The Guide to the Law has now been replaced by the Handbook for Governors, accessible here:
- Download a copy of the old GttL archived by C2G, as published in May 2012. Governors’ Guide to the Law as published May 2012
NB These are the old sections – and have been superseded by the 2013 Handbook.
- Section 1. Introduction
- Section 2. Academy Conversion
- Section 3. Constitution of Governing Bodies
- Section 4. Governing Body Powers, Duties and Procedures
- Section 5. Support and Training for Governors
- Section 6. Governing Body Federation and Collaboration
- Section 7. The Early Years Foundation Stage and the National Curriculum
- Section 8. Children with Special Educational Needs and Other Vulnerable Children
- Section 9. The School Budget
- Section 10. School Premises and Capital Investment
- Section 11. Staffing
- Section 12. School Improvement Partners and School Self-evaluation
- Section 13. Admissions (contents of this section never published by DfE)
- Section 14. Behaviour and Attendance
- Section 15. Inspection
- Section 16. Schools Causing Concern
- Section 17. Health, Safety and Welfare
- Section 18. Equalities
- Section 19. Organisational Changes to the School (contents never published by DfE)
- Section 20. Trust Schools
- Section 21. Parent Councils
- Section 22. Control and Community Use of School Premises
- Section 23. Extended Activities in Schools
- Section 24. Charging for School Activities
- Section 25. School Companies Page
- Section 26. Providing Information
- Annex 1: Glossary
Role of the governing body
1. The White Paper ‘The Importance of Teaching’ sets out the government’s approach to school governance. It described school governors as the unsung heroes of the education system, and one of the biggest volunteer forces in the country, with volunteers working in their spare time to promote school improvement and to support head teachers and teachers in their work. It observed that governing bodies sometimes lack the information or training needed to challenge effectively and support the head teacher and senior leadership of the school to improve. Since then, the government has published extensive school performance information for governors to use in comparing school performance and the National College has developed training for chairs of governors.
2. The White Paper also emphasises the benefits of smaller, better skilled governing bodies which can move more quickly to support the head teacher and champion high standards. Changes made in the Education Act 2011 enable governing bodies to move to a new model with a smaller number of fixed categories and a new optional category of governors to be appointed on the basis of skills. This should assist governing bodies in focusing on educational standards, and in holding the head teacher to account. [These changes are not yet in force.]
3. Most of the statutory duties placed on governing bodies should be delegated to head teachers, allowing governors to focus on educational attainment and other significant issues facing their school. The most significant duties that cannot be delegated to the head teacher are:
- major changes to the way the school is organised;
- the organisation and operation of, and delegation by, the governing body; and
- appointing the head teacher and any deputies.
4. The purpose of the Guide is to help governors understand how a school operates, their legal obligations and the way in which these should be delegated. It is essential that governors, working with head teachers, put in place systems that free up governors to consider strategic issues and reflect on the performance of the school. The chair of governors, the clerk and the head teacher should all work closely to ensure that the governing body’s work is managed in a way that focuses on key strategic issues, with detailed work being carried out by school staff or other professionals or experts.
5. The Academies programme is growing rapidly as maintained schools see the benefits of greater autonomy and relish the freedom to forge new relationships and provide new services for pupils and the community. Governing bodies have to decide whether or not their school should embrace Academy status and the Guide provides information about the conversion process in section 2. We strongly encourage all schools to find out about the Academies programme by talking to Academy converters to hear first hand about the benefits and drawbacks of Academy status.
6. If you are a governor of a small school, you might want to consider whether you could work with a group of schools to strengthen governance through collaboration and federation, or by converting to become Academies as a group.
Using the Guide
7. It is not possible for this Guide to provide a full explanation of how the law applies in individual cases. The Guide includes corrected information reflecting the position at 1 March 2012 but also indicates the date at which further changes will be made. We intend to revise individual sections as legislative or other changes are made.
8. If legal problems arise, governing bodies should seek advice tailored to their circumstances from their local authority, or obtain their own legal advice. Free professional and confidential advice and assistance is also provided by GovernorLine at www.governorline.info (tel: 08000 722 181).
9. The main text refers to community schools (including community special and maintained nursery schools) and most provisions apply to other categories of school. Where paragraphs or information refer only and specifically to other categories of school, they are flagged in the margin as:
- VA: voluntary aided;
- VC: voluntary controlled; and
- F: foundation, including foundation special.
Where the breakdown of information is more complex, the differences will be explained in the text without the use of flags
10. All references in the Guide to “the head teacher” include the acting head teacher at any time when the school does not have a permanent head teacher, or when an acting head teacher has been appointed in the absence of the head teacher.
11. At the end of each section of the Guide there is a reference section listing where governors’ rights and duties are set out in legislation. Acts and regulations referred to can be ordered from bookshops, accessed on the DfE website at
, the National Archives website at www.legislation.gov.uk, or the Stationery Office’s publications website at www.tso.co.uk.
12. At the end of the Guide you will find a brief glossary. The list of statutory policies that schools are required to have and their review frequency can be found on the DfE website:
13. Hard copies of some DfE documents mentioned in the Guide can be obtained from: Department for Education Publications, PO Box 5050, Sherwood Park, Annesley, Nottingham NG16 0DJ (tel: 0845 602 2260, fax: 0845 603 3360, minicom: 0845 605 5560, email: email@example.com). All Departmental publications are free unless a price is shown.
14. We will maintain an up-to-date Guide on the DfE website (
). Copies can be downloaded from the website.
15. The Guide is a lengthy document and we will work with stakeholders towards a shorter version with a stronger focus on the strategic role of the governing body. Different sections of the Guide will be updated from time to time as the need arises.