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Improving school governance, policy and practice

In England, the 300,000 school governors are responsible for the conduct of 23,000 schools.

A teacher with a group of pupils
Our study looks at how schools are governed in the UK

In the last five years, Professor Chris James and colleagues from the Department of Education have successfully completed five major research projects on school governing.

These projects have had a direct impact on improving school governing policy and practice.

The various projects:

  • reviewed the current state of school governing in England and explored the contribution of the business community to school governing
  • explored the governing of schools with different levels of student achievement in diverse advantaged/disadvantaged settings
  • reviewed school governing in various countries around the world
  • researched the role of the chair of the governing body of schools in England
  • analysed school governing in for-profit and not-for-profit international schools.

The outcomes of this research have been reported in five project reports, 10 journal articles, and two journal special editions. They have also been featured in the national press and in local media, while the research has been cited in a government White Paper, and a Department of Education policy position statement.

In the report of the Parliamentary Inquiry into school governing, the programme's research on school governing body size and effectiveness, was used to counter a Department of Education view: The inquiry concluded that “Despite the DfE’s clear preference for smaller governing bodies, there is no evidence base to prove that smaller governing bodies are more effective than larger ones”. This enables school governing bodies to have greater control over their affairs and to engage a wide range of stakeholders in the governing of the school.

The new DfE advice on the role of the governing body chair published in January 2014 directly rehearses the outcomes and recommendations of the programmes research into the role of the chair. Specifying the role and responsibilities of the chair more clearly will improve the quality of school governing.