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Clerk’s quick guide to governance legislation
As clerk, you need to advise the board on good governance and how to follow procedures. Bookmark our quick reference guide to the key legislation and guidance you need to know about and refer to on a regular basis.
Your first port of call: the Governance Handbook
The Governance Handbook will often be the first place to look for anything governance-related. It's not legislation itself, but it:
- Sets out the core role and functions of the governing board
- Summarises all the legal duties on boards, signposting to more detailed information, guidance and resources
- Provides information on the support available to boards to be effective
It's published by the Department for Education (DfE) and is usually updated annually.
Maintained school regulations
Constitution of the board
The School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2012 set out the rules on how your board must be made up, and who can be on it.
The DfE has published statutory guidance on these regulations, which makes them easier to understand.
Look at these regulations and guidance if you have questions about:
- The categories of governor and how they're appointed or elected, including the process for parent and staff governor elections
- How many of each governor category can be on a board
- The situations where someone would be disqualified from being a governor
- Terms of office
- How governors can be removed
- The instrument of government
All maintained school governing boards are required to be constituted under the 2012 regulations. The previous 2007 ones were revoked from 1 September 2015.
But if you're in a federation, the board needs to be constituted under the federation regulations instead – see below.
Governance in federations
If your school is part of a federation, the regulations you need to follow are The School Governance (Federations) (England) Regulations 2012.
Look to these for the rules on:
- The procedures governing boards need to follow to federate
- How the governing board of a federated school needs to be made up
- How each category of governor needs to be appointed or elected
- How federations can be dissolved
They'll also tell you how other regulations, such as the procedures ones and parts of the constitution ones (mentioned below and above), apply to schools in federations.
The DfE's statutory guidance on the constitution of governing boards applies to schools in federations, so refer to that too.
Federated or not, The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 set out the procedures your board needs to follow. There's some non-statutory guidance on them too.
Look at this legislation for the rules on:
- The roles of the governing board and the headteacher
- The appointment of the chair, vice-chair and clerk, and what responsibilities they have
- Procedures for running meetings, including:
- Who can attend
- How to convene them
- Minutes and papers
- Who can't take part
- How functions can be delegated
- Committees, including:
- How they're established
- Associate members' voting rights
- Rules on how the meetings need to run
- Governors' allowances
Collaborating on governance with other maintained schools
Also applicable to all maintained schools are The School Governance (Collaboration) (England) Regulations 2003, which dictate how maintained schools can collaborate over their functions. They're summarised in statutory guidance.
Turn to these for rules on:
- Collaborating with other governing boards
- Setting up joint committees
- Clerking and minuting joint committees
- Appointing associate members to joint committees
- Who can and can't take part in joint committee meetings
It's worth noting that you don't need to formally set up an arrangement under these regulations if you just want to 'borrow' a governor from another school to sit on a complaints panel. This is set out in the DfE's complaints guidance.
Articles of association
The articles of association set out the rules for the internal management, decision making and governance of academy trusts.
The DfE has a set of model articles, and each academy trust will have a tailored version of these.
Turn to your academy's own articles for the rules on almost all aspects of how the trust must be governed, including:
- Electing and appointing trustees
- Terms of office
- The criteria that disqualifies someone from being a trustee
- Clerking and taking minutes
- Electing a chair and vice-chair
- Conflicts of interests
- Annual general meetings (AGMs)
- Meetings of the trustees, including:
Academies Financial Handbook
The Academies Financial Handbook is government guidance that sets out the financial management, control and reporting requirements that apply to all academy trusts, reflecting their status as companies, charities and public bodies.
Trusts’ funding agreements require them to comply with the handbook (see page 13-14 of the DfE's model funding agreement).
See the handbook if you have questions about anything to do with:
- The roles and responsibilities of trustees, members, the accounting officer and the chief financial officer
- The rules on the trust's financial oversight and financial planning and monitoring
- Rules for how the trust makes different types of transactions, including contentious transactions
- Audit requirements
There's a list of all the 'musts' in part 8 (page 53).
It's updated every year – we'll let you know when this happens so you can see if anything's changed.
Independent school standards
The independent school standards apply to academies (as explained in the model funding agreement linked to above).
The parts most likely to be relevant to your role as clerk are:
- When people are suitable to work at, or govern the school (including information about safeguarding checks) – see part 4
- Complaints procedures – see part 7
The standards also set rules on:
- How the school ensures the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils
- How the school ensures the welfare, health and safety of pupils
- Premises of and accommodation at schools
- The information the school must make available
- The quality of leadership and management of schools
There are a few sections of the legislation that don't apply to academies. These are:
- Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4, which set out standards for the quality of education provided
- Making the information set out in paragraph 32(3)(b), (c) and (e) available to parents of current or prospective pupils, inspectors and the secretary of state
- Paragraph 32(1)(h), which says that where a pupil's place at the school is funded by a local authority, the school must submit an annual account of income received and expenditure incurred by the school regarding that pupil to the local authority and the secretary of state
How to check if legislation is up to date
Legislation is sometimes amended, and it's not always clear whether this is the case when you're looking at the original version. You can't always rely on statutory guidance to be updated to reflect the changes either.
To be confident you're advising your board using the most up-to-date information, go to the legislation's page on legislation.gov.uk. You'll see a status bar which will show 1 of 3 messages.
If you see a green bar like this, you can be confident the legislation is up to date:
A red bar means it's out of date. Click 'view outstanding changes' to see the updates:
If you see a grey bar like this, it means the legislation.gov.uk editorial team haven't yet looked at whether this piece of legislation has any amendments:
If this is the case, you need do some more checks to be confident you're using the most up-to-date version:
- On the page, click the tab 'More resources'
- On that page, there's a heading called 'List of all changes'. Click the first option under it, "Affecting the [legislation title]", and you'll see a list of all the changes made in other legislation that affect the version you're looking at
- You can then search using Ctrl+F (on Windows) or Cmd+F (on a Mac) for the specific section you want to find out about
Keep this article handy
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