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Governance FAQs

What is a governor?

Governors work with school leaders to make sure that the academy is doing the very best it can to keep pupils safe and help them achieve their potential. They have a crucial role in:

  • Setting the academy’s strategy, and making sure that the Co-op values and Ways of Being are part and parcel of school life
  • Holding the headteacher to account for the performance of the school and its pupils
  • Making sure that the academy spends its money in the most effective way possible.

What makes being a governor at a Co-op Academy different?

Education is one of the founding pillars of the co-operative movement. In Co-op Academies Trust, everything we do is guided by co-operative values and principles and we use the Co-op Ways of Being to define the behaviors we expect to see. These are:

  • Do what matters most
  • Be yourself, always
  • Show you care
  • Succeed together

Co-operative values and principles are at the heart of education and strategy in all of our academies. As a governor, you will be part of a team of people that make sure that every pupil has every opportunity and expectation to achieve their best outcomes, that academy staff are able to develop their skills and pursue their career ambitions, and that the academy adds value to the local community.

What are we looking for in a governor?

The most important attributes in our governors are a drive to improve the education and experience of pupils in our academies and a commitment to the communities in which our academies are based. We don’t ask for specific professional or voluntary experience. Rather, we look for a certain outlook and a commitment to personal development. 

The Department for Education has identified seven important attributes for school governors, which we think are a useful guide to use when deciding if you’d like to volunteer:

  1. Committed – Can you devote enough time and effort to your duties as a governor?
  2. Confident – Do you feel able to express your opinions and be independent minded?
  3. Curious – Do you have an enquiring mind and an analytical approach?
  4. Challenging – Will you ask searching questions and not take data at face value?
  5. Collaborative – Can you build strong relationships and work as part of a team?
  6. Critical – Can you be appropriately critical of others and yourself?
  7. Creative – Are you open minded and value innovative thinking?

Importantly, we value a diverse make-up, outlook and approach on our Academy Governing Councils, and welcome expressions of interest from interested people in all parts of the community.

What will I gain by being a governor at a Co-op Academy?

As a governor, you will have a vital role in making sure that children and young people have the best possible start in life, and also in supporting community development. You will get to be part of a team of people working towards these important aims and you will also have the opportunity to take part in academy life, getting to know pupils, parents and staff. 

You will also have the opportunity to develop your personal and professional skills, such as team working, communication, strategic planning and financial management. All of our governors receive a comprehensive induction, access to face-to-face and online training sessions, and other opportunities for individual learning.

What will I need to do?

All of our governors need to attend their academy’s termly Academy Governing Council meeting, and any meetings of the subcommittees they are members of. You will need to make time to read the papers before the meeting takes place so that you can ask questions about them. 

You will be asked to take on a ‘link governor’ role, where you will develop an area of special interest about a topic by linking up with a lead member of staff at the academy and visiting to see what’s going on. You might be asked to be link governor for a subject area, or a policy area such as safeguarding. 

You may also be asked to take part in reviewing important decisions that academy leaders have made to make sure that they are robust and consistent. 

What do our governing structures look like?

As a governor, you will be a member of the academy’s Academy Governing Council, the board responsible for developing the academy’s strategy, holding its leaders to account and overseeing the way in which its money is spent.

We hold the same expectations of all of our governors, although our governors are drawn from four main groups:

  • Sponsor governors – employees of our business sponsor, the Co-op Group
  • Staff governors – teaching and non-teaching staff at the academy
  • Parent governors – parents or carers of pupils at the academy
  • Community governors – independent governors drawn from the wider community and other stakeholder groups

The Trust is managed by the Trust Board, which is the board of directors responsible for setting Trust-wide strategy, approving central policy and overseeing the finances of all of our academies.

How do I apply?

We’re delighted that you are interested in becoming a governor at one of our academies.

Complete our form here

Remember to include either an email address or phone number so that a member of the team can contact you to discuss your interest further.

Request an Independent Review Panel


The Co-op Academies Trust is required to make arrangements for parents to apply for a review of the decision of the governing council exclusion review panel not to reinstate a pupil who has been permanently excluded from one of its academies. This guide will help you decide whether or not to apply for a Review of the decision to permanently exclude your son/daughter.

Who has the right to apply for a Review?

The “relevant person”, defined as:

(i) Where a pupil has reached the age of 18 it is the pupil him/herself; or

(ii) Where a pupil is under 18, his/her parent.

Under the Education Act, the definition of “parent” is broad. In addition to a child’s birth parents, it includes any person who has parental responsibility (which includes the local authority where it has a care order in respect of the child) and any person who the child lives with e.g. a foster carer.

What powers does the Independent Review Panel have?
  • An Independent Review Panel (IRP) cannot reinstate your child.
  • The Independent Review Panel can ask the governing council exclusion review panel to Review or reconsider its decision to permanently exclude and/or ask for its comments to be added to your child’s record. 
  • You may have the decision reviewed by an Independent Review Panel even if you do not want your son/daughter to return to the excluding academy.
  • You can apply for a Review even if you did not make a case to, or attend, the meeting at which the governing council exclusion review panel considered your child’s permanent exclusion. An IRP of three people (who have no connections with the Academy) will hear your Review.
  • The IRP carefully considers your case and that of the Academy.
  • If you think that your child may has or has special educational needs (SEN) and these have not been properly taken into account or the governing council exclusion review panels’ meeting was unfair in any way you should consider applying for a Review.
Are there circumstances where I do not have a right to a Review Hearing?

Yes. There are two circumstances:

  1. You lose your right to a Review Hearing if your application is received after the 15th school day after the day on which you are informed, in writing, of the the governing council exclusion review panels’ decision not to reinstate your child (unless you are pursuing a claim for discrimination).
  2.  If you withdraw your application for a Review, you also lose your right to a hearing.

Make sure you send your application for Review as soon as possible after you receive the letter from the governing council exclusion review panel telling you your son/daughter has not been reinstated.

How do I apply for a Review?
  1. You should fill in a ‘Request for an IRP’ form.
  2. You must set out your reasons for applying for a Review in writing and, if relevant, state how you consider your child’s SEN are relevant to the exclusion.
  3. Whether or not your child has recognised special educational needs, you have a right to require that the Local Authority/Academy appoint an SEN expert to attend the Review.
  4. You must request an SEN expert attend the Review Hearing at the time you apply for a Review of the Governors’/Proprietors’ decision.
  5. Sign and date the form.
  6. Send your completed form to

We must receive the application form within 15 school days of the date you received the governing council exclusion review panel’s decision letter, unless you are pursuing a claim for discrimination. 

When will my Review be heard?

The IRP must meet to consider your application for Review no later than the 15th school day after the day on which your application was received. However, an IRP may adjourn the hearing if there is good reason e.g. SEN expert unavailable to attend or there are parallel criminal proceedings.

Who will be at the Review Hearing?
  • You and your partner and, if you wish, your son or daughter;
  • Where requested, a friend; representative or legal adviser (who would attend at your own cost);
  • The Independent Review Panel (3 members);
  • The Clerk to the Review Panel;
  • If attending, the legal or other representative of the Governing Council;
  • The Head Teacher/Principal of your son’s/daughter’s academy;
  • Any witnesses called by either the academy or by you;
  • An LA representative may attend at your request but may only make representations with the consent of the Academy;
  • A SEN expert, but only when you requested one to attend at the time you lodged your application for Review. 
  • If attending, and where relevant, the alleged victim or his/her representative may be present for part of the Review hearing;
  • If requested, an interpreter.
Who is the SEN expert?

The SEN expert will be someone with appropriate expertise and experience of special educational needs (SEN). The final decision on the appointment of the SEN expert is for the LA/Academy to make but the LA/Academy should take reasonable steps to ensure you have confidence in the impartiality and capability of the SEN expert.

He or she will not have, or at any time have had, any connection with the Academy, or the incident leading to the exclusion, which might raise doubts about their ability to act impartially. He/she will not have any connection with you or your child (or his/her sibling). The SEN expert must also declare any known conflict of interest before the start of the Review Hearing. Current legislation states that individuals are not automatically taken to be partial simply because they are an employee of, or contracted by, a local authority or Academy Trust.

The SEN expert’s role will not include making an assessment of your child’s special educational needs.

Who are the Independent Review Panel members?

The IRP will have three members and:

  • One must be, or have been within the previous five years, a Head Teacher/Principal;
  • One must be a governor, provided they have served in that capacity for at least 12 consecutive months within the last five years.
  • One must be a lay person, that is, someone who has never worked in a school in a paid capacity (disregarding any experience as a school governor or volunteer).

The Lay member must be the Chairman of the Panel. All the IRP members (and their clerk) will have received the required training.

Anyone who has, or has had, a connection with the school or with any of the parties involved in the case cannot sit on the Independent Review Panel.

What powers does the Independent Review Panel have?

The IRP does not have the power to reinstate your child but can decide to:

  • uphold the exclusion i.e. refuse your application; or
  • recommend that the the governing council exclusion review panel reconsiders their decision; or
  • quash the decision and direct that the governing council exclusion review panel considers the exclusion again.

The IRP may only quash the decision on the principles applicable to judicial Review. Therefore, the IRP should apply the following tests:

  • Illegality – did the Head Teacher/Principal and/or the governing council exclusion review panel act outside the scope of their legal powers in taking the decision to exclude?
  • Irrationality – was the decision of the governing council exclusion review panel not to reinstate your child so unreasonable that it was not one a sensible person could have made?
  • Procedural Impropriety – was the process of exclusion and the governing council exclusion review panels’ consideration so unfair or flawed that justice was clearly not done?

Procedural impropriety means not simply a breach of minor points of procedure but something that has a significant impact on the quality of the decision making process.

The Department for Education’s Guidance (paragraph 226) gives the following examples:

  • Bias;
  • Failing to notify parents of their right to make representations;
  • the governing council exclusion review panel making a decision without having given parents an opportunity to make representations;
  • Failing to give reasons for a decision; or
  • Being a judge in your own cause e.g. if the Headteacher who took the decision to exclude were also to vote on whether to uphold the exclusion.

The IRP may also:

(a) direct the the governing council exclusion review panel to place a note on your child’s educational record;

(b) in the case of a the governing council exclusion review panels’ decision, order that a readjustment be made to the school’s budget or, in the case of an Academy, order that the Academy must make a payment directly to the local authority in which the Academy is located, if following a decision by the IRP to quash the original decision, the the governing council exclusion review panel:

(i) reconsiders the exclusion and decides not to reinstate your child (where you want your child to be reinstated), or

(ii) fails to reconsider the exclusion within 10 school days after notification of the IRP’s decision.

What other routes can I pursue?

In addition to the right to apply for a Review to be heard by an IRP, under the Equality Act 2010, if you believe the exclusion has occurred for a reason related to your child’s disability, you can make a disability discrimination claim to the First-tier Tribunal Health, Education & Social Chamber (Special Educational Needs and Disability). You must lodge your claim within 6 months of the date your child was permanently excluded.

Also, if you consider that your child has been victimised, or directly or indirectly discriminated against on e.g. racial or other grounds, you can make a discrimination claim to the County Court, which you must lodge within six months of the date your child was permanently excluded.

You can make a claim of discrimination to the First-tier Tribunal and/or County Court before deciding to apply for a Review hearing. Where this is the case you must apply for a Review hearing within 15 school days of the date the discrimination claim is finally determined. Where you make such claims at the same time as applying for the IRP to Review the decision to permanently exclude your child, the arrangements for the Review hearing must not be delayed or postponed.

When will I hear the outcome of the Review hearing?

The Clerk will write to you, the Head Teacher, and the governing council exclusion review panel detailing the IRP’s decision as soon as possible after the IRP has decided on your case.

Is the Review Panel’s decision binding on anybody?

Yes. The IRP’s decision is binding on the: Governors; Head Teacher; LA; and the academy trust. DfE guidance states that where the IRP directs or recommends that the Governing Council reconsiders their decision, the governing council exclusion review panel must reconvene to do so within 10 school days of being given notice of the IRP’s decision.

However, where you or the academy apply for a judicial Review of the IRP’s decision and are successful in that application, the High Court may order a re-hearing of the Review.

What happens if I need an interpreter/signer or other help?

You may have an interpreter or signer at your Review hearing. If you would like us to arrange this for you, free of charge, please indicate this on the form or contact us directly well before the hearing. Alternatively, if you would prefer, you may arrange for your own interpreter/signer to come with you, please contact us to discuss.