Last reviewed 5 December 2017

The provision of high quality training for school governors has become increasingly important in recent years. Changes in legislation and guidance have stressed the need for more skilled and professional governing bodies, and training is a vital part of that agenda. Martin Hodgson, a former governor, looks at what training is available.

Responsibilities for training

Training for school governors is not compulsory. However, all governors, no matter how experienced they are, should be encouraged to identify their needs and access training to improve their effectiveness. While a governing body can provide such encouragement, as well as support for governors to access training, ultimately it is individual governors who are responsible for what training they attend.

The Department for Education (DfE) suggests in the Governors Handbook that a governing body’s Code of Conduct should set an “ethos of professionalism” and an expectation that governors should undertake whatever training or development activity is needed to fill any gaps in their skills. The handbook recommends regular audits of governors’ skills and competences to target training requirements and plan training.

The skills that governors require are set out by DfE in their Competency Framework for Governance — The Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours Needed for Effective Governance in Maintained Schools, Academies and Multi-academy Trusts.

Each governing body has a general responsibility for the training of its members and it is the clerk to the governors who can play an important role in distributing details of any training events and co-ordinating attendance.

Training should be funded by the school. Governing bodies should ensure that their budget identifies and makes provision for meeting their own training needs.

Types of training

Face-to-face training is the traditional form of training. However, training accessed online using the internet is becoming increasingly popular. Such e-learning involves no travel or attendance and people can access the training whenever they like, completing it at their own pace. In many cases, learners can even access their e-learning across different devices including smartphones and tablets.

Some governors’ training can be covered by the school itself, or by local federations or groups of schools and academies. Wherever possible, multi-agency training should be supported as this encourages joint working and partnership.

Training available

A range of organisations provide both face-to-face and online training for school governors.

The National Governance Association (NGA) probably provides or supports the greatest range of training, including a programme of face-to-face “effective governance” courses and a consultancy service that can tailor events to support individual governing bodies if requested.

The NGA has also produced an extensive series of online and distance learning resources which can be accessed through its Learning Link service.

Online training from NGA includes:

  • an e-learning portal for new governors — developed by Virtual College through its Enable LMS solution, one of the UK’s leading learning management systems being used across businesses, schools, colleges and councils

  • over 50 e-learning modules which have been updated to reflect changes in legislation and the latest DfE Governance Handbook and Competency Framework content

  • eight induction modules delivered free to any governors and trustees placed through Inspiring Governance, the online governance recruitment service

  • 24/7 telephone and email support.

Schools can subscribe to Learning Link via the NGA website. The service offers a cost-effective training solution which includes certificates for completed training and an online training record to provide evidence of courses accessed.

Local authorities (LAs) are perhaps the other main source of short face-to-face training courses. Programmes are usually distributed to governors’ clerks at the beginning of each school term. Many courses are provided free for community schools while academies can often access training for a fee.

Common examples of courses include:

  • Child safeguarding — awareness training relating to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils as well as duties under the Prevent anti-radicalisation strategy

  • Health and Safety legislation

  • Target Setting — exploring how targets should be set and by whom

  • Self Evaluation and Planning for Improvement — designed to explore school performance management

  • Understanding and using RAISE online to improve school outcomes

  • Improving financial efficiencies

  • Handling Complaints.

Information for School and College Governors (ISCG) is another organisation that provides specialist governance training. For example, their bespoke training for governors is designed to:

  • cover compliance with the law relating to governance — including recent changes

  • explore the responsibilities of governing bodies

  • enable governors to work effectively together

  • help governors to raise standards in their schools.

ISCG work with all types of schools and use tutors who are experienced governors.

The Modern Governor programme is another popular e-learning source. Courses include Introduction to Governance, Governor Responsibilities, Inspection and Safeguarding, and a range of “core skills” courses including Working with Others, Communication, Leading Change and Personal Effectiveness.

The training can be accessed at www.moderngovernor.com.

Induction support for new governors

Providing support and help for those new to their role as a governor is a vital element in the successful running of a governing body.

Guidance produced by the NGA, The Right People Around the Table, includes information about how induction training should be set up and what opportunities are available to new governors.

The guide explains that schools which are GOLD members of the NGA are entitled to receive a copy of their induction materials, Welcome to Governance for LA maintained schools and Welcome to a Multi Academy Trust in the case of MATs. New governors will also have access to the e-learning materials referred to earlier.

The NGA guidance reminds boards that induction training should be tailored to the individual concerned. They recommend that mentoring by an experienced governor should be available and that new governors should have access to external training courses wherever appropriate.

Once they have completed their induction, governors should have access to further training and development updates according to their needs.

Governance leadership training

Those new to the roles of chair of governors or clerks to governors are advised to access additional training for them to carry out their role. This may be delivered locally as part of existing training programmes or the chair or clerk may prefer to complete a national programme.

The Chairs of Governors’ Leadership Development Programme was originally developed by the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) who gave licenses to various providers to deliver the programme across the country, including the NGA.

The programme consists of three units, each studied over a term:

  1. The role of the chair.

  2. Effective governance.

  3. School improvement.

The NGA states that the emphasis of the programme is not on tasks and how to chair a meeting but on developing chairs and aspiring chairs to support and lead their governing body with confidence.

Email enquiries can be made at leading.governance@nga.org.uk.

Fully-funded half day NCTL workshops can be accessed through the Leading Governance Partnership, also via the NGA, and a National Leaders of Governance (NLG) programme is available from the NCTL. A guide for potential applicants is published on the GOV.UK website.

Clerks can attend the NCTL workshops. Also for clerks is the National Clerks' Development Programme. The programme includes five half day face-to-face Essential Units and nine online Elective Units. The course is underpinned by the Clerking Competency Framework published by DfE earlier this year.

Clerks should receive appropriate appraisal and supervision and should be encouraged to attend local meetings and networking sessions to ensure that they are up to date and can perform their role of advising the board about legal processes and changes.

Further information

Details about NGA training programmes, publications, local events and conferences can be accessed through the NGA website.