Welcome to the essential reference for trustees of the Vale Academy Trust.
We very much appreciate that the role of a trustee can be 'information-rich, but time-poor', and we know there's a sea of education information out there, which can make it difficult to focus on the important things. This is why we created this guide, to make it as straightforward as possible to find key information and resources that can be trusted. Whether you're new to the role or a seasoned veteran, you'll want to make this guide your companion on your trustee journey.
Please bookmark this page, so you can find it quickly when you need to (it's a 'hidden page', which simply means it's not listed in the site's main menu).
Your feedback on this guide is most welcome. Please email Vicky Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Six things you MUST DO before you can be confirmed as a trustee:
- If you haven't already done so, please complete the 'Governance Application Form', which you can download from the Trustee Guide Library, and email the completed document to your clerk (in Word format, please, not PDF).
- Complete the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) process. Your clerk will initiate this process, and you will receive instructions for completing it online.
- Read and complete the Conflicts of Interest and Loyalty Policy, which you can download from the Trustee Guide Library, and email the completed document to your clerk (in Word format, please, not PDF).
- Read and accept the Code of Conduct for Trustees. This is an online form, which takes about five minutes to complete.
- Confirm you have read our Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy and the DfE’s Keeping Children Safe in Education (Part one & Part two). The Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy (actually a template we provide to our schools) can be found in the Trustee Guide Library. When you have read these, please confirm you have done so by completing this online Safeguarding Confirmation Form.
- Confirm you have read the Gifts and Hospitality Policy and the Whistleblowing Procedure, both of which can be found on the Policies page of the Trust's website. When you have read these, please confirm you have done so by completing this online Policy and Procedure Confirmation Form.
A checklist to help you become an effective member of your team:
- Connect with Vicky Roberts, the Trust’s Head of Governance & Policy. Vicky acts as clerk to the Board of Trustees and works closely with the chair. Vicky is your 'go to person' for all things governance related.
- Get your Trust email address and login details for the VLE. For data protection reasons, the Trust requires every trustee (and governor) to use a Trust email address for all school and Trust related email communications. Your clerk will ask the Trust’s ICT department to set this up for you and it will become active after you have completed the DBS process. The VLE is the Trust’s cloud-based intranet, and the place where you can find a calendar, past minutes, agenda and other key documents. Your clerk will provide you with sign-in details.
- Add the LGB meeting and Governance Development dates to your diary. The VLE calendar holds the dates for the LGB meetings and the Governance Development sessions. Note: we run four or five Governance Development sessions each year and attendance is strongly encouraged. As well as a chance to network with governors, you’ll benefit from presentations on subjects such as safeguarding, pupil premium, school improvement and school finance. Subject to Covid 19 guidance, some or all meetings may be held remotely using video conferencing.
- Become familiar with some key documents. On the Governance page of the Trust website are some key documents every trustee should be familiar with. Of particular importance are the Articles of Association, the Master Funding Agreement, the Scheme of Delegated Authority, and the latest Annual Report and Accounts.
- Complete the 'Multi-academy trusts module’. This excellent e-Learning module from Governors for Schools is one hour in length and has been developed for trustees. We recommend that you complete this module as one of the very first things you do, and certainly before attending your first Board meeting. The module is free of charge, but you’ll need to register first to access it.
- Complete the online Trustee Skills Review – takes about fifteen minutes. Naturally, we look to have a well-balanced Board in terms of skills and experience. To help towards this, each trustee is asked to complete a skills review, which is then fed into the Board Skills Matrix held by your chair. The skills review is not a test, rather, the information is used to identify governance development priorities and assist in recruitment and succession planning.
- Understand the role and responsibilities of a Trustee in a Multi-academy Trust. From the Trustee Guide Library, read the 'Trustee Role Description' and 'The Essential Trustee'.
- Understand the essentials of trust and school performance. From the Trustee Guide Library, read these two guides from Academy Ambassadors, which provide a short introduction to data and finances: 'Essentials Data' and 'Essentials Finance'.
- Get to know the Academy Trust Handbook. The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) produces this handbook. It sets out the financial management, control and reporting requirements that apply to all academy trusts.
- Understand the essentials of expectations and norms. The ESFA note ‘Financial Health and Efficiency of Trusts’ sets out the main indicators and norms to gauge trust performance. You can find it in the Trustee Guide Library.
- Check the academic performance of the Trust. The Chief Executive prepares regular reports covering the academic results and progress for all schools in the Trust. These reports are presented at the Board’s Education Committee, and are also available on the Trust’s intranet (VLE).
- Meet a headteacher and tour a school. Your clerk can arrange for you to visit a school and meet the headteacher and leadership team*. As well as making contact with teaching staff, this is an opportunity for you to get a feel for how a school operates during a normal day and understand the challenges and opportunities they face. You should try to do this once a year. *Subject to Covid 19 restrictions.
- Observe a Local Governing Body meeting. Your clerk can arrange for you to attend as an observer a meeting of one of the LGBs, with the aim of gaining an understanding of how they operate.
- Prepare for Board meetings. A week before each Board meeting, the VLE is updated with all relevant papers. It is very important to the smooth-running and effectiveness of the meeting that you read the paperwork beforehand and turn up informed and ready to present your questions.
- Attend Board subcommittee meetings as an observer. As well as regular attendance at main Board meetings, you may be asked to attend a number of subcommittee meetings as an observer, with a view to you joining at least one of the subcommittees as a full participant.
Key things all trustees need to know and do:
- Become a frequent visitor to the Trust's website. It's your window on the latest Trust news, events and key data.
- Don't forget the school websites. A great way to stay in touch with what's happening 'on the ground'.
- Discover the high-quality (and free) e-Learning modules on the Governors for Schools website, which are equally valuable for governors and trustees. Topics include school finance, school performance data and school improvement. Once registered, you can start a course, take a break, and pick up again from where you left off.
- Become familiar with the Compare School Performance website. This is a very useful resource, providing a wealth of information on all state schools and multi-academy trusts.
- Questions that you should be asking in your Board meetings. In 2015, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Education Governance and Leadership (APPG) published ‘Twenty one questions for Multi-Academy Trusts’. You can download a copy from the Trustee Guide Library. It sets out some key questions every MAT board should be asking itself. The focus is mostly on how a strong board manages itself in terms of effectiveness, governance and leadership.
- Learn about school resource management and financial efficiency. Take a look at the DfE’s Top 10 Planning Checks for Governors, which trustees/governors can use as a starting point to check if a school is managing resources and finances effectively. You can also review this free e-Learning module Finance for Governors.
Helpful tools and information for trustees:
- The Governance Handbook. This is the DfE's definitive reference for governance. It's a very long document, so you probably won't want to read it end to end, but we do recommend that you familiarise yourself with its contents as you’ll want to dip in and out throughout your trusteeship.
- Academies Planning Calendar. From the ESFA, a useful calendar of key dates and actions relating to trust funding, finance and compliance with the funding agreement.
- Broaden your understanding of trust and school data. The ESFA's guide to how to collect, analyse and understand school and trust performance.
- Welcome to a Multi-Academy Trust (hardcopy). A very useful and informative publication from the National Governance Association (NGA). Primarily intended for those new to the trustee role, it is also recommended as a refresher for existing trustees. The Trust purchases this publication in bulk. If you haven’t yet received your copy please ask your clerk.
- Parent View is an Ofsted website where a parent/carer can give their views about their child’s school. This is an important website to know about because Ofsted pays close attention to these comments, particularly when a school is due to be inspected. In fact, if enough negative comments are left for a school, it could even trigger an early inspection. Users who are not parents or carers (for example headteachers, governors, trustees or other interested parties) are able to register on the site and receive alerts when submissions are added to a particular school, but they are not able to complete a submission for a school (this particular functionality is only available to parents and carers).
- Get Information About Schools. The Department for Education’s online register of educational establishments. Here you can find information about trustees and governors for trusts and schools.
- National Governance Association (NGA). The Trust is a member of the NGA, which means that all trustees can access their services, including their very useful online training service, ‘Learning Link’. Your clerk will provide you with sign-in details.
- The Key for School Governors. Packed with useful information and guidance. A paid membership is required to get full advantage. Ask your chair or clerk about membership.
- Confused by the terms used in education? Use the NGA’s Education Glossary, and you’ll soon be an expert! The link takes you to the NGA home page, where you’ll find the glossary on the bottom left.