The DfE will specifically assess two elements of your plans:
- The individuals you have proposed as governors and their suitability for the role, including their experience and expertise, as well as your plans for recruiting governors.
- The governance structure you are proposing and whether this will provide strong oversight of the free school, with clear lines of accountability.
Your proposed governors
In order to show convincing plans for governance you will need individuals with a strong track record of senior educational expertise in the type of education you wish to offer and those with the ability to provide robust financial monitoring. In addition to this, access to individuals with business, governance, HR, legal, and estates expertise is useful.
You must be able to explain to the DfE how you will recruit a strong and appropriately skilled governing body for your school and show that some of these individuals are already involved in the application. Please see our guidance on building your team for further information on how you can recruit individuals with the relevant skills to your group.
You will also need to set out your governance structure and explain how it will operate. In a single academy trust this will consist of your members, the governing body of the school and any associated sub-committees. In a multi academy trust this would involve the members, trustees and any committees or local governing bodies. The DfE needs to see that you have plans to set in place a structure which means that governors will be appropriately informed and able to challenge the leadership of the school in order to ensure it performs well.
- NSN has produced guidance on free school governance structures in single- and multi-academy trusts and the role of governors in free schools.
- The DfE also has guidance about how to identify effective governors on page 19 of their How to Apply Guidance.
Other useful resources:
- Governance in single academy trusts guidance
- NSN's library of resources for Open and pre-open free schools has a wide range of resources relating to governance structures and operations.
- National College for Teaching and Leadership has several helpful resources on school governance including:
- a school governor toolkit
- a guide exploring governance in multi-academy trusts (MATs) through a series of case studies and accounts of practice.
- SGOSS's guide to academy governance and the role of governors.
- National Governors’ Association
- Inspiring Governors Alliance - facilitates recruitment of skilled governors by working with employers, governing bodies and volunteers. They also have governance resources.
- Our guidance on building your team for information on how you can recruit individuals with the relevant skills to your governign body.
- Application resources for mainstream, special and AP schools outlining how you can best present information in your application form
- Governor’s Handbook
- Academies Financial Handbook
- Model Memorandum and Articles of Association
- Model Funding Agreements