 6

Course leaders: Emma Perkin, Anna Machin

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