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Charity Governance Code Refresh - What Schools Need to Know

on Friday, 19 March 2021.

In December 2020 the Charity Governance Code was refreshed in accordance with its usual three yearly intervals. This year, the Code was refreshed, rather than overhauled.

The Charity Governance Code aims to support continuous improvement in charity governance, and, as you will be aware focuses on seven key principles. The main changes in this refresh relate to:

  • Principle 3 - Integrity
  • Principle 6 - Diversity, which is now to be known as Equality Diversity and Inclusion ("EDI")

Principle 3 - Integrity

In brief, the amendments to the integrity principle relate to ensuring that governors:

  • adopt values and apply ethical thinking to their decision making processes
  • understand their safeguarding responsibilities and promote a culture in which everyone feels safe and respected
  • establish appropriate procedures to ensure that safeguarding risks are checked, managed and recorded and that appropriate training is given.

For most independent schools, the procedures around safeguarding are likely to be well established but this is a reminder to ensure that this important aspect of school governance is governor-led and the safeguarding aspects of governance are well embedded in decision making, strategic thinking and in monitoring performance and holding the senior leadership team to account.

The changes to Principle 3 also addresses the issue of power imbalances on a board and in particular that charities should check that there are no individual or groups within the board which have undue power or influence. This can be a particularly sensitive topic and can require looking carefully at recruitment, codes of conduct, delegation to committees as well as the personalities involved. It is perhaps a timely reminder that reviewing governance more generally and performance managing governors is important.

Principle 6 - EDI

The main aim of this area of the Code is to ensure that the board has a clear, agreed and effective approach to supporting EDI throughout the school and in its own practice. Recommendations include that governors should:

  • assess their own understanding of EDI and how this takes place at board level and within the school more generally
  • agree a clear and effective approach to EDI and ensure that EDI principles are embedded
  • regularly assess its approach to EDI and set context-specific and realistic plans and targets
  • monitor performance and take action where necessary
  • recognise and counter any imbalances of power, perspectives and opportunities in the school and in the attitudes and behaviours of governors.

Over the last 12 months EDI has rightly been a focus for the wider charitable sector and the UK as a whole, but putting these principles into practice is perhaps much more difficult. Certainly a governance review will be necessary for many schools with the need to look at governance codes of conduct and policies and procedures that generally support the delivery of the school's EDI strategy.

For more information on changes to the Charity Governance Code and how this affects your school, please contact Emma-Jane Dalley in our Charity Law team 0117 314 5465, or complete the form below.

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