New DfE Governance Guides: Maintained School Governance Guide 

The DfE has published 2 new governance guides to replace the Governance Handbook. Read ahead to find out everything you need to know about the new Maintained School Governance Guide.
Rob Merino head of Governor service
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The Department for Education (DfE) has published 2 new governance guides to replace the Governance Handbook: 

The new guides have been designed to distinguish between governance in academy trusts and maintained schools in recognition of the evolving landscape of educational governance. As of March 2024, these will now act as the primary DfE sources of governance information. At the same time, the department has withdrawn the following documents: 

  • Governance Handbook 
  • Governance Competency Framework 
  • Clerking Competency Framework 
  • Governance Structures and Roles 
  • Statutory Policies for Schools and Academy Trusts 

Much of this information is now covered in the new governance guides. 

The new guides look and feel quite different to the Governance Handbook. This marks a pivotal step towards a simpler and streamlined approach. But, whilst changes have been made to ensure that the content is clear, concise, and avoids repetition, it’s important to note that there are no new governance requirements for school governors or trustees.  

Read ahead to find out everything you need to know about the Maintained School Governance Guide. If you are searching for information on the Academy Trust Governance Guide, you can find out more about that here

Maintained School Governance Guide

This guide has been designed for governors, senior leaders, governance professionals (clerks) and associate members.  

It applies directly to local authority maintained schools, including maintained special schools and nurseries, as well as foundation and voluntary schools. However, other settings such as pupil referral units, sixth-form colleges, and general further education colleges may still find its principles helpful.  

By making the content quicker and easier to digest, it is hoped the new guide will provide clarity about the board’s role in relation to legislative and contractual requirements.  

What’s inside?

The structure of the guidance keeps the same headings as the handbook: 

  • Chapter 1 – Effective Governance 
    An overview of expected standards of behaviour from those governing. 

  • Chapter 2 – Strategic Leadership 
    Guidance on setting and refining a strategy for the school, appointing link governors and engaging with stakeholders. 

  • Chapter 3 – Accountability 
    How to hold school leaders to account for the school’s educational and financial performance and ensure that money is well spent.  

  • Chapter 4 – People 
    Information on governance roles, appointments, support and staff wellbeing. 

  • Chapter 5 – Governance Structures 
    An overview of governance structures and how governing bodies must be constituted. 

  • Chapter 6 – Evaluation 
    How evaluation can be carried out to measure governance effectiveness and school performance.  

  • Chapter 7 – Compliance 
    Information on the board’s key duties and responsibilities set out in legislation and statutory guidance. 

What’s changed?

Previous guidance, including the Governance Competency Framework and Governance Structures and Roles guidance, has been archived, whilst the DfE’s list of statutory policies has been incorporated into the guides. This list no longer contains procedural and ‘live documents,’ instead providing a concise summary of key policies. The DfE has encouraged governing boards to consider delegating policy approval where possible and clarified their position on policy review cycles.  

The new guidance goes into greater detail regarding the circumstances in which a chair may make decisions on behalf of the governing body. It also sets expectations on the performance management of the governance professional and clarifies the board’s estate management responsibilities.  

There are also new requirements for headteachers to report information to the board, including matters relating to delegated duties, operational advice, and compliance with reasonable directions.  

Next steps

With very little changes to the guidance, the day-to-day activities of governance are to remain largely the same. Therefore, as governors, all you need to do is: 

  • Ensure that everyone on your board is aware of, and can access, the appropriate guide for your school  
  • Remove any copies of, or references to, the previous Governance Handbook in your board’s files and documents, including induction materials.  

For further advice and guidance, take a look at our Governor Support services to discover how our experts can help you navigate the complexities of the educational landscape.  

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  

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