How to make sure your local governing bodies are effective and engaged

Trust boards and governance leads, be clear on how to develop an effective relationship with your local governing bodies (LGBs). Make sure they understand their role and access training and development, so they feel accountable and engaged to become effective players in your trust.

Last reviewed on 24 August 2023
School types: AllSchool phases: AllRef: 40748
  1. Make sure there's engagement in both directions
  2. Help your LGBs understand the scheme of delegation
  3. Recognise the unique value of your LGBs

Our thanks to our associate education experts Cathy Brown, Brendan Hollyer, Lizzie Oliver, Phil Preston, Julia Skinner, Sara Scott and Jill Wakefield for their advice for this article.

Who this article is for

This article is aimed at:

  • The board of trustees
  • Whoever leads the central governance team in a multi-academy trust (MAT)
    • They may be called a ‘governance co-ordinator’, ‘governance manager’, ‘head of governance’ or something different
If you're on a local governing body (LGB), find out how to stay effective and engaged with your trust.

Make sure there's engagement in both directions

If you want your LGBs to be more engaged, the trust needs to engage with your LGBs too - it's a 2-way street.

Set up regular touch points between trustees and LGBs, and look at where you can establish networks to make sure everyone's on the same page.

Establish regular forums/away days

Expand meeting attendance across your trust

Use meeting reports to stay updated 

Help your LGBs understand the scheme of delegation

Your LGBs will be most effective if they fully understand their role.

When a new school joins your trust, or when your scheme of delegation changes, it’s a good idea for someone from the trust central team to go through the scheme of delegation with your LGBs.

Clarify their roles and responsibilities, and how it’ll work in practice

Make sure you train up your LGBs so they understand:

  • What's in the scheme
  • What responsibilities they have
  • What you expect them to do and how often
  • How lines of accountability will work in practice

Don’t just print off a ‘decision-matrix’ - instead, try to give your LGBs absolute clarity on what they need to do.

For example, if your decision matrix states that LGBs will be ‘consulted’ when appointing a headteacher, does this mean they’re part of the appointment panel or only consulted on the advert?

Clarify exactly what it means for an LGB to be ‘responsible’ or ‘consulted’ for different areas in the scheme of delegation.

The trust's governance lead is best placed to do this.

Find out how to write a scheme of delegation and on-board a new academy effectively

Make sure new local governors understand what’s expected

This will help them make an effective contribution early on. Remind your LGBs to use our our training courses - we have an induction course specifically for governors on LGBs.

This will help your new local governors learn at a time and space that suits them, and will help them get acquainted with everything they need to know about governing on an LGB.

Recognise the unique value of your LGBs

Whatever level of delegated power your LGBs have, they're extremely valuable to your trust. 


  • Your LGBs are your board’s eyes and ears at a local level - they’ll always have a unique local perspective which you can’t find elsewhere
  • Your LGBs have strengths which the board of trustees doesn’t have
    • For example, your LGBs may not have delegated financial power, but instead they may be stronger in supporting school improvement and engaging with the community - celebrate this!
  • People rarely choose a school based on the trust - typically it’s the reputation of the individual school that draws parents in. Remind your LGBs that their local decisions and responsibilities matter

To engage your LGBs and help them recognise their value you can:

1. Tell them and thank them

The chair of trustees, a trustee or a governance lead could do this.

Let them know that you're aware of the impact they're having. For example, tell them that you know about the work they do in supporting fundraising efforts, attending functions and raising the profile of the school.

You could:

  • Tell them in person/virtually during an LGB meeting
    • Speak to the chair of the LGB first to see if they're happy to invite you (don’t just turn up)
  • Tell the chair of the LGB virtually/over the phone for them tell their local governors

2. Consider changing how you refer to your LGBs

This could be in your:

  • Language - changing what you call your LGBs, for example to ‘committees’ or ‘ambassadors’, might better reflect the responsibilities they have and make them feel closer and more valued by your trust
  • Trust’s structure - a diagram isn’t everything, but it can leave an impression. Consider moving your LGBs onto the same ‘line’ in your trust structure alongside central committees and services. This can send a message to your LGBs that they aren’t ‘bottom of the pecking order’, and affirm that they're as important as other committees


Cathy Brown is the director of governance of The Mead Educational Trust with over 20 years’ experience in governance. She has been the chair of a number of schools in the maintained and academy sector, delivers governance training and is a former National Leader of Governance.

Brendan Hollyer is the chair of governors at 2 primary academies. He's also a trustee at another MAT which covers all phases of primary and secondary education. He's a former national leader of governance (NLG) and is a founding member of Independent Governor Services (IGovS). Formerly, Brendan worked as the director of conversions and governance for a multi-academy trust.

Dr Lizzie Oliver is the Director of Governance for Northern Star Academies Trust, and provides governance support and guidance across a wide variety of school and trust settings.

Phil Preston is an education consultant and experienced practitioner in new schools provision, school organisation and development planning, capital strategy and asset management, and governor development. He has been head of service in the education departments of 3 local authorities, and a national programme and project gateway reviewer.

Julia Skinner is a former headteacher and National Leader of Governance. She has chaired in a MAT, a federation of special schools and numerous maintained schools. She supports school leaders who need a listening ear and blue-sky thinking.

Sara Scott has been the governance manager for The Collegiate Trust since August 2018. Sara has worked in governance for over 12 years and has worked with a range of primary and secondary schools within the maintained, special and academies sectors.

Jill Wakefield is an independent provider of governance services. She was Head of Governance for 2 Diocesan MATs and has experience of supporting governance at trust- and local-level in MATs and in church schools.

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