Developing your Governing Board

National research shows that strong governance is key to ensuring successful educational outcomes since governors and trustees, although volunteers, play a vital strategic role in holding school leaders to account through support, challenge and driving school improvement. The effectiveness of a governing board depends on the skills, commitment and knowledge of its members and how they work together and with school leaders. Indeed, the recently revised 2012 Constitution of Governing Bodies (maintained schools) guidance creates 'an explicit requirement that all appointed governors have the skills required to contribute to the effective governance and success of the school'.

DfE has published  A Competency Framework for Governance (January 2017) as non-statutory guidance defining the skills, knowledge and behaviour needed for effective governance in maintained schools, academies and multi-academy trusts.  This, together with regular governing board skills audits or a Review of Governance, may be a useful tool for identifying development needs and identifying strengths and areas for improvement.

Here is a summary of the bespoke support available from EES Governance Support.

This leadership programme is for chairs AND aspiring chairs to explore and develop the essential competencies needed to be a highly effective leader. Registration is now closed for Cohort 10.

The March/April edition of NGA's Governing Matters features a case study from an Essex chair showcasing the impact of this programme.

Here is feedback from another former delegate:

I have been on several management courses over the years so did wonder whether or not it would be beneficial but I have to say I found it extremely useful and informative and I have already taken many of the ideas and concepts forward and forged new working relationships with other governing bodies/chairs locally. This really is a great course and I personally feel that every chair should go on it.

Jo Johnson, Chair of Governors, Chappel C of E Primary School

To support your annual self-review processes EES Governance Support can offer bespoke support addressing specific issues for your individual governing board.

This is particularly valuable for governing boards wanting to explore their skills base and effectiveness in a facilitated, hands on self-review, especially where schools are expecting Ofsted within the next 2 years or in times of change such as joining a MAT or changes in leadership.

Contact us for more information.


On behalf of myself and my fellow governors, thank you for a most interesting and useful bespoke development session. We were all very surprised at the way you managed to elicit answers from us that were on topic and even relevant! It seems that we know more than we thought, but perhaps lack the confidence. For the first time we think as a group that we can survive Ofsted and that is certainly due to you instilling hope into us.
Jacqueline Stringer, Chair of Governors, Margaretting C of E Primary School
Thank you very much for your time yesterday and the exceptionally prompt report! Everyone involved said how useful and worthwhile the session was and have already started thinking about ways in which we can all improve. The report is really useful and gives us some excellent feedback and ideas about how we can best develop. We will discuss these at the next meeting before deciding a way forward but I am sure that we will book further sessions and use the resources suggested to put these ideas into action.
Amanda Daines, headteacher, The Tyrrells Primary School (outstanding academy)

Peer to Peer Review

A facilitated peer to peer review model for governing boards is currently being piloted with triads in four Essex school improvement partnerships. This is to enable governing boards to learn from each other and to benefit from peer support through visiting each other's schools and sharing good practice. Following evaluation of the pilot later this year, the aim is to introduce peer to peer review more widely across Essex. To express an interest in future governing board peer to peer review.


A key finding of the recently published Ofsted report Improving Governance shows that  'A lack of effective internal or external reviews of governance can mean that weaknesses in governance can remain unnoticed over long periods of time. Two thirds of the schools surveyed had not engaged in any self-evaluation of governance and had not identified any weaknesses until an Ofsted inspection judged the school to be less than good'.

A review is not an additional inspection. It provides the governing board with an experienced external perspective on how it is working, and what actions it could take to improve.

Since April 2013,over 150 governing boards from both the maintained and academy sectors have benefitted from an EE for Schools Review of Governance. They have become an established tool to support governing boards in their self-evaluation and as a health-check in preparation for inspection. Tailored to your needs, a Review of Governance will support you in identifying what the governing board does well, what needs improving and recommend specific actions for improvement.

What does a review of governance entail?

The review is led by an experienced, trained expert in school governance, who will contact the school to make introductions and agree a schedule for the day. Reviews are based on trust and mutual respect. They are tailored to the needs of the governing board, but typically:

  • as a starting point for review and discussions, the reviewer will draw up review trails using information such as the school’s Ofsted report, data dashboard, annual training record and school website
  • the reviewer will visit the school to meet with the headteacher, chair and vice chair, and other governors including staff and parents. During the school visit, the reviewer will scrutinise evidence such as governing board minutes and agendas, governor visit reports and the school development plan. At the end of the review verbal feedback, including outcomes and suggested actions for improvement, will be shared with the chair and headteacher
  • the reviewer will write a short written report with clear and specific recommendations for improvement
  • once the review is concluded, the governing board will be able to implement the identified actions for improvement with additional support from Governor Services (Governance Support) if required

Contact us for more information.

What does a review of governance cost?

The charge for a standard review of governance is £895. If you would like additional follow up the cost will depend on the work required and will be a matter for agreement with the governing board. For example, you may like to commission the reviewer to attend a full governing board meeting to observe practice and feedback to the governing board, or support the development of the governing board monitoring plan to ensure it is embedded in the school development plan.

For further information


The governing body is now effective because it has benefited greatly from the review it received and putting the recommendations into practice.....summed up in one frank appraisal '' we have all changed our mind-set, there has been a tremendous effort to improve, today you see a vastly different  school to three years ago". 

Ofsted School Inspection Report, 2016 - from RI to Good


Governance has improved since the last inspection... governors have made good use of the external review requested at the previous inspection to sharpen their understanding of how to support senior leaders and challenge them to do even better. They have attended a wide range of relevant training, which is helping them fulfil their roles and responsibilities well.  
Ofsted School Inspection Report, 2016 - from RI to Good

The training link governor is not a statutory role and there are no specific responsibilities that you are expected to carry out. However, it can be a very significant role in developing the effectiveness of the governing board.

Every training link governor and governing board will have different ideas about how to develop the role. You may find it helpful to discuss a role description so everyone is clear about the responsibilities you are taking on and can support you.

One of your responsibilities is to make sure that governor development is discussed regularly at governing board meetings.

How you do this is up to you, but many training link governors find it useful to present a verbal or written report to the full governing board. 

Support Available

New training link governors are encouraged to attend a two-hour training link governor workshop. This explores the role of the training link governor, and provides the opportunity to reflect on good practice, network with other training link governors and ask questions.

To book a place, www.EEScpdportal.org

Things you might want to do as training link governor

The following are examples of how effective training link governors can develop their role to have the most impact.

Training and Development

In most schools, the training link governor plays a vital role in linking the governing body to appropriate training and support. This includes:

  • helping governors, especially those who are new, to identify their learning and development needs
  • making governors aware of available training courses and encouraging them to attend
  • making sure new governors register on the EES Training website as new users so they can book courses and receive alerts when new dates are released
  • making governors aware that some governor training is available online; governors at schools subscribing to EES Governor Training can access a range of modules at their own convenience through Learning Link
  • alerting governors to this term's Governors' Update meeting, which addresses governor issues of local or national importance. Free to governors at schools subscribing to EES Governance Support,you can host a Governors' Update meeting at your school
  • monitoring any courses attended and maintaining a record of attendance
  • encouraging governors to share what they have learned with the rest of the governing board
  • making sure governor development is discussed regularly at governor board meetings.
  • booking a governing body development session for your governing board (GBDS). These are free to Premier and Premier Plus schools subscribing to EES governor training. Please remember that GBDS must be booked by 31 December each year, but can be taken up to 31 March.

Team Building

Most schools use training link governors to help welcome new governors and get them quickly up to speed. Here are some good practice examples of how schools have developed this role:

  • making sure new governors are properly welcomed and inducted into their new role.
  • matching new governors with an experienced governor as a ‘buddy’ to help them settle in quickly
  • producing a short governors’ handbook to give new governors essential information about the school and how the governing board works
  • maintaining and updating a resource collection for the governing board
  • carrying out a skills audit of the governing board.
  • ensuring that the school development plan includes a strand on governor development
  • assisting with recruitment to the governing board. EES for Schools Governance Support has top tips for successful recruitment

Contact us for more information

Looking for the Effective School Governance Award (ESGA)? We’re working in partnership with Optimus Education. Read about our joint ESGA offer here.


Review of Governance

Effective governance is pivotal to school improvement and the continued success of the school. Since April 2013 over 120 governing boards have benefited from an EES for Schools Review of Governance (RoG). They have become an established tool to support proactive governing boards in their self-evaluation and as a health check in preparation for inspection.
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Frequently Asked Questions

The world of school governance is constantly changing. Please visit our FAQ page to view the questions we are most frequently asked. If you can't find the answer to your question, or wish to discuss in confidence, please contact the Governor Services team on 033301 39833 or email us.