Choosing a CEO isn’t always easy

Choosing a CEO isn’t always easy

Formal collaboration with clear accountability. This is the Government’s pledge for successful Multi Academy Trusts (MATs). And I get it, in fact I agree. But holding back a large number of successful maintained schools from taking the plunge to become a MAT is the following question: who will be the CEO?

For strong schools taking over weaker schools, the answer is easy. The Head teacher from the lead school will become the CEO. The weaker school will have limited decision making powers and the CEO will carry out the role of senior executive of the Academy Trust and head of the Management Team. But what happens when a group of schools forming a MAT are all good or outstanding, the leadership is solid and quite frankly, the Head teachers are mates?

Whilst the DfE has previously commented that the appointment of a CEO will depend on the needs of the MAT, the Articles of Association now explicitly states that the Directors must appoint a CEO. Our recent experience is that the DfE will insist on naming a CEO as part of the establishment process. So who’s right for the job and what happens when they can’t decide? Some groups are rotating the CEO role on an annual basis but this nicey nicey approach only works until something goes wrong. The decision to appoint a CEO falls to the Board of Directors and knowing who the CEO is going to be in 18 months’ time is a dangerous approach to take.

I put it to a group of Heads that if they couldn’t agree a CEO amongst them, they should consider bringing someone in externally. The response? “We don’t need someone else telling us what to do and they won’t understand the schools like we do” were amongst the outcry! When looking at the role of a CEO, the group felt they could all play a part. Leadership developer, quality assurer, business developer, thinker and strategist. Should this ultimately fall to one person?

And so what is the solution for equal groups of schools coming together?  Is there always an obvious CEO or someone that wants the role but is reluctant to say so? Do MATs always need a CEO or can MATs achieve collaboration and accountability in other ways?