The Role of Trustees in Multi-Academy and Single-Academy Trusts

Trustees have an important role in single-academy trusts and multi-academy trusts (MATs). As their title suggests, trustees are a pillar of trust, helping guide the leadership team of an institution to academic excellence and business success.

the role of a trustee

What Is the Difference Between The Role of Governors and Trustees?

Trustees and governors are usually talked about in the same breath. However, the roles of a governor and trustee are, in fact, different. Both represent challenging and rewarding positions that are great routes to progress a vocational leadership career. 

Generally speaking, trustees have a lot more pressure and responsibility since they govern in academy settings — including specific financial and legal duties. Governors, on the other hand, are responsible for singular schools. 

The concept of both a governor and trustee role is the same — to oversee an educational institution — explaining why they’re often talked about interchangeably. Below, we go into each role in more detail.



Despite its relation to the greater trustee role, being a governor is a big commitment that carries a unique responsibility in school settings. Governors help a school run effectively, assisting school leadership in shaping vision, advancing digital strategy and overseeing financial performance. 

It’s a general role but one that covers a lot of ground. As such, it’s one of the most superior roles of a school. It asks you to be impartial, work with a governing board and understand an individual institution's needs.



Trustees in single-academy and multi-academy trusts do similar things but on a larger scale. They’re responsible for the academy or multiple academies overseeing the trust's charitable objectives and the trust structure. 

As with the role of a company director, trustees can appoint other trustees. Since trusts have the legal status of a company, trustees technically need to act as a charity trustee and a director, giving trustees a two-for-one. Trustees have more personal liability than governors and take on all the usual duties of an employer.


What Does a Trustee Do? List of Responsibilities

Naturally, there’s a long list of responsibilities trustees must carry out, many of which don’t cross over into the school governor role. These include:

  • Making admissions arrangements, including setting a school’s oversubscription criteria
  • Overseeing financial performance, including the submission of annual accounts and returns to Companies House and the Education Funding Agency
  • Setting the strategic direction of the trust and overseeing its implementation, keeping senior leadership accountable for maintaining a trust’s vision and power structure
  • Ensuring a trust is compliant with its charitable objectives, as well as company law that covers all aspects of employment law
  • All governance competencies outlined in the Competency Framework for Governance, including educational improvement, data analysis and performance management
  • All trustee responsibilities for trustees in England and Wales, including reducing risk, creating public benefit and ‘acting with reasonable skill and care’
  • All the general duties of a UK company director, including using independent judgement, avoiding conflict of interest and protecting company property

Remember, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Being an academy trustee is a multi-faceted role, calling for you to have a hand in HR, finance, legal, marketing and operations. The above gives you an overview of what a trustee can expect to be responsible for, including governance, trustee and director duties.


Becoming a Trustee: What Does It Take? 

Despite their differences, becoming a trustee and a school governor isn’t dissimilar. On paper, anyone can become a trustee — or a governor — with no official requirements for the role. 

However, it’s clear trustees will need to have a good understanding of education, as well as analytical, leadership and financial skills to succeed in the role. 

A board of trustees can actually benefit from a diverse skill set with leaders who are specialists in various areas. So, there’s no one way to become a trustee. However, it’s essential to understand what the job entails, including the enormous personal liability attached to the role. 

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