Calls to overhaul NLG role to boost quality of governance

The role of national leader of governance (NLG) should be open to a wider range of people, and should become a paid position, according to an advisory group to the Department for Education (DfE). The NLG advisory group, which was formed earlier this year, published its recommendations last week.

The current NLG programme was established in 2012, and the original scope of an NLG was to provide coaching/mentoring support to less experienced chairs of governing boards, or those experiencing specific challenges. The advisory group says that ‘there have been significant changes in the school system and the demands on governors and trustees’ since the programme was launched, and that reform is now required.

Currently NLGs need to be chairs of schools ‘with sustained high pupil performance and progress over the last 3 years and be above current floor standards’, however the advisory group think eligibility should be widened. This would include opening up the role to chairs ‘with experience of leading improvement, whose current governance role may not be in a school or trust with strong performance’. They also suggest that others with strong experience of governance, such as vice-chairs and clerks, be eligible.

The group suggest that those selected to be NLGs should still have significant experience with, among other criteria, a minimum of 5 years school/trust board governance experience. They also suggest NLG selection take place via a two-stage process, which should be ‘robust’ and include an interview. NLGs should then receive training which provides ‘a high-quality learning experience that recognises and builds on the expertise’ of the post holders.

The NLG role is currently voluntary, but the group recommend that it now becomes paid. This is in part to reflect that NLGs should be expected to support schools/trusts with ‘significant need’, which will require ‘high levels of expertise’. In particular, NLGs should ‘provide expert support to schools and trusts where there is an identified weakness in organisational governance’ according to the group.

Responding to the advisory group’s recommendations, a DfE spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to continuous improvement of the school system, and the national leaders of governance programme will continue to play a vital role in improving the quality of governance. We welcome the findings of the expert advisory group on NLG reform, and will set out our response in detail following the spending review.’

Full NLG advisory group report:  

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