London, 25 January 2021 – Baroness Berridge, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, has acknowledged the vital role that governance professionals play in academy trusts and confirmed that more widely promoting and supporting the role of the governance professional in trusts is at the top of the DfE’s priorities for this year.
Speaking earlier today at ICSA: The Chartered Governance Institute’s annual Academy Governance Summit, Baroness Berridge thanked delegates for their tireless efforts to ensure that children and young people in England continue to receive a world class education.
Talking about the power of collaboration and the importance of learning from the experiences of the past year, Baroness Berridge said that it would be important to build on the lessons learned to create a governance system that is fit for purpose and sustainable for the future.
Recognising that the impact of COVID on the education system has been truly unprecedented and that the impact would continue to be felt for the foreseeable future, Baroness Berridge acknowledged the dramatic increase in workload and the impact on wellbeing of having to make decisions in difficult circumstances sometimes under tight deadlines. She praised their response to the pandemic, saying that governance professionals have responded to the need to adapt to new technology, change ways of working and ensure that all board members have been able to continue to deliver on their strategic governance role.
She highlighted risk management and contingency planning as vital elements of good governance and acknowledged that trusts are working hard to ensure their accountability, to provide a sound basis for planning and to meet their responsibilities as set out in the Academies Financial Handbook and Academies Accounts Direction.
Sara Drake, Chief Executive of the Institute said:
“It was extremely gratifying to hear Baroness Berridge speak about the vital role that governance professionals are playing in the delivery of effective school and trust governance. Our members perform an essential role in helping boards to understand their functions and legal duties and, as highlighted by Baroness Berridge, they also support the chair to enable and facilitate strategic debate and decision making. To quote Baroness Berridge ‘when all those on the board have clear expectations of, and respect for, the role of the governance professional and when the chair has open and constructive communications with the governance professional this will enable everyone to work together to provide high-quality successful governance’.
“The Department’s commitment to raising the profile, support and development of this important function is most welcome, as is the support of the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) and Trust Governance Professionals, which partnered with the Institute on today’s conference. CST chief executive Leora Cruddas is a staunch supporter of the role of the governance professional believing that the traditional role of the clerk in education is no longer recognisable as the role of the governance professional in academy trusts. She recognises that the role calls for someone who can balance regulatory compliance with the educational purpose of the trust and considers that the governance professional plays a vital role acting as inhouse counsel.”
Baroness Berridge ended her speech by saying that strong governance, financial management and robust decision making are at the heart of developing an effective trust. She stressed that giving trusts the support and guidance needed to achieve this in these challenging times would continue to be one of the Department for Education’s main focuses.
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Notes to Editors: