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The 2017 Governance Handbook

[Please note that further updates on the new Governance Handbook will shortly be added to this article

On Thursday 12 January 2017, the Department for Education (DfE) released its latest edition of the Governance Handbook.

The Governance handbook sets out: school governors' roles and functions; legal duties; and sources of support.

Summary of key changes

The new handbook has been restructured to reflect the new description of the six key features of effective governance, and takes account of recent legal and policy changes. These are mirrored in the newly developed competency framework for governance, also released last week.

The DfE list the most significant changes to the content as:

Section 1 - Effective governance

  • A new summary description of the six features of effective governance, which are:
  1. Strategic Leadership that sets and champions vision, ethos and strategy.
  2. Accountability that drives up educational standards and financial performance.
  3. People with the right skills, experience, qualities and capacity.
  4. Structures that reinforce clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  5. Compliance with statutory and contractual requirements.
  6. Evaluation to monitor and improve the quality and impact of governance.

Section 2 – Strategic Leadership

  • A new section at 2.3 bringing together material about the board's role as the key decision maker

Section 3 – Accountability

  • A stronger emphasis on ensuring financial propriety at 3.4

Section 4 – People

  • Updated text at 4.1.2 to reflect the new requirement that all those involved in governance in maintained schools, as well as in academy trusts, must have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
  • New advice on conducting informed elections 4.1.4
  • New sections bringing together material on the important role of the chair at 4.3 and of the clerk at 4.4
  • A new explanation of the risks associate with close family relationships between those involved in governance or between them and senior employees.
  • Details of the duty on boards to provide information about individuals involved in governance via Edubase at 4.8

Section 5 – Structures

  • Updated guidance on the role of Trustees and Members at 5.2.1
  • Clarification at 5.6 that all boards are required to publish a scheme of delegation to explain their governance arrangements, together with new guidance on what makes an effective scheme of delegation.
  • Updated guidance on MATs at 5.2.2 and umbrella trusts at 5.5.1

Section 6 – Compliance

  • Confirmation at 6.7 that an individual on the board should take leadership responsibility for the organisation's safeguarding arrangements, which include its Prevent duty.
  • New advice at 6.7.1 on handling allegations of abuse made against other children.

Section 7 – Evaluation

  • Updated content on schools causing concern and on coasting schools at section 7.4

Find more information on the new Governance Handbook and updated Competency Framework here.



Page Published: 16/01/2017