Schools bill reforms could require 12,000 more academy trustees

Former government schools tsar warns of 'capacity issue' as ministers seek to move all schools into academy trusts

Former government schools tsar warns of 'capacity issue' as ministers seek to move all schools into academy trusts

28 May 2022, 5:00

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The government has been warned against complacency over multi-academy trust board recruitment, with the schools bill potentially requiring more than 10,000 new trustees.

National Governance Association figures suggest average boards have at least 11 individuals. If all 11,600 non-academy schools joined new ten-school trusts, that would require 12,850 more trustees.

Lord Knight, a former Labour minister, warned about the potential demand in parliament this week.

“We have to work out whether a system in which you are dictated to on everything you have to do is the right environment for people to want to be trustees. I would question that,” he added.

Former national schools commissioner David Carter also warned of a leadership and governance “capacity issue” for an all-MAT system. “Some of the really poor practice I saw in MATs was a product of bad governance.”

Academy trustee recruitment challenges reported

Steve Edmonds, NGA director of advice and guidance, said the association shared Knight’s concerns, and two-thirds of its members had already reported recruitment challenges.

“The system will become increasingly reliant on skilled individuals with the time and capacity to give this level of support at the same time as being held to account in a rather acute, robust way.”

He said the need for new MAT trustees also “doesn’t seem to reconcile” with the potential abandonment of the academy ambassadors scheme.

The government is currently reviewing the trustee recruitment programme after other DfE funding cuts led current provider New Schools Network to close.

Edmonds added: “To assume they’d be prepared to do it without more support or encouragement would be naive. There’s no question that governing a MAT is much more complex.”

Carter also warned that chairing large MATs takes “two or three days a week”, and floated the idea of payment for chairs.

But government officials said they expected actual numbers needed to be “lower than suggested”, with MAT boards typically smaller. Standalone trusts and maintained school boards would include skilled individuals who could fill trustee roles, they added.

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