Governance Conference 2021

Marking our sixth annual governance conference: How will recent Ofsted changes impact on the world of governance for MATs?

The world of governance for MATs is always changing, and keeping on top of developments and policy changes is crucial. At our sixth annual governance conference, we considered the key governance issues, and how these issues continue to evolve and develop each year in our growing Trust community.

At Excalibur Academies Trust, we are proud to deliver an excellent education that empowers our students to thrive and grow within a caring, aspirational, and outward-looking culture.

Since the Trust was founded in 2012, we’ve grown from two schools in Marlborough, Wiltshire, to 14 schools across five different local authorities along the M4 corridor. We are committed to providing high-quality education to over 5,000 children between the ages 2 and 18.

With a strong track record of raising the achievement of disadvantaged pupils across the Trust, it is our mission to promote social mobility and personal fulfilment through the transformative power of education.

Our philosophy

As a Trust, our core philosophy is to ensure all of our academies are delivering outstanding teaching and learning. To support this, we have put many initiatives in place, some of which include:

  • Outstanding professional development and support to ensure consistent standards and approach across the Trust
  • Clear structured plans for all academies to provide clear support to ensure outstanding is reached by all

At the heart of everything we do are our commitments to raise educational standards, and to value and develop our people. We also understand the value and importance of working collaboratively to develop our processes for the benefit of our students and families.

As part of this, we have held a governance conference annually since 2015, to which all of our directors and governors are invited. Strong governance is crucial, not just at trust-level, but also for each of our schools. With that in mind, the aim of our conference is to promote development through the discussion of key governance issues, and how these issues evolve and develop each year in a growing Trust community.

Conference agenda

Our conference offers a wonderful opportunity for our directors and governors to keep up to date and hear first-hand from our CEO about what is happening across our Trust. The event was a fantastic success, and we appreciate our governors taking time out of their schedules to participate in these important discussions.

A particular highlight is the principals’ presentations. Each principal has two minutes to present a new idea or innovation in their school. Everyone gets to hear about the fantastic things that are happening in schools, enabling us to share best practice and advice across the Trust.

We also facilitated a number of breakout sessions to encourage healthy debate across our community. The questions we considered included:

  • Where do governors feel that they have the most impact at the moment?
  • Where have they made a difference to the school already?
  • How do they think the future should look, both within their school and the wider community?
  • Are there areas that they have not been involved in previously where they believe they could add value?

This year, Ofsted have published changes within their Inspection Handbook, which formed a major topic of discussion. During our conference, we dedicated plenty of time to reviewing these changes, and discussing what this meant for Excalibur, and for our schools as they prepare for their inspections.

Preparing for Ofsted

A significant change made to the Ofsted handbook is the recognition of the governance differences between multi-academy trusts and local authority-maintained schools.

It is now explicit that when visiting an academy school, an Ofsted inspector will expect to speak to a trustee, and will create their report to properly reflect the legal governance of an academy school.

This distinction raised the potential need to review the structure of our governance, and was a key point for discussion during the conference. Governors had the opportunity to review what this might mean for our schools’ governance structure, particularly in relation to Ofsted inspection.

The inspection handbook specifies that an Ofsted inspector will expect to meet those responsible for governance and in an academy school the board of trustees is the appointed governance body.

As inspectors will seek to establish who has responsibility for governance, the governance structure of our Trust must have absolute clarity. The role that governors and trustees play in the school’s performance is evaluated as part of the judgement on the effectiveness of leadership and management.

Conference feedback

Feedback from our previous conferences has taught us that the opportunity to network is a key benefit. Therefore, we allowed plenty of time to discuss the key governance issues for our Trust, and this facilitated a wealth of lively debate and differing viewpoints.

The conference was the starting point for a trust-wide review of governance, which is now underway, led by one of the directors and involving all the LGBs.

At Excalibur Academies Trust, we are continuously striving to create an exceptional group of forward-thinking schools with the young person at the heart of everything we do. Our Governance Conference is an excellent opportunity to share new innovations and ideas across our community, and we were delighted that so many of our governors were able to contribute. The insights and discussions on the day were very thought-provoking, and we are excited to see what comes next.

Nicky Edmondson, Chief Executive Officer at Excalibur Academies Trust

Through our governance conference and other strategies, we are committed to supporting our schools in raising standards across our Trust, and continuing to deliver exceptional education to all of our students. You can learn more about Excalibur Academies Trust and how we work here.

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