Reviewing 2015 and governance matters. With links!

Another busy governance year! There was an increased focus on “skilled governors” and the drive to convert schools into academies continued. MATs seem to be DfE’s preferred route. The notable events of the year as they happened:


NGA and Wellcome Trust launched Framework for Governance.

Updated version of 20 Key Questions for the Governing Board to ask itself were released.

Ofsted announced plans for piloting double inspections.

DfE published a revised version of the Governors’ Handbook.

DfE published updated statutory guidance aimed at LA’s on how to deal with “schools that are causing concern” and consequently are “eligible for intervention”.

New Standards for excellence for headteachers published.

David Laws rejected recommendations to develop new sets of professional standards for governors and mentions NGA’s Code and role descriptors.

Lord Nash responded to a Guardian report on cash reserves held by academies.

Nicky Morgan wrote to Sir Michael Wilshaw about inspection of MAT’s.


Ofsted announced “radical reforms” to school inspections. The changes (from September 2015) included a common inspection framework, shorter inspections for “good” schools (outstanding schools  not affectedd as their exemption is set out in primary legislation).

Lord Nash wrote to academy chains to clarify the role of local authorities (LAs) in relation to academies and to encourage chains to use the full flexibility available in their governance structures.

Education Select Committee published its report into PSHE and SRE inquiry and recommends that PSHE and SRE should be made statutory in all schools.

ASCL published its blueprint for a self-improving system.

David laws announced plans to invite one hundred exceptional middle leaders to spend a year in under performing schools.

DfE published research into affect of absence on attainment.


Ofsted reported that many schools were not doing enough to ensure that the most able students fulfilled their potential and acknowledged that the inspectorate needed to sharpen its practice in this area.

Seminar report on the joint conference into Ofsted’s local authority school improvement (LASI) inspections was published. Speakers at ther Conference included Lord Nash, representatives from DfE, Ofsted, the Local Government Association, the National Coordinators of Governor Services and the NGA. Interesting points included

  • the fact tthe governors have a role to play in the deciding the fate of the local authority in the LASI inspection
  • consensus that the local authority still had a role to oversee and monitor academy governance
  • local authorities retain an important role in challenging and monitor schools, including using more ‘robust’ measures to challenge underperformance in maintained schools
  • Lord Nash stressed the need for more academy sponsors. He outlined that he ‘did not encourage’ small single schools to become stand-alone academies because small schools can benefit more from joining a local MAT, particularly in terms of economies of scale and local support and challenge.

New guidance was released for senior leaders, governors and trustees who are considering growing their stand-alone academy trust or establishing a multi-academy trust (MAT) or federation. The guidance, published by ASCL, NGA and legal education specialists, Browne Jacobson, covers reasons to consider a formal partnership, governance basics such as roles and responsibilities, governance models in MATs and federations, leadership models, key decisions and what to do and how to do it.

All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) launched 21 Questions for MAT boards.

Education Select Committee published its report into Extremism in schools: the Trojan Horse affair.

DfE published Ammendments to School Governance Regulations 2015. Of particular interest was the fact that the ammedments allow governing bodies to use associate members on panels set up to deal with staffing matters (e.g. grievance or disciplinary hearings).


Emma Knights, (Chief Executive, NGA) wrote to The Guardian about a fairer funding policy.

NGA, NAHT, ASCL and, for the first time, the Local Government Association (LGA) published the revised third edition of What Governing Boards Should Expect From School Leaders And What School Leaders Should Expect From Governing Boards


Conservatives won the general election with a majority.

The NAHT Annual Conference passed the following governance related motions.

  • NAHT’s National Executive to work with NGA and other relevant stakeholders to improve school governance.
  • Call for more clearly defined margins between governance and management, to remove the ‘tendency to meddle’, professional clerking services and more retired heads to become governors.
  • The National Executive to lobby DfE, NGA and all stakeholders to introduce better governor training which is compulsory for chairs of governors and, where necessary, timelier interventions to ensure fit for purpose school governance. The National Executive to campaign for a national database of removed or barred governors so that schools or local authorities can check the suitability of all new or existing school governors.

Ministreal appointments for DfE were announced; Nicky Morgan  Secretary of State, Edward Timpson MP, Minister of State for Children and Families, with the other ministers being: Nick Gibb, Nick Boles, Sam Gyimah and Lord Nash.


The Government published the Education and Adoption Bill 2015. The proposed bill gives much greater powers of intervention to the Secretary of State for Education in maintained schools, introduces ‘coasting schools’ as a category for intervention and gives the Secretary of State the ability to appoint the members of an Interim Executive Board.

The government’s response to the Education Select Committee’s report on the Trojan Horse was published.

The Sutton Trust (in collaboration with the FFT Education Datalab), reported on disadvantaged pupils (Missing Talent) who are high achieving in primary schools but end up with comparatively poor GCSE results. This affects 7,000 pupils a year, with 15% of them deemed ‘highly able’.

NGA, ASCL and NAHT announced  plans for a new, independent organisation, called the Foundation for Leadership in Education.

Ofsted launched its new inspection and framework effective from 1st Sept 2015. The main chaamges are

  • Common framework for early years settings, maintained schools and academies, non-association independent schools and further education and skills providers
  • Short inspections for “good” schools
  • Training and quality assurance of inspectors brought inhouse
  • The headings under which Ofsted will report will be
    • overall effectiveness
    • effectiveness of leadership and management
    • quality of teaching, learning and assessment
    • personal development, behaviour and welfare
    • outcomes for pupils

DfE appointed Tom Bennett as a behaviour expert to tackle low level disruption.


Nicky Morgan addressed the NGA Summer conference, the first Secretary of State to do so. In her speech she talked about the important role played by school governors.

DfE released a paper to the members of Advisory group on governance (AGOG) regarding possible changes to governing board constitution arrangements.  The paper followed Nicky Morgan’s address at the NGA conference where she stated that she would “look at how to move away from a stakeholder model of governance” and that it was the “skills, expertise and wisdom” that governors brought to the running of their schools that makes their “contribution so important”.

Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 came into force which puts an emphasis on the proprietors of schools (i.e. the governing board) to ‘have due regard, in the exercise of their functions, to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. DfE issued guidance on preventing children and young people from being drawn into terrorism. Guidance regardng the use of social media was also issued.

DfE announced that it will create a ‘national database of school governors.

Research (Analysis of Academy School Performance in GCSEs 2014)  by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) found that, on average, pupils attending maintained schools performed as well in GCSEs in 2014 as those attending academies.

NGA released an updated version of their skills audit to include skills commonly found in the creative industries.

The Charity Commission published a new version of The Essential Trustee, key guidance for all charity trustees in England and Wales.


August saw the closure of Kids Company. The role of trustees came under scrutiny and as academy governors are trustees too, commentators pointed out lessons which should be learnt by them. The links to these discussions can be found here.

Revised statutory guidance to Constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools was issued. Amongst other things it said that appointment of new governors should be informed by holding interviews and asking for references. Information which must be published on websites was also updated.

Ofsted published the final version of the Common Inspection Framework

The September 2015 version of the Academies Financial Handbook was published. Important amendments which those involved in academy governance need to be aware of

  • A financial notice to improve (FNtI) may be issued due to governance concerns as well as financial concerns regarding the academy trust.
  • Further clarification about the information that members and trustees need to record on the register of interests. Information on governing at local academy level also needs to be included.
  • Academy trusts must publish on their websites the structure and remit of the members, board of trustees, its committees and local governing bodies, and the full names of the chair of each (where applicable).

The Prime Minister outlined his vision for every school to be an academy.


At a House of Lords reception Nicky Morgan has challenged England’s top business leaders to “play their part” in helping to improve schools.

The National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) ublished a new research report, A Guide to Regional Schools Commissioners.

Ofsted has published a report following a survey of key stage 3 (KS3) provision. Key Stage 3: the wasted years?

Tahir Alam, the former chair of the Park View Education Trust which was linked to the alleged Trojan Horse inquiry was issued with a prohibition order for undermining fundamental British values. This order means Mr Alam is barred from being involved in the management of any independent school (including an academy or free school) and disqualified from being a governor at a maintained school.

MPs debated the remaining stages of the Education and Adoption Bill in the House of Commons. No amendments were made to the bill and it passed its third reading by 300 Ayes to 200 Nayes.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Education Governance and Leadership celebrated the launch of a new document produced by NGA, ASCL and Browne Jacobson, Forming or joining a group of schools: Staying in control of your school’s destiny.

Wellcome Trust launched a free online resource, Questions for Governors, which has a set of questions focused on science and maths for primary school governors.

Sir Michael Wilshaw and Chief Operating Officer Matthew Coffey gave evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee.

Lucy Powell MP was appointed as Shadow Education Secretaryn. Durng her first appearance in parliament n this role, she criticised the new Education Bill during its third reading .


Sean Harford HMI and Ofsted’s National  Director Education blogged about governors and Ofsted inspections. Sean wrote about short inspections, stability for the sector and questions governors could ask. He lay to bed a few myths too (governors are allowed to be present at the feedback and see the draft report).

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) wrote an open letter to governing boards, headteachers and school uniform suppliers, urging them to make school uniforms more affordable. According to CMA  uniforms should be available from multiple suppliers. If a single supplier is used boards should ensure that a proper tender process has been conducted.

Emma Knights, amongst others, gave evidence before the Education Select Committee on the role of the Regional  School Commissioners. Hansard of this session can be found here. NGA’s written evidence is hereLinks for other written evidence are as under.

National Association of Headteachers, click here

Association of School and College Leaders, click here

United Learning, click here

Church of England Education Office, click here

Association of Directors of Children’s Services, click here

Local Government Association, click here


NGA’s CEO Emma Knights, and chair, Ian Courtney MBE, met with the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan and discussed good governance at all levels of the school system, clerking, MAT governance and IEBs.

second evidence session of their inquiry into the role of Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs). The Committe heard from Pank Patel (RSC, West Midlands), Lorna Fitzjohn (Ofsted’s Regional Director ,West Midlands), Ian Comfort (CEO, Academies Enterprise Trust) and Kirston Nelson (Director of Education, Libraries, and Adult Learning, Coventry City Council). Links for written evidence from witnesses as under:

Department of Education, click here.

Ofsted, click here.

Academies Enterprise Trust, click here.

DfE published research into raising attainment of disadvantaged students.

Mandatory reporting of FGM came into force.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s made governance the topic of his  second monthly commentary. He commented on the importance of good governance, mandatory training, paymet to Chairs and Vice Chairs. NGA issued a response and I blogged about it too.

DfE published a revised and renamed Governace handbook. Governing body has been replaced by governing board, there is mopre guidance about MAT governance and it also reflects legislative changes such as that relating to Prevent Duty.

Plans for a new fairer funding formula announced by the Chancellor in the Spending Review.


The Education Select Committee continued its inquiry into the role of RSCs and heard Lord Nash’s evidence. Written evidence from Dfe can be found here and here.

The Select Committee launched an inquiry into the purpose and quality of education in England.

Neil Charmichael, MP, Chair Select Committee wrote to Nicky Morgan, SoS calling for the teaching of PSHE to be a statutory requirement in schools.

Nicky Morgan, announced plans to establish closer cooperation between schools and CAMHS with the pilot testing a ‘named single point of contact’ running  in 22 areas.

DfE updated its advice on teachers’ pay.

NGA published new guidance on the statutory framework for school governance of academy and maintained boards.

The Education and Adoption Bill 2015 finished its report stage in the House of Lords. A government ammendment which would give the SoS to intervene in all coasting academies as well as maintained schools was added to the bill. Ammendments by opposition peers (removal of the requirement for ‘inadequate’ schools to be automatically academised and reinstatement of a consultation process following an academy order) were narrowly defeated.

Schools Week published my review of 2015 which can be read here. 



2 thoughts on “Reviewing 2015 and governance matters. With links!

  1. Pingback: Third anniversary matters | Governing Matters

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