About the Code

An Academy Trust is best placed to fulfil its legal requirements and achieve its aims and ambitions when it has effective governance. It is the aim of this Code to help Academy Trusts, their Directors and those involved in the Academy Trust or Local Committees to develop and maintain high standards of governance. The Academy Trust sector has a responsibility to its stakeholders and School communities to demonstrate exemplary leadership and governance. This Code is a practical tool to help Boards and individual Directors to achieve this.

The Code is voluntary and not a legal or regulatory requirement. It draws upon the Charity Governance Code and relevant DfE guidance. The Code sets the principles, indicates desired outcomes and gives guidance on implementation for effective governance. The Code does not however look to repeat the detailed requirements as specified in DfE publications such as the Academy Trust Handbook. The Code is intended to be a tool for continuous improvement in Academy Trust governance and it is hoped that all Academy Trusts will aspire to meet all aspects of the Code over time.

This Code recognises that governance practice can operate in different ways depending on a range of factors including the Academy Trust’s structure, geographical spread, number of Schools and sponsorship status.

Using the Code

As the Code is a tool to support continuous improvement, Boards that are using this Code effectively will regularly review their work by revisiting and reflecting on the Code’s principles.

Compliance with the law, regulatory requirements and the Academy Trust’s Funding Agreement are integral parts of effective governance in Academy Trusts. This Code does not attempt to set out all the legal, regulatory or contractual requirements that apply to Academy Trusts and their Directors.

The Code is based on a fundamental principle of Directors meeting their required legal and regulatory obligations. The Code applies to an Accounting Officer who is also a Director. The seven Code principles build on the assumption that the Academy Trust is compliant, and that Academy Trust governance already meets this ‘Fundamental Principle.’ Useful links to relevant documentation on statutory requirements and guidance to embed the Code’s principles and recommended practice can be found at the end of the Code.

The Code sets out principles, supported by guidance on implementation. The principles of the Code need to be aligned to the specific requirements for the Academy Trust as given in the Academy Trust’s Articles of Association, the Funding Agreement and the Scheme of Delegation.

Each principle in the Code has a brief description, a rationale, key outcomes and guidance on implementation.

It is important that Directors discuss the Code’s principles and consider the guidance on implementation to make well-considered decisions about how these should be applied in the context of the Academy Trust. It is anticipated that how an Academy Trust uses the Code will develop and mature as the Academy Trust’s governance itself develops. The guidance on implementation may not all be appropriate for an Academy Trust at certain stages of its development. However, using it as an exemplification of the practical application of the Code can inform practice at all stages of an Academy Trust’s development.

It would be good practice for an Academy Trust to explain the approach it takes to applying the principles of the Code, so it is transparent to anyone interested in its work. Academy Trusts that adopt the Code are encouraged to publish a brief statement in their annual report explaining their use of the Code. It is anticipated that this statement would be a short narrative, not a lengthy audit of policies and procedures.