What are the differences between the role of a School Governor and a MAT Trustee?

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In the complex world of education, the roles of a School Governor and the Trustee of a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) are often misunderstood or even unknown to those outside the system.

In this article, we’ll shine a spotlight on these two key roles, exploring their responsibilities, their scope of work, and, most importantly, their impact. We’ll delve into the nuts and bolts of what it means to be a School Governor versus a MAT Trustee, and provide you with an insight the pivotal roles they play in our education system.

Scope

School Governor

School Governors work at an individual school level. They are involved in one school, contributing to the decisions about the school’s long-term goals, policies, and overall ethos.

Example: A school governor in a primary school may focus on specific issues related to early education, such as reading programs or student engagement activities that are suitable for young learners.

MAT Trustee

On the other hand, Trustees of a MAT operate on a broader scale, encompassing several schools. They are responsible for setting the strategic direction and maintaining the overall performance across all the schools in the trust.

Example: A MAT trustee could be responsible for developing policies that impact several schools in the trust, for instance, a uniform approach to digital learning across all academies.

Responsibility

School Governor

A School Governor’s responsibility primarily lies in the success of their individual school. They need to ensure that the school is performing well both educationally and financially.

Example: A school governor might have to scrutinize the school’s budget, ensuring that funds are appropriately allocated to achieve the best educational outcomes.

MAT Trustee

A MAT Trustee, however, has an amplified level of responsibility. They oversee the performance of several schools, making strategic decisions that impact the trust as a whole. This can include decisions about expansion and bringing new schools into the trust.

Example: Trustees might decide to add a new school to the trust, a decision that requires strategic planning and careful consideration of the financial and educational implications for the entire trust.

Accountability

School Governor

School Governors hold the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils, as well as the performance management of staff.

Example: School Governors may review the school’s academic performance data, and work with the headteacher to create improvement plans if necessary.

MAT Trustee

Trustees, on the other hand, hold the CEO of the MAT accountable. The CEO then holds the principals of each school in the trust accountable.

Example: If academic performance across the trust is lower than expected, trustees would hold the CEO accountable for this, who in turn would need to work with the principals of each school to improve.

Regulatory Oversight

School Governor

In a maintained school, school governors must follow regulations laid out by the Department for Education but they do not have obligations to the Charity Commission (in England and Wales).

Example: Governors must ensure the school adheres to the Schools Admissions Code when setting and applying their admissions policy.

MAT Trustee

MAT trustees have responsibilities as directors under company law and as charity trustees under charity law, as well as obligations under education law. They must ensure the MAT complies with these regulations and operates within its stated charitable objectives.

Example: Trustees must submit annual accounts and reports to the Charity Commission and ensure the MAT complies with rules on charity fundraising, if applicable.

Stakeholder Engagement

School Governor

School governors have direct interaction with parents, teachers, and local community members. They represent the interests of these stakeholders in the governance of the school.

Example: A governor who is a parent might bring concerns from other parents to the governing board, or a staff governor might represent the views of the school’s teachers.

MAT Trustee

MAT Trustees, given their larger scale, engage with a broader range of stakeholders and often do this through the leadership teams of individual schools or through local governing bodies within the MAT’s structure.

Example: Trustees might hold a regular meeting with the heads of all the academies in the trust, to hear about issues on the ground and gather information to inform their decision-making.

Conclusion

Both School Governors and Trustees of Multi-Academy Trusts play vital roles in shaping the trajectory of our schools and impacting the education of countless pupils. Although their roles differ in scope, responsibility, accountability, regulatory oversight, and stakeholder engagement, they share a common goal: to deliver high-quality education.

Whether you’re a parent wanting to understand more about how your child’s school is governed, an educator looking to broaden your knowledge, or simply an interested party with a passion for education, we hope this exploration has provided clarity and deepened your understanding.

Ultimately, both School Governors and MAT Trustees work tirelessly behind the scenes, making strategic decisions, overseeing performance, and ensuring compliance, all in the service of providing the best possible educational environment. Their roles are challenging, multi-faceted, and require a deep commitment to education. They are the unsung heroes of our education system, continually striving for excellence in our schools.

Thanks for reading and be sure to look at some of our other useful articles on the GovernorHelp blog. If you’re curious about how we use AI to help school governors, why not try out some of our tools for free. Click here to start exploring!

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