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NGA comments on DfE’s new governance guides

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The Department for Education (DfE) has today released two new governance guides, tailored specifically for maintained schools and academy trusts. They replace the DfE Governance Handbook last revised in October 2020.

Featuring a noticeable drop in wordcount and with a streamlined focus, the new guides signpost a number of NGA resources. While the published guides coincide with the DfE removing the Competency frameworks for both governing boards and governance professionals, NGA continues to support the sector with a wealth of board evaluation resources as well as our career pathway for governance professionals.

Emma Knights, Co-Chief Executive said:

“The DfE’s Governance Handbook has been a longstanding feature in the world of school and trust governance and these replacement guides will take its place as staples in the governance library. The new guides were crafted through consultation with NGA, something we welcome as the sector experts on school and trust governance. The Department’s philosophy is increasingly to provide the framework and look to the sector to fill in the good practice.

The overall message is very simple: no need to worry, very little has actually changed – there are no new, big asks. If you are confident your governance practice is working, carry on.

NGA is particularly pleased to see the trust guide introduces a greater focus on engagement as part of the purpose of governance – this is another area NGA has led the way in, with us adopting stakeholder engagement as the fourth core function back in 2017. It is about time that we came to understand that governance decision making is as much about relationships and community as it is about being a steward of spending power and holding leaders to account”.

Sam Henson, NGA Deputy Chief-executive said:

“From practical guidance on strategic leadership to insights into fostering collaboration and inclusivity, these resources support governing boards striving to make a meaningful impact in their communities. We are pleased that the DfE has reflected on the findings of our Governance workload report when preparing the guides, prioritising essential insights but not bombarding volunteers with operationally-minded asks. The DfE has made some direct changes as a result of listening to NGA, including for example, incorporating a streamlined statutory policies list into the guides. We welcome the new guides and hope they serve boards and governance professionals well."

NGA members can refer to our summaries of the Academy Trust Governance Guide and Maintained Schools Governance Guide for further information.