Publication of Competency Framework for Governance – Friday 13 January 2017

This week I report on the publication of the new Competency Framework for Governance, the newly updated version of the Governance Handbook and the Prime Minister’s plans to transport mental health support.

Competency Framework for Governance
Yesterday the DfE published the much-anticipated Competency Framework for Governance, which sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for effective governance. It is non-statutory guidance applicable to governing boards of maintained schools and academies and should be read alongside the updated version of the Governance Handbook.

The framework begins with the principles and personal attributes which, alongside the commitment of time and energy to the role, underpin effective governance. Around 200 competencies have been identified, grouped under the headings of the six features of effective governance as follows:

  • strategic leadership – that sets and champions vision, ethos and strategy;
  • accountability – that drives up educational standards and financial performance;
  • people – with the right skills, experience, qualities and capacity;
  • structures – that reinforce clearly defined roles and responsibilities;
  • compliance – with statutory and contractual requirements;
  • evaluation – to monitor and improve the quality and impact of governance.

Within each of the six features of effective governance the competencies have been organised into those which are essential for everyone on the governing board, those which are required of the chair and those which at least one member of the governing board should have.

I will provide a full briefing paper for our meetings as governors will need to consider which knowledge and skill areas outlined in the framework are most important for their context. It would be sensible for governors to bear in mind that the core competencies are designed not to be used as a checklist and the National Governors’ Association is going to update it model skills audit as soon as possible.

Governance Handbook (January 2017)
The latest edition of the Governance handbook was also published yesterday by the DfE, having last underwent review in November 2015. As well as the content being revised to take account of changes made to the law and policy over the past year, the DfE has also given the handbook a complete restructure.  It’s now structured around the newly identified “six features of effective governance” developed alongside the new competency framework.  It sets out the Government’s vision and priorities for effective governance by:

  • outlining the core role and functions of the governing board;
  • summarising and providing a first point of reference on all the legal duties on governing boards, signposting to more detailed information, guidance and resources; and
  • providing information on the support available to governing boards to be effective.

The most significant changes to the content from the previous version include:

  • Section 2 – a new section at 2.3 bringing together material about the board’s role as the key decision-maker.
  • Section 3 – a stronger emphasis on ensuring financial propriety at 3.4.
  • Section 4 – updated text at 4.1.2 to reflect the new requirement that all those involved in governance in maintained schools and academy trusts must have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.  New advice on conducting informed elections at 4.1.4.  New sections bringing together material on the important role of the chair at 4.3 and the clerk at 4.4.  A new explanation at 4.8 of the risks associated with close family relationships between those involved in governance or between them and senior employees.  Details of the duty on boards to provide information about individuals involved in governance via Edubase at 4.8.
  • Section 5 – updated guidance on the role of Trustees and Members at 5.2.1.  Clarification at 5.6 that all boards are required to publish a scheme of delegation to explain their governance arrangements, together with new guidance on what makes an effective scheme of delegation.
  • Section 6 – confirmation at 6.7 that an individual on the board should take leadership responsibility for the organisation’s safeguarding arrangements, which include its Prevent duty.  New advice at 6.7.1 on handling allegations of abuse made against other children.
  • Section 7 – updated content on schools causing concern and on coasting schools at section 7.4.

Government plans to transform mental health support
On Monday, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced a package of measures designed to transform mental health support in schools, workplaces and communities. The support includes free mental health first aid training for secondary school staff and new trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff.

The Prime Minister has also asked the Care Quality Commission to lead a “major thematic review” of children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) across the country. This will identify what is working and what isn’t and will produce a new green paper on children and young people’s mental health which will “set out plans to transform services in schools, universities and for families”.