The Diocese of Leeds
Governors - Collaboration and Federation

Collaboration and Federation


The Office for Education and Schools is willing to support schools and their governing bodies who wish to examine formal structured collaboration and federation as distinct approaches to help sustain Catholic education into the future.  Both ways of working have some common features, namely that of sharing experience and expertise and trying to stop us all from reinventing wheels!

We are now more able to formally explore collaboration and federation because of changes in legislation.

  What does collaboration mean?

This involves two or three (perhaps more in appropriate circumstances) schools staying as separate schools, with separate governing bodies, but often sharing a headteacher.  Another possibility would be for formal joint arrangements for some aspects of management and/or curriculum delivery but retaining separate headteachers. The governing bodies retain their individual powers, as now, but can if they wish decide to delegate certain functions to joint committees.  Initially at least, there does need to be a joint steering group of governors from all schools to hold the arrangement together, carrying out some duties, working on policies to recommend to the individual governing bodies, and promoting the collaboration (or confederation) to the community outside the schools.

It is important to note that each school within such a collaborative arrangement or confederation would retain its own status and character.  The legal agreement allows for any school within such an arrangement to withdraw after giving an agreed period of notice.

  What does Federation mean?

HandshakeThis involves up to five schools (this can just be primary schools or it can be a mixture of primary and secondary) coming together under one or more headteachers, but under one governing body.  A federation can include any or all categories of schools.  Each school would retain its own status and character.

There are strict regulations on how such a governing body would be formed, to ensure that representation of all communities involved is as it should be.  Any group which would be represented on an ordinary school governing body will be represented on the federated governing body, which can vary in size between 9 and 20 members (or more if there is more than one headteacher)

Each school in the federation would continue to receive a separate budget under the LMS formula BUT the federated governing body could decide to vire funds between these budgets, provided that they have fully documented financial structures in place and are able to maintain an audit trail for each school budget.

Since there would be only one set of governing body meetings, the decision making process under federation is simpler than under collaboration (or confederation), with the scope for faster decision making.

The regulations allow for any school in a federation to withdraw from the arrangements if it is not working satisfactorily, but this would be a far more complex arrangement than withdrawal from a confederation agreement.

What are the likely advantages of Collaboration and Federation?


  • Offers opportunities for enriching the curriculum for children by staff sharing expertise and experiences across a number of schools
  • May produce savings on planning and administrative time, and assist in workforce remodelling
  • Offers the opportunity for joint staffing arrangements, including specialist teachers, wider career opportunities and broader staff development and formation - helping us to "grow our own"
  • Gives scope for even higher quality, stability and parental confidence in an era with fewer Catholic children
  • Enables school communities to retain a distinctive Catholic curriculum by working together with other Catholic schools
  • Is cost effective - providing economies of scale
  • Has impact on the quality of education offered - OFSTED strongly supports links with other schools

Offers opportunities to resolve some of our current headteacher recruitment and retention difficulties. 

What is happening in other dioceses and in other parts of the country?

Some dioceses are starting to reduce the number of Catholic schools they have due to the decline in the number of baptised Catholic children and because of increasing concerns regarding the recruitment and retention of headteachers and deputy headteachers.

Some  dioceses are  are actively moving towards collaboration and federation.

All dioceses face similar challenges to our own diocese of Leeds.  In June, officers from all our 22 diocese in England and Wales gathered at a national conference with colleagues from the CES and the DfES to explore the implications of collaboration and federation.  .

Most LEA's are exploring collaboration and federation.. Recent Ofsted inspections have judged these schools to be very good and the joint arrangements a success.  In our dioces three secondary schools have formed a confederated arrangement to enable them to manage a re0organisation more effectively.  In addition one schools in Bradford LA and one in Kirklees LA have successfully formed 'Hard' Federations. A number of schools in other parts of the country, faced with either a current headship vacancy, or expecting one in the next couple of years, are making enquiries.

What do we do if we want to know more?

Regular meetings are taking place between the senior staff of schools and governing bodies where the diocesan review team .  If your governing body would like to explore these issues further then please make contact with the Office for Education and Schools.

For further information you may find the links below of use

North Eastern Dioceses: supporting the development of collaboration and federation

Goverment Regulations on Federations                                                      


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