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Governing board evaluation

Eight elements of effective governance

Use the resources and advice featured on this page to ensure you are fulfilling the eight elements.


NGA believes that there are eight key elements to governing effectively in a school or trust. Use the resources and advice featured on this page to ensure you are fulfilling these elements.

The eight elements

The eight elements are also covered within NGA induction guides:

Welcome to Governance and
Governing a Multi Academy Trust.

Every governing board needs a blend of knowledge, skills, perspectives and backgrounds to govern effectively.
  • Having the right people around the table involves evaluating your board’s current and future needs and building an effective team.
  • Use our guide to getting the right people around the table to help your governing board attract new volunteers, run a successful recruitment process, create a diverse board, induct and retain volunteers.
  • Use our diversity indicators form to gather data on your board's membership and use this as a basis for discussion and action.
Governing boards help to ensure the wellbeing of the children and young people in our schools and enable them to achieve to the best of their ability.

All governing boards have three core functions:

1. ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction

2. holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the performance management of staff

3. overseeing the financial performance of the organisation and making sure its money is well spent

NGA recognises the following as the fourth core function of governance:

4. ensuring the voices of school stakeholders are heard

Refer to NGA role descriptions to gain a deeper understanding of governor/trustee responsibilities.

The chair leads the governing board with support from the vice chair, ensuring it fulfils its strategic functions.
Every governing board needs professional clerking services.
  • All governing boards are required to appoint a clerk, sometimes referred to as the governance professional or secretary. The clerk’s role includes providing advice - the clerk is there to assist and is one of the most important people the governing board works with.
  • Clerk/governance professional roles, requirements and pay vary according to governing structures and the context of the school/trust.
  • NGA has developed a career pathway for governance professionals which groups clerking and other roles according to three levels. The pathway is designed to support not only current and aspiring governance professionals, but also governing boards and employers in schools, trusts and service providers.

Explore NGA clerking resources.

Effective governors and trustees are good team members.
  • This means being willing to share the workload, being respectful of different personalities and perspectives (even when you disagree), and celebrating success together.
  • Our guide to effective teamwork explains why relationships between board members are so important and how to deal with conflict or tension should it arise.
  • A good working relationship between the governing board and the headteacher/CEO is also essential. This means being clear about what governing boards and school leaders should expect from each other, working together and being mutually supportive.
Understanding the school’s strengths and weaknesses informs the board’s strategic discussions and decisions about current priorities and the future.
  • Monitoring visits provide the governing board with essential information about how its strategy is being implemented and how issues discussed at board level translate into everyday school life. Visits also allow governors and trustees to make themselves visible to the school community and to experience the culture and ethos of the school/trust.
  • Governors should expect to carry out monitoring visits at least twice a year. You may carry out visits in the capacity of link governor/trustee.
Governors and trustees should be prepared to ask questions when carrying out their role.
  • Asking challenging questions helps governors and trustees to gain clarity and test assumptions. It is essential to setting strategic goals, monitoring progress and meeting wider governing board responsibilities.
  • As you gain experience and confidence, the type of questions you ask and the way you ask them will change.
  • Refer to our example questions to ask and if in doubt, keep in mind that every question you ask should centre around impact on pupils.
Governing boards are expected to discuss and challenge the information they are provided with. Governors and trustees should feel confident to have courageous conversations in the interests of children and young people.
  • Boards should expect to receive clear responses from school/trust leaders. Having the courage to ask a challenging question may reveal other board members who are in the same situation as you and an alternative angle that has not been considered.
  • The way in which we ask a question has an impact on the way that it is perceived and answered. Keep in mind that accountability is about analysing how things are working and what should be done collaboratively, rather than apportioning any blame.
  • View our bitesize e-learning module on how to conduct a courageous conversation.


Improve the quality, performance and impact of your board

NGA recommends that boards undertake an external review every three years (more frequently at times of change). A review by an experienced NGA governance consultant provides an independent and objective view of your board’s strengths, with clear recommendations and support to improve.

Find out more
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