Maintaining good governance as a trust grows and diversifies

Hamid Patel CBE, Chief Executive of Tauheedul Education Trust, describes how the trust ensures The Board remains effective with strong governance, a performance focussed culture and a rigorous emphasis on data and intelligence. Hamid will be speaking at our Board Development Day on 11th September. To join Hamid at the Conference please register at www.buildingbettertrustboards.org – if you are already registered please ensure you select the Outstanding Leaders in Conversation workshop to secure your place. Please note that conference places are prioritised for NEDs appointed through Academy Ambassadors and Chairs/ NEDs at MATs that come from outside education.

Effective governance has been a priority for Tauheedul Education Trust right from the start.  We’ve always been acutely conscious that we are entrusted with public money and that we must be scrupulous and transparent in all that we do.  Even before the Trust became operational, we sought expert advice from KPMG on our governance and accountability arrangements to make sure that we had solid foundations.

The roots of Tauheedul Education Trust can be traced back to its high achieving founder school - Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School (TIGHS) in Blackburn.   TIGHS was achieving amazing results for students from highly socially and economically deprived backgrounds.  The governing body were driven by a passion for making a difference and promoting social mobility.  The free schools movement offered an opportunity for them to bring their successful educational model to children and young people in other areas of social and economic deprivation – regardless of background or starting point.

The Trust’s first application for a free school – the Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School in Blackburn -was approved in 2011 and the Tauheedul Education Trust (TET) was born.  In the early stages, the TET Board was mainly made up of former TIGHS’ governors – local business men and community leaders.  The Board has adapted as the Trust has grown and extended its reach.  We keep its membership, terms of reference and ways of operating under constant review to ensure that it remains robust and reflects the communities our schools serve.  We are now a mixed MAT, running both faith-based and non-faith schools and sponsored academies in five regions known as Tauheedul Education Partnerships (TEPs).  Our 11 strong Board is made up of experienced professionals from a range of disciplines.  Each member of the Board takes on a lead responsibility for a geographical or thematic area. Last year, the Board established a number of committees to facilitate more in-depth scrutiny of particular areas of business.

We have always sought high quality local governing bodies for our schools.  They are there to support and challenge school senior leadership teams and to represent the local community.  We have a thorough search process in place, with careful vetting and due diligence.  We have always tried to ensure that local governors are properly inducted and that they receive regular training.  As the Trust has grown and more resources have become available, we have been able to invest more in the development of our local governing bodies   We produce template agendas, data dashboards and reports for each meeting designed to focus governors’ attention on their responsibilities in our scheme of delegation.  We have introduced bespoke training for governors with lead responsibility for a particular area – e.g. safeguarding or HR.  We use skills audits to plan the training for the coming year.  We keep the support we give to our local governing bodies under regular review in the light of the changing environment in which we operate and feedback from the governors themselves.

We have a detailed Governance and Accountability Handbook that clearly sets out the respective roles and responsibilities of the Board and its committees, the LGBs and senior leaders within the schools and the Central Team.  We keep the Governance and Accountability framework under regular review to ensure it remains fit for purpose as the Trust grows.  For example, our 2016 review introduced the concept of shared local governing bodies where the Trust has more than one school in a particular town or city.  We’re opening two new secondary schools in Manchester in September 2017 and they’ll be the first to take advantage of the opportunity to share a local governing body.

A few key messages

  • Put good governance at the heart of your school or MAT from the outset.  It might seem dull, but getting it right from the start means you can concentrate on delivering the best possible education to your students.
  • Make sure you know the DfE’s Governance Handbook and Academies Financial Handbook inside out.
  • Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to get it right.  Attention to detail is key.
  • Get expert advice when you’re not sure.
  • Keep your governance arrangements under regular review to make sure they enable you to achieve your goals.