Ascent Academies' Trust

North of England | Sunderland
  • CFO/Financial
  • Non-executive/Trustee
Deadline date: 3rd July 2020

Ascent Academies’ Trust is a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) of special schools providing education and support to young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). The trust is based in Sunderland and has four academies across the North East. The trust seeks two new trustees/non-executive directors, possessing skills in Finance and Accountancy. Prior experience in non-executive / board positions is highly sought. Board meetings are held predominantly at Portland Academy, Weymouth Road, Sunderland, however the trust is moving towards more virtual meetings and remote ways of workings for meetings and committees.

About the trust

Ascent Academies’ Trust is a multi-academy trust comprising of four schools, all of which specialise in a provision catering for pupils with SEND. Currently there are c.700 students on roll and over 350 members of staff.

The trust’s schools are Ash Trees Academy, Barbara Priestman Academy, Hope Wood Academy and Portland Academy. Ascent was founded with the aim of developing a vision and strategic plan for special educational needs in the North East. By collaboratively working together, the schools within the trust are able to not only increase the opportunities they can offer their own students and staff, but are also able to offer their specialist knowledge to schools and academies across the region, through the trust’s trading company, Ascent Extra Limited. Each academy brings to Ascent its own wealth of knowledge, expertise and capacity.

All pupils have Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and the academies provide education and support to pupils aged 2-19 years old. The academies within the trust cater for the full range of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

The trust’s annual revenue budget is c. £13mn/pa.

Plans for the future

The key challenges facing the trust over the coming 12-24 months include:

  1. Future funding and financial challenges - uncertainties regarding high needs funding, greater need and demand for specialist places in the trust’s academies, changes in national and local funding formulas leading to increasing budget pressures with uncertain future funding;
  2. Post-Covid-19 return to school - ensuring staff and pupils have a safe return to school following Covid-19;
  3. Growth – the expansion of the trust to increase the number of school places available;
  4. Estates - ensuring the capital estate is funded and maintained.

Over the longer term, the trust has plans to:

  • Build on the improvements in all academies through strong collaboration and wider networks;
  • Ensure that all young people have access to a meaningful future, especially in volunteering, employment or enterprise;
  • Ensure that the staff team is continually learning and where possible gaining further relevant qualifications;
  • Support environmental education, encouraging pupils and all stakeholders to embrace sustainability;
  • Support student and staff well-being, through mental, physical, emotional good health.

Trust ethos & values

‘Together we build brighter futures for young people with SEND. We are a family of schools who collaborate, challenge and support each other, putting the development and care of our students at the forefront of everything we do. With support from our Trustees, staff, students and their families, Ascent is committed to providing the best in terms of provision for young people with SEND.’

URL to full mission statement

Role summary

Number of positions advertised:


Roles 1 & 2 – Trustee/Non-Executive Director

Trustees – or non-executive directors - are both charity trustees and company directors of the academy trust. The core functions of their role are: ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction; holding executive leaders to account for the educational and financial performance of a charitable company funded by the public purse.

The board of trustees manages the business of the academy trust and may exercise all the powers of the trust in compliance with its charitable objects, company and charity law.

Non-executive directors will be responsible for maintaining stability and the management of a dynamic structure. The role also includes contributing to financial planning for sustainability and potential growth, and holding the CEO/CFO to account.

In the interests of safeguarding and in accordance with DfE requirements, all trustee appointments will be subject to an enhanced disclosure and barring service check.

Person specification

Every trustee is expected to abide by the trust’s code of conduct and the seven principles of public life set out by Lord Nolan: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. Every trustee is expected to focus their contribution for the good, wellbeing, and success of each child at the trust.

The Competency Framework for Governance (DfE) 2017 details the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for effective governance:

The strategic expertise required for this role includes:

Essential (due to multiple roles, candidates may be accepted who possess one or more of the skills below)
  • CFO/ Finance
  • Non-executive/ Trustee
  • Qualified Accountant
  • Risk
  • Audit
  • CEO/ General Management
  • Corporate Governance
  • Chair or vice Chair

Both roles require an experienced senior leader with a demonstrable record operating at a strategic level in a finance position. Candidates should be able to display a solid understanding, experience and expertise of corporate governance in a complex, multi-site organisation with budget remit at least equivalent to that of the trust (c.£13mn/pa). It is highly desirable for at least one of the candidates to possess an accountancy qualification.

One of the candidates sought will be required to sit as Chair of the trust’s Finance, Risk and Resources Committee, ensure sound management of the trust’s finances, staffing and resources, including proper planning, monitoring and probity.

Time commitment

6 hours /month minimum.

Location of board meetings and trust website

Board meetings are usually held at Portland Academy, Weymouth Road, Sunderland, SR3 2NQ.

Governance structure

Background on academy trusts

Academy schools, which are charities run independently of local authority control, now account for 74% of secondary schools and 31% of primaries – and their number is growing all the time.

Many of these schools are grouped together as multi-academy trusts (MATs). There are currently 832 multi academy trusts of 3+ schools. If the schools are to fulfil their potential, the trusts need non-executives (known in charity law as trustees) to bring a wide range of skills and experience to help guide strategy, ensure their ambitions can be soundly financed and keep their schools up to the mark delivering for their pupils.

“Boards must be ambitious for all children and young people and infused with a passion for education and a commitment to continuous school improvement that enables the best possible outcomes. Governance must be grounded in reality as defined by both high-quality objective data and a full understanding of the views and needs of pupils/students, staff, parents, carers and local communities. It should be driven by inquisitive, independent minds and through conversations focused on the key strategic issues which are conducted with humility, good judgement, resilience and determination.” 
Source: Governance Handbook, Department for Education (2019)

Trusteeship is a voluntary, unpaid role for people who have the energy and skills to make a real contribution to shaping the future of our schools. You do not need to have any specialist knowledge of education.


Academy Ambassadors is a non-profit programme which recruits senior business leaders and professionals as volunteer non-executive directors onto the boards of multi-academy trusts. If you are interested in applying for the role please send your CV and a short expression of interest detailing which role you are applying for to [email protected] Please note: candidates should live within reasonable travelling distance of the trust and/or have a link with the region. For more information, please call 0207 952 8556 or visit

Key dates

We strongly recommend applying as early as you can to have the best possible chance of being considered as we may change the closing date if we have received sufficient applications. Applicants should be aware of the following key dates in the recruitment process.

Deadline for applications: Friday, July 3rd 2020