Newly updated guidance produced by a collaboration of leading education sector organisations aims to improve the effectiveness of governance by developing mutually supportive and respectful working practices between those leading and those governing schools.

This is the fifth edition of the popular ‘What governing boards and school leaders should expect from each other’ guidance written and backed by the National Governance Association (NGA), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Institute of School Business Leaders (ISBL).

The guidance is divided into four key areas: the respective roles of governance and management, developing and supporting the governing board, effective ways of working, and understanding the organisation and engaging with stakeholders. The authors state that “it is the view of our organisations that all governing boards and school leaders should meet the expectations set out in this document; evidenced through the adoption of a code of conduct.”

Among the expectations, the document makes clear that whilst those governing must understand their role, remit and responsibilities within their specific context, executive leaders must have an understanding of governance including acknowledging the role of the school’s accountable body. This understanding could come as a direct result of the executive leader governing in a different school, an idea driven by NGA’s Educators on Board campaign. It also states that governors and trustees must have a commitment to asking challenging questions to hold school leaders to account, and executive leaders must be willing to provide information in the most appropriate way for the governing board to carry out its role.

Governing boards should regularly review the content, format and frequency of the information it requests from executive leaders to ensure it remains useful and effective, while remaining mindful of workload implications for school leaders and staff. There is also an increased emphasis on wider working relationships such as those between the board and the school business professional where the guidance states “it is important that governing boards both understand the specific remit of the school business professional’s role as it applies to their school or trust and how to best utilise the information and support that they can provide”.

In response to the new Ofsted education inspection framework, the guidance reinforces the importance of those who govern attending the final feedback meeting, and that a written note of this meeting should be taken and made available to all those responsible for governance at the school. This edition also refers to the Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, alongside the Nolan Principles of Public Life, as a resource to help school leaders take difficult decisions and support a culture in which ethical decision making can flourish.

Steve Edmonds, director of advice and guidance at the National Governance Association said: “Good governance needs to be ethical, effective and accountable; it is vital to improving education for children and young people. This guidance is a valuable resource to help governors, trustees and clerks to build those important relationships with the executive leaders they support and challenge. It explains relative roles and responsibilities in clear and simple terms and conveys the importance of establishing professional relationships and taking sound advice before making decisions.”

Julie McCulloch, Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools need the support and challenge of strong governing boards to help them thrive. This guidance is designed to make sure that the relationship between school leaders and governing boards is as effective as possible and we are sure it will be well received by our 19,000 members.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Governors and trustees play an absolutely vital role for schools, contributing enormously to a school’s effectiveness and to pupils’ success. The whole education system relies heavily on these volunteers, and their hard work and dedication must be recognised. This guide is designed to give both school leaders and governors a clear understanding of their separate roles and responsibilities, and to help them collaborate in the most effective and beneficial way possible. We welcome the inclusion of ISBL in the guidance development, and the increased emphasis on the wide range of school leadership roles.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils are ambitious to improve the life chances of all the children and young people in their communities and understand the key role that strong school leadership plays in improving their outcomes. The guidance is an invaluable tool for governors and senior school leaders which sets out best practice in building productive relationships to promote school improvement. I would recommend all schools to use it as a reference guide and support to building and sustaining effective school leadership."

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