GovernorHub's recent online conference for trust governance professionals included a panel discussion about the role and purpose of the local tier in trust governance.
The session was hosted by GovernorHub Director, Neil Collins and the speakers included Malcom Trobe representing the Confederation of School Trusts, Sam Henson from the National Governance Association and Anna Machin from Trust Governance Professionals.
The board of trustees of a multi-academy trust may delegate some of its governance functions to local governing bodies (LGBS). These are sometimes called 'academy committees' or 'academy councils'.
LGBs aren't technically governing boards – they're actually committees, even though there's usually no overlap between membership of LGBs and that of the trust board.
The responsibilities of the LGB depend on what the board of trustees delegate to it, which is set out in a document called the 'scheme of delegation'. However the nature and extent of the responsibilities delegated to this local group of volunteers continues to vary widely.
Malcom Trobe is an independent consultant and works alongside the Confederation of School Trusts, conducting external reviews of trust governance.
He says many of the trusts he works with find it hard to find a role for this layer of governance that has value and meaning and yet doesn't involve any repetition of work.
Sam Henson from the National Governance Association says they have identified the four Ss as functions typically delegated to the local tier of governance: SEND, safeguarding, stakeholder engagement and standards.
He says whilst this model is useful - it's important that trusts have the autonomy and flexibility to develop a structure that works for them.
Anna Machin is from Trust Governance Professionals which provides support to academy trust governance professionals.
She says the sector first defined its local tier in contrast to maintained school governance but now things are moving forward again as individual trusts grow and develop.
Sam Henson from the National Governance Association says the local tier can provide trusts with an important link to the community but giving a group of volunteers that stakeholder role alone, doesn't always work.
Sam says without a meaningful way to have an impact, it's hard to retain and engage volunteers.
Anna Machin from Trust Governance Professionals says some trusts are developing an advocate model for local governance where individual volunteers take on link responsibilities.
She says it's an emerging concept, and trusts are still sharing best practice, but many have found that giving one volunteer responsibility for the headteacher's wellbeing is important.