Academy trust governance guide

The role of a governor within an academy trust is an essential one, as the governing body shapes the ethos and ensures the running of the trust. Yet, the role of a governor is unpaid, often voluntary and those who undertake it need to be aware of their fiduciary duties to the trust.

To aid with this, the Department for Education published an academy trust governance guide in March 2024. This non-statutory document, replacing the 2019 governance handbook, is meant as a reference document for those involved in trust governance, providing essential information from a range of source on the trust’s board roles and legal responsibilities. It does not replace the funding agreement and Academy Trust Handbook, which detail the contractual requirements of the trust.

The guidance, available here on GOV.UK, should be used as a reference by all governors and senior leadership team of an academy trust.

What the guide covers

  • Legal requirements, the five pillars of academy trust quality, resources from third parties and definitions of terms
  • How boards create a culture that motivates and is ambitious for all
  • Trust governance, board expertise and building an effective team
  • Setting and implementing a clear strategy for the trust
  • Non-executive leadership structures, roles and support
  • How the board works with the executive leadership
  • How accountability and assurance help to deliver a trust’s strategy
  • Ensuring compliance with your legal and regulatory responsibilities
  • Statutory policies and documents you must have


The guidance is not solely for trustees of an academy trust. You should also find it beneficial if you are:

  • Trustees, executive leaders, local committee governors, governance professionals and academy trust members
  • Academy trusts including free schools and university technical colleges
  • Foundations, sponsors and others, such as diocesan authorities, with an interest in the governance of trusts
  • Organisations supporting boards to develop effective governance



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