Release date: 04/03/2016


The National Governors’ Association has launched a national campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of federating.

Do you know what a federation is? Many in schools don’t, and yet it is an important model for improving the education of pupils in local authority maintained schools. A federation is the coming together of two or more maintained schools under one governing body. It has the same advantages of being in a group of schools that a multi academy trust (MAT) has, without having to undergo the legal and business processes need to convert to academy status.  And yet it doesn’t close any doors – a federation governing body can decide to convert to become a MAT, hence our campaign name Federation First.

The National Governors’ Association has launched a national campaign to raise awareness amongst governors and school leaders about federating as an important way of ensuring the best education for pupils. The advantages centre round being able to make a wider offer to pupils - both curricula and extra curricula – as well as sharing good practice, benchmarking and innovating. Furthemore by sharing staff, schools are able to offer better opportunities for staff development; being able to retain good staff is increasingly important as recruiting teachers and school leaders is becoming increasingly difficult.

In an era of increasing school autonomy and declining local authority capacity, the need is greater than ever for schools to work collaboratively. There is a variety of ways schools can do this and Federation First aims to highlight one of these which is in danger of being overlooked.  The first act of this new campaign is to announce our Federations Champions: chairs and vice–chairs of federations who are happy to talk to other chairs whose governing bodies want to know more about the option of federation.

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors’ Association, said: “The government has said it wants all schools to convert to become academies by 2020 and many of these will become part of a MAT but the details of this plan are yet to be finalised. In most cases, school governing bodies still have autonomy over this decision and for many it is likely that the advantages of federation will be easier to achieve, at least in the first instance.  NGA doesn’t want the clamour about academisation to drown out the tried and tested advantages to pupils of federations.

 “You may be thinking federations are old hat, but I speak at governor events all over England, and often I am asked simply ‘what is a federation?’ They have not got the attention or promotion they deserve.”

“That’s why I’m delighted that NGA is launching Federation First today and I welcome our first nine Federation Champions who have volunteered their time to spread the message. We all want to hear from people who have actually gone before: not spin, not simply the theory, but direct and honest accounts of their experiences of becoming a federation, and how the education on offer in the schools improved.”

Ariana Yakas, Federation Champion, said: "It's good to be part of this campaign and to be a Federation Champion with the NGA. It is important that governors are aware that seeking partnerships and collaborating in the form of federations is an option that they can explore.  It is vital that they determine their own destiny before someone comes and does it to them!"

The Federation First campaign has had its first win just as it launches; just over a year ago NGA began to lobby for the constitution of federation governing bodies to be made more flexible, and last Friday the first step of that was achieved with the publication of amended regulations.

Katie Everett looks at the advantages and disadvantages of forming a federation

Over the next year, while the Federation Champions are out and about sharing their experiences, we’ll be:

  • raising awareness of federation as an important option for school improvement;
  • improving practice by encouraging governing bodies to think strategically about their school structure – both governance and leadership - and what would be most effective for pupil outcomes;
  • continuing to lobby for further flexibilities, so that federation governing bodies are not overly large in order to accommodate multiple headteachers sitting on the body which is holding them to account.

What we’re not doing is suggesting ‘federating first’ is the only route or the best option for all remaining maintained schools - that depends on a number of factors, including the size of the school and the local context.  It may be preferable for a school to join an existing local MAT or federation rather than find partner schools for a new federation.  But the choice should lie with local schools as to how and when they wish to work together and they need to have access to good information.

For more on the campaign, see the Federation First page.

We will shortly be publishing our myth–busters on federations – so if you have questions you want answering, then email NGA:


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