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Governing board evaluation

NGA Unveils Pioneering Report on the State of Governance in England's Schools and Trusts

vision of someone walking up the stairs

The National Governance Association (NGA) has today published a report that captures the state of governance practice in England. The report draws upon the analysis of external reviews of governance (ERG) reports from the National Leaders of Governance (NLG) programme and NGA's wider sector intelligence. Holding leadership to account is a significant challenge for a majority of governing boards across all structures. 

This comprehensive report, Growing Good Governance, reflects positive evidence of improving and effective school and trust governance practice in England. Emphasising the enduring importance of NGA's Eight elements of effective governance, the report calls for a shift towards proactive and strategic governance approaches, highlighting the essential role of skilled professionals in board effectiveness. This is a direct barrier to achieving good governance and was identified as problematic in 68% of ERGs.

Building on a 2023 study, this report identifies eight common governance challenges and provides practical insights and resources for boards to address them. It underscores the value of external reviews of governance and outlines three key factors enabling effective governance, serving as a resource for the sector, policymakers, and governing bodies.

The report urges boards to take ownership of their governance journey to ensure high-quality education outcomes for all students.

Based on the findings, Growing Good Governance ends by proposing the following recommendations:

  • Prioritise strategic planning
  • Strengthen governance structures processes
  • High-quality governance support
  • Invest in leadership development
  • Review the way the board undertakes its core accountability function
  • Enhance communication and collaboration
  • Address capacity challenges
Charlotte Harding, Director of Professional Development, NGA, said:

“NGA is in a unique position to share with the sector wide ranging evidence-based findings. Our report can be seen as a litmus test for the state of governance in England, and we hope this will be used to reflect on current practice, inform future priorities and focus policy-makers' strategic work. We must not forget that the ultimate aim of our work, our members and the wider sector, is improving academic and social outcomes for our nation’s children and young people.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with the National Leaders of Governance and NGA’s cadre of highly experienced and knowledgeable consultants. Their work is instrumental in improving governance across the country - this report would not be possible without them.”

In 2021, NGA was awarded a contract by the Department for Education to deliver the reformed NLG programme. From October 2021 to October­­­ 2023, over 400 trusts and schools accessed funded support through ERGs.

External and self-review packages

In order to realise your board’s potential for continuous improvement, NGA recommend having an external review of governance every three years, and an annual self-review. Our online self-evaluation tools and external review packages are here to support with this process.