Governor vs Trustee vs Member?

Author : Al Kingsley @AlKingsley_edu

Its a fairly easy concept to start within a Local Authority School, you have two main teams working together, the SLT ( Senior Leadership team) who run the school operationally and the Governing body, who is responsible for the strategic planning of the school alongside the challenge and scrutiny of the operational activities.

When a school joins or becomes a MAT, there are three distinct roles within the governance structure that then need to exist :

Members – creating the strategic focus and direction for the trust, assessing the effectiveness of the Trust board.

Trustees / Directors – responsible for ensuring the strategic plans for the trust are carried out and typically responsible for oversight of the trust finances and HR ( all schools employees work for the trust).

Governors / Local Board – Just like in an LA school, the governors in a MAT focus on a specific school, have less involvement in finance and hR and therefore have a greater focus on local school standards, activities, community engagement etc.


Members of a MAT ( normally between 3 & 5 people with 5 being the recommended number) –  The members’ role is discrete and distinct; they are tasked with assessing if the board of trustees is performing well and, as such, are ensuring that the purpose of the trust is being met, and its charitable object is being fulfilled. The Members are the guardians of the Trust’s constitution, determining the governance structure of the Trust and providing oversight and challenge of the Trustees to ensure all obligations of the Trust are being fulfilled.

Read more here from the NGA

Trustees / Director  ( typically between 8 – 12 people). – Trustees of an academy trust are both trustees of the charity ( a MAT is a registered Charity)  and directors of the MAT and are responsible for controlling the administration and management of the organisation. They are known collectively as the trustee board. They are responsible for the performance of the trust, will offer support, constructive advice, a sounding board for ideas, a second opinion on proposals and help where needed, but will also challenge, ask questions, seek information, improve proposals and so seek to arrive at the best outcome for the Trust on key decisions.

As Trustees of a charity (the Trust), the Trustees have a fiduciary duty to act in good faith in the best interests of the Trust. This duty includes a responsibility to ensure compliance with any legal and financial obligations.

Governors ( size based on skills needed but typically 10-12) – within a MAT structure, governors take a more focused role without ultimate responsibility for the broader financial landscape of the trust. Fundamentally the role of the local governor is to ensure the school’s vision, ethos and strategic direction are upheld. Most importantly, they hold the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils, and the performance management of staff, with a view to always looking to raise standards and outcomes.

At a local level, they make sure the schools local budget is well spent ( best value), assist in the appointing and dismissing of staff, attend appeals and grievances, support setting standards for pupils’ behaviour and discipline, ensure support for disadvantaged children is in place, make sure the school buildings are both welcoming and also, as a key requirement, Safe and are always monitoring the school’s aims and policies.

Knowing who does what
The specific roles of each layer of the trust alongside the Trust leadership, heads of schools and SLT are broken down in a “Scheme of Delegation” that outlines who has responsibility and oversight for each aspect of the trust’s responsibilities.

These have to be published on the trust’s website but can vary significantly in layout and structure. Here and a few examples are here :

Ormiston Academies Trust
Hampton Academies Trust
Lime Trust

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