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The National Voice of Governing Boards: How NGA's Annual Governance Survey Drives Change

The voice of governors and trustees is, whether you think it or not, a powerful thing.

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The voice of governors and trustees is, whether you think it or not, a powerful thing. As decision makers, vision setters, supporters and challengers, governing boards are uniquely placed to offer a viewpoint on the sector that reveals a dynamic and different picture to the one frequently shared in the media and among sector commentators.

Have your say - annual governance survey now open.

NGA’s annual governance survey has long been a highly valuable source of intelligence used by national policymakers as well as a key driver for the work NGA commits its time to. Dating back to the days, fast fading in our minds of the coalition government, the annual governance survey has painted a longitudinal landscape over thirteen consecutive years, charting the terrain and detailing a journey with many ups and downs. Because of this, the challenges and successes of governing boards are far more prominent than they would have been.

Every respondent has a unique voice to bring to our findings. Collectively, you provide us with a comprehensive and evolving view of the priorities for the sector as a whole. While each school and trust are different and operates from a particular geographical context, findings underline that many of the challenges you face are sector wide. The picture of what it is really like to govern schools and trusts today provides a richness of insight and intelligence that NGA uses to inform and influence central policymaking.

We have heard of what drives you to govern, what motivates you to commit, and what tempts you to resign. As NGA embarks on a quest to unveil the truth behind the challenge of governor and trustee workload, this year’s survey is perhaps more important than ever as we look to influence the DfE and others to make the role both sustainable and fit for purpose for the changing needs of schools and trusts in the future. 

The irony I hear you say – you are banging on about governor and trustee workload yet asking us to use more time to fill in another long survey. I have to be honest and say there is some half truth to this. We are asking you to give yet more of your time to answer our questions. But the survey is the best one yet. This year marks a first for us as the survey is hosted by Edurio, England's leading stakeholder feedback platform for schools and multi-academy trust. As a result, we have a smoother, quicker and less fiddly experience for respondents.

Over the years, some respondents have commented that completing the survey helps them take a moment to reflect and think about the big picture. So taking time out of your day to complete will not only be a huge help to us and the sector but provides a personal point of reflection, posing some crucial questions that you might not have the chance to reflect on unless we shove a survey in front of you. 

As a MAT trustee, I filled in the survey on launch day – I got to the end in less than 15 minutes – granted, I could have spent a bit more time on it, but equally, I could have done it quicker if I had tried.  

There is no point in us hiding that this is yet another ask of you, but I will say that we promise to use what you are telling us and do something about it. This year, as ever, there are some crucial questions on crucial topics that we want to feed your expert view into – from the impact of the cost of living crisis and industrial action, your views on the need for Ofsted reform, your experience on exclusion panels and whether you like the role and want to carry on doing it or not – we want to take what you say and mould it into a national dialogue in order to influence real change.

Over the last 13 years it has largely been the outcome of the survey that has driven so much of what we focus on.  Whether it’s giving evidence to the STRB, parterning with sector organisations on campaigns and asks of the government, discussing in detail the results directly with the department or embarking on a new research project, it is your experience and your views which we are so reliant on as the national voice of governing boards across the country. NGA continues to expand the sector’s understanding of school and trust governance by adapting to your changing responsibilities and representing your views on a national stage – giving us your views through the survey helps us to do just that.

If you have the time to help us, even if you skip a question or two, we would be incredibly grateful!

Annual Governance Survey 2023

Sam Henson
Sam Henson

Deputy Chief Executive

Sam oversees NGA’s policy, communications and research services, supporting NGA to achieve positive change in the policy of school governance. He is the policy lead for NGA’s work on the governance of multi academy trusts.