Department for Education plans national database of governors
07th July 2016
The Department for Education is pressing ahead with plans for a national database of school governors.
Why is this happening?
The Government’s move is part of its efforts to create a more transparent environment around school and academy governance.
It is also in line with implementation of the Education Excellence White Paper.
How will it work?
The current Edubase data capture arrangements are now to be extended to incorporate information concerning:
- Maintained School Governing Body Members
- Academy Trust Directors (more usually known as Trustees)
- Academy Trust Members
- Local Governing Bodies/Local Advisory Bodies
- Intermediate committees operating at cluster level between a MAT Board and individual school specific committees
No legislation is required to introduce the relevant information requirements.
In the case of maintained schools, long-standing legislation allows the Secretary of State to require that schools provide such information as is necessary for the exercise of functions within the Department.
For Academies and Multi-Academy Trusts, the Funding Agreement entitles the Secretary of State to request information about the Academy Trust including (in the case of MATs) information concerning individual schools, which may be required in order that she may fulfil her roles and responsibilities concerning Academies.
The Academies Financial Handbook is to be revised to make clear that the relevant information is required to be given with effect from 1 September 2016.
In the case of maintained schools, since the duty to publish annual reports was abolished, information concerning who serves on the Governing Body has, to a certain extent, been less accessible.
Schools will include the information concerning serving governors on the school website but DfE has not previously attempted to create a centralised database of people involved in the running of schools.
For Academies and MATs, information concerning Trustees is easily accessed through the Companies House information portal (with the information now free to access using the Trust’s registered company name or number).
DfE is also notified of current Members and Trustees, resignations and new appointments through separate existing procedures in place with the Education Funding Agency see the EFA Guidance Document of June 2014 – (” Providing and updating academy trust governance contacts”).
What is new, however, is the public disclosure of Academy Members and individuals who may have been co-opted to support groupings of schools within a MAT and sit between the Trust Board and Local Governing Bodies.
There is no obligation to file a list of Members with Companies House, so publication of the identity of Members who do not also serve as Trustees is new and will bring their involvement into the public domain for the first time. Individuals who are co-opted onto committees of the Board are likely to be currently anonymous as to their involvement.
What action do schools need to take?
Maintained Schools should be putting arrangements in place now to provide the required information. DfE advises that Edubase has been updated to include the necessary information fields and schools can proceed to address the requirements now rather than wait until the duty to provide the information comes into force on 1 September.
For Academies and MATs, DfE is utilising information already available to it to populate Edubase. That information needs to be checked carefully for accuracy and the information then updated as necessary. The facility to do this is now live.
Academies and MATs also need also to think about information they have not had to publish before now. The exercise involved will require those responsible for Trust governance to be certain as to what kind of committees are caught by the requirements. All relevant information needs to be captured on a timely basis and held centrally to comply with these new information requirements.
Schools would also be well advised to alert those whose information is being provided to DfE for the first time of the steps now being taken. The involvement of Members who do not serve as Trustees will have been less transparent to date.
Most Trusts will include a list of Members in the published accounts of the Trust – making the information publicly available but with an in-built time delay following first appointment and, of course, with no certainty that it continues to be an up to date picture following publication of the accounts.
Likewise, people who provide their time to the affairs of the Trust at a cluster level where a MAT has this structure should be made aware of the requirement and steps being taken.
How can Ward Hadaway help?
For more details on information requirements for schools or other aspects of education law and practice, please get in touch.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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