Carter: MAT boards must challenge ‘maverick’ CEOs

Sir David Carter says the Nolan principles should be attached to the inside cover of every MAT board paper

Helen Ward

sir david carter, david carter, carter, national schools commissioner, NSS, RSCs, RCS, regional schools commissioner, resign, retire, step down, leave, exit, quit, DfE, department for education, academies, academy, free schools, free school

Multi-academy trust boards must challenge "cavalier, maverick, intensely dynamic" leaders, national schools commissioner Sir David Carter has urged.

Sir David also told delegates at the Bryanston education summit that the inside cover of every MAT board paper should set out the "Nolan principles" – ethical standards for those holding public office.

His comments follow concerns about governance standards and conflicts of interest by board members at academy chains.

Sir David said: “When I work with multi-academy trusts that are going wrong or have gone wrong and you try to look at what happened, it comes back to governance time and time again.”

He provided several examples of weak governance, based on his own observations, including:

  • Having no educational expertise on the board was a risk. While having a broad professional skillset was an advantage, having only people with corporate backgrounds could be a problem. In such a case, there is a risk that a “cavalier, maverick, intensely dynamic CEO” will win most educational arguments unless someone on the board can challenge them, Sir David said.
  • The CEO should be held to account by the board:  “On one occasion the CEO was kind of holding the chair to account – that’s the wrong way around,” Sir David said.
  • Over-delegation can be a problem: “One board I observed, the standards committee basically said to the board ‘it’s fine, we’re on track,’ and the board said ‘thanks very much’. There was no sense of being scrutinised there.

And he added: “I would have on the inside cover of every board paper a MAT sends out the Nolan principles because they are the guiding light of public service.”

The seven principles of public life were set out by a committee chaired by Lord Nolan in 1994 – and have since been known as the Nolan principles. They are selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

The summit came soon after education secretary Damien Hinds said that he was looking into excessive pay in multi-academy trusts and announced measures to clampdown on related-party transactions – in which contracts are given to friends or family members.

There has also been concern about the secrecy around the workings of the academies system – in particular the headteacher boards that advise and challenge regional schools commissioners. The RSCs make the decisions on which schools become academies and who runs them.

And Sir David repeated his calls for as much information as possible to be published from the headteacher board meetings.

Sir David's comments contrast with those of Ofsted's former chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, who used his address at an education conference two years ago, while still in post, to say that England's education system is still “pretty ordinary” and needed more mavericks.

Tes was a partner of the Bryanston Education summit.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Latest stories

hoop IB humanitarian

Why teaching the IB helps address global issues

After landing his dream job working for the UN, this teacher decided to take his career to the classroom. Here he explains why working in an IB school allows him to continue making a difference
Brad Brasseur 12 Aug 2020

Coronavirus and schools: LIVE 12/8

A one-stop shop for teachers who want to know what impact the outbreak of the virus will have on their working lives
Tes Reporter 12 Aug 2020
Coronavirus schools

GCSE 2020: Autumn exam timetable

This year there will be an opportunity to resit GCSE exams in October. We have the key dates and essential information
Grainne Hallahan 12 Aug 2020
A-level exams

A level 2020: Autumn exam timetable

Students who are unhappy with their centre assessed A-level grades will be able to sit an examination in the Autumn. We have all the key dates and information
Grainne Hallahan 12 Aug 2020