Case study - Stuart Phillips volunteers as school governor at Northern Star Academies

Published: 24 May 2016

It’s probably worth clarifying up front that the role I was placed in is a Trustee of a Multiple Academy Trust (MAT), rather than a traditional school governor.  The role of the Trustee in a MAT does vary between trusts, depending on the objects and the schemes of delegation in place.  I have been more focussed on governance and finance at this point in the trust’s development.

What motivated you to become a school governor?

I was looking for a voluntary position in my local community where I could use the skills I had as a Chartered Accountant to improve “something”.  A wide brief!  I noticed an opportunity advertised on icaewvolunteers.com at a local school, applied, and started working with the Northern Star Academies Trust. 

The opportunity which arose was as a trustee of a soon-to-be-formed Multiple Academy Trust.  There were some really unique features of the trust and I found the leadership inspiring.  The chance to get onto the board for a Trust seeking to grow and improve education in further schools was too good to turn down!

What have you found to be most rewarding about being a school governor?

I feel like it’s early days for me as a trustee and indeed the trust in general but it’s a nice feeling to walk around the schools knowing that you have played a part in their successful operation and helped to ensure its development and improvement.

The expectations of governance in a Trust are set at a high level.  I like that I can use my skills and time to assist in meeting these responsibilities so that the schools leadership can achieve the best outcomes for students.

Academisation has been, and continues to be, a major change to the school system.  It’s great to be part of this and to try to ensure that it does deliver benefits to the education system of this county.

What are the main challenges that your governing body have faced?

The Northern Star Academies Trust only came into being in April 2015 so the initial focus is to ensure the trust grows and develops appropriately.  Identifying and integrating further schools which could join the MAT will be a key challenge in the short term.  One school has already joined and the implications will be different each time this happens.

The two founder schools were operating as separate academies previously but the Board is mindful to ensure that appropriate governance is in place as the trust grows and as the central services offered by the trust develop.

How have your existing skills and experiences helped you as a governor?

The  trust was looking for somebody with experience in finance and related risk management which are within my skill set.   I have been able to assist the board with matters such as the MAT finance manual and the risk register, for example.

I aim to bring the perspective of commercial business to the Trust, where is it appropriate, and use my broader network bring benefit to the trust.

How important do you think a governing body is to the success of a school?

The Trust board is essential to the success of the school.  They set the vision and strategic direction for the trust, then ensure this vision is met, within the financial and other resource constraint which exist.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of volunteering as a school governor?

Do it.  If not you then who? 

Complete the sentence “A school governor is …”

…essential to ensuring that every child gets the best education, and therefore the best life chance, possible.

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