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Last reviewed on 27 July 2018
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School types: All · School phases: All

When appointing new governors, you can take references as necessary to help you make an informed decision. Use our cover letter and form.

References can provide evidence of suitability

It's not unusual for governing boards to ask for references for potential governors. Most local authorities (LAs) will also ask for references for LA governors.

Boards need to be confident that any new governors they appoint have the necessary skills, including the willingness and ability to learn and develop. Asking for references may be one way of gathering evidence of this, along with interviews or detailed discussions (see page 33 of the Governance Handbook).

Download our reference form and cover letter

There's no specific method for requesting references or guidance on how they should be written.

Save time by using the reference form and cover letter we've created. It's based on advice from Governors for Schools and One Education.

Requesting references for existing governors is not common practice

While there is nothing preventing you from doing this, it's not really advisable.

If you decide to take up references for existing governors, you would need a very clear rationale for doing so. You'd need to plan how you would deal with a poor reference, for example, and have a clear idea of what specifically you want to ask of a referee.

This was explained to us by our associate education expert Vicky Redding.

However, you must ensure that all governors on your board have had a disclosure and barring services (DBS) check. Read more about the requirement for governors in maintained schools and academy trustees to have this check. 

Who can be a referee

A referee can be anyone who is not a family member or friend of the applicant.

For example, a referee could be an applicant's line manager or a more senior colleague at work. If appropriate, their child’s headteacher could be a suitable referee. 

If an applicant is being appointed based on specific skills, the referee should be someone who has knowledge of their capabilities in these areas.

This was explained to us by representatives of Governors for Schools and One Education.


Vicky Redding is a governance trainer and consultant. She provides training, advice and support on effective school governance. 

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