NGA celebrates creativity in governance


Photograph: Wadebridge Primary Academy 

The National Governors’ Association promotes the creative skills that volunteers can bring to the role of school governance and urges governing boards to put those skills to use.

We are delighted to announce that we have updated our widely used skills audit and matrix to include skills commonly found in the creative industries. The audit is the best way for governors and trustees to find out what skills, knowledge and experience is available to the governing board and to help plan training or recruitment. This essential resource is referred to in the Department for Education’s Governors’ Handbook.

Download the skills audit and matrix here

Our free skills audit is launched alongside detailed practical guidance for NGA members on recruiting volunteers to govern, including: who to look for, how to seek candidates, interviewing and references, exit interviews, succession planning and induction. If you are a member of NGA, click here to access the new guidance

Find out more about becoming a member of the NGA 

Improving the skills of governors and trustees has been at the centre of the last government’s agenda for improving governance in a more autonomous schools system, where governing boards have more responsibility and a key role to play in the oversight of schools. The Secretary of State for education, Nicky Morgan, less that a fortnight ago, spoke at NGA’s Summer Conference, saying: “We passionately believe that the best run schools are those with the highly skilled governors who can both hold schools to account and direct their future path.”

Emma Knights, Chief executive of the National Governors’ Association, said: “The best governing boards bring together a team of committed people from different backgrounds with different knowledge and skills to improve the education of children and young people. The NGA skills audit has been improved with the advice of the RSA; and we encourage all governing boards to be proactive in recruiting to any gaps which it identifies. This is the first step in building a better board; we then need to ensure all volunteers are trained, and the culture is such that the skills and experiences that are brought to a governing table are used. 

“Governance not only has a strategic and compliance function, important as that is, but governing boards should also generate ideas.  The vision and strategic direction of the school needs to be creative; how we realise that vision requires creativity.  Let’s have the courage to step out of the shadow cast by Ofsted and encourage educators to innovate in the interests of pupils.”

Joe Hallgarten, Director of Creative Learning and Development at RSA, said:  “The RSA was very happy to collaborate with the NGA on their latest skills audit. By identifying and valuing the skills of governors, governing bodies are best able to tackle challenges and make a positive change in schools. This is why the RSA is particularly pleased to have worked with the NGA to identify three new creative skills for this audit. Learning from failure, identifying problems and assessing new initiatives are all important elements of the creative processes which underpin the disciplined innovation central to any excellent school. By valuing skills vital for research and experimentation a governing body can ensure that it is at the forefront of education practice and progress.”

Last year we donated our skills audit to the Inspiring Governors’ Alliance, which was set up in May 2014 to encourage more people to volunteer as governors and more governing bodies to actively recruit governors for their skills. We know the vast majority of governing boards carry out skills audits, but the report we published with the University of Bath for the launch of the Alliance showed that about half of those surveyed had not yet made much effort to find skilled recruits.  The guidance published today on recruiting volunteers highlights avenues for finding willing people, including the Inspiring the Future bank of volunteers.

At NGA we are proud of our record on encouraging debate about the dynamics of governing boards and support the RSA’s current campaign to change the education system so that it focuses more on equipping people with the power to create. Matthew Taylor, RSA’s Chief Executive, addressed NGA’s 2014 annual conference at which he spoke about how governors could use their power and make schools into a community resource. In a recent blog, which we re-blogged, Tom Gilliford, Project Engagement Manager at RSA, argued that governors should encourage educators to innovate.

Other relevant resources from NGA for equipping governing boards to be effective:

Welcome to Governance: the most popular induction resource for new governors and trustees. It is an introduction to the roles and responsibilities of being a governor, and covers both LA maintained schools and academies.

The Chair’s Handbook:  an essential guide for chairs and aspiring chairs of governing boards. As well as a basic introduction, it helps you look at how to develop your team of governors or trustees, how to work effectively with the headteacher and senior management team, lead the school toward improvement, and manage the strategic business of the board. 

Governor training:  The NGA’s Consultancy and Training Service was launched in 2013 in response to governors’ requests, and over the past two years our offer has expanded. We have built a team of governance experts with training expertise to support governors in all types of schools. We know all governing boards are different and whether you have new governors seeking induction training or are an established board looking to improve the way you set and monitor the strategy of your school, federation, academy, MAT or other school organisation, we will take the time to discuss your particular training needs.   We are a not-for-profit organisation and offer a reasonably priced service. To see a full range of courses, visit
External governance reviews: NGA also provide quality assured reviews of governance; the offer is flexible and range from a health-check to a full external review with follow-up to our recently devised peer reviews: Reviews-of-Governance

Coming soon in 2015:

Welcome to Trusteeship: a guide specifically aimed at those sitting on the trustee board of a multi-academy trust (MAT) for the first time.