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New schools Governance Handbook released

The Department for Education has released an updated Governance Handbook.

It applies to academies, multi-academy trusts and maintained schools and should be read alongside the Competency Framework for Governance and the Clerking Competency Framework released in January 2017.

The Governance handbook explains the core role and functions of school governing boards, their legal duties and the support available to them.

What are the key changes?

A greater emphasis on parental engagement:

Boards*  should ensure that they are regularly communicating with parents and carers. They must be able to demonstrate the methods they use to obtain the views of parents, carers and the local community, how those views have influenced their decision making and how they have fed back to those parties.

* - in local authority maintained schools, this will be the governing body and in an academy trust this will be the board of trustees

How often should the board meet: take place at least three times a year (and business conducted only when quorate) and larger academy trust boards should consider meeting more frequently. Boards that meet less than six times a year, must explain in their governance statement how they have maintained effective oversight of funds.

  Board meetings must

Local Authority associated people (LAAPs) serving as Members:

All academy trusts, as charitable companies, have both trustees and members. The guidance confirms that no more than 19.9% of members can be LAAPs i.e., employees, members or officers of an LA or those who are or have been, within the last four years.

School Curriculum Policy: 

There is no longer a duty on maintained schools to prepare a School Curriculum policy. But, if schools adopt one, it should be broad and doesn't need to map all secular curriculum activities.

However, maintained schools must publish:

  • the content of the school curriculum in each academic year for every subject, including religious education, which some schools may be teaching as a part of another subject/subjects or refer to as something other than "religious education".
  • the names of any phonics or reading scheme used in KS1
  • a list of the courses available to pupils at KS4, including GCSEs
  • how parents or other members of the public can find out more about the curriculum the school uses.

Sex and Relationship Education (SRE):

  The government is in the process of making changes to SRE. The Secretary of State is making compulsory, through regulations:

  • relationships education for all pupils receiving primary education in schools
  • relationships and sex education (RSE) for all pupils receiving secondary education in schools and
  • health education for all pupils in state-funded schools.


A new duty, which came into force in January 2018, requires all maintained schools and academies to allow education and training providers to inform pupils in years 8-13 about approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships. 

Organisations must publish a policy statement setting out the circumstances in which providers will be given access to pupils. (see DfE guidance entitled Careers Guidance and Access for Education and Training Providers, October 2018for more detail).

Statement of Principles:

The handbook confirms that the duty to produce and publish a Statement of Principles (to help determine the measures that make up the school’s behaviour policy) applies to maintained schools only.  Academies are not legally required to publish a statement but are encouraged to do so.

Fire safety

: All bodies responsible for schools must ensure that their schools are compliant with the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Under the Order, boards should ensure there is an appropriate and up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment for all school buildings within their control. These should take into account any fire safety risks and detail the mitigations in place to manage these.


Where childcare is provided on site by another provider the handbook confirms  the board must ensure that the provider has appropriate policies and procedures in place in regard to safeguarding children.

Get Information About Schools (GIAS):

GIAS has replaced Edubase as the DfE’s register of educational establishments. All schools must ensure their details are up to date on the GIAS website.

The handbook also contains updated sections in relation to safeguarding, pre-appointment checks and GDPR. Each section provides a useful summary of the legal duties owed in these specific areas.  

Need more information?

Please contact one of our educational specialists.