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Seasons greetings from Emma Knights


On behalf of NGA, I want to say thank you to all those governance volunteers who have made the time during 2022 to oversee and support schools for the benefit of their pupils and indeed future pupils. 

Perhaps I should stop right there – that really in the essence of this short blog. But brevity is not my strength and I really feel the need to underline this several times over. Your generosity should be acknowledged. You may not feel the need to be seen but I want your contribution to be celebrated, and not just with the equivalent of a pat on the head, but with the respect that this role deserves. With gravitas would perhaps be overstating the case - laughter and mince pies strike a better tone.

First, governance is not easy: it is not just time that is expended, but lots of reflection and care too. It absolutely is not just the case of turning up at a few meetings – much listening, learning and development is needed. Often the nuance, the complexity, the balancing of competing interests, the good judgement required is not fully appreciated until someone has sat in that volunteer seat and participated. The role carries awesome responsibilities. Two years ago we estimated that chairs  – even without the rest of the governing board - contribute the equivalent of £145 million a year in work to the school system. That is not the only way to be measuring input, but that sum will resonate with some. Instead let’s celebrate the difference those hours, that thoughtfulness makes to children and young people and their communities – thank you.

Second, it is an understatement to say there have been challenges in 2022. Financial challenges, staff recruitment and retention, pressure on meeting the needs of SEND pupils, and the increasing needs of many families as the cost of living rises to name a few.  You might not have expected such substantial issues when you originally volunteered, but to their credit governance volunteers have not fled from those challenges. You have stuck the hard times out, while of course enjoying and being energised by school celebrations and the joy of pupils engaging in seasonal festivities. That tenacity is to your huge credit – thank you.

Third, governance is not widely understood. Almost all the challenging discussions take place behind closed doors, largely invisible to the wider community. So the contribution of the governing board is so easily overlooked. NGA plays our part with the Visible Governance campaign and this year in particular the animation to explain the role simply: please do make use of it to spread the word.  School governance provides an opportunity for civic participation and servant leadership – thank you for embracing that.

I’m sure many of you at the end of term will have thanked your headteacher, your executive team, your governance professional and possibly even the wider workforce; I very much hope that those thanks were returned and magnified.  

As a chief executive I must do the same – the trustees of NGA have made such an important contribution to the continued success of NGA in 2022. Thank you so much for your time, support, challenge and wisdom.  

NGA members who attended our AGM last month will have seen our trustees in action, and at our board meeting this month our board leaders were elected: 

Lynn Howard re-elected as chair; Alastair Cowen and Lawayne Jefferson as vice-chairs and Bobby Thandi as treasurer.  I am very grateful for your continued dedication. 

So to all the school and trust governance community, your role is important and it is a good thing that you do. Please enjoy the holidays and we will see you I hope refreshed to the New Year to approach the challenges of 2023.  With best wishes from the team at NGA. 

Emma Knights OBE
Emma Knights OBE

Co-Chief Executive

As NGA’s Co-Chief Executive, Emma promotes the interests of the school governance community nationally with legislators, policy makers, education sector organisations and the media. Emma is an accomplished writer and speaker on a range of school governance policy and practice topics.