School Governance

An overview

This section of CatholicLinks deals with matters related to the governance of Catholic voluntary aided schools.

The governance of voluntary aided (VA) Catholic schools and of Catholic academies is deliberately considered separately on the CatholicLinks website. Although there are many similarities, there are also some fundamental differences in governance related to the nature of schools and academies – their legal entity, the powers and duties that flow from their legal character, and the functions they are required to fulfil in accordance with their differing legal frameworks.

Trying to talk about both the governance of schools and the governance of academies at the same time, with the same language, and in the same detail regarding the execution of functions, soon breaks down into having to continually qualify the differences between them. The constant need to explain how they are legally different, and what that means in practice, can lead to ambiguity, confusion and uncertainty about the fine  – yet crucial – detail of governance rooted in the legal status and obligations of a VA school or an academy. Therefore, CatholicLinks has provided two separate sections on the website: one relating to the governance of schools and one relating to the governance of academies, which eliminates the need for continually qualifying the differences. In simple terms – it is easier to write and it is certainly easier to read.

In this section some basics are established: the roots of all governance; clarity regarding the use of terminology – especially now there are academies; and the role of the diocese and the local authority in relation to the governing body of a voluntary aided school.

CatholicLinks explores and unpacks basic knowledge and understanding regarding the constitution and functioning of a Catholic VA governing body and the powers and duties of the governors, individually and collectively.

There are Regulations and statutory guidance that provide the foundations for the composition and functioning of the governing body of a maintained voluntary aided school:

  • The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 – referred to throughout as the Roles, Procedures and Allowances Regulations (as amended)
  • Constitution of Governing Bodies of Maintained Schools (DFE August 2015)

The three core functions of the governing body are considered as defined in law,

  • setting the vision and strategic direction of school;
  • holding the headteacher to account for its educational performance; and
  • ensuring financial resources are well spent.

The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013.

Having clarified what a governing body has to do, this is followed by consideration of how you make governance work. The governing body is established with a common purpose, mission, vision and values. People are recruited and appointed with the necessary characteristics and skills to be effective governors. They may well share theoretical knowledge about how a team – especially a team of governors – is meant to work, but knowing these ingredients alone is not enough.

The governing body needs to use these ingredients in a recipe for effectiveness, which includes using strategies such as: working with and through committees; ensuring quality leadership by the chair; and the quality support and guidance provided by the clerk to governors. Other strategies that knit together effective organisational structures, procedures and effective interpersonal working also need to be employed if the governing body is going to grow and develop into a high performing team.


Finally, there is consideration of the use of an agreed code of practice for the governing body and its committees, as well as the process of appointing appropriately qualified and skilled persons to the role of governor of a VA Catholic school.

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