Release date: 24/09/2020

Multi academy trust (MAT) trustees have shared their approach to delegation, executive pay and expansion in the National Governance Association’s annual state of the nation report which also covers local academy committee member’s perception of being in a MAT.

A key challenge in MAT governance is establishing how much the board of trustees must see and decide for themselves and how much the trustees and the executive should delegate to academy level. The survey reveals that local governance arrangements remain an integral part of MAT governance structures: 87% of MAT trustees overall report having a local tier of governance for schools within their MAT. While just 2% of MATs with 10 or fewer academies said they didn’t have local academy committees in each school, this increased to 11% for MATs with 21 academies and over. NGA has this week published a guidance on using a Scheme of Delegation to support trustees in defining lines of responsibility and accountability. 

An increasing number of academy committee members have a positive perception of being in a MAT. 71% of those governing at a local level agreed that they were happy with the current level of responsibilities delegated to them by the board of trustees. On engagement across the trust, 73% of those governing at local level agree that their voices were heard by executive leaders and trustees in the decision-making process, compared to 57% in 2019. The matter that local academy members were least in agreement with was that ‘communication between the local and trust level is effective and managed well’, with 58% of respondents saying this. Academy committee members of schools graded ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ by Ofsted reflected even more positively on their MAT.

Over half of MAT trustees say that their board plans to increase the number of academies within the MAT (53%). Of those MATs that were planning to expand, 48% cited finance and resourcing as a reason for expansion, with those governing smaller MATs almost twice as likely to report this than those governing larger MATs. Improving outcomes for more pupils featured in the motivations of 73% of respondent’s boards. There is low interest in joining a MAT from those governing schools who are currently not part of one. 75% of maintained schools and 58% of single academy trusts had either decided against joining a MAT or not considered joining one in the last year.

Other key findings include:

  • A considerable yet reducing number of MATs still rely on overlapping layers of governance in which people serve on more than one layer: 54% of MAT chairs report also being a member of their trust and 33% of other non-chairing trustees say the same. This shows that lines of accountability in MAT governance continue to be blurred, which can and does negatively impact transparent decision making as well as creating governance workload issues.
  • The factors least likely to be used to determine executive pay are pension costs and benefits (17%) and the ratio between the highest and lowest paid in an organisation (15%), demonstrating that a consistent picture of looking beyond basic salary and considering the whole cost of the package has not yet emerged. NGA has this week published updated guidance to support trustees with setting the framework for the pay of the senior executive leader.
  • While balancing the budget is the biggest issue facing MAT trustees and academy committee members, it is significant that the percentage of those in MATs choosing it (34%) is lower than the 43% of maintained schools.

The annual school governance survey collected 6,864 overall responses in 2020 and is the only consistent large-scale survey on the demographics, views and experiences of the volunteers governing state-funded schools in England. This MAT governance report covers the responses of 1,097 MAT trustees and 799 people on local academy committees within MATs.

Read the School Governance in 2020 Governing in a MAT report.

Visit the trust governance resource page

Join MAT membership Welcome to Multi Academy Trust guide Leading Governance Development for Boards

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