Federation and Collaboration

Collaborative models lie on a continuum from very informal arrangements between schools to amalgamations, where two or more schools merge to become a single school.

At is simplest collaboration is two or more schools working together to the mutual benefit of their pupils.

The North Yorkshire Commission for School Improvement which brought together school and local authority leaders published its report in January 2014. The report concluded that all schools should be part of one or more collaborative arrangements as a means of driving educational improvements.

The LA has produced Image removed. guidance [197kb] [pdf] to support Governors and Headteachers to proactively explore a range of collaborative models. Annex 1 of the guidance provides an Image removed. Audit tool for school leaders [782kb] [word] for school leaders and governors to explore the current opportunities and possible challenges to future collaborative working with other schools. It is recommended that the audit is completed prior to any formal discussions taking place with the LA.

There are specific collaborations that Governing Bodies can enter into which are governed by legislation that are detailed below under Collaboration and Federation.

Working together delivers benefits to schools at many levels, including in relation to their governance. The frameworks are in place for both maintained schools and academies to create governance structures that span more than one school.


In September 2003 the DFE produced "Guidance on the School Governance (Collaboration) (England) Regulations 2003. These guidelines explain the arrangements for maintained schools to jointly discharge their functions and set up joint committees.

Maintained schools may collaborate formally with other maintained schools, hold joint governing body meetings and form joint committees Regulations leave much of the detailed arrangements to the schools concerned. They allow two or more governing bodies to arrange for any of their functions to be carried out jointly. They also allow those functions to be delegated to a joint committee. The specific procedures (on clerking and membership of committees, for example) generally mirror those for individual schools. Individual governing bodies retain legal responsibility and corporate liability for all decisions made on their behalf. Governing bodies must therefore make sure that they receive regular reports, including signed minutes, from any joint committees they agree to establish.

Maintained schools may enter into collaborative arrangements with FE colleges through the use of joint committees.*


Federation creates a single governing body to govern more than one maintained school. Schools in federations continue to be individual schools, keeping their existing category and character. Admission to each school continues to be determined by the appropriate admissions authority. The governing body of the federation will receive individual budgets for each of the federated schools, and will be able to use them across the schools in the federation.

Potential benefits can include:

  • Improved provision and outcomes for pupils by sharing a greater pool of resources and  expertise that can be used more flexibly across schools e.g. providing for particular special educational needs
  • Opportunities to resolve headteacher recruitment and retention difficulties
  • Enriched curriculum - staff sharing expertise
  • Reducing duplication - economies of scale
  • Strengthening viability
  • Children benefitting from increased interaction

The governing body decision to federate must follow a prescribed process as detailed in A Guide to Models of School Organisation. If you are considering Federating with another school you will need to read the School Governance (Federations) (England) Regulations 2012 as amended by the School Governance (Constitution and Federations) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016.

Federation will only work where both schools are committed to working together, where there is strong leadership, and where everyone is sensitive to the views of others.

It is recommended that the Audit Tool for School Leaders and Governors when considering collaboration (see useful downloads) is completed by staff and governors prior to any formal discussions taking place with the Local Authority.

Each model of alternative leadership or collaboration is likely to have some staffing considerations to a varying degree. It will be important to seek advice and guidance from the HR Advisory Service in order to explore the particular implications for each school, depending on the preferred model and current context.  Please also see the HR guidance and toolkit November 2016 link below which supplements the general advice within A Guide to Models of School Organisation.

Useful Downloads

Guide to Models of School Organisation - A Guide to models of school organisation (including formal collaborations, federations, amalgamations, Trust Schools, Teaching Alliances and Academy Collaboration) Updated April 2017

Models of School Organisation HR Guidance and Toolkit November 2016

Models of School Organisation Research project

Guidance for Governing Bodies: Joining or Creating a Formal Partnership, Federation or Multi-Academy Trust - Published October 2016

Audit Tool for School Leaders - Published October 2016


Related Pages

Academies and Free Schools