The National Governance Association (NGA) has published the version II of its working models, to help trustees in both a single academy trust and in multi academy trusts (MATs) decide the best governance structure for their school/s in order to be effective. The models also suggest what to delegate and to whom, with a number of given scenarios.

These pioneering guides build on the experience that NGA has of working with academy trusts around the country of various sizes, complexity and maturity, as well as conducting our own reviews of MAT governance as part of the Training and Consultancy Service.

Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governance Association, said: “School governance is about ensuring the best outcomes for children and young people, so it’s really important that everyone understands their role within the MAT; who makes the decisions and how to make their voice heard."

These models acknowledge that in MATs, boards of trustees are accountable in law for all major decisions about their academies but this does not mean that the board is required to make all the decisions themselves. Many decisions can and should be delegated, including to the CEO and local governing committees.

The system of such delegation needs to be clearly recorded in what’s known as a ‘scheme of delegation’ and this is published on the MATs website. There is a lot of confusion across the country about who can take what decisions in multi academy trusts; there is not just one correct way of doing things, but clarity is essential. This is part of NGA's contribution to help our members set up strong, effective structures. What and how much the board decides to delegate can depend on a number of factors including:

  • The size of the MAT

  • The way in which its leadership is structured

  • Geographical spread of the schools

  • The number of pupils in the MAT’s schools

The scheme of delegation is the key document defining the lines of responsibility and accountability in a MAT. It should be a simple yet systematic way of ensuring members, trustees, committees (including local governing committees), executive leadership and academy principals are clear about their roles and responsibilities, allowing everyone to get on with the business of improving outcomes for children and young people.

Clare Collins, NGA’s lead consultant, said: “To date NGA has advised on the governance structures of nearly 40 multi academy trusts of varying sizes and stages of development, including nine external reviews. MAT trustees should give serious consideration to these models when thinking about how their MAT is structured, and consider contacting me: clare.collins@nga.org.uk  for tailored advice on developing your own scheme of delegation.”   

Sam Henson, NGA’s director of policy and information, said: “A good scheme of delegation ensures executive leadership is clear about which decisions are held by the trustee board and which aren’t. It promotes a culture of transparency and responsibility and helps us to avoid misunderstandings. Governance in groups of schools is complex and so these models demonstrate the underlying principals which determine the lines of accountability, so it is clear where certain decision making should lie. Let me know if you have any feedback, I’d be delighted to hear from you: sam.henson@nga.org.uk

The models now include a scheme of delegation for a single academy trust - Model 5 l 5.

Download the guides:

Model 1: Delegation to academy committees (word)

Model 1: Delegation to academy committees (pdf)

This model works well when all schools in the trust are good or better and when trustees have high degree of confidence in local academy governance. The schools must be able to recruit academy committee members who have the knowledge, skills and commitment to carry out the role.

Model 2: Delegation to academy councils (word)

Model 2: Delegation to academy councils (pdf)

This model works well when the schools in the trust are very small or are not yet performing well or it is hard to recruit academy committee members with the right knowledge, skills and commitment.  

Model 3: Delegation to cluster committees  (word)

Model 3: Delegation to cluster committees  (pdf)

This model works well when the trust’s schools can be grouped into geographical clusters, especially if they are small schools, or schools within a very distinct community, or where a strong school could support weaker schools, or where each school is unable to recruit enough people who have the knowledge, skills and commitment to constitute its own academy committee.  This model assumes that the schools in the clusters are overseen by executive principals.      

Model 4: Mixed delegation (word)

Model 4: Mixed delegation (pdf)

This model works well when there are either different sized schools in the trust (for example, a large secondary school that would benefit from its own academy committee and a number of small schools where a cluster committee or academy councils would work better) or schools in different contexts (for example, a trust with schools which are performing well and so they have academy committees, and those which are performing less well or where recruiting the right people is an issue and so those schools have academy councils).  This model assumes that the schools in the clusters are overseen by executive principals.       

Model 5: Single academy trust (word)

Model 5: Single academy trust (pdf)

This model should be used by single academy trusts only.

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