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Governing board roles

Summer term agenda items

As the Easter break approaches, we’re sharing suggested topics to include in your meetings this summer term. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s carefully curated to include tasks and activities that are vital for effective governance. From SEND governance to scrutinising attendance, we hope our tools and resources help you start the summer term right!    

a picture of Uk schoolchildren reading outside by a school in summer in a circular frame

1.   Conduct self-evaluation

Every governing board should review its performance to identify strengths and areas where effectiveness could be improved. We recommend that self-evaluation is completed every year – the summer term could be an ideal time if you haven’t done so already.

Self-evaluation can be undertaken in a number of different ways but is likely to consist of board members asking themselves reflective questions about board structure, culture, compliance and impact.

Thousands of NGA members use our governing board self-evaluation questions to review their effectiveness and build an action plan. We also provide an online self-evaluation service.

But every board needs an independent viewpoint from time to time. If your board hasn’t completed an external review of governance in the last three years, consider commissioning one – a review by an experienced NGA governance consultant provides an objective view of your board’s strengths and clear recommendations for improvement.

2.   Discuss succession planning

Most governors and trustees will have been part of (sometimes challenging) conversations about taking on the role of chair. Increasing governance workload can put a strain on leadership capacity, but we know that regular and transparent succession planning discussions can help, as can pragmatic solutions like implementing co-chairing arrangements.

Our succession planning guide breaks down the cycle into essential components, including misconceptions about the role of chair, talent spotting, gaining commitment and investing in development.

Aspiring chairs often feel nervous about taking on a leadership role. Our development for chairs programme builds essential chairing skills and offers the opportunity to build peer-to-peer support groups.

3.   Review your risk register

Risk management is essential for all types of organisation to ensure that the strategy can be delivered; schools are no exception. In fact, risk management is crucial for schools and trusts, particularly at a time when the sector is facing complex economic and societal challenges.

Overseeing the risk register is a fundamental component of risk management for governing boards. It documents and defines specific risks and should provide a level of detail that enables individual risks to be assigned to an ‘owner’ and appropriate control measures identified.

The risk register should be reviewed by the governing board at least annually (the Academy Trust Handbook makes clear that trustees must do so). Consult our risk management guidance for further advice.

4.  Take stock of attendance

Earlier this month, the Department for Education (DfE) published updated Working together to improve school attendance guidance that will become mandatory from September. Changes include expectations for supporting pupils with mental health or physical ill health, increased fine rates, absence thresholds at which penalties must be considered, and requirements to share daily data.

Our updated guide to improving school attendance highlights changes to the (soon to be statutory) DfE guidance and includes questions to prompt board discussion and evaluation of attendance interventions.

5.   SEND governance

Governing boards are required to do everything they can to ensure that pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) get the support they need. This includes scrutinising how resources are allocated for SEND provision and overseeing relevant policies and documents.

For every decision made by the board, consideration should be given to how that decision will impact pupils with SEND (a concept known as ‘Think SEND’). In practice, what works well for pupils with SEND is often effective for all pupils. We’ll be exploring this approach in detail at our upcoming webinar.

But we also know that support and funding for pupils with SEND is increasingly stretched. In this context, the task of overseeing and evaluating SEND provision can seem overwhelming. Our SEND monitoring tool provides a clear framework for boards that sets out how SEND governance works in practice.

NGA members can also book a place at our summer SEND Network meeting – an opportunity to exchange information, discuss current policy and how schools meet the needs of pupils with SEND.

Ella Colly
Ella Colley

Head of Content

As Head of Content, Ella takes the lead on coordinating content development across the organisation. She also oversees NGA’s Knowledge Centre, ensuring members can find information and guidance on a range of governance topics.

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