Governors' and trustees' codes of conduct: models and examples

Cover all your bases with our model code of conduct. It sets out what you can expect from governors and trustees, from core responsibilities to expected behaviours.

Last reviewed on 20 November 2023See updates
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  1. Download our model code of conduct
  2. Updates to our model policy
  3. Review annually
  4. Trust examples

The Department for Education (DfE) withdrew the Governance Handbook on 7 March 2024, and replaced it with 2 separate new governance guides for maintained schools and academies.

Take a look at our summary for what you need to know about the changes.

We’re in the process of updating our articles to reflect the new guides. Select ‘save for later’ at the top of the page to be notified when this article has been updated.

Download our model code of conduct

Our model code of conduct:

  • Is approved by Forbes Solicitors
  • Is designed so you can adapt it to your trust's context and set it across your trust, so local governors can sign up to it too
  • Takes account of relevant requirements and good practice
Download: model code of conduct (trustees or local governors) DOCX, 631.1 KB

Tailor the document to reflect:

  • Your scheme of delegation
  • Any other relevant policies that your trustees/local governors must follow, e.g. social media and IT policies
  • Whether your constitutional documents (i.e. articles of association, funding agreement) set out specific requirements for governance procedures and conduct

Make sure all trustees and local governors read and agree to the code of conduct, alongside any other relevant documents or requirements. 

It's not a statutory requirement for you to have a code of conduct, but it is something that the Governance Handbook says you "should" have (see page 38). 

Updates to our model policy

Important correction to make to your policy if you downloaded it before 28 April 2022

Our previous model policy included provisions for the suspension of trustees. However, we have since realised that the Companies Act 2006, under which trustees are appointed, makes clear that trustees can only be removed, not suspended. (Note, this does not stop you from using suspension as a sanction for governors on local governing bodies, as they aren't directors under charities law like trustees are.)
If you downloaded and used our model policy before 28 April 2022, you'll need to update it to reflect this point. We have also emailed your school with information about what you need to do.
To update your policy:
  • We recommend you replace your existing appendix 1 with appendix 1 of our updated model code of conduct for trusts. This is likely to be the simplest approach and will make sure you cover everything you need to
  • Or, if you don’t wish to replace the whole appendix, remove references to suspending trustees, so it’s clear your trust only has the power to remove them. You can keep references to suspension of local governors, who can be suspended or removed (subject to your constitutional documents)
  • We also recommend that you check your articles of association and update them if they include provisions for trustee suspensions
Forbes Solicitors has checked and approved our changes.

Other changes to our model policy

While we were reviewing this policy we took the opportunity to make a few other updates to fully align it with the latest version of the Governance Handbook. These are not essential, but if you want to update your policy to reflect these too, the changes are as follows:
  • Section 3: added a new reference to promoting equity and diversity
  • Section 6: clarified that relevant interests includes governance roles at other educational institutions
  • Section 6: added a sentence about collecting diversity data and clarified that, if governors have already provided this information, they are able to request it be removed from any reporting
  • Appendix 1: clarified that a failure to undertake training appropriate to the role is also grounds for the removal of a trustee
Forbes Solicitors has also checked and approved these changes and confirmed that there are no further changes needed.

Review annually

Although there's no required review frequency, Forbes Solicitors recommends you review and agree the code of conduct annually, upon significant changes to the law, or as needed. Your full board should ratify it.

Check that your chosen review frequency doesn't contradict anything in your constitutional documents. 

Trust examples

University of Brighton Academies Trust, a 14-school trust, has a code of conduct for its trustees and committee members.

Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust, an 18-school trust, has a code of conduct for its trustees and governors.  

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