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Governing board evaluation

Updated ‘what we expect’ guidance for those governing and leading schools


Updated guidance produced by a collaboration of leading education sector organisations aims to improve the effectiveness of governance by supporting the vital partnership between those leading and governing schools.

The popular guides, covering what school leaders and those governing should expect from each other, are written and backed by the National Governance Association (NGA), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Institute of School Business Leaders (ISBL). For its sixth edition, the guide has been created as two distinct versions to reflect how governance models have changed over the years:

“What governing boards and headteachers should expect from each other” is aimed at those leading and governing in a single school, academy or LA-maintained school federation.

“What multi academy trust boards and CEOs should expect from each other” is a guide for those leading and governing a multi academy trust.

Both versions cover:

  • Respecting respective roles
  • Working together to set a strategy
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Ensuring your school/trust is a great place to work
  • Making governance effective
  • Ways of working

The refreshed content has been designed to provide a more collaborative feel, while making it clear that roles and responsibilities must be known and understood, and accountability must be acknowledged and accepted. They also feature more content on the obligations of the board as the employer of staff, including development and wellbeing.

The guides are intended to ensure the relationship between school leaders and governing boards is as effective as possible to improve outcomes for children and young people.

Emma Knights, chief executive at the National Governance Association said:

“We are delighted that once again a partnership of national leadership organisations have collaborated to update the very well-used guidance on governing schools and trusts well. We now have two versions, one for single schools and one for multi academy trusts. Whilst the context is different, the underlying principles are the same: after all the essence of a successful partnership does not change. When leaders and the board work together with a focus on their mission, supporting and challenging each other, listening to others, they become an overwhelming force for ensuring sustainability and flourishing children and young people. Well-governed organisations do not fail and these useful guides should contribute to this success.”


Steve Edmonds, director of advice and guidance at the National Governance Association said:

“Good relations with leaders is part of the bread and butter work of those of us who govern, however there are many signs that we may be entering an era when more leaders are departing, having seen their schools and trusts through the bruising time of the pandemic, and others, having witnessed just how tough leadership has been, may not as willing to step up. These guides are a valuable resource which emphasise the importance of boards setting from the top the culture which supports work-life balance, in supporting always, but especially when times are hard and leadership is lonely. This will be essential if we are going to maintain and increase those coming into leadership across the system”.


Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said:

“A strong, positive relationship between governors and school leaders is essential. It has a significant impact on the quality of educational provision and on the opportunity and life chances of children. This joint guidance “What governing boards and school leaders should expect from each other” has proved very popular with our 35,000-strong school leader membership, and we hope that these new, updated versions will continue to be a useful resource for school leaders, trusts and governors alike. It offers helpful, up to date best practice advice on how school leaders, governing bodies and trustees can build productive relationships and a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities”


Geoff Barton, general secretary, Association of School and College Leaders said:

“Understanding the importance of what good governance looks like – and what it doesn’t – has never been more important. That’s why we are delighted to welcome this new edition of guidance from our various leadership organisations. It’s principled, practical, and hugely helpful in clarifying roles and responsibilities. We couldn’t recommend it more highly to leaders, governors and trustees, whatever their type or size of school.”


Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, deputy chair of the Children and Young People Board, Local Government Association said:

“Councils are ambitious to improve the life chances of all children and young people in their communities and understand the key role that strong school leadership plays in improving their outcomes. This guidance is an invaluable tool for trustees, governors and senior school leaders which sets out best practice in building productive relationships to promote school improvement. I would recommend all schools to use it as a reference guide and support to building and sustaining effective school leadership.”


Stephen Morales, chief executive, Institute of School Business Leadership said:

“Schools and trusts work best when the pillars of leadership – pedagogy, business and governance – interact effectively. Just like any structure, if one of the pillars is too short or missing, it is likely to fall over. This guidance helps leadership groups and governing boards better understand each other and how they can effectively support each other’s critical work.”

Read the guidance