School and Trust Governance during the Covid-19 pandemic: Findings from investigative research

Tami McCrone, Megan Lucas, and David Sims

27 July 2021

Research report is available on gov.uk

The Department for Education (DfE) commissioned NFER to undertake case studies which investigated how school and trust governing boards responded to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-2021. This research was part of a larger project designed to provide independent evidence to inform future policy development on school and trust governance in England.

The research comprised four (virtual) case studies conducted between December 2020 and January 2021 which included interviews with individuals fulfilling the roles of chair, governor, trustee, clerk and executive leader in trusts and schools and observations of governing board meetings.

Key Findings

Governing boards have adapted well to operating in the challenging context of Covid-19 but the need to be highly responsive to the ever-changing situation has impacted on their ability to take a long-term strategic perspective.

Covid-19 has provided a learning opportunity for governing boards. For example, it has forced them to consider the role technology could play in governance practice in the future and how this could benefit them moving forward.

Looking ahead, governing boards are concerned with supporting schools to recover and re-engage pupils in learning. The pandemic has highlighted opportunities such as the potential of technology to support learning opportunities. It has also illuminated challenges including how to hold schools to account in a fair way that appropriately scrutinises educational outcomes in the context of Covid-19’s disruption of schools and the examination system.