The academy chain E-Act is replacing its local governing bodies (LGBs) with advisory bodies.
A letter sent to the local governors of E-Act academies states that the academy chain has decided to change its governance structure, and replace its local governing bodies (LGBs) with Academy Ambassadorial Advisory groups. As with all multi academy trusts, the trust board will of course continue to be responsible for the governance of all schools in the group across the country.
"In Multi-Academy Trusts like E-Act, the trust are responsible for the organisation's management and administration of its schools...We trust them to decide on the most appropriate arrangements for their trust." - DfE
An E-Act spokesperson said: “Over the past year, E-ACT has made a number of fundamental changes to how the organisation operates to ensure that every young person received the best possible education with us. Part of this involves adopting a new governance model, in line with the Department for Education’s guidance. Having carried out a comprehensive consultation with Chairs of Governors in 2015, the E-ACT Board took the formal decision to move away from individual Local Governing Bodies and instead, introduce Academy Ambassadorial Advisory bodies.”
According to the BBC, E-Act has said that the advisory bodies would replace LGBs and provide an "interface with the community". Schools Week has stated that they will take a role in “celebrating the academy’s achievements” but would not have decision-making powers. E-Act has stated that local governors have been invited to move over to the new advisory role.
Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors’ Association, said: “It is up to the board of the multi academy trust (MAT) as the over-arching accountable body to decide what responsibilities are delegated to academy level. At the National Governors’ Association we have found there can be a great deal of confusion in some MATs where the trustee board has not developed a clear scheme of delegation or communicated it well. ‘Local governing bodies' (LGBs) in a MAT are not the same as governing bodies of maintained schools, but are in effect committees of the MAT board. The MAT board does not have to delegate decision making to LGBs and can choose not to have LGBs at all."
“We cannot comment on cases where we haven’t seen the detail*, but we are aware of MATs that have scaled down the role of their LGBs 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. Groups of schools, whether maintained school federations or MATs, where one board governs more than one school, can be effective without a governing body for every school. However, as federations and MATs grow, they do need 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. NGA firmly believes that all schools need to establish and maintain good links with their parents and local communities, using a wide range of mechanisms to listen, consult, inform and involve them. In many schools this outreach and engagement could be improved, but these important activities should not be confused with formal governance structures.”
The Department for Education has stated: "In Multi-Academy Trusts like E-Act, the trust are responsible for the organisation's management and administration of its schools. As part of this it is their responsibility to ensure strong governance of their schools so standards remain high. We trust them to decide on the most appropriate arrangements for their trust. They may choose to delegate duties to local governing bodies, or equivalent, but trustees remain responsible. E-ACT has reviewed its governance arrangements and is planning to change its regional and local governance structure."
All boards need to regularly review their governance arrangements and MATs are no different. The 21 Questions for MAT Boards, developed in association with the APPG for Education Governance and Leadership, provides a good starting point for MATs to consider their existing arrangements.
Some of the new models of governance being developed by multi academy trusts do represent a significant change in the way individual schools are governed, and we will be exploring the implications with governors and trustees in more detail this term. Any members who wish to be involved in these discussions can attend one of our Spring regional meetings: book here. We will also be seeking comments by email for those unable to attend.
If you are considering joining a multi academy trust, your governing board needs to understand the implications of that decision for governance: do look at our resources, ask for the proposed scheme of delegation, and if you are an NGA GOLD member, you can ring our GOLDline on 0121 237 3782. See also the following guidance:
Introduction to multi academy trusts
Forming or Joining a Group of Schools: staying in control of your school’s destiny
The NGA’s consultancy service can work with your trust board and, if required, local governors to develop, review and/or revise your Scheme of Delegation, and to clarify the relationship between the trust and its schools. Click here to read more or make a booking
*NGA has not seen the new scheme of delegation.