External reviews of governance: what's involved

The process for those conducting external reviews of governance and schools being reviewed.


This is a step-by-step process of external reviews of governance for reviewers and schools being reviewed. The guidance and tools provided can be used flexibly to conduct effective reviews.

If you want to arrange a review for your school please read the external reviews of school governance guidance.

Review of governance process

The reviewer, school and where relevant, the foundation/trust or sponsor should agree the expectations of the review.

Initial discussion

The appointed reviewer, the chair and the headteacher have an initial conversation to:

  • discuss the context and needs of the school
  • explain the principles and process of the review
  • discuss the self-review process
  • agree dates for receiving information from the school and for the initial face-to-face meeting

Gather documentation

The reviewer will have access to relevant documentation provided by the school to prepare for the self-review session. Take a look at the External review of governance: tool for facilitated self review (PDF, 451KB, 16 pages) for further information.

First meeting

The reviewer will meet with the chair and headteacher (and another governor and/or member of the leadership team as appropriate) to:

  • discuss the self-review process
  • assess the capacity of the board, its strengths and areas for development
  • agree how to run the self-review meeting with the governing body

Meet other governors

The reviewer is likely to want to have conversations or meet with as many other governors as possible. This will help the reviewer assess the capacity of the governing body, its strengths and areas for development.

Self-review session

The reviewer will conduct a self-review session with the governing body. The logistics for these meetings and the extent to which the reviewer supports or leads will be agreed with the chair. The chair may decide that further sessions are needed and can discuss with the reviewer how these will be handled. During the self-review process the reviewer will confirm with the governing body the main areas for development and the action required.

Agree areas for improvement

Once the self-review process is complete, the reviewer will produce a report to share with the the chair and/or headteacher to confirm strengths and areas for improvement.

The reviewer will also produce an action plan or work with the governing body to create one.


Once the review is complete, it will be up to the governing body to implement the agreed action plan, drawing on external support as appropriate. By mutual agreement the school can agree some further support from the reviewer to support the governing body in its development. Charges for additional support would be negotiated between the school and the reviewer.

The reviewer may ask the school to put them in contact with their external adviser/relevant local authority officer and/or Ofsted inspector. This can be helpful where the reviewer has concerns about the capacity within the governing body to make improvements.

For schools judged to be ‘requiring improvement’, reports of Ofsted monitoring visits will comment on the effectiveness of the review and the evidence of impact on the quality of governance.

Templates and tools

Templates and tools that can be used during a review:

Other self-audit tools are available. Schools will need to discuss with reviewers which tools will be most appropriate for them.


An external review of governance will usually take between 2 to 3 days, including a follow-up visit to review impact. The estimated cost is around £1,000 to £1,500. The charge for a review will be agreed between the reviewer and the school. The following is an indication of the likely costs of different types of reviews.

Contact us


Further information on external reviews of governance, national leaders of governance and leadership development opportunities for governors.

Published 27 March 2015
Last updated 13 October 2016 + show all updates
  1. ERG toolkit updated.

  2. First published.