Why effective induction is key to good MAT governance

Emma Perkin

As a panel member at the recent Confederation of School Trusts (CST) conference on Effective, Accountable and Ethical Governance, I was asked to sum up my presentation by way of offering one piece of advice to a new trustee.

My advice – make sure you are given and undertake an effective induction.

I went on to expand this by saying that I believe that induction is key to all those working in multi-academy trust (MAT) governance from members, trustees, MAT executive teams, to headteachers and senior leadership teams in schools and governors.

MAT governance is fundamentally different from the governance of schools most of us have grown up with and understand. As Leora Cruddas, CEO of CST often says, a multi-academy trust is a complex organisation and its governance is dynamic and will change as the trust grows.

This complexity comes in part from the layers of governance with the trust – from the board, committees, executive and local governing bodies. It comes from the increasing change to the world of school leadership that now sees heads of school, principals, executive principals and regional directors to name just a few roles. Add in multiple schools, sometimes across different phases and different regions and you can see why she calls it complex and why induction for the new trustee is fundamental.

Ideally, your induction will be led by the Governance Professional in your trust. Your induction should be a mixture, including familiarisation with key governance information about your trust, face-to-face meetings and meeting observations.

You need to reflect on how you learn. Perhaps it will help you to observe committee meetings and undertake some school visits etc. Relationships will be key, particularly with the board chair so you can understand the priorities for the board, what your role is within those and the expectations from you in terms of commitment. This will pay dividends as you go into the role.

Get to know your fellow trustees – what are their day jobs, their motivations and how do they support the trust? All of this will help shape your understanding of the board's vision and values and how you take collective ownership of the governance of your trust. 

Remember – there is no such thing as a ridiculous question.

A colleague of mine, Kirsty, is a long-standing governor in a school. In a recent governing body meeting, they were looking at assessment data. The Headteacher looked at her and said you appear confused. Kirsty replied I don’t understand the 7 on this document. The Headteacher replied that is Year 7. All the governors went oh! There is no such thing as a ridiculous question.

Ask to be given a buddy trustee who has been with the trust for a while and can help you navigate the oh questions.

There are lots of resources available to trustees including the ICSA Specimen induction pack for academy trustees/directors, or you can join us on the next Essential Academy Governance day.

When you undertake your induction into your new role – enjoy it. Collectively it has been calculated that the expertise provided by those who support our school system is the equivalent of £1 billion. Thank you for being a part of it.

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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