Nolan Principles


As a teacher or headteacher you might have not heard of the Nolan Principles before. Interestingly, the Nolan Principles were referred to in the Headteachers’ Standards which were published in October 2020.

Essentially the Principles are the basis of the ethical standards expected of public office holders, which would include school staff.

They were first set out by Lord Nolan in 1995 in the first report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life and they are included in a range of Codes of Conduct across public life.

What are the Nolan Principles?

The GOV.UK website explains the Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder. 

This includes all those who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally, and all people appointed to work in the Civil Service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), and in the health, education, social and care services. 

We outline the Principles below:

1 Selflessness

  • Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest

2 Integrity

  • Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships

3 Objectivity

  • Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias

4 Accountability

  • Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this

5 Openness

  • Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing

6 Honesty

  • Holders of public office should be truthful

7 Leadership

  • Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs

How do schools refer to the Nolan Principles?

Priory Belvoir Academy in Nottinghamshire explains governors and Trustees are guided by the Nolan Principles. It notes, Lord Nolan’s Seven Principles of Public Life  apply to anyone who holds a public office, including those in the education sector.

The Nolan Principles are often referred to in a Governor Code of Conduct.

Potentially the Nolan Principles could be used if you are alleged of wrongdoing in your role and you have not adhered to the Teachers’ Standards or Headteachers’ Standards. If you are an Edapt subscriber you can contact us for advice or support if you are facing allegations in your role.

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