Press release

School governors encouraged to consider academy freedoms

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Schools Minister Lord Hill praises school governors as he sets out plans to strengthen their role.

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Governors from outstanding schools across England are being encouraged to consider the coalition government’s offer to take up academy freedoms.

In an open letter ahead of his speech to the National Governors’ Association, Lord Hill said:

Since the start of the new term 80 outstanding schools have now opened as academies, and over 60 more have taken up our offer to convert in the coming months. It is very encouraging that so many governors and headteachers are using this opportunity to take control of their schools and become academies.

We know academies have had a dramatic impact where they already exist. The recent National Audit Office report highlights the continued success they are having, and the experience of the city technology colleges in England and other reforms across the world has shown that giving schools autonomy successfully drives up performance.

To help those considering applying for academy status, the government has provided additional advice and tools on common issues such as the conversion process, funding, land, pensions and insurance, along with a draft model funding agreement for heads and governors. We will be updating the conversion guide for heads and governors to reflect the feedback from the first wave of schools converting.

Governors interested in taking up the academy freedoms will also be offered the opportunity to be put in touch with successful converters or experienced academy principals and governors, to create a growing network of successful schools.

Speaking this morning to an audience of school governors at the National Governors’ Association Conference in London, Schools Minister Lord Hill said:

I believe that school governors are the unsung heroes and heroines of our education system.

And I wanted to come here to say a huge thank you to all of the 300,000 school governors up and down the land who slog away, for hours on end, in their own time - often at the end of a long and busy day - to help their local schools improve, to give something back to their local communities, and to do their bit in the common endeavour in which we are all engaged - driving up standards so that all children have the chance to aim high, achieve their potential and get on in life.

Our schools white paper will provide a boost to school governance by setting out how we will take forward a range of measures.

It is absolutely clear to me that the most important decision-making group in any school is the governing body. You should set the overall strategic direction of a school, hold the headteacher to account and have a relentless focus on driving up standards - but we don’t want you to be dragged into micro-managing the school or the minutiae of its day-to-day activities.

We need to ensure that governing bodies have the best possible people, representing a range of different groups and with the right mix of skills. We know all schools are different and need different things at different stages of their development - as such, school governance needs to be flexible.

We must mount an energetic and sustained attack on the culture of guidance and paperwork that tells you how to do your job.

And finally, we need - even in these straitened times - to find ways of supporting governors, especially chairs of governors, including by providing access to high-quality training and also making it easier for you to get access to a wide range of information and data about the performance of local schools.

Emma Knights, Chief Executive at the National Governors’ Association (NGA), welcomed Lord Hill’s comments. She said:

With the government’s approach of increasing the autonomy of schools, governing bodies are firmly in the spotlight and the NGA is working hard to help governors fulfil their critical role effectively and help schools continue to improve the education of their pupils.

Notes to editors

  1. The following information can be found on the Department for Education’s website:

DfE enquiries

Published 6 November 2010