The voice of specialist further education

Governance structures


Specialist further education colleges have no statutory obligations for the way their governing bodies are constituted and organised. Ofsted and Estyn express no preference for governance structures, focusing instead on the level of effectiveness and the impact that governors have.

This section covers:

  • models of governance, with example structures used by colleges
  • assessing the impact of governing structures on student outcomes

Models of governance

The different sizes of colleges and the range of legal entities that own them means that the structures vary. The arrangements of a small company running a college for 10 students will look very different from a large charity or trust running a college for hundreds of students or an umbrella organisation running multiple colleges and schools.

Whatever your arrangements, a board of governors will be most effective when they provide accountability, objective oversight and strategic leadership to support and challenge you as a leader.

It is good practice to keep up to date information on your governance arrangements and details of your governing body on your website.

Governing bodies determine what decisions, policies and long-term planning they will undertake and what they will delegate to others.

Some choose to align individual governors to specific areas of the organisation or its strategic priorities. For example, a governor with responsibility for the quality of teaching and learning or the college’s finances, resources or staff. Others may choose to establish sub-committees with specific remits to work with leaders and/or staff and report back to the Board.

While not applicable to specialist colleges, the Governance handbook and competency framework for schools in England provides advice on the skills, knowledge and behaviours governors need to be effective and is a helpful  point of reference.


Assessing the relationship between the activities of your governing body and outcomes for students is a useful starting place for considering how your governing structures can be improved.

Consider the extent to which your governing bodies:

  • understand and respond to the views of stakeholders including students and staff
  • are involved in determining and monitoring quality improvement plans that emerge from self-assessment processes


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