good governance in academies – it’s about people as well as process

The governance ‘revolution’ of the last 20 years continues unabated. The pressure on leaders of public bodies, and those charged with ensuring good governance, to avoid weaknesses and ensure high standards continues to build.

One of the benefits of an organisation like CIPFA is that we are in a unique position to scan the public sector horizon and we are able to identify some of the main governance issues and can offer help to Academies through a variety of support services.

Over the years, public bodies have responded well to demands for better governance. Public bodies are now demonstrating increased accountability, establishing the main governance policies and procedures, building effective Audit and Risk Committees, providing good quality training and development, and in some cases appointing very good and experienced personnel to lead the governance function. 

Despite this progress, why is it that we regularly witness spectacular and sometimes tragic cases of governance failure in public bodies? The Rotherham abuse scandal highlighted by the Jay Report in August 2014 and the break-up of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust last April are recent examples that highlight such failure.

In many cases of governance failure it is almost certain that all the relevant governance policies and procedures were in place. In Academies, having the right governance policies and procedures in place is important, but strong leadership by Governing Bodies and by School Principals is also needed to set the tone of the organisation and create the right culture and behaviour for others to follow. Strong management in Academies ensures that governance systems and processes work effectively and, most importantly, support the provision of high quality education. 

In our view, it is people working effectively together who will make governance of an Academy much stronger.