External reviews of governance

NGA has extensive experience of carrying out external reviews of governance including for multi academy trusts.  We undertake reviews of:

  • Academy trust boards

We undertake reviews of all kinds of academy trusts and have reviewed the governance arrangements of both single academy trusts and multi academy trusts of all sizes – from those with just two schools to those with nearly 30 schools; we also have experience of carrying out reviews required by the ESFA and the RSC

  • Maintained school governing bodies

We have been carrying out these reviews since 2013 and continue to offer the service including to federations

  • Other organisations’ boards

NGA has used it wider knowledge of the principles of good governance when working with charitable trusts, as well as with international and independent school governing boards

Why commission a review?

Reviewing board effectiveness is good practice.  It is a standard recommendation for both corporate boards (see the UK Corporate Governance Code 2018 para 21), and for charitable trust boards (see the Charity Governance Code for larger charities, para 5.8.2).  There is also guidance for the education sector:

The DfE’s Governance Handbook (March 2019)

7.2.8 An objective independent external review of the effectiveness of the board can be a more powerful diagnostic tool than a self-evaluation. This is particularly important before the board undertakes any significant change – such as conversion to academy status or before a MAT grows significantly.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

The DfE’s Competency Framework for Governance (Jan 2017)    

6b It is essential for the board to reflect on its own effectiveness including the  effectiveness of its processes and structures. This will assist in building relationships  and improving accountability, and will enable the board to ensure that there is a clear distinction between strategic and operational leadership. It will also assist in setting  the tone and culture of the board.                                                                                                                                          

The ESFA’s Academies Financial Handbook (2019)    

1.20 New trusts producing audited accounts for the first time must include in their first governance statement what they have done to review and develop their governance structure and the composition of the board.                                                                                                                               

1.21 Subsequently, established trusts should include an annual assessment, including a review of the board’s composition in terms of skills, effectiveness, leadership and impact.

There are a range of circumstances when boards particularly benefit from taking the time to review their own effectiveness.  These include: 

  • When there is a new chair, or new trustees or governors, or new leadership of the trust or school                                   
  • When there is no previous history of board evaluation and so a starting point is required                                                     
  • When there are specific issues, for example with standards, financial management, complaints                                      
  • When Ofsted, or some other body such as the Education and Skills Funding Agency, or the regional schools commissioner, has required an external review

Whatever the reason, commissioning an external review should be seen as a positive step.  

For further information contact: consultancy@nga.org.u

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