DfE proposes further changes to governance of maintained schools

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DfE has recently consulted on proposed changes to how the governing bodies (or “boards”) of maintained schools and pupil referral units are constituted.

The Education Act 2011 introduced a new, leaner governance structure for new schools and for any school which altered its instrument of government (e.g. when changing category).

Under DfE’s current proposals this new structure would become mandatory for all schools from 1 September 2015.

Meanwhile DfE has also published non-statutory advice for maintained schools covering the School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013, which came into force on 1 September 2014.

This advice stresses the strategic role of the board and the separation of functions between board on the one hand and the headteacher and senior leaders on the other.  It also points out that governors should avoid not getting bogged down in secondary matters and instead focus primarily on:

  1. setting the vision and strategic direction of school;
  2. holding the headteacher to account for its educational performance and the exercise of his/her professional judgement; and
  3. ensuring that financial resources are well spent.

The guidance also suggests that it is good practice for the board to publish an annual governance statement explaining how it has fulfilled its responsibilities including committee arrangements, attendance records, and a self-assessment of the effectiveness and impact of the board and its committees.

The advice also deals with new provisions under the Regulations enabling boards to make arrangements for governors to attend and vote at meetings (e.g. by telephone or video conference).  Although the explanatory note published with the Regulations stated that this could include voting by email, the new guidance does not refer to e-voting.  Our advice is that decisions must be made at a quorate meeting by those present in person or remotely.  Governing bodies will therefore need to exercise caution if they seek to implement more flexible decision-making procedures.

For more information please contact Chris Hook or 0191 211 7929.