What’s the best way to organise governance in a large multi-academy trust?

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The Governance team at Ark Academies.

Ark Academies runs a network of 37 schools in the UK. Its admin team uses GovernorHub to support and communicate with governors and trustees and store documents. As well as a MAT Board page, each local governing board also has its own GovernorHub page with a shared calendar, noticeboard and secure document storage.

We’ve been speaking to Katie Bird from the Ark Governance Team about how using GovernorHub has made life easier for the MAT.

Before GovernorHub, what were you doing to manage and organise governance within the MAT?

For our records within the team, we used another system to store details of governors and the Local Governing Bodies.  Schools were set up with their addresses and then an LGB was assigned to the school. Governors contact details and DBS details were stored here. 

It was a very clunky system and it wasn’t very intuitive. You would have to go in and out of something to change things. It wasn’t user-friendly and it wasn’t somewhere we could also store papers, we used Sharepoint for that. The combination wasn’t a good system, and it wasn’t working well for us.

How did you find out about GovernorHub and what made you sign up?

My manager Liz, the Head of Governance, was new to the position in September 2018 and she’d heard positive things about GovernorHub. Also, one of our new schools at the time already used GovernorHub. I was clerking for them so started to use it. Essentially it was a combination of my positive feedback and the fact that Liz already knew about it. It was then discussed with the rest of the team and we decided to go ahead.

Alex from the GovernorHub team came down and gave us a demo and explained exactly what we could get from GovernorHub for the MAT and he obviously did a good job as we went for it!

How does it work for the MAT?

It works really well. It’s great that we’ve got a place we can store papers that governors have access to. Previously we would email out our papers a week in advance of the meeting but now there is one place they go to for all the minutes and they can find all of the papers from previous meetings and they really appreciate that. It’s easy for them.

Trying to get governors to complete their declarations of interest and confirm they’ve read Keeping Children Safe in Education on GovernorHub has been slightly challenging. However, being able to remind governors through the noticeboard and shared resources on GovernorHub is really useful. We did not have an easy way of doing that before – in fact there was no way. Little things like that that you didn’t even know you’d appreciate that you can do, really help. The feedback from trustees and members has only been positive.

Do the members also use the help desk?

Yes – there are lots of things we’re still learning but what I love is the fact that there is always someone on hand to help you with those little questions. I’ve had a lot of questions over the past few months and there’s always someone there to help.

Do you think it improves governance?

Definitely. I think it makes people feel more unified and together – we’re one group of schools but we do have our individual bodies of governors, and we are all using the same system. In addition, governors can see who else is on their board and what link roles they have.

If prior to GovernorHub you were emailing governors and things went wrong and people didn’t receive their papers – I guess you then become a help desk yourselves which distracts you from the role?

Yes exactly. With GovernorHub, the papers are there on the system and people can access them as and when they want to. They can download them if they want to or access them online. Sometimes if you go to write an email, you can get distracted. Uploading documents to Governorhub is a 2 second job and then you know everyone’s got access to them

Do you know if governors are using GovernorHub in meetings? Are people coming with tablets and going paper-free?

Ark are trying to go green where possible. Certainly in the last 18 months schools have been very conscious of trying to reduce the amount of paperwork. Before we started using GovernorHub, I’d turn up at a meeting for 12 governors and there would be 12 lots of packs printed out, each pack 100 pages long sometimes. Now most governors come along with their tablets or even with their phone having downloaded the Governorhub app.

It’s definitely reduced paperwork. I have some governors who would previously want hard copies of papers and who are maybe less confident with technology. They now come to meetings and view the papers on their phones. It’s great and shows how easy to use GovernorHub is

There is a slightly different structure on GovernorHub if you’re a MAT – it gives the Trust Board members on GovernorHub a chance to view all of the local governing boards. Has this been useful?

Yes in fact the Trust Board members have only just been added – that was just before Christmas. The instant feedback from the trustees was, ‘this is great, we’ve got access to all our papers’. The first impressions were brilliant.

Finally, would you recommend GovernorHub?

I would, yes. You would hear the same from everyone in our team. The feedback’s been really positive . I appreciate the fact there is an app and everything’s at my fingertips – it’s so convenient. I feel like it’s definitely made life easier.

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