In our last edition of Education Matters, we spoke of the ongoing consultation into the Charity Governance Code in mid-2020. Following the conclusion of that consultation, the steering group issued an updated version of the Code in December 2020.
The ’Foundation and Seven Key Principles’ framework remain unchanged, but as signposted during the consultation exercise, two of the principles have been updated, with one being significantly altered from its previous version. The key changes are as follows:
This principle has undergone a ‘light refresh’. The key changes are in relation to:
3.7 Ensuring the right to be safe
3.7.1 Trustees/governors understand their safeguarding responsibilities and go beyond the legal minimum to promote a culture in which everyone feels safe and respected.
3.7.2 Where appropriate:
Much has been written regarding safeguarding (headlines, Charity Commission bulletins and governance
case findings) and this amendment to the Code serves to ensure that trustees/governors at board/governing body level understand both their legal requirements and safeguarding policies and procedures.
Furthermore, for trustees and governors in the education sector, this ‘light refresh’ is potentially more important as the safeguarding principles on which it is based, are again in the headlights with the continuing #MeToo movement and the more recent upswing in posts on the Everyone’s Invited website regarding incidents at both public and private schools.
Unlike the Integrity Principle update, a comparison of the old Code to the refreshed version around diversity is not as useful an exercise. Our governance team fed back to the consultation, commenting that the Diversity Principle was the one area of the 2017 Code that “had not best stood the test of time and needed a significant refresh”.
This feedback was agreed by the steering group (and even made its way onto the consultation update slides presented back in September 2020!) and the Diversity Principle has been completely reworked with the aid of external consultants.
1. Think about why EDI is important for the organisation and assess the current level of understanding.
2. Set out plans and targets tailored to the school and its starting point.
3. Monitor and measure how well the school is doing.
4. Be transparent and publish the school’s progress.
The steering group also recognised that many organisations are at different stages of their EDI journey and that more guidance on how to practically manage this process and how it may differ for sub-sectors is required. More guidance will be shared in due course.
In relation to the new EDI principle, I have been contacted by many of our audit and governance clients and questions largely fall into two categories: “I’m scared of saying the wrong thing” and/or “we, as an organisation, don’t know where to start”. The former is solved by EDI (background) training, alongside understanding why diversity, equality and inclusion in your organisation can only be seen as a positive (for example, diverse boards make better decisions). The latter often starts with posing the question in return: “what does diversity mean to your organisation and what would you like to achieve?” before building a route map (potentially over a few months or years) to achieve that goal.
We recently ran an online seminar as part of our Enterprise Series The changing face of business – inclusion matters, on the importance of diversity and inclusion which you may find interesting. You can view the video here.
We are aware that the Charity Commission continues to take a very active interest in the governance of the sector. As a result, our governance team continue to undertake several governance reviews in the sector, ranging from ‘one-off’ governance engagements to full reviews against the Code.