Release date: 02/11/2018

Now in its seventh edition, The Chair’s Handbook – written by the National Governance Association and published today – is a valuable resource for current and new chairs alike. The role of the chair of a governing board in a state-funded school in England should be viewed in the same light as that of the chair of the board in any other sector, and this guide draws on practice from across a range of sectors to apply to governing boards of all schools and trusts, from the smallest to the biggest.

The role of the chair is demanding, complex and multifaceted. The chair leads the governing board and ensures it fulfils its functions well. A good chair will ensure the board’s focus is on the strategic. The chair is ‘first among equals’ but has no defined individual power. However, the culture of the board is largely determined by its chair, who should have significant influence on the conduct and effectiveness of the board. A good chair works well with school leaders to advise and shape proposals to be discussed at the board meetings.

The chair's relationship with the senior executive leader – whether a headteacher or in a multi academy trust the CEO – is absolutely key to ensuring healthy governance: a professional relationship built on mutual respect which provides support, challenge, ideas, and a sounding board for difficult situations or strategic direction while preparing papers for the board. 

Sections with significant updates in this new edition include those on ethical leadership, organisational culture, building the relationship with the senior executive, and the chair’s role with Ofsted. The handbook also includes tips for making the role of chair manageable, such as working well with the vice chair and the possibility of having co-chairs.

Contents of The Chair’s Handbook include:

  • leading governance in schools
  • becoming the chair and managing your time
  • leading and developing the team
  • the chair and the headteacher
  • leading school improvement
  • leading governing board business

Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governance Association, said “The role of the chair of a governing board is the unsung hero of school leadership. It takes significant time and great skill, navigating the line between discussing issues with the senior executive leader while fully respecting the role of the board as the decision maker; leading and developing the board so it is able to undertake its great responsibility; creating a healthy culture which permeates the whole school or trust. That is why I am honoured to offer chairs our newly updated handbook. There is no other resource available for this hugely important role. We don't want chairs of governing boards to be martyrs to the cause: the handbook includes tips on how to distribute leadership amongst the board which is essential to making this role sustainable and fulfilling. Having a good chair is one of the eight elements of effective governance, and the most important as a good chair will ensure the other seven elements are in place. Thank you to all those chairs of governing boards for what you do in the interests of pupils and I hope this handbook aids your work."

GOLD members of the NGA will receive an email explaining how to claim their free copy of The Chair’s Handbook. It is available to all other NGA members for £6 per copy and on general sale at £12 per copy. Participants of NGA’s Leading Governance for Chairs development programme will also receive a free copy of The Chair’s Handbook.

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