Governing boards should work together with school leadership to “determine and articulate” a clear three to five year vision, says a new paper.
It says this process should lead to the identification of the key strategic priorities to drive the agenda of governing board meetings, with headteachers responsible for ensuring the strategy is delivered.
Four organisations are behind this third edition of the document setting out what governing boards and school leaders should expect from each other: The National Governors’ Association, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the Local Government Association (LGA), and the National Association for Headteachers (NAHT).
Governing bodies must have the right people round the table, an understanding of their roles and responsibilities, a good chair and a commitment to asking challenging questions, says the paper.
They must also have professional clerking, good relationships based on trust, a knowledge of the school, and the confidence to have “courageous conversations in the interests of the children and young people”.
In return, school leaders need an understanding of governance, including the acknowledging the role of the school’s accountable body, and a willingness to provide information in the most appropriate way so that the governing body can carry out its role.
They also must be willing to be challenged, have a reasonable time to devote to ensuring professional relationships are established with governors and trustees, and have the skills and understanding to develop effective working relationships with the governing board.
According to the paper, the strategic role of governance and the operational role of management “needs to be clearly understood by all”.
This is crucial so that “governors and trustees are not asked to, and do not try to, involve themselves in day to day management”.
Brian Lightman, General Secretary of the ASCL, said: “There has never been a greater need for effective governance at a time when there is so much change in the education system.
“We know that an effective governing body is an enormously influential factor in the success of a school, and that this is highly dependent on establishing the right relationship between heads and governors.
“This is why the two headteachers’ associations, the NGA and the LGA have got together to define the way in which this relationship works best, and we hope that heads and governors will find this guidance useful.”
Emma Knights, chief executive of the NGA, said: “This document, now in its third edition, is the most important resource we have on the topic of roles and responsibilities.
“In any sector, when an organisation fails, there has been a failure of governance. Therefore, if we wish to prevent any school failing its pupils, we need to ensure that governance is strong.
“It’s right that the NGA and our partners focus on the relationship between governors and school leaders to ensure that this dynamic works, is productive, and that it allows everyone to direct their efforts towards school improvement.
“This document clarifies what the expectations are for governors and school leaders in the pursuit of improving the educational standards and well-being of children and young people .”