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Last reviewed on 16 July 2020
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School types: All · School phases: All

The key governance terms you'll encounter, including roles on the board, school types, meeting procedures and key documents. Plus, a downloadable version to share with new governors.

Not sure who everyone is in your school? Use our handy cheat sheet to help you get to grips with all the roles in your school.

Governance roles

Term Definition School type
Associate members Appointed to a committee for their expertise in a particular area. They are not considered governors. They can serve on committees, where they have full voting rights. They can attend full governing board meetings, but can't vote at them.  Maintained schools, but academies can have them too
Clerk Employed to provide effective administration of meetings, such as circulating meeting agendas and taking minutes. Advises the governing board on governance procedures and good practice. Both
Chair The governor elected to lead the governing board's work, chair meetings and work closely with the headteacher.  Both
Company secretary Employed in some academies to handle certain legal, financial and administrative tasks for the board. The most recent funding agreements don't require academies to have one.  Academies
Link governor A member of the governing board that is appointed to monitor a specific aspect of its work.  Both
Members Sit above the board of trustees in an academy trust, and are similar to shareholders in a business. They have certain powers including signing off the articles of association, and appointing and remove trustees.   Academies
Trustees The people on an academy trust's board. They deliver the core functions of governance and must ensure compliance with charity law, company law, and the trust's funding agreement. Sometimes referred to as the board of directors.  Academies
Vice-chair Deputises for the chair when they're absent. Both

Types of school

Maintained schools

Schools maintained and funded by local authorities. They follow the national curriculum and rules on teacher pay and conditions. There are different sub-categories of maintained school:

  • Community 
    The school is controlled by the local authority, with no influence from religious, charitable or business groups. The local authority is the employer and is responsible for admissions
  • Voluntary aided (VA)
    The governing board is the employer and is responsible for admissions. They are usually faith schools, and the religious group owns the school's land and buildings and has a majority of members on the governing board
  • Voluntary controlled (VC)
    The school has close links with a religious or other organisation that owns the land and buildings and has input into what the school does, but the local authority is the employer and responsible for admissions 
  • Foundation
    The governing board is the employer and the admissions authority. The school's land and buildings are normally owned by the foundation. The foundation is usually non-religious, making it different to voluntary aided schools

Publicly-funded schools with more freedoms and autonomy than maintained schools. They don’t have to follow the national curriculum and can set their own term times. They still have to follow the same rules on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as other state schools. They're funded directly from the government, not local authorities. 

They have often converted from being a maintained school.

Free schools A type of academy set up as a new school under the government's free schools programme. Often set up by parent, charitable or business groups. 

Multi-academy trust.

A trust that oversees a number of academies, all under one legal entity.

Special schools Cater specifically for pupils with special educational needs. Run and funded via the local authority.
Special academies Cater specifically for pupils with special educational needs. Run by an academy trust, not the local authority.
Non-maintained special schools

Cater specifically for children with special educational needs. Run by charitable trusts on a not-for-profit basis. They are funded mostly from local authorities, who commission places for children with special educational needs in their area. 


Pupil referral unit. 

Cater specifically for children who are excluded, sick or otherwise unable to attend mainstream school. Maintained by the local authority. 

AP academy

Alternative provision academy. 

Cater specifically for children who are excluded, sick or otherwise unable to attend mainstream school. Run by an academy trust, not the local authority.

Independent schools

Also known as ‘private schools’ or sometimes 'public schools'. They charge fees for pupils to attend and don't follow the national curriculum. 

Note that academies are also independent schools for purposes of legislation, but aren't normally referred to as such.

If you're not sure what school type yours is, search the name on Get Information About Schools

Governance structures

Term Definition School type
Board of trustees The equivalent of the governing board in academy trusts. Delivers the core functions of governance and must ensure compliance with charity law, company law, and the trust's funding agreement. Sometimes referred to as the board of directors.  Academies

Local governing body.

In MATs, the board of trustees can delegate governance functions to local governing bodies. They are technically committees of the board of trustees. Their powers vary between trusts.

Circle model of governance When a governing board works without separate committees but delegates monitoring of specific areas of the school to certain governors.  Both
Committee A group of governors delegated responsibilities for a specific area of the governing board’s work. Both

Interim executive board.

If a maintained school is judged ‘eligible for intervention’, then the local authority or regional schools commissioner may require an IEB to be put in place of the governing board. The IEB is a “small, focused group” that normally includes individuals “with financial skills and experience of transformational educational improvement”.

Maintained schools
Management committee The equivalent of the governing board for pupil referral units (PRUs).  Maintained schools

Meeting procedures

Term Definition School type
Agenda  A list of the items to be discussed at a governing board or committee meeting.   Both

Annual general meeting.

Under the DfE's model articles of association for academies, an academy trust must hold an AGM each financial year, in addition to other meetings that year. The members must attend (either in person or by proxy), and trustees can if they want.

Minutes  A written record of the events of a full governing board or committee meeting. Recorded by the clerk. Both

Extraordinary general meeting.

A meeting convened outside of the normal schedule, normally to discuss urgent matters that can't wait until the next scheduled meeting. 

Ordinary resolution A decision that requires the agreement of a majority of the members of the trust. Academies
Special resolution A decision that requires the agreement of 75% of the members of the trust. Academies
Quorum The minimum number of governors that must be present at full governing board or committee meetings in order for official decisions to be made.   Both

Key documents

Governance documents

Term Definition School type
Academies Financial Handbook Government guidance that sets out the financial framework for academy trusts, “reflecting their status as companies, charities and public bodies”. Compliance with the handbook is required by the trusts’ funding agreements.   Academies
Articles of association  Set out the rules for the internal management, decision making and governance of academy trusts. The Department for Education has a set of model articles, and each academy trust will have a tailored version of the models for themselves.  Academies
Clerking competency framework Non-statutory framework published by the government that sets out the required competencies to deliver professional clerking. Both
Code of conduct Your board will have its own code of conduct that sets clear expectations about governors’ role and behaviour. By agreeing to a code of conduct, there's an explicit reference point in case of any disagreement/misconduct during a governor’s term of office.    Both
Competency framework for governors  Non-statutory framework published by the government that sets out the competencies needed for effective governance.   Both
Constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools  Statutory government guidance that explains the arrangements for the constitution of governing bodies of all LA-maintained schools.  Maintained schools
Funding agreement

The contract between the academy and secretary of state for education that sets out the terms of how it is funded. 

The Department for Education has a model funding agreement, and each academy trust will have a tailored version of the model for themselves. 

In MATs, there is a master funding agreement that regulates the funding for all academies within the MAT. There are also supplementary funding agreements that are specific to each academy within the MAT. See the DfE's models for single academies and MATs


Governance handbook 

Department for Education advice that sets out “the government’s vision and priorities for effective school governance”. It outlines the core role of governance, and provides a summary on all the legal duties of governing bodies. It is updated regularly to reflect changes in the law and education policy.


Instrument of government Document that maintained school boards must create to record the constitution of the governing board (e.g. how many of each category of governor must be on the board). Maintained schools
Memorandum of association Sets out the name of the academy trust and provides details of the people/organisations who wish to form the trust and become its members under the Companies Act 2006.  Academies
Register of interests Records the relevant business and pecuniary interests of all governors and senior staff that have served over the past 12 months. All boards must create one. See our articles for maintained schools and academies Both
Scheme of delegation Created by governing boards to set out what it has delegated to its committees or individuals. In the case of MATs, it will outline what responsibilities are delegated to its local governing boards. Find out more in our articles for single academies and MATs. Both

School improvement plan.

A document created by your board and the headteacher that sets out the school's priorities for improvement over the coming year(s).

Standing orders Created by boards to set out the membership and procedures of a governing board or committee, where they're not already set out in terms of reference or the instrument of government/articles of association. Both
Terms of reference Created by boards to define the purpose and remit of a governing board committee, and the arrangements for reporting to the full governing board.  Both
The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013  Non-statutory government advice to help maintained schools and pupil referral units understand their obligations and duties in relation to the School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013.   Maintained school

Other key documents

Term Definition School type
EYFS framework 

Early years foundation stage framework.

The statutory framework for all early years providers. It “sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well”.  

Keeping Children Safe in Education  Statutory guidance setting out what schools and colleges should do, and what they must comply with, in order to safeguard children. Both
School admissions code  Statutory guidance that schools must follow when carrying out duties relating to school admissions.   Both

School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document.

Sets out the statutory requirements for teachers’ pay and conditions that maintained schools must follow. It also applies to staff in academies who had their employment transferred at the point of conversion.

It covers areas including pay ranges and progression, pay allowances, professional responsibilities, and working time arrangements. It's updated annually. 

Maintained schools, and some academies

Single central record.

A record of employment and suitability checks a school has carried out on staff. The SCR should be kept up-to-date by staff in the school, while the governing board or academy trust must ensure it's being monitored. A statutory requirement for all schools.

SEND code of practice

Special educational needs and disabilities code of practice. 

Statutory guidance explaining the duties of local authorities and schools to provide for children and young people with SEND.


Downloadable version

You can use this printable version to share with your board: 


Definitions were taken from the Governance Handbook and articles on our website.

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