E-ACT academy chain abolishes local governing bodies

Emma Knights

The national body for governors has welcomed an academy chain’s decision to make public its plans to scrap local governing bodies – claiming other trusts have already done the same without being “honest” about it.

It was revealed earlier today that E-ACT is to scrap its governing bodies in favour of “academy ambassadorial advisory bodies”.

The BBC reported there will now be one single central governing body covering all the chain’s 23 schools.

That one body will take over duties including hiring senior staff and overseeing budgets.

New ‘academy advisory bodies’ will deal with individual school issues such as “interface with the community” and “celebrating the academy’s achievements”.

It is far better to be honest about what is being delegated down to academy level

Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governors’ Association, told Schools Week that multi-academy trusts (MATs) where one board governs more than one school “can be effective” without a governing body for each.

She said she is aware of other academy trusts that have “scaled down the role of their local governing bodies (LGB), but have not been explicit in doing so”.

“It is far better to be honest about what is being delegated down to academy level than to pretend that LGBs have more decision making power than they actually do.”

She said it is up to the board of the MAT about which responsibilities it delegates to academy level, adding she has found there can be a “great deal of confusion” where the board has not developed a clear scheme of delegation.

But Ms Knights warned: “As federations and MATs grow, they do need to review their governance arrangements and be creative to ensure it still works and that the overarching board is able to hear from parents and the local communities, which the schools serve.”

But one E-ACT governor, based in the Midlands, was said to have described the move as “offensive and disrespectful” to volunteer governors.

School governance consultant Martin Pounce also tweeted: “E-act academy trust has abolished all local governing bodies. They say, following govt guidelines! Governors of MATs should be very afraid!”

He later told Schools Week that governors at one school only found out they were being disbanded via a letter just days before they were due to meet.

E-ACT said affected governors will be invited to move to the new bodies, which must have two parent “academy ambassadors” elected from the parent body.

A spokesperson added that the changes would ensure every pupil receives the best education.

“Part of this involves adopting a new governance model, in line with the Department for Education’s guidance.

“We appreciate that change can be challenging for some, but we are committed to continuing to work closely with our governors and are encouraging each of them to take up posts in the newly-formed advisory bodies.”

The Education Funding Agency lifted a financial notice to improve in July last year after the trust had released 10 of its schools over the department’s concerns. The notice was first issued in March 2013.

The DfE said trusts are responsible for ensuring strong goverance of their schools, and said they can delegate duties as they choose to local governing bodies, but trustees remain responsible.

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One comment

  1. Jill Berry

    I was the deputy, and then a head, in two independent schools within Trusts which had a similar model – overarching governance at Trust level and then a local board of governors with local contacts (but less power). I do think this CAN work…