The Journal for Executive and Governance Leaders

Why the Governance Leadership Programme is so important

At the Spring CST conference on Effective, Accountable and Ethical Governance I was asked for the one piece of advice I would give to a new trustee. My answer was to invest in effective induction. I went on to say that I meant not just effective induction of trustees but rather for all those involved in the governance of our school trusts. This embraces those on academy committees, trustees, members, central executive teams, principals and their senior leadership teams. It is time that the complexities and freedoms of trust governance were understood by all and only then will we be able to start to properly address some of the conundrums we face when delivering trust governance.

What do I mean by conundrums? I mean understanding governance that is across multiple layers, and that can be across multiple locations and multiple phases. Governance that is so different from maintained school governance and yet, until quite recently, was given little appropriate support and guidance. Trust governance requires all those involved to be outward and forward looking to ensure that they have the knowledge, experience and skills needed to take the trust forward on the next phase of its journey. We need to align the leadership of our trusts, training our trust leaders alongside our trustees.

This becomes even more significant when we consider that in March this year education reached a tipping point with over 50% of children in the UK now being taught in academies. At the same time the number of school trusts showed a small but significant decline for the first time since the start of the academy movement. I believe we will continue to see further trust mergers. As trustees and leaders we need to understand what this might look like and the questions we need to ask and the thinking we need to start to do.

The Governance Leadership Programme run by CST and Ambition Institute gives trustees and chairs of local governing bodies the understanding and space to think about some of these issues and the confidence to take these discussions back to their trust boards.

The programme has been designed and is delivered entirely by practitioners who have worked in and advised the academy sector. This lived experience means that the lessons learnt and good practice seen, can be shared. Networks are created through time spent together on the two-day residential and trustees are supported throughout the programme by a group of mentors. The mentors range from the chair of a trust board, to chairs of academy councils who all have strong knowledge of how to support school trusts on their development journeys.

A Chair of Trustees summed up the value they had found being part of the programme saying “I found the Governance Leadership Programme hugely rewarding and would very much recommend it to all governance leaders whether experienced or more recently involved at this level. The residential event was a wonderful way to start the course, held centrally, the facilities were excellent and professionally organised. This was a great opportunity to meet fellow attendees, build networks and share common experiences. The modules were interesting and the presentations gave a great insight into the minds of key leaders across the sector. Home learning is also useful through the year, allowing the candidate to study and revisit modules around one’s own busy schedule. Most importantly I found the support of an allocated mentor to be absolutely invaluable. To be able to access their knowledge and experiences has really added the icing on the cake to an excellent learning opportunity”.

It is time that the complexities and freedoms of trust governance were understood by all and only then will we be able to start to properly address some of the conundrums we face when delivering trust governance.

Emma Perkin

It has been a privilege to support the programme and to be reminded of the time, commitment and dedication that over 250,000 people give to the governance of our schools.

As we look at the next phase of our journey we need to reach out to other sectors and to benefit from the great practice and lessons learnt that they can share with us. Most of our trust leaders started life as teachers, not as leaders of charities with million-pound budgets, hundreds of staff and thousands of children. The experience trustees can bring in supporting this journey is immense. This is why the Governance Leadership Programme is so important.