Release date: 20/10/2020

Now in its eighth edition, The Chair’s Handbook – written by the National Governance Association and published today – is a valuable resource for new and future chairs alike. The Chair’s Handbook is updated every two years, and while the ‘art of chairing’ remains the same, the external environment in which it takes place changes as reflected in this updated version.

The Handbook emphasises the impact that the chair’s performance has on success at board level, drawing from research undertaken internationally in both private and public sectors. In this edition, updates and added emphasis is given to:

  • The three mindsets of governance: generative, strategic and fiduciary,
  • Managing the dynamics in the board room, and
  • How the chair builds trust with the board and school leaders.

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 handbook covers the five components of the role:

  • leading and developing the team of governors/trustees,
  • building the relationship with the headteacher/CEO and ensuring accountability,
  • leading school improvement,
  • leading the business of the governing board, including working with the clerk; and
  • ensuring a succession plan.

The handbook also includes practical tips for conducting the role well.

Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governance Association said: “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 of you who were appointed to chair your governing board this school year, whether for the first time or returning to a familiar role. In either case, our Chair’s Handbook is for you. We know that chairs are incredibly engaged, informed and reflective and I hope that The Chair’s Handbook will act as an important source to help you conduct the role well.”

The Chair’s Handbook is the core text of the Leading Governance chairs development programme funded by the Department for Education for chairs, vice chairs and future chairs registered by 31 March 2021.

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