What does it mean to be a Director for the Good Shepherd Trust?

Monday, 6th July 2020

Simon Hughes is a Director of the Trust and a Local Governor for Lorton School. Here Simon writes about what it means to join our Trust in this role.

I became a director for the Trust after Lorton School - where I was already a school governor - joined the Trust’s family of schools, as its first non-church school, just over three years ago. Since becoming a director, I’ve enjoyed working with a great bunch of new people, used my existing skills and experience to help reduce the admin burden on our school leaders, and have learned new things myself!

So, here are a few thoughts about what’s involved in being a director based on my experience so far.

What does the role involve?
Well, the simple answer is that the role of director (or trustee) for any Multi Academy Trust (MAT) is much the same as that of governor for a single school - but for a group of schools. Collectively, as a board of directors, we provide governance for our schools in 4 key areas:

  • Legal: We ensure that the Trust and its schools comply with all the relevant legislation
  • Strategy: We ensure our schools have a clear and coherent strategy that’s consistent with the Trust’s vision and aims
  • Finance: We also ensure that schools manage their finances effectively and prudently
  • Education: We hold the schools to account for their educational performance in terms of the progress of children over time.

Beyond that, we try to provide support and encouragement for our school leaders and central staff in the amazing job they do. For me, this is the most satisfying, fulfilling and important aspect of the role.

What’s expected of you?
Technically, directors for the Trust are both trustees of a charity and directors of a limited company, so we’re expected to ensure we meet our charitable aims, comply with company and charity law and follow the so-called Nolan principles of Public Life:

  • selflessness
  • integrity
  • objectivity
  • accountability
  • openness
  • honesty
  • and leadership

in all we do for the Trust.

In practice, that’s not as scary as it first sounds - it just means we should act diligently, prudently and in good faith!

The basic time commitment needed from directors is for 6 board meetings per year and 3 committee meetings, along with time to prepare for the meetings and carry out any actions we agree at these meetings. Beyond that, as always, the more time and energy you’re able to put in, the more you’ll get back in terms of enjoyment, fulfilment and personal development!

As a voluntary role, being a Trust director isn’t paid, though the Trust does offer to pay travel and other expenses in line with its policy. Also, like magistrates or members of a jury, directors have a right to reasonable time off work for their public duties, although this may be unpaid.

For myself, I’m self employed and enjoy a great deal of flexibility with my time. I chair the Business Development and Communication committee and continue as a local governor for Lorton School, as well as carrying out other voluntary work for the Trust beyond my role as a director.

What skills and experience are needed?
Each director brings a different set of knowledge, skills and experience to the Trust. Indeed, we keep an inventory of skills and experience of our directors to ensure we maintain a broad and balanced set of skills as a board.

In my own case, I have a background in engineering and computing, 15 years experience as a management consultant and a similar time as a school governor for both primary and secondary schools. Since becoming a director, I’ve applied these skills to help the Trust adopt technology and processes that have reduced the admin burden on our schools.

As chair of our Business Development and Communication committee, I’ve also helped ensure we have a clear strategy to grow the Trust and enable more schools to benefit from what we offer.

Beyond the specific knowledge, skills and experience each director brings, we all aim to bring an enquiring and open mind, the courage to challenge the status quo, a willingness to work collaboratively, self awareness of our own strengths and limitations, and creativity in problem solving and improving what we do.

What do you actually do?
We have four committees that each meet 3 times a year, each with a different focus:

  • Finance: Oversees the financial performance of our schools by reviewing school finances and preparing and monitoring progress against the Trust’s overall budget
  • Personnel: Monitors our compliance with HR policies, and manages the appointment of school leaders
  • School Improvement: Reviews school performance data and progress with school
    improvement activities
  • Business Development and Communication: Oversees our efforts to grow the Trust and to communicate with all out stakeholders

As directors, we are encouraged to contribute to the work of one or more of these committees, based on our skills and interests. This involves working with others on the chosen committee to develop the Trust’s strategy and goals in the area of focus for the committee concerned and then to support, encourage and monitor progress towards the achievement of those goals.

We are also encouraged to engage directly with our schools either as a link director for a school or by attending one or more of the various gatherings we have each year for school leaders, staff and local governors.

Finally, we meet once per term as a board, to review our strategy as a Trust and monitor progress against the objectives we’ve set for the Trust and our schools.

Why would anyone do it?
I’ve already mentioned the enjoyment, fulfilment and personal development that can be gained from serving as a director for the Trust, but I feel that the main benefit by far is the positive impact on personal well-being that can be gained from doing something really worthwhile, that enhances the life-chances of hundreds of young people.

I hope these few thoughts will encourage you to think about becoming a local governor for one of our schools or a director for the Trust as a whole.

To find out more, or to register your interest in joining our Board of Directors please Contact Us.

What does it mean to be a Director for the Good Shepherd Trust?