The Department of Education (DfE) has published 2 new governance guides to replace the Governance Handbook. Moreover, the DfE has separated maintained schools and trusts and amalgamated some other guidance. This makes it much easier for school and trust staff to reference guidance!

Academy Trust Governance Guide

This guidance is for:

  • trustees, executive leaders, local committee governors, governance professionals and academy trust members;
  • academy trusts, including free schools and university technical colleges;
  • foundations, sponsors and others, such as diocesan authorities, with an interest in the governance of trusts;
  • organisations supporting boards to develop effective governance.

Maintained Schools Governance Guide

This guidance is for:

  • governors, senior leaders, governance professionals (clerks) and associate members;
  • local-authority-maintained schools, including maintained special schools and maintained nursery schools, foundation and voluntary schools;
  • foundations and others, such as diocesan authorities with an interest in the governance of schools;
  • organisations supporting boards to develop effective governance.

Neither of these guides applies directly to pupil referral units, sixth-form colleges and general further education colleges, though they may find its principles helpful.

What does the new guidance mean for Governors and Trustees?

There are no new requirements for governors or trustees, but get up to speed on the new format for DfE governance guidance.

Additionally, GovernorHub suggests boards don’t need to do anything just yet, except:

  • Make sure everyone on your board is aware of and can access the right guide for your school type;
  • Remove any copies of or reference to, the previous Governance Handbook in your board's files and documents.

What do they include?

Both of these new guides offer tailored information and guidance on the following 7 points:

  1. Effective governance;
  2. Strategic leadership;
  3. Accountability;
  4. People;
  5. Governance structures;
  6. Evaluation;
  7. Compliance.

These guides also include information on all of the Statutory policies for maintained schools/Trusts, depending on which guide you read. Non-statutory policies are not included. Boards remain accountable for these documents and the policies and procedures contained within them.

What documents do these new guides replace?

With the DfE’s publication of the 2 new governance guides, it simultaneously withdrew the following documents:

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

The new governance guides now cover much of the information in those documents.

Other resources

Below are more practical resources for trust boards available from sector organisations, including:

National Governance Association

Confederation of School Trusts


Chartered Governance Institute

Catholic Education Service

Church of England Education Office

In another one of our blogs, we discussed Enhancing Governance: Supporting Academy Trusts in Aligning with Governance Standards. This blog explores the uses and importance of stakeholder feedback in the development of strong trusts.