Academies Enterprise Trust is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Its charitable objectives are set out in its Articles of Association.
Overview of Governance at AET - Essential reading for all Trustees and Governors
Good governance is an essential element of school improvement. It also underpins the Trust's Risk Framework.
The overarching responsibility for governance of the Trust and its academies lies with the Group’s Board of Trustees. The Trustees are responsible for setting and monitoring strategic objectives, as well as compliance with charity and company law and the Group’s funding agreement.
Day-to day responsibilities for challenge, support and intervention are delegated by the Trustees through a Scheme of Delegation to an Executive Board which operates a holistic framework distinguishing between governance, performance management and the provision of school support services as illustrated in this framework diagram.
AET’s governance at academy level was substantially revised in September 2017 to ensure that governance for the Trust is highly effective. This includes accountability systems that support high quality educational provision, standards and improvement, as well as ensuring that all our academies have clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction. The following sections constitute the Terms of Reference for local governance at AET.
Local Governing Boards are comprised of the following:
- A Chair, who is an experienced senior education professional with school leadership experience. Each chair is responsible for a number of boards on a regional basis.
- The relevant national ‘Phase’ Director - i.e. primary (including SEND) and secondary.
- Two Peer Principals from other Trust academies. Typically one of these will be from the same region, different phase, and the other will be same phase different region.
- The local academy Principal, who is an ex-officio governor, but without voting rights.
In addition to this core membership, Boards are supplemented wherever necessary or valuable by AET School Support Service members, providing expert input in the shared services of HR, finance, estates and facilities, IT, governance etc.
Local volunteer members, known as 'lay governors' may be recruited where they can demonstrably bring additional value to the local Governing Board. These lay governor positions are subject to annual review.
Financial governance is managed directly by the AET Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and overseen by the Finance and Audit & Risk Committees of the Trust, and in accordance with the Scheme of Delegation. The role of the local Governing Board is typically not involved in the detail but more focused on ensuring that the school has an agreed budget and that any forecast variances have been reported to the finance and operations business partner.
Joint Boards of two or three academies have been created where there are logical and valuable connections between them.
The Governing Board is the principle accountable body at local academy level and is supported by two important Advisory Boards:
- An Employee Advisory Board, EAB representing academy employees. In some academies these operate as Joint Consultative Committees (‘JCC’s).
- A Parent and Community Advisory Board (“PCAB”). This is designed to strengthen the voice of parents and wider community stakeholders, and to support the provision of broader educational opportunities for pupils, including meaningful encounters with employers as contemplated by the Gatsby benchmarks for career guidance. The PCAB Charter explains its scope and operation.
Each of the advisory boards meets on a regular basis and reports back formally to the main Governing Board with written reports and, where required, through attendance at the Governing Board by a representative of the advisory board.
Visits, meetings and quality assurance of governance
All Governing Boards are required to meet at least once each term, although this may be more frequent where required to ensure the appropriate levels of challenge, support and accountability for:
- the welfare and protection of pupils
- the educational performance of the academy and its pupil outcomes
- the performance management of staff
The termly meetings of the Governing Board take place on what is called a Governance Day. A Governance Day is two part, a monitoring visit to the academy by board members, followed by a formal Governing Board meeting later in the day. The focus of the monitoring visit is determined by the strengths and areas for development of the academy, which are set out in the Principal’s report to governors and SEF. The monitoring visit provides an opportunity for Governors to form their own independent view of the work of the academy, triangulated against the written and verbal inputs of academy leaders.
The Chairs of Governors are all experienced education professionals and as such have the skills and experience to hold both an executive role, providing support and challenge, which is clear during the monitoring visits, and the non-executive governance role holding the academy to account through the formal governance process and termly meeting of the Governing Board. In the rare event of a conflict of interest, this will be managed by escalation to the national Director of Education, and if not resolved, by escalation to the Trustees.
There is a formal template for the Principal’s Report to Governors and the governors’ response to key areas based on evidence from the monitoring activities. Formal minutes are separately maintained by the clerk for the formal governing board meeting and published on the Governor Portal. There is also the facility for Governor visits outside the Governance Day to allow for additional support and challenge of the academy’s work.
The administration and quality assurance of governance is supported by a network of clerks managed by central governance team which is accountable to the Director of Education, and by an online Governor Portal built on Google Classroom technology.
Chairs of Governors meet monthly with the AET Executive team and central governance team. Agenda items include the strategic and operational initiatives of the Trust, and the sharing of knowledge and discussion of sector developments in professional practice.
Additional academy support and intervention initiatives
Where academies are deemed to require additional support, or to accelerate improvement they are identified as Key Academies of Concern (KAOCs). KAOCs are monitored through weekly conference calls between School Support Service colleagues and the relevant Chair of Governors. The Trust compiles and maintains KAOC Strategy Packs for each KAOC which tracks key data and information and this supports longer detailed conversations at monthly KAOC meetings involving the Principal, Chair of Governors together with Trust Executive team and senior leaders from School Support Services.
In addition to these KAOC measures, all academies have support plans (including a strategy and budget) which are monitored bi-annually by the central executive team, the academy Principal and the Chair of Governors.
Other examples of support and challenge initiatives from the Trust include:
- Curriculum support (e.g. Maths, English, EBacc) with specialist consultants and advisers and online resources
- Academy reviews covering a range of areas: safeguarding, SEND, pupil premium, careers and employability skills, inspection-readiness, SEFs and AIPs, governance
- Bespoke support as required from senior Trust educationalists (Directors of Education, Primary, Secondary)
- Centrally coordinated training, knowledge-sharing, effective practice development and CPD provision
- Specialist professional support (HR, finance, IT, estates and facilities, legal and compliance)
- A weekly communications bulletin, and monthly CEO briefing
- A Policy Portal, with central coordination of Trust and Academy-level policy updates and communications
Evidence of support provided to each academy by governors and members of AET's School Support Services team is recorded in an online Academy Support Log.