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NGA publishes research report on local governance

bird's-eye vision of houses

The new report published by the National Governance Association (NGA), highlights the meaningful impact local governance has on the success of multi-academy trusts (MAT) and why it is integral to the future of the trust-based system.

“Local governance here and now” published today (12 May), draws on NGA’s extensive knowledge and previous research and uses in depth interviews carried out with those governing and supporting governance in MAT’s up and down the country to bring the local governance story to life in a new way. It shows how the reputation and identity of a MAT in the local area directly influences the impact of their local governance tier and the benefits of MATs of encouraging their local tier of governance to work with schools outside of the trust.

The report finds that irrespective of their size and context, the MAT’s involved in the study delegated similar responsibilities to their local tier of governance. The responsibilities are linked to school improvement, stakeholder engagement, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of pupils and supporting pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). These 4Ss of standard, stakeholders, safeguarding and SEND, provide an effective guideline that expects all MAT to utilise to maximise the impact of their local governance.

Other key findings include:

  • Headteacher performance management is an issue that creates the largest disparity in the involvement of the local tier among trusts.
  • Effective communication channels between the trust board and the local tier are essential to amplifying local tier voices and the stakeholders they represent.
  • Collaboration among local chairs is a beneficial addition to the MAT governance structure, but for those in non-leadership roles, it could go further.
  • Governance professionals are essential in ensuring meaningful impact occurs on the local level and within the wider governance structure.

Local Governance Here & Now

Report authors Megan Tate, NGA’s policy and research officer and Fariha Choudhury, NGA’s advice officer

“It’s been great to have such in depth discussions with those governing on, and supporting, the local tier. We have really enjoyed hearing from the members that we try so hard to represent. The release of this report comes at a really crucial time following the publication of the Department's trust quality descriptions. We wanted local voices to really shine through in this piece and it has been refreshing to hear from an invaluable group that has been, at times, underrepresented and overlooked in the sector."


Sam Henson, director of policy and communications, National Governance Association

“This report is a significant moment, it takes us beyond the point of making a case for the existence and importance of local governance in the MAT system, and moves the focus to what standard practice should look like. One of the best things about MAT governance is the freedoms afforded to trusts to do different things through the local tier, but we now have a conclusive evidence base that shows there are also some fundamentals to making it meaningful, that the sector now needs to embrace.”


Emma Knights, chief executive, National Governance Association

“NGA research shows conclusively that trusts are committed to the role of local governors in strengthening the governance of the trust as a whole. But the role of local governance is still not recognised in the way it should be across the sector. This report rightly shines a spotlight on the efforts of the 80,000 local volunteers and their real experiences of contributing to the governance of MATs.

While there is reference to trust board decision-making being informed by meaningful engagement in the DfE’s recently published trust quality descriptions, local governance receives no specific mention. We hope this report will demonstrate why the contribution of the local tier to trust board decision making now needs to be specifically included as the DfE continues to consult on its new high quality trust descriptions.”