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Emma Knights to leave NGA at the end of August

Emma Knights OBE

At the end of the school year, the National Governance Association’s executive leadership will change with Emma Balchin as our sole chief executive, replacing Emma Knights - who will leave NGA on August 30 after 14 years.

Lawayne Jefferson, co-chair of trustees NGA, said:

“Emma Knights has steered the NGA and the governance in schools and trust volunteer professional network, through pioneering, achieving and challenging times. And as is due in the continuum of leadership now hands over the helm.

In all of Emma’s work, this has been well facilitated to be not just seamless but sustainable, ensuring that the mission, vision, and purpose of the NGA remain at the heart of the leadership continuum and succession.

We will miss Emma, we are sad to see her go but we are grateful for, and proud of all that she has done in over the decade and a half that she has led the NGA.

We are grateful and proud of the way she has listened to the NGA membership. How she has raised their voices, so they are heard. Shone many lights on their faces so they are seen. Given thanks and agency to their hands-on-heart work, to improve strategic leadership for the best outcomes of our children.

We are grateful and proud of how Emma has led, mentored, and developed her staff, today passing the baton to an NGA home-grown CEO.

Not least of all, her work with the trustees and chairs over the years have demonstrated her agility, prudence, and openness, as well as the expertise she has garnered about the governance and trustee sectors in education, blending this well with the board’s work of support and challenge.

As Emma Knights, outgoing CEO and Emma Balchin, incoming CEO pass through our doors, we enter a period of many changes. Not just in leadership but nationally, globally and in our school communities.

However, with unshakable commitment to our values and purpose, I am confident that as we continue working together in this spirit, our future and our children’s future will be bright.

Thank you, Emma, for a job well done.”

Alastair Cowen, co-chair of trustees NGA, said:

“We are thrilled that Emma Balchin will take the helm at NGA. Taking over as chief executive is an exciting time for anyone and requires a cool head and steady hand, but Emma's experience over the past year and as NGA’s Director of Professional Development, not forgetting her years as a teacher and working with a local authority and the DfE, has left her with the skills she needs to hit the ground running and lead NGA into the future.

Emma's enthusiasm is infectious, and her vision for the future is ambitious and inspiring. She will foster innovation through technology, expand our reach within the sector and with policymakers, and lean into what makes NGA great: our ability to offer timely and vital guidance to the governing board. Emma's warm personality and collaborative approach have already endeared her to our team and stakeholders. We are confident that under her leadership, NGA will continue to reach new heights, leading and shaping the governance sector and beyond for the better.”


Emma Balchin, Co-Chief Executive said:

"I am deeply grateful for not only the past 12 months but also the past six years of learning from Emma and the wider team here at NGA. This journey has been incredible, and I feel privileged to have had such valuable experiences and support.

As I take on the responsibility of leading NGA, I am excited and optimistic about the future. NGA is in a strong position, and I can't wait to work closely with our extraordinary staff and brilliant members to take us to an even better position over the next few years.

Leading NGA and representing one of the largest volunteer forces during such a pivotal time of change is a true honour I am passionate about reaffirming the importance of governance in the eyes of any future government. Effective governance is not just a necessity but a lifeline in addressing the numerous challenges our schools and trusts face today. These challenges, from securing adequate funding to tackling the recruitment and retention issues, underscore our mission's crucial role to make sure the sector has the tools and representation it needs so it can focus on improving outcomes for children and young people.

Together, we can positively impact the education sector, ensuring that governance is recognised as a crucial element in supporting and transforming our schools and trusts. I am committed to driving this mission forward with passion and determination."


Emma Knights, Co-Chief Executive said:

“It has been my absolute privilege to have led the NGA for over 14 years as we have grown our offer to support school and academy trust governance. Without a doubt the best part of this job has been going out and about across England meeting the tremendous volunteers who govern. You are a hugely inspiring community, and I am truly in awe of the care and time which you commit to making our schools the best possible places they can be for our pupils. Thank you all for what you do and will continue to do.

I know that NGA will continue to serve the governance community in the way we have always done with care, expertise, practical knowledge and an ethos of continuous improvement. After I leave NGA at the end of August, you will hear one last time from me when John Catt publishes the Power of Governance, my learning from my time here. Although I say it myself, NGA is a tremendous organisation, one I have been proud to have been part of and at which I have learnt so much. Thank you to everyone who has shared their experience and wisdom with me.”

Sam Henson, Deputy Chief Executive, paid tribute to Emma Knights in his editor's note in the summer edition of Governing Matters.


Join us on 12 July for Emma Knights's last conference in Birmingham