Release date: 28/07/2021

New research on school and trust governance published this week reveals that governing boards have adapted well to operating in the challenging context of the COVID-19 pandemic. It found that boards are committed to supporting schools to recover and re-engage pupils in learning but need to remain highly responsive to the ever-changing situation created by the pandemic.

Some of the lessons learned for governance include:

  • The relevance and significance of having well-considered, up-to-date policies and procedures such as risk assessments and continuity plans
  • The importance of having an effective governing board in place that fully understands the value of support and challenge and is considered fit-for-purpose
  • How virtual meetings have improved the level of communication with all governors/trustees
  • How virtual meetings have increased flexibility in terms of the timing of meetings and the content.

The research, commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) and conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), investigates how governing boards responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in in 2020 and 2021, drawing out implications for governance in the future. It comprised four virtual case studies conducted between December 2020 and January 2021 carried out at one maintained school, one single academy trust and two multi academy trusts and included interviews with chairs, governors, trustees, governance professionals and executive leaders in trusts and schools and observations of governing board meetings.

The research found that governing boards have adapted well to operating in the challenging context of the COVID-19 pandemic but the need to be highly responsive to the ever-changing situation has impacted on their ability to take a long-term strategic perspective. Supporting schools to recover and re-engage pupils in learning is the primary concern of many boards. The pandemic has highlighted some opportunities such as the potential of technology to support learning opportunities in future and has put the spotlight on some challenges such as school accountability, it concluded.

In addition, the research demonstrates that COVID-19 has provided a learning opportunity for governing boards including consideration of the role technology could play in governance practice in the future and how this could be of benefit moving forward.

For further detail, you can read the paper on the gov.uk site.

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