In order for your school to operate effectively you need to start with the right skills on your Board. For example, when did you last undertake a skills audit of the Board? Do you have the right people to meet the school’s current and future challenges? How effective is the Board in meeting its objectives?
As best practice, you should take additional steps to implement or report on your Board’s effective processes or procedures. Consider the diversity of skills and profile of Governors on the Board to ensure that your Board is diverse and contains the skills you need. Consider using benchmarking tools based on market data, such as from sector surveys and reports, to inform and review Board structure.
Repositioning your Board structure in line with a tried and tested method, clearly evidenced in your annual report and delivered effectively by Governors downwards throughout the organisation, will give your school the best chance at succeeding in its goals. The Charity Governance Code, in line with the existing SORP, recommends a 'formal, rigorous and transparent procedure to appoint new trustees'.
Further to this there should be a rigorous review process that is disclosed within the annual report. Beyond having a Governor recruitment process, schools need to display their consideration towards Board reviews and skills audits, talent of the collective Board composition and an adherence to keeping the Board size between the recommended five and 12 Governors.
Should you set up a separate audit committee?
Schools must decide whether they set up separate committees to deal with audit, finance and risk issues or create combined committees for two or three of these areas.
Combined committees can deliver significant management and Governor time savings, while separate committees can provide greater independence from management and increased emphasis on risk and control. If you do decide that a separate audit committee is needed to manage risk in your school, this you should consider are:
What is the committee’s remit?
A clear Terms of Reference is needed to set out the committee’s overall purpose, responsibilities and authority.
What is the right number of people for the committee?
To meet the objectives set by the Board, audit committees must be the right size. When they are too large, committees run the risk of becoming inefficient. When they are too small, committees may find they are not quorate and lack the authority to make valid decisions, particularly if a member is unable to attend a meeting.
The right people
If an audit committee is to add value, it must comprise suitably qualified individuals. As with the wider Board, diversity of skill set is important. Expertise should span the core aspects of the committee’s duties: primarily finance, audit and risk. In some cases, membership may also need strategy, IT, compliance, fundraising and HR skills.
An effective chairperson
A strong chair understands the need to focus on the key risks facing the school and the need to keep committee members engaged.
For more information on setting up an effective audit committee please download a copy of Turning Lights Green – a best practice guide for audit committees.
For more information on how to adopt the Charity Governance Code at your school please read Decoding the Charity Governance Code.