Principle 7: Openness and accountability

The Board leads the Academy Trust in being transparent and accountable. The Academy Trust is open in its work, unless there is good reason for it not to be.


The public’s confidence that an Academy Trust is delivering high-quality and safe educational experiences in meeting its charitable Objects is fundamental to its success, reputation and by extension the success of the Academy Trust sector. Making accountability real, through genuine and open two-way communication that celebrates success and demonstrates willingness to learn from mistakes, helps to build trust and confidence, and earns and maintains legitimacy.

Key outcomes

7.1 The Academy Trust’s work and impact are appreciated by all its stakeholders, partners and the wider School community.

7.2 The Board ensures that the Academy Trust’s performance and interaction with its stakeholders are guided by the values, ethics and culture determined by the Board. Directors make sure that the Academy Trust collaborates with stakeholders and partners, to promote sound ethical conduct[1].

7.3 The Board recognises its responsibility for building public trust and confidence in its work.

7.4 The Board is seen to have legitimacy in representing its Pupils, parents and carers, staff and wider communities.

7.5 The Board works collaboratively to ensure governance is robust, effective and proportionate.

7.6 The Board is transparent about the Academy Trust’s governance arrangements, publishing details in an accessible format on the Academy Trust’s website.

Recommended practice

7.7 Communicating and consulting effectively with stakeholders

a. The Board identifies the key stakeholders with an interest in the Academy Trust’s work. These will include Pupils, parents and carers, staff and local communities. Voluntary Academies will also have a strong relationship with their Foundation.

b. The Board makes sure that there is a strategy for regular and effective communication with these stakeholders about the Academy Trust’s charitable Objects, values, work and achievements, including information that informs them of the Academy Trust’s success in achieving its charitable Objects.

c. As part of this strategy, the Board considers how best to communicate the Academy Trust’s governance structure including those functions delegated to others such as Local Committees or the Executive Leadership Team. The Academy Trust’s communications indicate who the Directors are and the decisions they make. The Board provides public disclosures on its and the Academy Trust’s performance in line with company law and the Department for Education’s statutory guidance.

d. The Board ensures that stakeholders have an opportunity to raise matters with the Board through agreed processes and routes, for example through surveys or direct communication. The Board arranges for the publication of key information on the Academy Trust’s website as required by legislation and the Academy Trust Handbook.

e. When appropriate, and not impacted by confidentiality issues, the Board makes sure there is suitable engagement with stakeholders about significant changes to the Academy Trust’s policies or strategic plans.

7.8 Developing a culture of openness within the Academy Trust

a. The Board gets regular reports on complaints and the positive and negative feedback received by the Academy Trust, both for the Academy Trust as a whole and for individual Schools. The Board can demonstrate that it learns from mistakes and errors and uses this learning to improve performance and internal decision making.

b. The Board makes sure that there is a transparent, well-publicised, effective and timely process for making and managing a complaint and that any complaint is handled constructively, impartially and effectively (and in compliance with the Academy Trust’s legal obligations).

c. The Board keeps a register of interests for Directors, Members, those on Local Committees, the Executive Leadership Team and agrees an approach for how these are communicated publicly in line with the Department for Education’s statutory guidance and Principle 3.

7.9 Member engagement

a. The Board ensures that it understands the role of the Members and provides Members with relevant information about the Academy Trust’s work so that Members can exercise their legal functions.

b. The Board values and has due regard to Members’ views.

[1] Directors in Voluntary Academy Trusts make sure the Trust collaborates with its Foundation which will often have a role in determining the values, ethics and culture of the Academy Trust.