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Governing board evaluation

Growing good governance

Exploring the legacy of the National Leaders of Governance (NLG) programme.

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This report is based on the analysis of external reviews of governance (ERG) reports completed as part of the second phase of the NLG programme. Together with NGA's wider sector intelligence, the findings shows us that school and trust governance is moving forwards, for the most part, in the right direction.

Research overview

This research analysed 209 reports from ERGs commissioned by the DfE's regional directors' offices, local authorities, and dioceses across England.

Each ERG report’s key messages were analysed thematically to identify common areas for improvement. While the initial study identified ten key themes, this second phase delves deeper, uncovering additional challenges and nuances.

Key findings

Holding leadership to account is identified in the report as a significant challenge for a majority of governing boards across all structures. This is a direct barrier to achieving good governance and was identified as problematic in 68% of ERGs.

The report also makes the following recommendations:

1. Prioritise strategic planning: Develop and implement comprehensive strategies that align with the school or trust’s vision, values, and long-term goals.

2. Strengthen governance structures: Boards should review and refine their governance structures to ensure clarity of roles, responsibilities, and decision-making processes.

3. High quality governance support: Invest sufficiently in both the recruitment and development of governance professionals, seeking the skills to help enhance strategic focus and the confidence to guide and correct where required.

4. Invest in leadership development: Provide ongoing training and development opportunities for board members to enhance their leadership skills and knowledge of effective governance practices, financial management and strategic planning.

5. Review the way the board undertakes its core accountability function: Ensure the right level of information is received, that it is triangulated, stakeholders voices are heard, and improve the questioning skills of boards, so that informed challenge and debate adds value to decision-making.

6. Enhance communication and collaboration: Foster open communication and collaboration among board members, school leaders and stakeholders to ensure shared understanding, effective decision-making and a unified approach.

7. Address capacity challenges: Identify and address issues by recruiting and retaining skilled board members, providing adequate resources, and seeking external support when needed.

External and self-review packages

In order to realise your board’s potential for continuous improvement, NGA recommend having an external review of governance every three years, and an annual self-review. Our online self-evaluation tools and external review packages are here to support with this process.

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