“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”

Margaret Mead

Welcome to UkGovChat, bringing school governors together through weekly chats on twitter #UkGovChat.

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School governors and inspection; Sean Harford’s blog

Sean Harford, HMI and Ofsted’s National  Director Education, has recently written a blog on governors and Ofsted inspections. The blog is published here with Sean’s permission. The original can be read here.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of meeting around 130 National Co-ordinators of Governor Services (NCOGS) at their conference in Nottingham. We had a lively session about Ofsted’s new inspection framework – alongside an equally active Twitter exchange!

I’m sure many of the topics that came up will be of interest to others, so, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the discussion here.

Short inspections
There were questions from the floor about short inspections and the possibility of one hanging over a weekend if it was converted to a full two-day section 5 inspection.

That’s not ideal for the school and we can and will avoid this by making sure that, where possible, short inspections don’t start on a Friday and that we provide sufficient numbers of inspectors immediately if the short inspection converts to a full inspection.

I recall promising that I’d personally go and join the team to inspect if necessary…

Simplified judgements
Delegates queried the prospect of a change to just 2 Ofsted judgements – effective or not effective – for schools. Apparently rumours are swirling around about this.

We have no plans to move towards this. I understand there’s some concern that the outstanding ‘status’ allows some schools to carry on for too long without external scrutiny. Rest assured, Ofsted risk assesses outstanding schools after 3 years, and remember that all schools may be inspected if either HMCI or the Secretary of State has concerns about their performance.

Feedback after inspection
It seems there is still some confusion on governors’ involvement at the feedback stage of inspections. So allow me to clarify the position once again.

Our lead inspectors will welcome as many governors as possible to be present at the final feedback meeting. And as I’ve said before, but will restate here, following an inspection, any governors entitled to be at the final feedback meeting should be privy to the draft inspection report.

Governing bodies in different types of school
I was quizzed about Ofsted’s current position regarding inspecting academies in trusts.

Lead inspectors make sure that they understand the governance structure in schools and academies when they make their first telephone call to the headteacher. Essentially, whatever the structure, we’d like to listen to the views of representatives from the various tiers such as trustees or the local board to find out their views and look at the contribution they make to the school’s performance and improvement. This is set out in the school inspection handbook (see paragraphs 37 and 143).

Understanding the quality of teaching and learning in schools
A number of delegates pointed out that some inspection reports appeared to praise operational tasks that governors strayed into. They asked what Ofsted expects governors to do to ensure that they understand the quality of teaching and learning in their school.

I agree that it is unhelpful if our reports seem to be praising operational practice by governors such as lesson observations or book scrutiny. Our training for inspectors and new quality assurance procedures should put an end to that. Governors play an important strategic role in schools, both supporting and holding school leaders to account.

But I accept that in small schools, governors tend to be more hands-on. Inspectors will be sensitive to this when they consider the work of governors, but we wouldn’t expect governors to be going into lessons to formally observe teaching or scrutinise pupils’ books.

Stability for the sector
I think I may have heard some cheering at the conference when I confirmed that we’re not planning to regularly reissue the inspection handbook under this framework. I’m looking for – and have no doubt that the sector would also like – some stability for the next two to three years, notwithstanding any legislation that may require us to make changes.

Questions from inspectors
There’s considerable debate about the type of evidence that inspectors gather to assess the effectiveness of governance in schools.

In a typical inspection, governors may be asked what their vision for their school is and how this is shared. Other questions that come to mind are:

Do they understand the issues the school faces?
Is the overall culture of the school one of high expectations for teaching, learning, pupil behaviour and safety
How is good and excellent work recognised?
Do governors challenge school leaders well by asking probing questions about pupil outcomes, assessment arrangements, safeguarding procedures etc?
What other different sources of information do governors use to find out the views of parents, staff and children?
Are governors aware of how the school’s finances are being managed or how staff are recruited?

You won’t necessarily get all of these questions on every inspection and this is in no way an exhaustive list either, but hopefully this gives a flavour of what to expect.

Know the strengths and areas for development
So, my overall message to governor services coordinators, school leaders and individual governors is that good school leaders, whether headteachers or governors, should ask themselves the same questions that inspectors would ask: What are the strengths of our school (how do we know) and what needs to improve?

Meanwhile, our inspectors should ask ‘What have you done’ rather than ‘Why haven’t you done…’ and they’ll be looking at the evidence you provide rather than looking for specific things.

National Lead for Governance
Finally, let me take this opportunity to introduce our new National Lead for Governance, Belita Scott HMI. Belita will be focusing on governance in schools and colleges; especially the characteristics of effective governance in different contexts. I’m sure she will have important insight to share over the coming months as she settles into post.

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Head teacher Appraisal; an external advisor’s view

This is a post written by Paul Garvey who supports governing bodies as an external advisor during the process of appraising the headteacher’s performance. The original article can be read here.

HT Appraisal: something that is ‘done’ annually, or a blueprint for the future?

By Christmas 2015, I will have supported 15 governing bodies (GBs), as ‘External Advisor’ in assessing Headteacher’s/Principal’s (HT’s) performance against last year’s targets from 2013-14 and in helping governors to set new ones for 2014-15. It’s that time of year (but I feel it should take place earlier! – see later). In the past, this has been a process which has focussed upon what should happen in 2 terms time, rather than where I see this process – as a process to set challenging targets to position a school, in two+ years time. In considering a future place for school data and quality of teaching, especially, HT appraisal can be used to envision the road to being an excellent school, or building further on current excellence.

 So what have I learned and what can I pass on and share?

I hope this will prove useful to governing bodies, Headteachers, Principals, education professionals who may be acting as External Advisors to governing bodies and to teachers and other school staff who may be subject to annual Performance management reviews. 

1. Governors should be in charge of the process.

Several years ago, I found governing bodies were almost entirely dependent upon my help and that of the HT, to be able to interpret data and other evidence provided by the HT. Same on inspection. Before the expectations of governors were increased in recent inspection frameworks (and by HMCI), governor/inspector meetings could often be fairly cosy chats, with little forensic investigation of how effective the GB was at challenging and asking pertinent questions of headteacher performance.

Now, I find that governing bodies are far better at providing evidence for their own effectiveness, via their ability to challenge the HT and I’m beginning to see governing bodies beginning to do what the National College for Teaching and Learning (NCT&L) says about governance and HT appraisal: ‘Good governing is at the heart of effective headteacher performance management. From the research detailed in this report, there is a strong case for arguing that the way headteacher performance management is carried out is a leitmotif for governing body effectiveness. Effective headteacher performance management indicates effective governing; the two are complementary.’ (Effectively Managing Headteacher Performance, DfE study 2014)

However, I do say GBs are ‘beginning‘ to be able to assess the performance of their HT with the rigour that they should. Most governing bodies are not yet in a position to truly take control of their HT’s appraisal and rely very heavily on the evidence of the headteacher that they have achieved their targets, without being fully able to determine the extent to which the HT actually has. I find that much of this centres around not having sufficient understanding of data and how it can be used to shape a school’s future. It’s not that governors don’t have the ability to understand RAISE and internal data, they generally do, but few have the corporate ability to use it well in planning for the school’s future.

Here, I simply must express sympathy with governors. They perform their role with no remuneration, selflessly and generously, giving up chunks of their time to ensure their school runs well. However, I am going to argue here that effective HT Appraisal targets could cut the work of the governing body in monitoring the school substantially, leaving the day-to-day running of the school in the hands of their HT. My view is: Regularly monitor the performance of the school, through the performance of your HT, against pertinent and well-constructed HT appraisal targets, governors. Don’t try to micro-manage your school, or step back from your responsibilities, in terms of the monitoring of Achievement, T&L and L&M and instead concentrate on providing support for your HT to achieve the targets you have set. 

I’d actually like governing bodies to be in a position to be able to assess the performance of their headteacher independently from their External Advisor.

2. Targets should be set with reference to outside monitoring agencies, but that is all. Think future ‘excellence’, rather than ‘outstanding’.

If the outside monitoring agency isn’t Ofsted, for schools, what is it? Thus we are talking about setting targets around Ofsted judgement areas. However, I feel that’s where Ofsted reference should end, unless there is a post Ofsted SM, or RI action plan which has to be followed. If you aim for being an ‘outstanding school’, or a ‘good’ school, that is perhaps, at the very best, what you’ll be and like a L4 child who’s made it, the ceiling is reached and once achieved, that may be as far as the school goes. I feel school can set more sturdy foundations for future excellence than that.

In terms of a reference framework for those graded areas, it may be that Behaviour and Safety does not need a target, unless a recent report has highlighted this as an area of weakness, but 1. Achievement, 2. Quality of Teaching and 3. Leadership and Management almost certainly do. Governors may determine that targets around 4. EYFS may be needed, or they may subsume EYFS targets in each of the other three areas.

3. Pupil Achievement targets need to be quantifiable.

Using all available data, it is best to set targets that are clearly quantifiable by reference to the next summer’s outcomes. RAISEonline is an obvious marker, but RAISEonline is not the only measure. In-school data is very useful. Points progress in individual year groups for 2015 and whatever the school uses to define progress, in subsequent years. EYFS progress data – on-entry, in terms of %s in each ‘Development Matters’ age band, to exit data in terms of %s with a Good Level of Development (GLD) – can be used to monitor and set progress targets across EYFS.

4. Pupil Achievement targets need to be applicable to all areas of the school and the school’s data.

Too often, I’ve seen targets set which are short-term and very limited. It’s usually been because data showed a clear weakness in one area in a particular year. E.g. ensure that Reading at KS2 is above national norms. Well, OK, but what about KS1, EYFS and other subjects at KS2?? What about progress and what about attainment over time in Re? If you are a HT reading this, you’ll perhaps recognise the limitations in these kind of targets. It’s possible for a HT to achieve their achievement target, while the school decelerates, overall.

I’m thinking:

a) EYFS progress and outcomes;

b) KS1 progress, from internal progress data judged against what the HT is asking of staff – 5 APS points?);

c) KS1 attainment (from P24 of RAISE);

d) KS2 progress from internal progress data and what the HT is asking of staff (4 APS points?)

e) KS2 attainment – but be fair! This depends on where pupils have come in to KS2 from KS1 and also what progress is made across the whole school. Although I’m working for the governing body and not the headteacher, it’s down to the External Advisor to mediate around the fairness of targets set around attainment in Y6 and the path towards excellence can take time.

That gives a 5-area set of Appraisal targets around Achievement, covering most areas of a school’s data.

5. Quality of Teaching targets need to be increasingly linked to Teacher standards, rather than the % of ‘outstanding’, or ‘good’ teaching seen.

Ofsted has changed and perhaps schools should change with it and quickly. I’ve blogged about it here and I’m convinced that schools will soon be abandoning lesson grades completely, in favour of a wide range of evidence with which to judge how well their teachers are performing. Many schools have already done this. Governors would do well to be ahead of the game here. Instead of asking the HT how many staff are ‘good’, or ‘outstanding’ (or ‘RI’) teachers, ask the HT what % of staff don’t achieve/achieve/exceed DfE Standards for Teaching (P10-14 Teachers’ Standards: http://bit.ly/XQ0ETp ) and how do they justify this?

6. Leadership and Management (L&M) targets should be set with reference to the School Development Plan (SDP).

The SDP should provide the main areas of work for L&M. thus the main priorities in the SDP should be the main priority for setting targets for the HT. If HT targets are different, it creates a dichotomy, which is difficult to resolve for governors. Should the HT be working towards achieving appraisal targets, or working towards achieving SDP targets, or both?

7. Achievement targets should be the first step towards a future position where the school will be excellent.

This is where my own analysis and advice begin to go beyond the NCT&L study that I’ve quoted above. I’ve worked with some visionary GBs and HT’s recently. We talked about what the RAISE data should look like, if the school was to be judged ‘outstanding’ in a future inspection, as well as talking about ‘excellence’. This changes the perspective. If governing bodies can grasp this particular nettle, then HT appraisal really can be a blueprint for the school’s future. Once the future position is established, say; all progress data for the school will show that every major group of pupils is making more rapid than expected progress in all subjects (there’s the challenge), data can be used to establish steps along the way and an appropriate timeframe in which governors will expect the HT to work towards. Again, this has to be feasible and as I’ve said, ‘the path towards excellence can take time’.

8. The process of HT appraisal should be completed before teachers and others have their PM.

HT Appraisal takes place after Teacher’s PM. Now where’s the sense in that? It’s down to statutory guidelines, of course. Teacher PM needs to be completed by October 31st, whereas HT Appraisal needs to be completed by December 31st. Thus schools timetable each to the approaching deadline, Unnecessary, in my opinion.

It seems far more logical and eminently sensible, that targets set for the Headteacher should then inform targets set for teachers and other staff. Both should take account of the targets set from the previous year and should be a means of, again, positioning the school at a future time, to be excellent.

There is no need to schedule HT appraisal in the half-term before Christmas, as many schools do. It is not statutory to have this at this time, so why not complete HT PM in September, before staff targets are set. If the HT’s challenging targets for Achievement and Quality of Teaching, especially, are shared with staff (OK, not something usually done, but why not?) then staff will be far more accepting of their own targets, as they will be clearly linked to the targets of their HT.

It’s quite possible to do this. Once summer results have been compiled and analysed, the HT is in a position to present evidence to governors around their Achievement targets. It’s not necessary to wait for RAISEonline to be published and in secondaries, this won’t happen until December, almost a full term into the academic year. A lot can have happened in a term, before some HT’s targets are set. Better to review targets from the previous year and set targets for the coming year when the HT and staff have a full year to plan so those targets are achieved. Quality of Teaching and Leadership and Management targets are better evaluated and set at the end of a full academic year.

9. GBs must monitor the performance of HTs, against their targets, regularly.

Once a term is probably not enough. Following target setting in September, formal monitoring is best done every half-term until Easter. Other, informal, governor visits and reports by the HT to the GB, can provide litmus tests for whether targets appear to be on-course to be achieved, between formal monitoring meetings.

10. HT appraisal should have equal status to Teacher Performance Management.

HT appraisal is as necessary for the HT as Performance Management is for staff. Gone are the days of automatic pay increases for teaching staff, (much as some may hanker after those bygone days of automatic salary progression to the top of scales, no matter how well you do your job) and it should be exactly the same for Headteachers and Principals. The leader of a school should have no extra rights, or privileges, when it comes to being assessed on performance. If the school doesn’t perform, the leader does not deserve a pay increase. However, decisions on pay are the responsibility of the governing body, not the External Advisor. The national Governor’s Association (NGA) is clear on the fact that ‘The appraisal panel also makes a recommendation on pay to the Pay Committee’ P7 of: http://www.nga.org.uk/getattachment/Resources/Useful-Documents/Knowing-your-School–Governors-and-Staff-Performan/Knowing-Your-School—Performance-management-and-pay-final.pdf.aspx

Other useful information:

Governor’s statutory responsibilities with regard to Headteacher appraisal are here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/270398/Governors-Handbook-January-2014.pdf

And The Education (School Teachers’ Appraisal) (England) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/115) set out the legal framework for the appraisal of teachers and headteachers and apply to all maintained schools, including maintained special schools, and to local authorities in respect of unattached teachers.

Overall, I have become an advocate for elevating the importance of HT appraisal. I do feel it can be a terrific process to determine the future position – and therefore the annual path – of a school. It is not something which just needs to be done; it is vital to the performance of a school and is a process by which governors can regularly monitor the health of a school

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The role of governors in a school-led system

John Stephens, Deputy Director, Teaching Schools and School Improvement has published a post on the National College of Teaching and Leadership blog. He mentions #ukgovchat as one way by which governors can support each other and share good practice. We are very grateful to John and to NCTL for their support. The blog is reproduced below. The original version can be read here.


I have been really pleased and encouraged by the increased interest in school governance. The quality of governance has a specific focus in Ofsted inspections, and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Schools, Lord Nash continues to reinforce the important role that governors play in the strategic leadership of schools.

My experience of governance

I first became a school governor in the early 1980s as a teacher governor in the school where I worked. Meetings usually took place on a Friday evening and the main topics on the agenda were about drainage, traffic on the road outside school and the forthcoming school fair, the latter receiving by far the most attention. My colleague governors were people with a great deal of experience and expertise in business, politics and finance and I learned a lot from them, but they didn’t see it as appropriate to apply their considerable professional skills to their work as governors. At that time, my experience of school governance was a long way from what we expect today.

When I became a head, I learned the value of having a strong, challenging and well-informed governing body. I didn’t always have a comfortable relationship with them. They were often very challenging and I had to work incredibly hard to prepare well for meetings; gathering evidence, anticipating the kinds of questions I might face and making sure I was always on top of my game. Having a strong governing body made me a better headteacher but, most importantly, it drove school improvement at a pace and depth that would not have been possible without their strategic lead.

Developing the skills and expertise of governing bodies

There are now over 300,000 school governors in England, forming the largest volunteer force in the country. There’s never been a better or more important time to serve as a governor, helping to improve children’s lives and give them the best possible education.

As the education landscape has become more complex, it is more important than ever that all governing bodies can access training and development to support them in their role.

All governors can take advantage of our free training workshops, which address strategic themes:

  • understanding and using performance-related pay
  • understanding and using RAISEonline to improve school outcomes
  • improving financial efficiencies in school

It’s also important to keep up to date with what other governing bodies are doing. To help with that, you might find it useful to take part in #UKGovChat on Twitter, a forum for governors to offer support and share good practice.

 Clerks to governing bodies

As a governor and then a headteacher, I quickly learned the value of expert clerking. At my first few meetings with the chair to plan our termly full governing body meetings, the clerk brought invaluable discipline, pushing us to think about what we wanted from particular items and reminding us of what we had to do to ensure that meetings worked well.

She was a great source of procedural advice and helped us to clarify the decisions we needed to make, as well as ensuring that there was a clear record of those decisions and a concise summary of how they were reached.

Recognising the importance of the clerk role, NCTL licensees offer the Clerks to Governing Bodies Training Programme, designed to develop the clerk’s skills in supporting their governing body. A limited number of scholarships are available, covering up to £320 of the £399 cost.

Chairs of governing bodies

Some of the best chairs of governors that I have worked with have been significant contributors to the overall leadership of the school. They know the school well, not just from written reports, but also from direct experience of seeing the school at work and listening to the views of different groups.

As a head, I was always fortunate to enjoy a positive working relationship with the chair of governors. I was certainly held to account and my chair was very good at ‘knocking the corners’ off some of my rather less well thought through bright ideas!

Early on in headship I too often equated ‘value for money’ with ‘getting the best price’. It was my chair of governors from whom I learned most about driving value from financial commitments. Whenever we were planning a new curriculum initiative or seeking to make any kind of improvements, he would always scrutinise the extent to which our investment would impact on pupils’ learning. He was very good at testing the assumptions we were making by asking the ‘so what?’ question.

My chair was an avid consumer of training. He knew his strengths and he knew the things he was less good at too. He believed in setting a good example to other governors about accessing training and even though he had a full-time job, he would often attend training alongside new governors in order to support them and set a clear expectation that training for this important role wasn’t optional.

To support the development of chairs, our licensees offer the Chairs of Governors’ Leadership Development Programme, which is open to aspiring, new and experienced chairs. Units can be taken individually or as part of a programme and include important topics such as data analysis.

In 2014-15 we are funding scholarships of up to £320 towards the typical £399 cost of the programme.

National leaders of governance

As part of the development of a school-led system, we have now designated over 300 national leaders of governance (NLG). NLGs are experienced chairs of governance, who support the development of chairs in other schools. They are becoming an increasingly important part of the team of system leaders, having already provided formal support to over 400 governing bodies in 2014.

Additionally, in some areas there are local arrangements in place enabling NLGs to work alongside national leaders of education or teaching schools to provide a holistic approach to school-to-school support.

We need more NLGs, especially in those parts of the country where there is greatest need and least provision. If you want to know more about the work of NLGs, or are interested in applying to become one, have a look at the information on GOV.UK.

Raising standards to support a school-led system

The big challenge now is to ensure that all governing bodies are performing at the level of the best. When we look at what has been achieved so far, the strength of local and national support groups and the willingness of people to step up to become national leaders of governance, I think we can be optimistic about success.

Lord Nash has compared good governance in schools to the practice we see in a charity’s board of trustees or in a company’s board of directors. Some governing bodies already meet this standard, but we all need to be doing more to attract the kind of confident, committed and skillful governors of the kind that I described earlier – those that set and articulate the strategic vision of the school and hold themselves and others to account for outcomes.

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Academies, have you had your review of governance yet?

The following article was written by Phil Reynolds of Kreston Reeves and is reproduced here with his permission. The original article can be read here.

Academy Trusts may remember that the 2014 financial statements required Trusts to comment upon an evaluation or review that has been undertaken during the year on the impact and effectiveness of the board of trustees, including any external review of governance as defined by the National College for Teaching and Leadership. This comment was to be included on the Governance Statement under the schedule of meeting attendance for the financial period.

If any Governing Bodies had not undertaken an assessment then they were required to state their intention as to when a review will take place. So…have you undertaken your review yet?

It is likely that the EFA will expect Trusts to comment upon this review in the 2015 financial statements and therefore are expecting such an assessment to have taken place in 2014/15.

If you are unsure what the review should include then further details can be found here. The costs of having a third party undertake the review are fairly small and are detailed on the link above.

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Conflicts of interest-the importance of knowing

The following post was written by Phil Reynolds of Kreston Reeves and is being reproduced here with his permission. The original article can be read here.

A recent publicised investigation report into an academy trust by the EFA has once again raised their ‘hot topic’ on conflicts of interest. It appears to be the issue that just will not go away and therefore it is imperative academy trust boards do their utmost to ensure they are compliant with the EFA’s expectations, the Academies Financial Handbook and the academy trust’s very own Articles of Association.

Although completing the business interest declaration forms can be a mundane task, it is imperative that all interests such as family members are listed to avoid any unknown conflicts arising. In this particular investigation report there was many family members who were employed by the Trust but not listed on the register of business interests which resulted in a breach of the trustees’ duties per paragraphs 1.5.13 and 3.1.11 – 3.1.20 of the Academies Financial Handbook. The form only has to be completed once a year and any changes should be declared at the start of each trustees’ meeting – a good way to ensure this is to have this as an agenda item at each meeting.

Where family members are employed by the Trust it is also vital to ensure that the correct procedures are undertaken as set out in the Articles of Association. In summary this requires that:
•Such employment or remuneration must be agreed at a trustee meeting
•The trustee who is related to the prospective employee must be absent from any discussion/vote
•The remaining trustees must agree that it is in the interests of the Trust to employ the person connected with the trustee rather than someone not connected

These procedures are highly unlikely to take place unless an accurate register of interests is maintained. It would also be beneficial to ensure that copies of the register are provided to those in charge of making employment of purchasing decisions i.e. the Finance Department and Headteacher to avoid any such appointments/purchases being made without prior knowledge.

Therefore in summary our top tips are:
•Ensure your business interests register is up to date and fully complete
•Have ‘business interests’ as an agenda item at every trustee meeting
•Ensure copies of the register are provided to those who need this information prior to making purchases or offers of employment

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Schools need to up their game to attract the best governors

By Chris James, University of Bath

If a school has a good governing body it has a better chance of being a good school. But any governing body will only be as good as its individual members, which puts a real premium on the recruitment of governors. Schools need to reach out to persuade local people as well as staff and parents to come forward and seek election to the governing body. But the recruitment of governors continues to be a challenge, especially for those governing bodies most in need of new faces – those in charge of struggling schools.

Research into school governing, which we carried out between 2008 and 2010, showed that schools varied in the number of willing and able potential governors who lived nearby. We called this pool of potential governors “governance capital”. The term of office is four years so recruiting governors is a continual challenge.

This governance capital was higher in schools in relatively advantaged and well-off areas, where pupils achieved well and got good exam results – and which were already well-regarded by their local communities or Ofsted.

Lack of suitable candidates

Five years later, we did another survey of school governors in England in the spring of 2014. Of the 7,000 governors who answered our survey, 66% said that recruiting governors was difficult.

The recent survey results showed that the problem continues to be more pronounced in schools serving disadvantaged areas, where 83% said it was difficult to recruit school governors, compared to schools in relatively advantaged areas, where 62% had trouble recruiting. It was also much harder to recruit at schools with below average levels of pupil attainment than in schools where children were doing above the average. And schools with an Ofsted grade of “requires improvement” or “satisfactory” found it harder to find governors than those with an “outstanding” Ofsted grade.

Where you need governors most, the pool of potential governors is smallest. But the governing bodies of schools that need governors the most appear to put less energy into recruitment. For example, 42% of governors at schools with a poor Ofsted grade said they put “in a lot of effort” to governor recruitment, compared to 51% of the top-rated schools.

We also asked if the difficulties in recruiting governors had any effect on the quality of their governing bodies. Overall, 37% of respondents reported that their governing body would be more effective if they could recruit more people of higher quality. This was higher in disadvantaged and struggling schools, supporting the idea that recruitment difficulties have a negative effect on the quality of school governing.

Here we see the genesis of a vicious cycle. Struggling schools that need good governors have fewer governors available to them and so their quality drops. One of the effects is that these governing bodies put less effort into recruitment, weakening the governing body even further and making it less able to ensure that the schools’ conduct is appropriate. So the school struggles even more and its “governance capital” is reduced further. The vicious cycle is perpetuated.

Raising governors’ profile

There are a number of ways to break the cycle. At the moment, school governing is currently too hidden from view – it needs to be more visible in society. Governors’ responsibility for the conduct of schools need to be more widely acknowledged – by parents, teachers, headteachers, the school’s wider community and even Ofsted and the Department for Education.

When governors and governing bodies make an excellent contribution, it should be acknowledged. For example, when an academy is given an outstanding Ofsted grade, the secretary of state should write to the governors to thank them.

The importance of governing bodies should be acknowledged by the establishment of a national database – starting with a database of chairs. At the moment, the Department of Education does not know – and has never known – who chairs each school or academy governing body. This means it doesn’t know who is responsible for proper conduct of governing bodies that are in turn responsible for the conduct of the nation’s schools. This is a quite astonishing state of affairs.

Local “non-education” organisations such as businesses need to be ready to support the involvement of their employees in school governing – not just as a contribution to society but because of the learning and development opportunities it brings.

And governor recruitment organisations such as SGOSS and the Inspiring Governors Initiative, which is a charity, need more support for the excellent work they do.

If implemented, these ideas may go some way to breaking the vicious cycle of governor recruitment and governing quality in struggling schools.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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The Governing Body.


Governing Bodies in my opinion are often the unsung heroes in a school. From what I can see very little is written about them and the valuable role they perform. These people are unpaid volunteers from all different walks of life and they give up their time because they care deeply about children and education.

The DfE has produced a Governors’ Handbook for Governors in maintained schools, academies and free schools which sets out their core function. Their role includes overseeing finances, holding the Head teacher to account, promoting the well being of pupils and helping to set the strategic direction of the school. This is what they are required to do, many do far more.

It is good practise for all schools to have a SEN Governor to push the issues regarding children with additional needs. We have 12 Governors and I am proud to say that all are…

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