DfE Releases New Governance Guides

13th Mar 2024

On 7th March 2024, the DfE released two new non-statutory Governance Guides, one for maintained schools and one for Academy Trusts, replacing the previous Governance handbook that was withdrawn. These new guides will now serve as the primary DfE source of governance information.

Follow these links to take a look at the new guides:

Academy Trust Governance Guide

Maintained School Governance Guide

No new requirements have been placed on boards, but some of the key updates are listed below.

Changes applying to both maintained schools and Academy Trusts:

  • The DfE has introduced ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ into the guide. Musts are in bold and indicate mandatory requirements. ‘Shoulds’ indicate minimum good practice.
  • The statutory policy list has been withdrawn and the list is included in the final section of the guide. ‘Live’ documents (e.g. pupil register, SCR, register of interests, school information required on a website) have been removed from the list, but the requirement to keep these documents or webpages updated remains.
  • The Clerking Competency Framework and the Governance Competency Framework have been withdrawn.
  • New signposting to resources for link governors or trustees (e.g. SEND, safeguarding and careers).
  • New advice that it may be helpful to publish the clerk’s details on the website.
  • New advice that at least one governor/ trustee should complete cybersecurity training.
  • New advice that governors and trustees should read part 2 of KCSiE. The old Governance Handbook said, “Boards should ensure they read and have regard to KCSiE”, which, in Schools’ Choice, we have taken to mean they should read it all. Many Trusts and LAs recommend boards read it all.

Changes applying to Academy Trusts:

  • References to the ‘three core functions’ of governance have been removed and replaced with the definition of purpose from the Academy Trust Handbook – strategic leadership, accountability and assurance and strategic engagement.
  • Local Governing Bodies are now referred to as local committees.


Changes applying to maintained schools:

  • New requirement that the board must “assure itself that the headteacher reports to it as required” and headteacher’s reports include information on delegated duties, advice to governors and complying with any reasonable direction of governors.
  • New advice that governors do not have an automatic right to enter the school whenever they wish.
  • New advice that school visits should align with school improvement plan priorities and for an identified purpose linked to the board’s responsibilities, such as safeguarding.
  • Confirmation that maintained school governors do not need right-to-work checks.
  • A new section on chair’s action, which is the chair’s power to take decisions alone in emergencies. This power was mentioned in the old Governance Handbook, but they didn’t call it chair’s action.
  • New advice is that if you have joint headteachers in a job share, the co-heads only have one vote between them, not one vote each.