The Academy Trust Handbook 2023 now requires academy trusts to appoint a governance professional to support the board of trustees (section 1.41). The governance professional will be required to have the skills and knowledge to provide advice, guidance, and effective administration support.
Who can be a governance professional?
In an academy trust, the governance professional must not be an academy trustee, the headteacher, the chief executive of the academy trust or a principal of one of the trust’s academies. If the governance professional is absent from a meeting, a trustee can be appointed for the purposes of that meeting, however, they cannot take on the role permanently.
Although it is not specified who can be a governance professional, when appointing someone for the role it is important to consider the responsibilities they will be undertaking to ensure that there will not be a conflict of interest if they have any other role within the academy.
Duties of a governance professional
An academy trust governance professional is responsible for overseeing all aspects of governance effectiveness and compliance within the trust, ensuring governance adheres to good practice and meets all statutory regulatory requirements.
One of the main duties a governance professional will have is to ensure effective organisation and administration of trustee board meetings. They will have a key role in helping prepare focused agendas for the meetings, circulating papers and taking minutes. They are key in supporting the chair and the board on this aspect and assisting with the successful delivery of the objectives for the meetings.
The governance professional will be a main point of contact for any questions regarding governance within the trust and will be expected to be able to give key guidance and advice on various aspects. For example, they will be able to advise on the roles of members and trustees and their functions and legal duties as well as advising the board on their compliance with the Articles of Association, Funding Agreement, relevant legislation and regulations. They will need to ensure the board is compliant with the regulatory framework for governance and charity and company law.
The governance professional will also manage statutory information and governance documentation such as maintaining records of membership and policies within the trust and developing trust-specific documents such as a governance code of conduct. In addition, they will be responsible for ensuring the effectiveness of the trusts governance framework by advising on succession planning, the election and appointment process and even assisting in the process of new schools joining the trust.
Due to the importance of a government professional within the trust, the board should set a high standard from the service they expect and ensure they are employing an individual who has the skills, training and knowledge required. The Board may wish to use the Clerking Competency Framework to understand the depth of knowledge, skills and behaviour needed to perform the role at the best standard.
Your academy trust should ensure that your governance professional receives regular training in their role. We are able to support your trust with training sessions on key legal and compliance responsibilities, if that would be helpful.