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Monitoring & outcomes

Board reporting: you said, we did

Effective board reporting is essential for effective governance. The reports that headteachers, CEOs and other leaders provide to governing boards serve as a starting point for scrutiny and challenge.


Boards need enough information to understand what is going on in their organisation to be able to govern effectively, but many NGA members tell us that getting reporting right can be a real challenge. We’ve responded to that feedback, and last week published template reports and guidance for headteacher reports and trust board reports.

Our recent governance workload study revealed that lengthy and confusing reports are a drain on the board’s time as well as a barrier to good governance. There was much comment about the time needed to prepare properly for meetings, which was exacerbated by late or lengthy papers:

“Only receiving meeting materials the day or two before the meeting…often there are many documents that need to be reviewed, taking considerable time.”

The challenge is particularly acute for a trust board. Trustees are accountable for the running of a large organisation with multi-million pound turnover and, often, hundreds of employees. In a handful of meetings per year, they need to receive the right information to be able to govern these large, complex and dynamic institutions effectively without being overwhelmed.

The impact of good intentions

Reporting workload isn’t only an issue for governors and trustees. School and trust leaders’ wellbeing is at risk from a host of well-documented and increasing workload demands. With good intentions, headteachers and CEOs can get caught up writing every detail in comprehensive reports for the board that take lots of time and effort.

“Sometimes people will send [a lot] of paperwork and then will say ‘well I told you’. But if it was buried in paperwork, you haven’t conveyed yourself well at all.”

Unfortunately, the industry of report writing can be counter-productive and a tough habit to break; it’s all too easy to do things the way they’ve always been done. However, many boards and leaders recognise the need to make a change, not only to support workload and wellbeing but to strengthen governance.

Breaking the habit

The first step is to recognise that boards and leaders share responsibility for shaping a reporting system that works. Start with a conversation about what works well and where there may be opportunities to streamline. With a shared focus on improvement, many boards quickly find opportunities to make reporting more efficient and strengthen working relationships at the same time.

Our templates for headteacher reports and trust board reports provide clear examples and prompts to help you shape this discussion. The templates were shaped by our members – with particular thanks to our incredibly knowledgeable Governance Professionals Network who shared feedback and insights on their own practice.

Effective board reports spark critical thinking and encourage healthy debate, leading to better decision-making. Don’t let yours become a burden.

Michael Barton
Michael Barton

Trust Governance Specialist and South West Regional Officer

Michael specialises in trust governance, co-ordinating NGA's work with multi-academy trusts and producing tailored resources. He also leads NGA's work in the West Midlands, working closely with the region's trusts and local authorities.

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