School Governance Update

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School Governance Update

School Governance Update

A quick look at the updated DfE Governance Guidance

Earlier this year, the DfE published its updated Governance Handbook for academies, MATs and maintained schools. The Governance Handbook last underwent review in November 2015 and the latest update is certainly noticeable (both in terms of format and content).

To supplement the Governance Handbook, the DfE also produced the ‘Competency Framework for Governance’. The idea being that this should help governing boards to clearly identify the competencies it requires for effective governance.

Since many governors/trustees might not make it through all 150+ pages in both sets of guidance, we’ve set out some of the key points…

The Six Key Areas:

All governing boards should have a varied skill set in order to be able to meet the following requirements:

School governance table

Strategic Leadership

Whilst some functions can be delegated, the governing board cannot delegate overall accountability.


The financial policies of Academy Trusts should be transparent. If necessary, Academy Trusts should be prepared to allow executive pay, expenses and related party transactions to be open to public scrutiny.


  • All governors / trustees are required to have a DBS check.
  • Boards should provide information about all board members and governors via EduBase. Information should continue to be shared on the school or organisation’s website.


  • There should be a clear distinction between the members and trustees in an academy trust. Academy trust members should be “eyes on and hands off” and should not overstep their powers or undermine the board’s powers.
  • A MAT is a single legal entity and there should be no “lead school” when making governance decisions. The MAT board is equally accountable for all academies within the trust.


  • An individual on the board should take leadership responsibility for safeguarding and the ‘Prevent’ duty (although, as above, the whole board remains accountable).
  • Boards should ensure that their child protection policy outlines the process for dealing with issues relating to sexting and allegations of child abuse (by both peers and staff).


  • Boards should regularly evaluate their own effectiveness. The Governance Handbook provides links to key questions that a board should ask itself in carrying out its evaluation.
  • An objective external review should be considered before the board undertakes a significant change – such as academy or MAT conversion.
  • Boards should refer to the ‘Schools Causing Concern’ DfE guidance where schools and academies have been judged ‘inadequate’ or have been defined as ‘coasting’ schools.
  • Boards can access the support agencies and helplines identified within the Governance Handbook to address any identified skills gaps on the board.

For more information contact Laura Thompson.