New Governance Handbook and Competency Framework released today


The Department for Education (DfE) has today released a new version of the Governance Handbook, which is a guide to the roles and functions of those who govern schools in England. The Handbook also includes information about the various legal duties, as well as where governors, trustees and clerks may find support.



A new “Competency Framework for Governance” has also been published today. The Competency Framework was developed by an expert group led by Sir David Carter, the national schools commissioner. NGA members were consulted on a draft version of the Competency Framework during our round of autumn regional meetings in 2016.

Unpacked: The Governance Handbook 2017
Unpacked: The Competency Framework for Governance  

The Governance Handbook 2017: key changes  

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors’ Association, said: “We know most school governing boards across England are working hard and taking time to review their practice, develop their knowledge and make difficult decisions. Schools are dealing with a large amount of change at the moment.

“The two documents published today should not add to anyone’s workload. They do not add further responsibilities. Think of them as a different way of expressing what we already know, the aim being to help governing boards and clerks perform their role effectively.

"The Competency Framework for Governance needs to be used wisely. With nearly 200 competencies identified, it’s critical that governors and trustees understand that this document is not to be used as a checklist. Instead, we will be updating our model skills audit as soon as we can. It doesn't seem like a good use of time for thousands of governors and trustees to do that in isolation.

"For potential volunteers, there are better resources available to explain the role and the time needed. 

"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. 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. We are proud to be working with Education and Employers as a partner in Inspiring Governance to help governing boards do just that." 

In his introducation to the Handbook, Lord Nash, under secretary of state for schools, writes:  "Governing boards have a significant degree of autonomy in our increasingly school-led system. They are the vision setters and strategic decision makers for their schools. They play a vital role in ensuring the best possible education that takes every child as far as their talents allow.

"I want everyone involved in governance to be confident in tackling underperformance, challenging mediocrity, and setting the highest of expectations; refusing to accept second best for any child. I hope you find this handbook a valuable resource."

Lord Nash also said he hoped more schools would make use of the Inspiring Governance service, a DfE funded school governance recruitment website run by Education & Employers Taskforce. The National Governors’ Association is providing support for all new governors and trustees recruited through the site.

The structure of the Governance Handbook has been revised and is now based on “six features of effective governance”. These features were developed alongside the new Framework.

The Handbook is particularly useful for clerks, whom are the legal and procedural advisers to school governing boards. Governors and trustees rely on excellent advice from professional clerks. Clerks need to be familiar with the detail of the relevant legislation.

Unpacked: The Governance Handbook 2017 
Unpacked: The Competency Framework for Governance

The Governance Hanbook 2017: key changes  

NGA resources cited in the new Handbook include:

Welcome to Governance – an induction guide for both LA maintained schools and academies

Welcome to a Multi Academy Trust – an induction guide for new MAT Trustees

The Chair’s Handbook, a guide for chairs and aspiring chairs

Twenty-one Questions for Multi academy Trusts – Key questions a MAT board should ask itself published by NGA and the All Party Group on Education Governance and Leadership

Guidance on the crucial role of the chair, developed jointly with NGA and available on the NCTL website

Skills audit and matrix for boards, structured around the core functions of the board to help them identify skills and knowledge they need to deliver their functions effectively

A Framework for Governance, which provides guidance on how governing boards can evaluate their own practice, set the strategic direction for their school and monitor progress

NGA’s Model Code of Conduct, which helps boards draft their own code of conduct, one which sets out the purpose of the board and describes the appropriate relationship between individuals, the whole board and the leadership team of the school.

This page will be updated...