To support governing boards evaluate and improve their practice, the National Governance Association has updated the long-standing governing board self-evaluation questions.
The 20 questions for single school governing boards, 21 questions for multi academy trust boards, and 16 questions for academy committees (local governing bodies) have been updated following an extensive consultation with over 300 governors, trustees and governance professionals.
The consultation sought feedback on how the popular questions had been used, had improved board practice and any areas not currently covered. The revised and restructured questions now include a greater emphasis on board dynamics, culture and behaviours, and have replaced multi-layered questions with shorter, focused statements for reflection. NGA have also published new guidance to support boards make the most of the self-evaluation questions.
Downloaded almost 11,000 times since July 2019, the questions are hugely popular and are used in NGA’s Leading Governance programmes, external reviews of governance, and are also signposted in the Department for Education's Governance Handbook. The 20 questions – intended for use by local authority-maintained schools and single academy trusts – were first created in 2012 by NGA, The Key and the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Education Governance.
The 21 questions for multi academy trust (MAT) boards are bespoke to MATs to help ensure that governance structures are fit for purpose and support the best outcomes for children and young people. They were first created in 2015 by NGA and the APPG in response to the growing number of schools in MATs. The revised questions include an additional 16 questions for self-evaluation of those at academy committee level (local governing bodies) to encourage MATs to self-evaluate both layers of governance.
The three sets of questions are designed to be an integral part of governing boards reflecting on their practice. They cover key areas of board practice including the core functions of governance, board culture, structure, accountability, and impact. Evaluating board effectiveness is good practice and self-evaluation is one of the main methods that boards use to monitor and improve their governance.
Emma Knights, chief executive at National Governance Association said:
“2022 marks ten years since the 20 questions for governing board to ask itself were first published under the auspices of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Education Governance and Leadership alongside the Key. It is not just their longevity that pleases me: it is the fact that they have become part of the governance establishment. They have been widely used over this period, always in our top 10 downloads, disseminated by many other organisations, referenced in the DfE’s Governance Handbook and incorporated into many external reviews of governance. We have listened to the sector’s experiences and this resulting update should make the questions even more valuable in improving governance.”
The Department for Education commented:
“The Department for Education welcomes the NGA’s review and update of the widely used self-evaluation tools: 20 questions for governing boards and 21 questions for MAT boards. We encourage governing boards to regularly evaluate their own effectiveness and the updated tools produced by NGA will continue to be helpful in supporting boards to do this. As part of their evaluation, boards should also carry our regular skills audits of their governors and trustees and look to address any gaps they identify, through training or recruitment.”
Peter Swabey, policy and research director at The Chartered Governance Institute said:
“The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland believes that annual performance reviews are an important part of the governance process and has espoused their adoption across all sectors of the UK economy for many years. Any tool that helps boards to start having conversations about their effectiveness is to be encouraged, whether that be to support an internal review or, from time to time, an externally facilitated review.”
Mark Blois, Partner at Browne Jacobson said:
“I am delighted that the NGA has decided to refresh and update its board self-review tools. The seven years that have passed since the last editions in 2015 have been significant in terms of the development of education policy but the importance of self-evaluation as one of the main methods that governing boards use to monitor and improve the quality and impact of their governance has only increased during that time.
The DfE Governance Handbook describes the ‘governance duty’ as being to drive relentless ambition for the young people served by the schools’ system and it details the six features of effective governance that should underpin the performance of that duty. An ongoing commitment on the part of those involved in governance to processes for regular self-evaluation of their board’s overall operation and effectiveness is a key component of the sixth of these features.
The NGA’s new refreshed and updated twenty ‘Governing board self-evaluation questions’ and its new ‘MAT governance self-evaluation questions’, which sensibly now include 21 questions for trust boards and 16 separate questions for academy committees (local governing bodies), have been finalised following a recent consultation and they are high quality, well-informed and above all practical governance resources for the schools and academies sector.
I believe that these sets of statements will be invaluable in supporting boards to not only undertake thorough and comprehensive regular self-evaluation exercises but also to develop their self-diagnostic skills to identify ongoing changes needed to drive sustained improvement in governance effectiveness and performance.”