Overview of Trust Governance
Trusts exist to advance education for the public good.
The government’s vision is for every school to be part of a family of schools in strong Trusts. The government recognises that the Trust model is very effective and goes much further in promoting shared practice than other collaborative structures, such as federations or alliances; and strong Trusts can swiftly direct resources to allow focus to remain on teaching and learning. The government also notes that Trusts, and Groups, have capacity to go further, supporting other education providers to share and implement the latest evidence-based practice, and to facilitate better professional development to improve teaching and standards for all. Reference1
“The governance duty is, above all, to drive relentless ambition for the young people served by our schools system, whatever the circumstances”. Baroness Berridge (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools).
Effective Trust governance is about:
- Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
- Holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the effective and efficient performance management of staff
- Overseeing the financial performance and making sure its money is well spent. Reference2
About Suffolk Academies Trust
Suffolk Academies Trust (the “Trust”) is a nationally recognised multi-academy trust specialising in post-16 education in the east of England. Established in 2015, the Trust currently runs two centres:
- Abbeygate Sixth Form College (ASFC) in Bury St Edmunds
- ASFC opened in 2019 and continues to grow and now educates over 700 students each year, with students travelling from Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk to study academic courses in its state-of-the-art facilities.
- One Sixth Form College (OSFC) in Ipswich
- OSFC opened in 2010 and has grown year-on-year and now educates over 2,100 students each year, with students travelling from across Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk to study both academic and vocational courses in its state-of-the-art facilities. OSFC is also the only Outstanding sixth form college in Suffolk.
with its headquarters in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
The Trust is sponsored by West Suffolk College (WSC) a leading further education college in the east of England.
Mission, Vision and Strategy
The Trust and WSC have a strategic alliance to work together as the Eastern Colleges Group (the “Group”). The Group approach focuses on joining up education to create positive socio-economic change, by looking at commonality and areas for collaboration (removing inefficient competition and focusing on best practice to benefit all) and supporting students, throughout their lifetime, to access and progress to outstanding education.
The Group has a common vision “to put students and their success at the heart of everything we do” and mission “to use education as a catalyst of positive social change and prosperity for the community we serve, leaving no-one behind”.
The Group enables the Trust and WSC to efficiently pool resources and expertise and share best practice to provide outstanding vocational and academic education to students across the east of England.
The Group also specialises in post-19 education (i.e. post compulsory education) to support our adult community, leaving no-one behind. WSC has multiple adult centres across the east of England to support:
- basic qualifications (from Entry Level and beyond)
- university qualifications (from Levels 4, 5 and 6) with leading education partners including University of East Anglia, University of Suffolk, and Pearson
- industry specific skills (short courses to support their progression whilst in-work)
- tailored programmes to support requalification or re-entry into the workplace
- hobby based skills (i.e. pottery, baking, arts, etc.)
The Group also supports pre-16 education (i.e. primary and secondary education, as well as their teachers) and other education providers to share and implement the latest evidence-based practice, and to facilitate better professional development to improve teaching and standards for all known as the Escalator model.
Since the Trust was established, the Trust has operated with a common CEO, CFO and Clerk to its sponsor, WSC. More recently, ‘Group roles’ have been created to oversee central functions; creating specialist teams to best deploy resources to allow local focus to remain on continuous improvement of teaching and learning.
In March 2021, the Trust Board evaluated the value for money of Group working and noted that “shared services with West Suffolk College is both financially beneficial and adds additional value to the Trust by providing high-calibre staff (with highly skilled and experienced specialists leads) which otherwise the Trust could likely not afford”.
The Group operational structure can be found here. As well as Group support functions, the teaching and learning staff across the Group are working together to share and implement the latest evidence-based practice, and to facilitate better professional development to improve teaching and standards for all.
Since the Trust was established, the governance structures of the Trust and WSC’s Board (Corporation) have been closely aligned to maximise the benefit the Trust receives from its sponsor (WSC) and to best support our strategic alliance.
To this day, the Trust Board and Corporation have a very similar governance structure and, though the membership is different, the Trust Board and Corporation operate with common Chairs (across their Boards and Committees, except the Audit and Risk Management Committee which remains independent) and with common agendas and KPIs being considered.
The Trust operates using the following governance structure:
Note: Green boxes are Governance Committees; Grey boxes are Executive Boards with a Governor lead in membership which advise and feed into the Governance Committees.
Terms of Reference
Whilst the Trust has ultimate responsibility for all governance matters, in accordance with its Articles of Association it may delegate certain responsibilities. Detailed information on how the Trust delegates its responsibilities; the roles of Members, Trustees, Committee members, Executive and the terms of reference of the Board and its Committees can be found in the Trust’s Standing Orders and Scheme of Delegation.
In addition to Members, Trustees and Committee members; the Trust also has Trustee Leads (responsible for oversight of a key statutory responsibility such as Safeguarding) and Governance Links (responsible for oversight of an area of operation across the Trust).
The Trust’s schedule of meetings can be found here. The Board determines the membership of each Committee, based on the skillset required by the Committee and the skillsets held by the individual. Meetings are run as hybrid meetings (i.e. with the option for virtual or physical attendance). Papers are circulated in advance (7 days prior for Board and Committee meetings, and 14 days prior for Members meetings) by the Clerk. Papers and minutes are stored and available on GovernorHub.
Once a year (in January), everyone involved in governance at both the Trust and its sponsor (WSC) come together (physically) to discuss the strategy of the respective institutions and for the Group overall. In preparation for this annual Strategic Conference, the Trust and its sponsor (WSC) hold monthly virtual Briefing Strategy Seminars which discuss strategic issues affecting our sector, region, and/or community.
In addition to governance and strategy meetings, everyone involved in governance is expected to participate in induction meetings (when new in post) and training sessions (throughout their term of office) to keep up to date with the latest information, guidance and best practice.
|Purpose / Summary||Mandatory / Advisable|
|SAT's Articles of Association||Describes the governance framework and requirements of the Trust.||Mandatory reading|
|SAT’s Code of Conduct||Describes the standards of conduct and accountability which are expected of Members, Trustees and Committee members, including any legal and ethical duties.||Mandatory reading|
|The Seven Principles of Public Life||(also known as the Nolan Principles) Describes the principals by which all people involved in governance must uphold.||Mandatory reading|
|SAT’s Standing Orders, Key Policies (above) and Scheme of Delegation||Describes the governance structure of the Trust and how responsibility is delegated.||Mandatory reading|
|SAT’s Annual Report and Financial Statements||Describes the Trust’s financial accounts for the previous academic year and summarises the Trust’s performance, objectives and strategy, and its compliance.||Mandatory reading|
|Governance Handbook||Describes the government’s vision and priorities for effective governance of Trusts.||Advisable reading|
|Academy Trust Handbook||Describes the governance and financial responsibilities of Trusts||Mandatory reading|
|Academy Trust Governance – Structure and Roles Descriptors||Describes the roles and
responsibilities within the typical academy trust governance structure.
|Competency Framework for Governance||Describes the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for effective governance in Trusts||Advisable reading|
|Keeping Children Safe in Education||Describes the governance responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children||Mandatory reading|
|Education Inspection Framework||Describes the process of Ofsted inspections including the method by which it makes its judgements on (1) quality of education, (2) behaviour and attitudes, (3) personal development, (4) leadership and management; and areas for development.||Advisable reading|
|ASFC and OSFC’s Ofsted Reports||Describes the outcome of Ofsted inspections including their judgements on (1) quality of education, (2) behaviour and attitudes, (3) personal development, (4) leadership and management; and areas for development.||Mandatory reading|
|ASFC and OSFC’s Annual Self-Assessment Report and Quality Improvement Plan||Describes the College’s academic quality and outcomes for the previous academic year and the areas for further development for the current academic year.||Mandatory reading|