Developing diversity for success
Wellspring Academy Trust’s journey to greater diversity included reaching out to organisations outside their usual environment, explains Karen Froggatt, clerk to the board
Good governance requires diversity: it is one of the bedrocks of good decision-making. Also, as public bodies, we are required to have ‘due regard’ to the Public Sector Equality Duty. The National Governance Association is clearly a passionate advocate for diversity, ensuring its ongoing focus. However, achieving change can be challenging.
Effective, empowered governance is an essential component of Wellspring’s approach, though our Vision 2025 strategic plan (adopted in January 2021) recognised the diversity of our governance structure needed to improve – especially in terms of gender at senior levels, and ethnicity overall. Although notable progress was made in the diversity of our local governing bodies, only 20% of trustees/directors were female and none were from an ethnic minority background. The board adopted an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy in spring 2021, that expanded on the Vision 2025 commitments.
A key element of the strategy was to improve the diversity profile of the board. Academy Ambassadors provided exceptional support in identifying two excellent female directors, who have both added substantial value to the board. We weren’t as successful in identifying potential directors from an ethnic minority background. I’m eternally grateful to a former colleague who recommended approaching BURN – the Black United Representation Network. BURN brings together businesses, black professionals and progressive corporate allies to drive change in diversity and inclusion.
BURN is a franchisee for Board Apprentice, a not-for-profit enterprise that places apprentices on boards for an initial one-year term. After considering our requirements, BURN set about identifying potential candidates for a place on the Wellspring Trust board. This was the first time BURN had been asked to identify a potential director for an academy trust, and soon realised this presented the same challenges (and development opportunities) as a similar role in a conventional business – particularly given Wellspring’s size and ambitions. Also, the trust’s commitment to its social purpose would appeal to values-driven individuals committed to making a difference.
From banking to the board
Amarron Frederick (pictured above) was identified as a potential board apprentice. Amarron has held a number of senior roles within Barclays Bank; as relationship director for SME business banking, Amarron’s current role involves leading business development and client acquisition for small and medium-sized enterprises in the North West and being the key point of contact for a portfolio of key clients across all sectors. He has extensive commercial experience and a range of banking and finance-related qualifications.
Amarron has also had significant experience in promoting diversity within Barclays and is passionate about its importance, commercially and ethically.
Amarron joined the Wellspring Trust board and the finance and resources committee in July 2021 and has already made a substantial impact.
Amarron had engaged with BURN’s network to gain board experience in a different sector, so joining the board of a multi-academy trust wasn’t what he originally had in mind. However, the more he learned about Wellspring, the keener he was to be part of it.
“I was extremely motivated by the trust’s ambitions and extensive success to date, whether measured by its growth, the eight new-builds, the number of schools taken out of special measures, its extensive capital investment programme, or its commitment to living its values,” he says. “It’s a fabulous organisation and I’m delighted to be a part of it.
“Everyone was so welcoming to me,” Amarron adds. “The board and management work closely together and are committed to the trust’s ongoing success. I’m confident
I can add value while developing my own skills and experience in a completely different context. I’m really looking forward to what the coming months will bring.”
BURN managing director Lisa Maynard-Atem (pictured below) was delighted to be introduced to Wellspring. “I was immediately struck by Wellspring’s passion for greater diversity and inclusion, which lies at the heart of everything that BURN does. When Amarron was selected, I knew this would be a perfect match.
“Amarron’s extensive finance experience meant he would be bringing another dimension to the table. One of BURN’s key pillars is leadership: creating black leaders who will take key decision-making roles in all sectors and industries. Our board apprentice programme is a vital part of this. Together, we can thrive and create a society that works for all. I look forward to the progression of our continued partnership with Wellspring.”
I can highly recommend BURN and Board Apprentice as partners for those who are committed to improving the diversity profile of their governance structure.
More information BURN: burncic.org and Board Apprentice: boardapprentice.com
Wellspring Academy Trust
Wellspring Academy Trust has 28 academies across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, having expanded dramatically in recent years. The trust was shortlisted in the NGA’s 2021 Governance Awards for its vision and strategy and was named MAT of The Year in the 2021 National School Awards, sponsored by the Institute of School Business Leaders and the Schools and Academies Show.