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What to expect as a governor of an academy trust

by Hayley Cleveland

There is no doubt that deciding to take on the role of governor at an academy trust is a considerable commitment, but it can be an incredibly rewarding role.

Academy trusts rely on having a wide range of skills, knowledge and experience on the Board to ensure that effective decisions are made to help navigate the many challenges, and ultimately provide the best educational experience for the pupils.

Role of the Governor

The Department of Education (DfE) sets out three key functions of the Board of Trustees:

  • Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
  • Holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the effective and efficient performance management of staff; and
  • Overseeing the financial performance of the organisation and making sure its money is well spent.

You will be expected to attend regular meetings in order to carry out your role. The number of meetings will vary by academy trust but as a minimum the Board must meet at least three times a year, but with the expectation that large Trust Boards will meet at least six times a year to effectively fulfil their duties.

The remit of the Board of Governors covers all areas of the academy trust, including safeguarding, health and safety, estates management, setting pay for the senior leadership team, finance, ensuring sustainability and the ability to operate as a going concern etc. In reality, there will be various committees which focus on each area and ideally the individual skills and experience of each governor can be matched to suit the different committee remit. However, the Board will retain overall responsibility for the oversight of the academy trust.

Responsibilities and duties

Governors embody the role of company director under company law and charity trustee under charity law, so it is no wonder that the role is wide ranging and carries a significant level of responsibility.

There is a degree of overlap between the roles, and the key duties for each are as follows:

Company director Charity trustee
Follow the company’s constitution and articles of association Comply with your charity’s governing document and the law
Promote the success of the company Act in your charity’s best interests
Use independent judgement Manage your charity’s resources responsibly
Exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence Act with reasonable care and skill
Avoid conflict of interest; not accept benefits from third parties; and declare interest in proposed transactions or arrangements Ensure your charity is accountable

Administration matters

  • As a company director, the governors will be listed on the public record at Companies House but can use service addresses rather than having your residential address available on the public record
  • You will also be listed on the ‘Get Information About Schools’ service
  • The academy trust is required to maintain a register of business interests for all governors so you will need to complete a ‘business interest’ form to declare any business or family relationships, and ensure this is kept up to date. This allows the academy trust to manage its risk in relation to related party transactions. Please see our article on this topic for more information.


There are a number of resources published by DfE that you may find useful:

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