Academy Governance Conference 2018

Delivering excellence in an age of accountability


ICSA Academy Governance Conference 2018 took place on 5 October 2018 at Hallam Conference Centre.

At this event we discussed the increasingly important role of academy trusts in the education system and some of the key governance challenges faced by trust boards. As trusts grow in size and the stakes get higher, it is vital that the systems of oversight and decision-making within these organisations are fit for purpose.

Our delegates gained expert insights on effective leadership of multi-academy trusts (MATs), managing relationship between boards and local governing bodies, recruitment strategies for trustee boards and more. Our speakers also shared a practical resources and examples of best practice.


09.30 Registration, tea/coffee

Chair’s opening remarks

Katie Paxton-Doggett, Author and Independent Consultant


Opening Keynote

Leora Cruddas, CEO, FASNA


Building Trusts: MAT leadership and coherence of vision, strategy and operations

Effective leadership, teaching and governance are vital if schools wish to deliver continuous improvement at scale. Over 40 CEOs and the staff from 22 MATs were recently surveyed in the largest study of MAT Leadership to date. In this session we reveal how high-performing MATs operate and the choices their leaders make.

Katy Theobald, Associate Director Research and Evaluation, Ambition School Leadership

11.00 Networking tea and coffee break

MAT Governance case study

Here we will look at the challenges faced by a particular organisation and what action they have taken from a governance perspective to overcome them. Our speakers will offer insight into issues surrounding the creation and implementation of an effective delegated authority framework across the academies in their group.

Liz Dawson, Head of Governance, Ark

Anna Machin, Governance & Compliance Manager, Ark


Maintaining the relationship between boards and local governing bodies

Well-functioning LGBs are key to ensuring that strategy is delivered where it is most needed. Maintaining this working relationship and as well as balance of power between the board and LGB can be tricky. In this session we reaffirm the role of the LGB, review effective terms of delegation and how to overcome common problems.

Sam Henson, Head of Information, National Governance Association


Learning from the corporate sector: Is your board getting the right information?

Time and again, research has shown that the quality of board decisions is directly related to the quality of information boards receive. Too much, and the important stuff can be overlooked; too little, and decisions are made from a position of ignorance. We look at ICSA’s work with Board Intelligence on the issue and ask, what should be going into your board packs?

Esther Odida, Associate Director, Board Intelligence


Networking lunch


Effective financial oversight for boards

Recent communications from the government and the DfE indicate that they will be putting more pressure on academies to demonstrate robust financial probity and oversight. Academies will have to show that all public funds they receive are being spent furthering pupil education. In this session, we get a back to basics look at the fundamental principles that underpin financial assurance and oversight.

Hannah Catchpool, Partner, Head of Academies, RSM


Recruitment strategies for an effective trustee board 

It is generally accepted that diverse boards make better decisions and therefore should be better equipped to overcome challenges. However, many trustees continue to be recruited informally (I.e. through a network of friends and contacts) and as a result, there are significant issues for boards in the education/charity sector particularly around age and ethnic diversity. So, what can be done to improve the situation?

Kirsty Watt, Academy Ambassadors


Closing Keynote

In this closing session, we will reflect on the day and survey the emergent realities of multi-school leadership and multi-school governance 'on the ground' (and from the ground up). We will also explore the challenges and opportunities that appear to be emerging, especially for school-based Heads, Heads of School and school boards, in terms of of formal accountability and lines of reporting, and with regards to a plethora of other issues, including community connectedness,local autonomy and governor engagement and retention.

Tony Breslin, Director, Breslin Public Policy Limited


Final remarks and close of conference

*This is a draft programme and may be subject to change

Supporting Partners

Academy Ambassadors logo

The academy trust non-executive director role is profoundly rewarding: there is no more important social missin than improving the life chances of young people. The rapid growth in the number of academy trusts has generated exceptional demand from trusts for business leaders to join their board. Academy Ambassadors is a not-for-profit programme providing a free, bespoke service matching highcalibre individuals with multi-academy trusts looking to strengthen their board. Since 2013, over 900 business people from a wide range of sectors have been successfully introduced to trust boards.

For more information, please see, email or phone 0207 952 8556.

Governors for Schools are a charity dedicated to the recruitment and placement of school governors across England. We offer a free matching service for schools who have governing body vacancies and volunteers who are looking to find a governor position. Governing bodies are increasingly looking for individuals from professional backgrounds to bring a fresh pair of eyes to the running and development of schools, if you feel this could be you then please come and visit our stand.

For more information, please contact: and 020 7354 9805

Inspiring Governance connects volunteers who are interested in serving as governors and trustees with schools in England that need them. We provide free training for appointees and support for employers wanting to run programmes for their staff serving as governors. The free, online service is funded by the Department for Education. Its aim is to create the best environment for student achievement by increasing the number of volunteers serving as school governors and trustees, especially those with business-related skills and with diverse backgrounds.

For more information, please see, email or phone 0207 566 4880.

The National Governance Association (NGA) is an independent charity representing and supporting governors, trustees and clerks in maintained schools and academies in England. NGA’s goal is to improve the wellbeing of children and young people by increasing the effectiveness of governing boards and promoting high standards.It does this by providing information, advice, guidance, research, training and ensure the views of governors are represented at the national level.

NGA works closely with, and lobbies, UK government and educational bodies, and is the leading campaigning national membership organisation for school governors, trustees and clerks.

Launched in September 2014, Schools Week is a leading source for education news in the UK. It is the first to report on the news that matters, and will not hold back in providing its readers with investigative and in-depth news articles. Schools Week will ask the tough questions, find the debatable point, tell the difficult truth and always put schools first.

The newspaper is read by a highly influential and aspirational demographic from across the schools and education sector. From school head teachers to multi-academy trust executives, from school governors to school business managers and from public relation professionals to teachers; we are proud of the diverse readership that we have engaged in a short period. Schools Week is the sister newspaper to FE Week, which was launched in September 2011. Both newspapers are published by Lsect Ltd.

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