No one fighting MAT schools’ corner, governors warn

Academy trusts are concentrating power in too few hands and leaving individual schools without someone to fight their corner, a governors’ leader has warned. Tes reports.

It comes after almost three-quarters of MAT trustees told a large-scale survey that some trustees of the central trust also sit on the governing bodies of some of its schools.

Emma Knights, chief executive of the NGA, warned that schools in academy trusts can be left without someone to champion their interests if the same person is both a governor of the overall trust and an individual school within it.

She told Tes: “If the chair of a local governing body is really concerned about something they absolutely need a system where they can go to the central office or to the trustee board and say ‘hang on, this isn’t working for our school’, whereas if you are one of the people who sit on that trust board you are unlikely to start making a fuss.

The survey also found that 73 per cent of MAT trustees said there are trustees of their academy trust who also act as one of its ‘members’ – who have a similar role to shareholders of private companies and can appoint trustees.

Ms Knights warned that this means “we are concentrating power with a small number of people”.

She added: “While we have small numbers of members its absolutely crucial that they are not the same people as the trustees or the executive because it means they are holding themselves to account and the whole thing becomes a complete farce.

“Basically, there’s no check or balance, and that’s how governance systems should be set up.”

Read more and watch the video No one fighting MAT schools’ corner, governors warn

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  1. No-one who is a true leader should be ‘fighting any corners’ – the leaders’ credentials should be to collaborate and influence so as to obtain an optimal solution (which may not be perfect, but will work). The theory of power concentration is valid – one could make similar arguments re governors/members having conflicts of interests (e.g. as they have staff/teachers as family members, and the list goes on). The question is though, just how may leaders do you need (as well as the real operational leaders – head and deputy) for say, a small primary school of 200-300 pupils – in my experience the more people leading the more likely a cultural mist develops that places wide variations of interpretation on key messages and goals – and leads to more damaging, and slower / conflicting change leadership. In a large school ensuring power and influence is widely spread and balanced is essential – in a small school it can make decision taking unnecessarily expensive and slow (unless in special measures).

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