Developments in Academy Governance

At the end of 2014, the Department for Education published a revised version of its model constitution for academy trust companies.

The revised version and DfE policies effect some material changes to academy trusts’ governance structures.

Schools considering conversion need to pay careful attention to these changes when constituting their membership and trustee/director boards in readiness for conversion and ensure they stay in-line with DfE requirements.


Existing Academies are at the moment not required to adopt the new constitution or implement the new principles. However, the changes should still be considered having regard to the DfE’s continuing ambition to promote governance efficiencies within Academies, and sponsors and existing trusts may like to view the changes in policy as an opportunity to review their existing structures and governing documents.

Independent members

The new articles of association contain a new restriction (at article 12A) to state that employees of an academy trust should not act as academy trust members.

The DfE has recently proposed that as a matter of good governance a Principal should not act as a member, to separate the Principal’s financial and vested interests in a trust from the wider interests of their school. The inclusion of article 12A formalises the proposal and extends the restriction to everyone who has a financial interest in the Academy.

Furthermore the DfE, to further promoting the principle of an independent membership, is also confirming to new Academies that it expects a number of a trust’s members not also to act as trustees/directors.


Previously, there have been no restrictions on the size of an academy trust’s board. It has been left to the converting school to ensure the board is of a size that meets its requirements.

While no changes have been made to restrict the number of governors in the DfE documents, the DfE is currently advising during the conversion process that it expects converting schools and new academy trusts to incorporate their entities with boards in the region of ten trustees/directors.

However, the converting school should always consider and be careful to ensure that the correct balance between external influence and internal representation is still maintained at trustee/director level.