The Confederation of School Trusts runs an ‘Essential Trustee’ programme which aims to give trustees the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to fulfil their duties effectively.
It comprises of 8 sessions with expert speakers and experienced trustees - and you can sign up as a single trustee or bring your whole board along.
We’ve been chatting to Ali Brabner, a Trust Governance Manager, who joined the programme with her board of trustees and Essential Trustee programme manager Dawn Carman-Jones.
Firstly Ali, can you tell us what appealed to your board about the course?
We were looking for some high quality training that was targeted specifically at MAT trustees and the course not only gives up-to-date training on legal obligations but also focuses on what strong governance looks like. In the current educational landscape, we wanted both our existing and new trustees to have professional development that also looked to the future so the board as a whole is ready to support the evolution of our trust over time.
We particularly liked the format of the sessions which worked well for new trustees but also enabled more experienced trustees to ‘dip into’ sessions in areas where they wished to refresh or develop specific skills. The sessions were also recorded, which was particularly helpful for volunteers who have busy schedules.
The expert speakers, as you would expect, gave really powerful insight, but the experienced trustees and practitioners also provided a very thought-provoking way of helping the board consider the content in practice.
As a governance professional, the sessions around governance structures were particularly helpful - not only in analysing and reviewing the here and now, but thinking about how things may need to look and feel in the future. I have used the insight to inform options for us to consider when reviewing our governance structures.
Definitely. Not only were the experienced trustees and practitioners a great source of knowledge but also there was great input from other participants - it can be very reassuring to know that there are many other trusts experiencing and/or overcoming similar issues to you. For instance, it was really helpful to look at schemes of delegations for a number of different trusts whose representatives have spoken passionately about what they do and how they do it. It can help you identify trusts that you may wish to approach to understand experiences further.
Any trustee or governance professional who wishes to access high quality, coherent CPD which balances the theoretical with practical.
The course offers much more than just the programme content. The experience and knowledge of the range of people involved was excellent. It is a long programme, but with the recordings, this does allow some flexibility.
Dawn Carman-Jones is a hugely experienced governance consultant having worked as a trouble-shooter for local authorities since 2013 and, more recently, as part of a small team of consultants working with CST.
The team develops governance practices, provides external reviews of governance and support for CEO performance management.
Dawn, who is the CST Essential Trustee programme aimed at specifically?
The Essential Trustee Programme has been developed to provide a broad overview of the roles and responsibilities of the trustee in an education trust, as such it has a wide-ranging audience. Some participants are newly appointed and join us to understand the full scope of their responsibilities, whilst others are established trustees who are seeking to cement their skills and understanding and ensure that they are fulfilling their obligations effectively. I have been running the programme now for 18 months and we have had 3 cohorts of participants join us. I can honestly say that I have also learnt something during every session. So as long as you have a desire to improve and a willingness to challenge your own practices, you will gain from your involvement.
I am constantly learning from the speakers and from the participants. No two trusts are the same, they all have areas for development but also strengths and best practice to share. I am constantly in awe of, and inspired by, the commitment that trustees give to the sector as a whole.
I hope that participants will see that, whilst there are different aspects to the role, no aspect can work in isolation; all functions of governance interrelate and co-exist. Our fundamental principle and objective is that we are advancing education for the public good. That cannot and should not be forgotten in any of our decision making, and when we place the needs of the children and young people at the centre of our decision making, it gives us a focus and perspective that drives our trusts with a strong and purposeful vision. Governance of any kind can be hard work, demanding and at times difficult; but it is also rewarding, impactful and hugely humbling.
The Autumn 2023 cohort of CST's Essential Trustee Programme is available to book now and will begin on 9 November. Learn more about the sessions and secure your place: