Asking The Right Questions

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Paul Ainsworth

Paul has been writing for the Teacher Toolkit website since 2012 and is the author of 'No Silver Bullets: Day in, day out school improvement'. He is a system leader supporting primary schools, secondary schools and MATs currently with with Infinity Academies Trust as Education...
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How can governors ask the right questions? And what questions should they be?


All school or academy governing bodies, are a diverse group of people of people. They often form distinct groups such as parent governors, community governors and staff governors to name just three. Whichever category you are in, it is equally important to be clear on your remit as a governor. This can be just as valuable for those who have experience of working in a school as for those who have not.

If you are new to governance or equally are an experienced governor but wish to check your compass, then ‘Welcome to Governance’ is well worth a read. It is aimed at governors of stand-alone schools. Whilst this guide contains valuable advice for Local Governing Bodies or Local Councils, which operate in many MATs; if you are a Trustee of a Multi Academy Trust a new guide specifically aimed at you will be available in May 2016.

Inside the book …

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the NGA writes in her introduction,

‘Asking good questions is at the heart of good governance – asking school leaders the right questions, at the right time, in the right way.’

The brief of this book is very much to support governors to ask such questions.

Welcome to Governance’ takes you through an introduction to governing, your responsibilities as a governor and special responsibilities that some governors hold and meetings of the governing body. It then moves into certain sections of knowledge which you need such as polices, knowing your school, key partners, school improvement, school funding, risks and responsibilities, curriculum and assessment and then SEN and disability.

Finally, there is advice on visiting your school, a policy clock, further resources and then a comprehensive glossary of education terms.

Within each chapter there are sections highlighting the differences between being a governor in a maintained school or in a stand-alone academy. At the end of each chapter is a set of ‘test your knowledge questions’, which you could equally adapt as questions to ask at governing body meeting, hence supporting Emma Knight’s introduction.

In the further resources sections there are two elements, which stood out. The first was a list of 6 points, which a governor does not do, and then a set of twenty key questions, which a governing body should ask itself.


This is an ideal book, which schools or academies could buy for their governing bodies either to help new governors or to update governors on the current expectations upon them.

Allcroft, G, 2016, ‘Welcome to Governance: A guide for newly appointed governors of state schools’, The National Governors’ Association, Birmingham, UK. Available from the or on Amazon.


Written by Paul K Ainsworth for Teacher Toolkit. He is an Advisor for Multi Academy Trust, Chair of Governors and Author of ‘Get that Teaching Job’ and ‘Bloomsbury CPD Library: Middle Leadership’.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @paulkainsworth and read more of his articles here.

Paul K Ainsworth
Paul K. Ainsworth

2 thoughts on “Asking The Right Questions

  1. Well written, concise, succinct overview of the book – although I prefer book reviews to also critique the main thesis of a book as well, debating and taking a side, so as to engage in and further the conversation the book creates and is part of. Otherwise, there is a danger that a book review can simply be an extended list of contents.

  2. NB Gold members of the NGA are entitled to receive a copy of this extremely useful (and recently updated) book for each new member of their board, completely free of charge. For boards with standard membership, the price is discounted by 50%. (Usual price is £10, postage free.)

    Note that there is also guidance for new, experienced or aspiring chairs, in The Chair’s Handbook. Either of these books would be useful for senior leaders to have on their bookshelf, to help them understand more fully what governors should be doing.

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