Outstanding Governance Awards 2021 


NGA’s biennial awards are the only national education awards to recognise the contribution of governors and trustees, clerks and lead governance professionals. They provide an opportunity to share the best practice in school and trust governance and demonstrate the positive contribution that good governance makes to the school system and the education of children and young people.

The 2021 awards formed part of NGA’s Visible Governance in Schools Campaign which seeks to increase awareness and understanding of the role of governance in the school system through a year of action which celebrates the power of governance, the people that volunteer for the role and the value that good governance brings to the school system.

23 governing boards and governance professionals were recognised for their exceptional practice and impact on children and young people at the awards ceremony on 9 September at the House of Commons.

Outstanding clerk to a governing board

Our first award celebrated the integral role of the professional clerk to a governing board. The category was judged by Mandy Parsons Hampshire County Council and co-chair of NCOGS and Charlotte Harding NGA’s co-Head of National Leaders of Governance Support. 

Winning the outstandingSarah Steven with Baroness Berridge clerk to a governing board award was Sarah Steven of The Galaxy Trust (Kent), having transformed governance at the trust. The trust CEO praised her diligence, efficiency and above all “unwavering dedication to the pupils and staff”.

Photo: Sarah Steven with Baroness Berridge.

For her outstanding practice and considerable expertise in clerking both the maintained and academy sector, Lesley Hardwick, from The Education People Clerking Service (Kent) received a highly commended award. Kate Williams for service to SMART trust (Cornwall), and Beth Yap for service to Frontier Learning trust (London) were both recognised as finalists in this category.

Outstanding lead governance professional

This year NGA have introduced a new award to recognise the growing role of those responsible for leading and managing clerking teams and governance support. Judging the category were Peter Swabey, Policy and Research Director, The Chartered Governance Institute and Amy Wright, NGA’s Clerking Development Manager.

Our winner of the new award was Carina Sawyer for service to Magna Learning Partnership (Wiltshire). Showing exceptional professionalism and knowledge of governance, she has achieved outstanding clerking through training and developing a clerking team and worked with people across the trust to build a governance structure fit for the trust’s future.

Photo: Carina Sawyer with Baroness berridge

Recognised for how she lives and breaths the values of her trust, and ensures they are embedded within all schools through their governing bodies, Becky Poynter from Unity School Partnership (East of England and East London) received a highly commended award.  Karen Froggatt, for service to Wellspring Academy Trust (Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) and Ann Adams, for Support Services for Education were both recognised as finalists.

Outstanding vision and strategy

Two boards were announced as winners for their inspiring vision and strategic direction by NGA judges Emma Knights, Chief Executive and Paul Aber, Head of Training Development.

Learn Academies Trust (Leicestershire) was recognised as our first winner of the outstanding vision and strategy award. Judge Emma Knights, chief executive of NGA said the trust’s vision “resulted in a focus on pupils flowing throughout the organisation with people at all levels being clear on their role in achieving the vision”. Judges were impressed with how the board “works to preserve the unique character of each school” as well as how “providing rich learning experiences and having unconditional positive regard for all pupils” is achieving the board’s ambition for more pupils to reach age-related standards or above. Photo (L): Learn Academies Trust. 

The second winner of the outstanding vision and strategy award was Riccall Community Primary School in North Yorkshire. Judges were impressed with the “innovative and outward-looking approach” taken by the board in embedding their new vision for 2021. The board learned from local schools, worked collaboratively with the leadership team and found ways to engage even the youngest pupils in the process.   Photo (R): Riccall Community Primary School with Baroness Berridge 

Nicolas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust (Teeside and North Yorkshire) and Wellspring Academy Trust (Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) were both recognised as finalists.

Outstanding governance in a single school

Winning the outstanding governance in a single school award, the board of Cleeve School in Gloucestershire demonstrate what can be achieved with an engaged and effective board. Judges, Emma Balchin, NGA’s Director of Professional Development and Lynn Howard, NGA’s Chair of Trustees praised how the board places inclusion at the heart of improvement from deep dives into pupil attendance and exclusions to ensuring school trips and educational experiences are accessible to all. Photo (L): Cleeve School with Baroness Berridge

Caroline Haslett Primary School (Milton Keynes) and Snaith Primary School (East Riding of Yorkshire) were both recognised as finalists in this category.

Excelling in its outward-looking strategy and child-centred approach, and contribution to its local community, Pathways Learning Centre (South Gloucestershire) received a highly commended award.

Outstanding governance in a multi academy trust

For the third time awards were presented for outstanding governance in a multi academy trust. Category judges were Sam Henson, NGA’s Director of Policy and Information and Clare Collins, NGA’s Head of Consultancy.

The first winner of the multi academy trust award was Anglian Learning in East of England. Judges felt that the trust stood out for being “driven by a strong moral purpose to provide the best educational outcomes and experiences for their pupils”. When taking on a smaller trust of five schools, the board balanced moral purpose with effective challenge, scrutiny and risk management in considering the proposals, ensuring plans were in place to manage the transition successfully. Photo (L): Anglian Learning 

STEP Academy Trust in South London and East Sussex was the second winner of the outstanding governance in a multi academy trust award. Judges were impressed by “the board’s ongoing reflection about the effectiveness of its practice” which had resulted in “an impressive record of school improvement”. The board’s development of trust-wide roadmap to becoming an anti-racist organisation, underlines STEP’s commitment to equality, social justice and how the board leads change across the trust.  Photo (R): STEP Academy Trust

Nexus Multi Academy Trust (Yorkshire), Northern Star Academies Trust (North and West Yorkshire) and Unity Schools Partnership (East of England and East London) were all recognised as finalists.

Outstanding governance in a federation

New for 2021, our outstanding governance in a federation winners demonstrate the benefits of having one governing board with responsibility for more than one maintained school and both boards had faced real challenges to which the strength of governance made a difference. This category was judged by NGA’s Chief Executive Emma Knights and Head of Advice Rani Kaur.

The first winner, the board of Castle Church of England Federation in Hertfordshire, has overseen a transformation for the staff and pupils in both their schools. Judges were impressed by “the professionalism, commitment and high-quality practice” shown by the board who “take bold decisions when needed to improve provision for pupils and ensure the federation’s sustainability. Photo (L): Castle Church of England Federation with Baroness Berridge. 

 The second winner was Islington Futures Federation (Islington). Emma Knights said “the board has a clear understanding of the priorities, characteristics and challenges of each school – and how to tailor their approach to achieve the best for all”. Taking on a significant decision to take on a school requiring improvement, and the judges recognised the consideration of the board in weighing up the difficulty of the school’s circumstances with the potential to benefit more pupils, and the measures put in place to improve it.  Photo (R): Islington Futures Federation.

Download a copy of the awards programme 

Baroness Berridge, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, speaking before the awards were presented, said “I am honoured to have been asked to present these awards. They recognise both the excellent contributions that each of you are making and the importance of working together as a team. That collective endeavour ensures that children are receiving the best education possible, giving them the best start in life. Governance has never been more critical to the education of our nation’s young people. As the Minister responsible for governance, I see at first hand the impact of governors and governance professionals. You are driving relentless ambition for the young people served by our schools system, whatever the circumstances. I would like to convey my deepest gratitude to you today, and to the many thousands of governors, trustees, governance professionals and clerks across the country, for your work in schools and the way you have responded to the pandemic.  You have pulled together to deliver the best for our children and young people.”

Emma Knights, chief executive of NGA said “Congratulations to our winners and finalists on their achievement. The commitment and contribution of those governing our schools and trusts is often overlooked, their hard work usually carried out behind closed doors. NGA’s Outstanding Governance Awards offer an opportunity to celebrate the very best in school and trust governance practice. Sharing these stories of excellence and best practice are vital to avoid the sector just talking about governance when things go wrong; they help underline that governance truly contributes to the success and sustainability of our schools and the educational achievement and wellbeing of children and young people.”

Search for #NGAawards on Twitter to see live coverage and reaction from the awards.

Our sponsors for the outstanding governance in a multi academy trust award and awards ceremony is Forum Strategy. 

Our media partner for the awards is Schools Week.

These awards are for governing boards or individual clerks or governance professionals. If you wish to recognise individual governors or trustees consider nominating them for a national honours. You can find information on the process and how NGA can help here.

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