Guest Blog: Getting the right person for the CEO role

The world of MATs is a relatively new one, and therefore the role of the CEO is still evolving. On that basis, how can trustees ensure they have the right person for the job?

When looking to appoint a CEO the first question that trustees often ask themselves is: ‘Do we have a suitable internal candidate?’ More often than not the answer to that question is ‘Yes.’  However, if they do answer ‘Yes’, then immediately the next question really ought to be ‘How do we know that for sure?’

Unlike in the early days of the Academies programme, the majority of MATs are now borne out of an existing school/ groups of schools. The decision to academise and form a MAT is often driven by a Headteacher. Therefore, it can feel like the logical next step to appoint the person who has spearheaded the conversion process to the role of CEO of the MAT.

But let’s not forget – it’s the Trust Board that is the accountable body. Therefore, Trustees must have confidence in their CEO’s ability to effectively undertake the role to deliver against their vision.

It is widely accepted that with the current challenges in relation to recruitment and retention across the education sector, most schools or trusts are looking to “grow their own”. However, no matter how much a trust wishes to “grow” its own leaders, there is a strong view that, as far as is practicable, internal candidates should always be benchmarked. The reason for this is two-fold.

Firstly, benchmarking ensures that successful internal candidates have credibility: the person at the “top” of the organisation as gone through as robust and rigorous a process as anyone else in the organisation.

Secondly it ensures that the organisation as a whole does not become inward-looking: academisation may well be the right route for a school/ group of schools, but underpinning that decision there needs to be a clear rationale for taking the decision – and a rationale which can articulate how all stakeholders will benefit from the process. Sometimes individuals too close to a situation aren’t able to look up at the bigger picture.

Using the services of specialist educational search and selection organisation to support with the appointment of a CEO ensures that trustees have access to the widest pool of talent available, allowing for an effective benchmarking process to take place.

And if, after a rigorous process, the internal candidate is appointed well the trustees were right all along – they did have a suitable internal candidate, but now they know it for certain!

This blog was written by Helen Stevenson from Satis Education.