The Academies Accounts Direction requires that details of governance reviews are included in the Governance statement. It recommends a review on an annual basis and the information required includes:
- A description of 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.
- A description of the findings, any action taken and the impact they had
- An indication of when the Trust intends to conduct its next self-evaluation or external review of governance.
The demands placed on the Directors of Trusts are extensive. There are responsibilities under the Companies Act in addition to compliance with the Academies Financial Handbook and other responsibilities as custodians of public funds.
As a result, it is important that the relevant skills required are embodied by the Board. These are also likely to change during the journey of the Trust as it develops so a regular review of skills should be undertaken.
As outlined in The Governance Handbook, evaluation of governance is a key feature of effective governance and includes
- regular skills audits, aligned to the organisation’s strategic plan, to identify skill and knowledge gaps and which both define recruitment needs and inform a planned cycle of continuous professional development (CPD) activity including appropriate induction for those new to governance or to the board
- processes for regular self-evaluation and review of individuals’ contribution to the board as well of the board’s overall operation and effectiveness
- commissioning external reviews of board effectiveness, particularly at key growth or transition points, to gain an independent expert assessment of strengths and areas for development. Key growth and transition points could include conversion to a MAT.
The National Governance Association (NGA) recommends that a skills audit is completed annually and provides a framework by which this can be completed.
A key part in ensuring that Trustees are as effective as possible is their initial induction. If this is done appropriately it ensures that Trustees can contribute effectively to discussions as soon as possible.
Elements of an effective induction could include: –
- Invitation to initial meeting to observe
- Provision of information on appointment. This could include: –
- Minutes of recent meetings
- Trust strategic plan
- Staffing structure and useful contacts
- Key policies including safeguarding, whistleblowing and fraud.
- Academies Financial Handbook
- The ESFA Governance Handbook
- Tour of the schools within the Trust
- Initial skills review
- Mentoring by another Trustee
Regular skills audits and effective Trustee induction will provide the starting point for effective governance.
If you would like any further information on the above or other topics, please contact a member of the academies team at MHA Moore and Smalley.