According to a recent report from the Academies Commission, although the role of school governors in academies is becoming even more important, many governors who stayed in place in convertor academies are struggling to adapt to their expanded role.
This is particularly worrying in the light of a report last year from the National Audit Office (NAO), which said that academies were potentially ripe for fraud, inasmuch as head teachers and staff are given more control over budgets and governors often are not aware of their legal obligations.
The NAO added that the board of governors of academies have to be prepared to come up to speed with the requirements of an academy school now that they have no local government body to rely on and some have little or no business experience, which wasn’t an issue before but is now.
As governors of academies, individuals are potentially dealing with a multi-million pound business and must comply with company law as set out in the Companies Act 1985 and comply with legislation relating to the Academies Act 2010.
Of course, all academy schools must take out insurances against liability but if they are found to have acted wilfully or deceitfully and commit a crime, governors might be liable, as insurance has certain limits.
As today’s report says, the role of the governor needs “greater attention”, and it goes on to say that there needs to be a radical shift in governors’ capacity, knowledge and attitude if they are to take on both the leadership role expected in an “academised system” and if they are to fulfil their legal responsibilities. The role of governor should therefore be put out to tender, like any other service, according to the report.
As an accountant, Gill Freeman specialises within academy finances and charity tax.