The Governance Handbook is guidance from the Department for Education (DfE), setting out legal requirements and advice for maintained school governors and multi academy trust (MAT) trustees and members.

What changes have been made to the 2017 Handbook?

The updated Handbook is designed to be read alongside the DfE's new Competency Framework. Both documents highlight six principles of effective governance:

  • Strategic leadership
  • Accountability
  • People
  • Structures
  • Compliance
  • Evaluation

The new Handbook seems particularly focused on financial governance, with Lord Nash emphasising the need for 'robust accountability' and 'safeguarding the highest standards of financial propriety'.

Section 2 includes a new sub-section (2.3) highlighting the board's role as a key decision maker.

Section 3 introduces a new sub-section (3.4) focusing on the board's function in overseeing financial performance – this is especially important for MATs given their financial autonomy.

Section 4 has been expanded to include:

  • the need for all those involved in governance to have a DBS check
  • an explanation of the risks of employing close family members
  • advice on conducting fair elections to recruit candidates
  • an emphasis on the requirement to update EduBase (for more details click here to view our recent Article on updating the EFA)
  • details of how important the role of the clerk is

Section 5 updates the guidance on the role of trustees and members and the functions of MATs. It sets out what makes an effective scheme of delegation and reminds all boards that the scheme of delegation must be published.

Section 6 confirms that a designated individual on the board should take responsibility for safeguarding arrangements. There is also new advice on how to handle a child's allegations of abuse by another child.

Section 7 issues further guidance on schools causing concern and coasting schools, including information on how they will be dealt with.