CST Governance Leadership

CST Governance Leadership Programme (under licence to DfE).

Our Governance Leadership programme helps school trusts to improve the confidence and effectiveness of their trust board.  

Fully funded for eligible governance leaders, this programme is supported by the Department for Education, delivered by CST with specialist support from Stone King solicitors. It will provide you with the knowledge and tools to ensure your governance is effective, ethical and accountable.

What are the benefits?

The 12-month programme will build the capacity of governance leaders and their boards, built around a careful balance of personal and trust board development. The programme is facilitated by academy governance specialists and delivered through blended learning with online modules, masterclasses, a residential and one to one sessions with a mentor. Participants benefit from being part of a network of trustees and chairs of trust boards.

Our programme will meet and go beyond the requirement to develop the knowledge and skills in the Competency Framework for Governance. The face-to-face elements of our programme (notably the residential training event and masterclasses) will give an in-depth mastery of specific areas of competence where boards struggle most.

Who is it for?

We believe the proposition of governing a School Trust is fundamentally different from that of a maintained school. Our programme is designed primarily for trustees. We will accept applications from all of the following:

  • Chairs and Trustees of School Trusts
  • Chairs of Academy Committees or equivalent (considered on a case by case basis – we will consider the level of delegation to the academy committee and the number of chairs who would be in attendance across the trust).

4 cohorts

CST are running 4 cohorts throughout 2020/21.  Each cohort is based in a different area of the country.

North of England, Lancashire & West Yorkshire area
Residential Friday 5 & Saturday 6 February 2021

South East England area
Residential Friday 12 & Saturday 13 March 2021

South West England area
Residential Friday 23 & Saturday 24 April 2021

London and South-Central England area
Residential Friday 11 & Saturday 12 June 2021


The curriculum will be delivered through eight core modules, complemented by masterclasses and bespoke support. The core topics in the eight modules are:

The core topics are:

  1. Strategic leadership
  2. Setting direction, managing change and working collaboratively.
  3. Governance structures, roles and responsibility.
  4. Building an effective team.
  5. Board evaluation and effectiveness.
  6. Financial performance and accountability.
  7. Managing compliance, risk and reputation.
  8. Ensuring data-driven accountability and
    educational improvement.

Alongside the core curriculum, participants will also be invited to attend two optional masterclasses on a range of topics.


Beginning with fortnightly video calls with chairs and trustees from other school trusts and monthly support from mentors, participants will undertake an initial board assessment against the Competency Framework for Governance and the Nolan Principles of public life.
The CEO and at least one other trustee will also be asked to undertake the board assessment to
triangulate results based on the assessment feedback. Support from your dedicated governance expert mentor will be given to develop an action plan for improving your board’s effectiveness.

The residential, towards the end of the programme will be a celebration of your progress, with networking, further learning opportunities and practice sharing.


Participants must attend a two-day residential which will include opportunities to network, share practice and issues with peers and relevant content.


Focus on ethical leadership

We have a commitment to ensuring that at the heart of strong school leadership is the drive to ensure better outcomes for the students we serve.

Flexible learning approach

We understand that although committed to having impact in role it is unlikely that participants’ governance duties are their only professional commitment. We have therefore designed the programme so that our eight core modules will be delivered via an online training platform, allowing participants flexibility in how they tailor the programme.

A governance mentor

All participants will have a dedicated, experienced governance mentor who will continue to review the progress of the action plan across 12 months of the programme. Our governance mentors all have extensive experience of governance leadership in all sizes of School Trusts.

Focus on joined up-leadership

The programme focuses on ensuring that the goals of the organisation are realised by boards and executive leaders working together.

Access to our networks

Participants gain access to the network via our private Facebook page, allowing them to discuss best practice and share resources with other trustees.

Bespoke programme

By starting with an assessment and creating a tailored action plan we ensure that participants’ needs are being met by the programme curriculum. The bespoke support we offer in addition to the core modules and masterclasses is designed to ensure that they are able to effectively deliver their action plan.

Personal development

Participants will develop many transferable skills, including building effective teams, data management and strategic planning.


This programme, worth £2,000 is free for:

  • Governance Leaders of school trusts or federations governing two or more schools.
  • ‘Empty’ School Trusts waiting to take on schools.
  • Single schools in an Opportunity Area and rated ‘requires improvement’.

For those eligible for the full amount of DfE funding, you will also receive a voucher to purchase an additional masterclass place for yourself or another governance or executive leader in your trust.  School trusts are more then welcome to buy additional places at these masterclasses – please contact admin@cstuk.org.uk to find out more.

If you are the Chair of a LGB, you are eligible for £500 towards the cost of the programme. Your school trust will contribute £1,200.

Trusts may purchase additional places on the programme.

Only one fully funded place is available for each school trust or eligible school every 12 months.

Please see how some of our participants have shared their thoughts and how they have benefited from taking part in the programme.

Programme Testimonials here

Next Steps

Applications are now closed for our 2020/21 cohorts.  Once you are officially accepted onto a cohort and have had your funding arrangement agreed, you can begin your programme.

North of England, Lancashire & West Yorkshire area
Residential Friday 5 & Saturday 6 February 2021

South East England area
Residential Friday 12 & Saturday 13 March 2021

South West England area
Residential Friday 23 & Saturday 24 April 2021

London and South-Central England area
Residential Friday 11 & Saturday 12 June 2021