As a national leader of governance working across South Yorkshire, I’ve had a lot of experience working with governing boards in primary, secondary and special schools. I’ve sat on interim executive boards and worked closely with local authorities to intervene when a school is causing concern. In every case, vision was fundamental – to look ahead and plan accordingly.

In 2016, I was invited to be both a member and the chair of trustees of the new Nexus multi academy trust (MAT) board, and found myself in a totally new role. I would be chair and director of a private limited company and trustee of an exempt charity; in essence, as directors we would be occupying the role long held by local government where experienced professionals exercised this duty.

Legal obligations

However, unlike local authority offi cers, I am unpaid and required to know as much as possible without straying into management territory – similar to what is required of a school governor but with far greater legal obligations. What eased any reservations I may have had was the approach taken by the governors who were establishing the MAT, the very people who had invited me to take a central role in the new world they were creating.

Rather than creating a MAT from their existing federation and continuing in their roles of governance, this governing board had already had the ‘brave’ moment. They had reflected on what was needed to lead the new trust and were actively seeking to put in place the best governance arrangements they could. If this meant ceding power and infl uence in the interest of the greater good and personally stepping away, then so be it. This selfl ess approach fascinated me, and still does.

Commitment

Although the number of hours undertaken by school governors as volunteers is considerable and potentially unrealistic (usually on top of a job and home life), they often have a strong sense of ownership. Individuals feel an almost unbreakable connection between their person and being a governor at their particualr school, and in reality it's the type of commitment we'd all like to see in all our governors. 

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