Tuesday, 30 November 2010

What barriers deter people from becoming a school governor?

Do you think there are barriers which deter people from becoming a school governor?

Lord Hill has called for governors with ideas on how we can remove any barriers which may prevent people from becoming school governors.

He has set up the email address school.governors@education.gsi.gov.uk to which people can email suggestions.

My own thoughts which I have emailed to Lord hill are:

1) Get employers firmly on board. Many public bodies already allow employees to serve civic duties up to 5 days without any financial penalty to the individual. i.e The employee does not take these days as holiday or unpaid leave. They continue to be paid for their time serving as a school governor.

It would be good to extend this to all public bodies and private companies above a certain size, say over 250 employees.

2) Reward employers whose employees gave their time as school governors, public recognition or possibly tax rebates for the amount of time employees spent on civil duty.

Hampshire County council already do a good job recognising employers. See link with story below.


3)Encourage more young people to get involved with School Governing by giving away music concert tickets in a similar scheme to Orange Rockcorps


4) Encourage single parents to become School Governing by paying for Child care provision. Single parents could be encouraged to join governing bodies if baby sitting or child provision was paid for without financial penalty to the school. At the moment it is down to each school what they allow under their governor expenses policy.

5) Review the criteria for being a school governor. There are many limitations which might scare some members of the community away from becoming a School governor.

What do others think?

Monday, 29 November 2010

School Governors seek judicial review to prevent part closure

School Governors have a High Court date set to challenge the Welsh Assembly’s handling of the proposed closure of their sixth form.

A judicial review sought by Brynmawr Foundation School’s governors will be heard in Cardiff in January next year.

The School governors are challenging whether the Welsh Assembly’s delegation of powers to Blaenau Gwent council to propose and consult on closing their sixth form was legal.

They claim the school’s foundation status, which means it is run by its own governing body but funded by the state, prevents any authority but the Welsh Assembly from proposing a closure of any part of the school.

Full Story at http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/8707321.High_Court_date_for_school_campaigners/

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Review of the Schools White Paper

I am still re-reading the Schools White Paper to understand the full picture.

A colleague in Surrey's education world described the white paper this week as "an interesting collection of ideas which weren't necessarily joined up" I would agree with this sentiment. We will have to wait for further legalisation to work out how many of these ideas could be implemented.

A Summary from the NGA can be found below:


The National College to offer high quality training to chairs of governors.
Legislation will be passed to relax the requirements on size and proportionality of governing bodies, allowing schools to alter the constitution if they wish from early 2012 (there will be a requirement of a minimum of two parent governors, and in governing bodies where a foundation body appoints the majority of the governors it will continue to do so).

Governors will be given easier access to data in order to determine how their schools compared with others.The requirement for every school to have a school improvement partner will be removed. The recently introduced option for parents to refer to complaints to the Ombudsman will be repealed and a yet to be announced ‘route to complain in the most cost effective way’ will be introduced

Performance tables:

The current contextual value added (CVA) measure will be abolished. More emphasis will be placed on progress.

Will report specifically on pupils eligible for the Pupil Premium in the Performance Tables.

Review performance measures for Special Schools

The ‘floor standards’ of acceptable performance for schools is to be raised:
Secondary schools - if fewer than 35% of pupils achieve 5 A*-Cs including English and Maths (and going forwards in Science) and fewer pupils make good progress between key stage two and key stage four.

Primary schools – if fewer than 60% of pupils achieve level four in English and Maths and fewer pupils than average make the expected levels of progress between Key Stage 1 & 2.

Teaching and Leadership – the Government will:

Cease to fund initial teacher training for graduates who do not have at least a 2:2 degree
Will expand Teach First and offer financial incentives to attract the best candidates into shortage subjects

Create a network of Teaching Schools – on the model of teaching hospitals – to give outstanding schools the role of leading the training of teachers

Increase the number of Local and National Leaders of Education

End centralised (including Local Authority) target setting for schools


independent appeals panel to be retained, but without the power to require a pupil’s

Curriculum, Assessment and Qualifications.

Introduce the English Baccalaureate – (students who achieve A*-C I/GCSEs in English, maths, the sciences, a modern or ancient foreign language and a humanity such as history or geography will receive a certificate)

Once the Professor Alison Wolf has reported on vocational qualifications, make any necessary reforms

The new National Curriculum will be ‘slim, clear and authoritative’

A levels – Ofqual to be asked to change the rules on resits of modules to prevent students from re-sitting large numbers of units.

GCSEs – to reverse the trend towards modular courses, Ofqual to be asked to review GCSEs with a view to reverting to end of course exams

Ofqual have been asked to revisit marking schemes with a view to re-introducing separate assessment of spelling, punctuation and grammar into all GCSE’s.

On the issue of grammar, perhaps the DfE could also do with a little lesson – the NGA is name checked in paragraph 6.29; unfortunately someone failed to notice that Governors’ should have an apostrophe.

New Schools System

This covers the expansion of the Academies programme and the presumption that all new schools will be Academies

School Improvement

Makes clear that schools –‘governors, head teachers and teachers’ have responsibility for improvement. If schools are providing a good education they will be free to set their own targets and improvement priorities.

Schools below the floor standard and which are not progressing, or are judged inadequate will be subject to intervention with the presumption they will be converting into Academy Status.

If Academies or Free Schools fail to meet the floor standards they will also be subject to floor standards they will also be subject to intervention.

School Funding

A national funding formula is to be introduced, but local authorities would still be responsible
for distributing funding to maintained schools.

The YPLA will be abolished, but replaced by the Education Funding Agency

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Remote UK School Governor is based in New Zealand

Angie Lund remains is a remote UK school governor while based in New Zealand as she addresses issues while she is physically 11,500 miles away.

Her decision to become a remote school governor came about because the Chair of Governors wanted her to maintain her previous School governor role after she emigrated to New Zealand with her family. She had been working on a very strong development plan for the school with lots of accompanying HR related issues such as staff restructuring, new job descriptions, policies and procedures and she wanted to see this plan to fruition.

Initially, the governing body were unsure how the situation would pan out as the role of remote school governing was new to all of them. However, during the past three months it has worked very effectively for all concerned.

Technology is at the heart of my role of a remote school governor. Email and Skype are the two main tools I use, with the phone being used occasionally. My Head has had a few people issues while I’ve been away and we’ve had Skype video calls discussing what to do and I’ve emailed responses, advice and guidance to him.

Angie uses the Modern Governor service for School Governor training.

Due to the success to date, Angie would like to continue as a remote governor. She may stay on the board in an advisory capacity but with no voting rights to make things easier or she may stay on as a full member which will mean that we will Skype the meetings which is very easy to do in reality.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Employers thanked for supporting school governors

Companies have been thanked by Hampshire County Council for encouraging their staff to volunteer as school governors and making it possible for them to carry out their duties.

The County Council’s employer awards recognise what these companies do to enable local people to have a say in the running of Hampshire schools.

Employers receiving awards say supporting school governors is a way of supporting local communities

Many School Governors hold voluntary positions in schools and spend around 20 hours a term on school business. Although much of this is in their own time, employers who are flexible with
their employees’ in their voluntary governor role do make a real difference to the community and have a positive impact on schools.

Employers receiving awards say supporting school governors is a way of supporting local communities and of raising the company’s profile, as well as developing the skills and confidence of their staff.

Councillor Roy Perry Hampshire County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services , said: “School governors play a vital role in the running and operation of our schools so it’s important to give public recognition to the companies that support their work. Without their employer’s encouragement and flexibility many governors would not be able to take on governor duties and schools would miss out on the varied skills and perspectives they provide. I’d like to thank these companies and others in Hampshire who support their employees in this way.”

Great story! It would be great if more councils recognised employers in a similar way. It would also be great if more employers encourage their employees to become School Governors.

Full story can be found here:


Thursday, 25 November 2010

Strong leader or Bully?

A headteacher of a primary school has been banned from teaching for two years after he bullied and intimidated his staff.

Bryan Eade, of Coningsby St Michael's Church Of England Primary School, was banned by the General Teaching Council following a 2 day inquiry into the allegations against him.

The GTC said Mr Eade had bullied and intimidated his staff, failed to foster an open, fair and equitable culture, failed to create effective working relations and failed to delegate responsibilities appropriately.

Mr Eade denied the allegations and said he had not intended to bully or intimidate anyone and that he had been acting as a strong leader.

The GTC said that following complaints by teachers at the school about Mr Eade's conduct, the school governors carried out an investigation and interviewed 20 staff.

Sean Westaway, the chair of governors, gave evidence at the hearing and confirmed that some staff were bullied and intimidated. He described Mr Eade as dictatorial and said he had been dismissed following the investigation.

Full story from


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Online Petition demands resignation of Grammar School chair of governers

More than a 100 people have formally demanded the chair of governors at a Merseyside grammar school quits amid the continued absence of its headteacher.

Angry parents and other supporters of West Kirby’s Calday Grange Grammar school have turned to the power of the internet and made their feelings known in an online petition.

The top performing school’s headteacher, Andrew Hall, was suspended just over a year ago and was later told he faced 13 allegations which ranged from failure to report a foetus in a jar to being part of a bullying regime in the school.

Mr Hall, recovering from heart failure in April which friends blame on his enforced absence, had his suspension lifted last month – almost a year to the day after he was told to stay away from the school he had led since 2002.

But parents’ hopes for a swift reinstatement of Mr Hall were dashed with school governors confirming he will be “re-suspended” and put before a disciplinary panel as soon as he does go back.

Since the departure of Mr Hall, the school governors have faced parents and government concerns over the school’s governance and its trust status which saw it enlist Liverpool University, Unilever and Maestro Services Ltd as partners to share expertise and formally contribute to the running of the school. And Ofsted has also confirmed it is probing parents’ claims “broken governance” is hitting standards at the top-performing school.

An online petition sent to both Ofsted and the school has been set up by former pupil and head boy Anthony Phillips.

The petition demands the “reinstatement of Mr Hall as head master of Calday Grange Grammar School” and adds: “We also want the chair of governors, Margaret Twemlow, to step down.”

It has already attracted the signatures of 110 supporters, including Matthew Baylis who said an interim governing body from another local authority should take over to decide whether Mr Hall should be reinstated.

He said: “The governors should all stand down. A fresh pair of eyes is what is needed.”

But chair of governors Margaret Twemlow insisted: “I will be not be standing down.”

She added: “Mr Hall could only be reinstated if he went through the correct process of a disciplinary hearing. It was not the governors who decided Mr Hall had a case to answer but the result of an independent investigation carried out by Wirral council.

“As a governing body, we have followed due process and robustly sought to conclude matters for approximately the last seven months but have been unsuccessful due to matters beyond our control.”

Full story at http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/education/education-news/2010/11/09/petition-demands-resignation-of-west-kirby-s-calday-grange-grammar-school-chair-of-governers-92534-27622815/

Schools White Paper on School Governance

I have highlighted some quotes relating to School Governance from today's Schools White Paper for those who have not read the whole 95 page document.

"School governors are the unsung heroes of our education system. They are one of the biggest volunteer forces in the country, working in their spare time to promote school improvement and to support head teachers and teachers in their work. To date, governors have not received the recognition, support or attention that they deserve. We will put that right"

"The time and expertise of governors needs to be better respected and deployed.Sometimes governing bodies lack the information or training to challenge effectively and support the head teacher and senior leadership of a school to improve. We will work with the National Governors Association and others to clarify governing body accountabilities and responsibilities to focus more strongly on strategic direction, and encourage schools to appoint trained clerks who can offer expert advice and guidance to support them. We will make it easier for governors to set high expectations and ask challenging questions, by giving governors easier access to data about how their school compares to others, and the National College will offer high-quality training for chairs of governors"

"Governing bodies benefit from having people with business or management experience as members, and employers find that their staff benefit from and enjoy serving as school governors. We will work with the Education Employer Taskforce, Business in the Community, the Institute for Education Business Excellence, the School Governor’s One Stop Shop, and others to encourage business people and professionals to volunteer as governors.

"Many of the most successful schools have smaller governing bodies with
individuals drawn from a wide range of people rooted in the community, such asparents, businesses, local government and the voluntary sector.

"Smaller governing bodies with the right skills are able to be more decisive, supporting the head teacher and championing high standards. We will legislate in the forthcoming Education Bill so that all schools can establish smaller governing bodies with appointments primarily focused on skills."

"From early 2012 we will allow all schools to adopt this more flexible model of school governance if they choose to, while ensuring a minimum of two parent governors. Schools which currently have a majority of governors appointed by a foundation (often faith voluntary aided schools) will continue to do so"

10 key questions for School governors to ask

1. What are the school’s values? Are they reflected in our long term
development plans?

2. How are we going to raise standards for all children, including the most
and least able, those with Special Educational Needs, boys and girls, and
any who are currently underachieving?

3. Have we got the right staff and the right development and reward

4. Do we have a sound financial strategy, get good value for money and have
robust procurement and financial systems?

5. Do we keep our buildings and other assets in good condition and are they
well used?

6. How well does the curriculum provide for and stretch all pupils?

7. How well do we keep parents informed and take account of their views?

8. Do we keep children safe and meet the statutory health and safety

9. How is pupil behaviour? Do we tackle the root causes of poor behaviour?

10. Do we offer a wide range of extra-curricular activities which engage all

Very interesting!, I will comment on indivdual aspects of these announcements later when I have had time to digest and think about them.

The schools White Paper, The Importance of Teaching published today

The Schools whitepaper is published today. Below is text direct from the Department of Education website. More on this later.

The schools White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, sets out a radical reform programme for the schools system, with schools freed from the constraints of central Government direction and teachers placed firmly at the heart of school improvement.

The White Paper also sets out:

• powers for teachers to improve discipline, and trialling a new approach to exclusions

• a vision for a transformed school curriculum supported by rigorous assessment and qualifications

• more academies and free schools and a strong strategic role for local authorities

• changes to school performance tables, Ofsted inspections and governance

• a fairer funding system including a pupil premium to channel more money to the most deprived children

• school-led school improvement replacing top-down initiatives.

Download and and view the Schools White Paper from link below


More commentary on this white paper later once I have read it!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Union wants independent school governors to decide on appeals

A union is calling for sweeping changes to the way teachers appeal against being sacked.

Currently, the school's head carries out an investigation into complaints about teachers and then holds an inquiry with School governors.

Teachers can appeal but the same head and governors can sit in judgement.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Lancashire wants independent school governors to decide on appeals.

Secretary of the union in Lancashire Ken Cridland: "What could solve this is if the final appeal panel was a group of School governors from another school"

"School Governors would understand the problems of running a school but wouldn't be tainted by being directly connected with the school in question".

Lancashire County Council said they advise schools to keep the majority of school governors separate from any investigations that take place so they have independent governors for inquiries.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Parent power stops Primary School from becoming an Academy

PARENT power has spoken at Kenmont Primary School after they won their battle to stop it being turned into an academy.

The school, in London has been without a permanent headteacher for five months and has struggled to hit its targets in recent years with their latest Ofsted report, in March 2008, rating it as 'satisfactory'.

This led to school governors seriously considering applying to convert the 260-pupil strong school into an academy which would be managed and run by the education charity ARK.

But the plans were met with fury by parents who vigorously campaigned to stop the project.

Six non-selective, state-funded ARK Academies in London have been introduced in London since the charity formed in 2004.

Burlington Danes Academy, in Shepherd's Bush, was the first to open in 2006 followed by King Solomon Academy, in Westminster, in 2007.

After the fierce opposition to the academy plans, governors at Kenmont have decided to back down and have outlined a new strategy plan for the school to aid improvements.

They include recruiting parents onto the board of governors and advertising for new headteacher.

Charlotte Johnson, chair of governors, said: "While recognising the hard work of pupils, staff and parents being committed to the shared aim for Kenmont to be an outstanding school, there is recognition that the school has some way to go to achieve this.

"Governors recognise that this is an extremely sensitive period for everyone involved with Kenmont. We would like to work with the school community to do all we can to ensure the school succeeds.

Read More http://www.fulhamchronicle.co.uk/fulham-and-hammersmith-news/local-fulham-and-hammersmith-news/2010/11/22/parents-win-battle-against-kenmont-primary-school-academy-plans-82029-27693616/#ixzz161r5CgLI

Sunday, 21 November 2010

What will be in the Education White Paper published next week

An education White Paper to be published this coming week will herald a switch from the dedicated schools grant to a national funding formula for all state schools, according to reports in the Daily Telegraph and Financial Times.

The Daily Telegraph predict that the White Paper will see:

Proposals to allow the best performing schools to take on more pupils – while unpopular schools may see numbers dwindle.

A new review on the curriculum is to be launched in December this year and be introduced from September 2013.

Changes to planning laws to allow schools greater flexibility to increase classroom space, and
the creation of a new quango to control education finances for five to 18-year-olds.

The funding shake-up will mean schools receiving roughly the same amount for each pupil “in a move that will reduce the amount of power wielded by local authorities over education budgets”.

Schools with large numbers of children from deprived areas will win more money in line with coalition plans for a "pupil premium".

Pupils will be marked down for poor grammar, spelling and punctuation in exams.

A reading test will be introduced for all six-year-olds.

The highest-performing schools will be spared any visits by Ofsted inspectors unless parents or staff trigger a "warning signal".

Instead of being assessed by Ofsted in 18 different criteria, schools will be rated in just four categories – teaching, leadership, behaviour and attainment.

The current ban on same-day detentions will be removed, with schools no longer required to give parents 24 hours' notice.

Teachers will be given more powers to search pupils. Currently pupils can only be searched without consent if suspected of carrying knives or other weapons, but this list will be extended to include a variety of items including alcohol, mobile phones, pornography, and fireworks.

Every primary teacher will be trained in phonics.

National pay bargaining will be scrapped by 2012, with the best teachers able to earn far more than the current average teacher's salary of £29,240 a year

Telegraph Story Links



Saturday, 20 November 2010

Parent Governor Representatives

I have been a Parent Governor Representative on Surrey's Educational, Development & Learning for over just over one year now.

I recently reviewed a policy statement from the National Governors Association (NGA) on PGR's.


The NGA policy says:

'The NGA does not believe that the office of Parent Governor Representative is properly defined. The lack of clarity leads to varied practice throughout the country.

Parent Governor Representatives were set up to provide parents with a voice at local authority education committees and to disseminate information to parents. Many parent governors have found this latter part of the role very challenging and almost impossible to fulfil.

In some cases there has been little interest in the role and many local authorities have carried vacancies for PGRs for a considerable length of time.

In some local authorities PGRs have been ‘used’ as representatives of local governors rather than representative parents. PGRs are elected as representative parents and not representative governors and the NGA is concerned that some local authorities confuse the two.

If the role of the PGR is to be a one then the NGA would like to see it more clearly defined and local authorities’ responsibilities to PGRs clarified. There is little value in PGRs having a dissemination function if they lack the means to carry this out.'

The NGA make a good point that the PGR role is representing parents and not governors and that is sometimes missed by some local authorities.

The Parent Governor Representatives Regulations 2001 can be found linked below


I also agree that it is very difficult to communicate and represent views of parents while sitting as a PGR on a select committee. I have a web page on the Surrey County Council website with my email contact details but I rarely receive any correspondence from parents.


I also try to use social media such twitter, facebook, linkedin and blogs to communicate to Surrey parents but without a doubt it is difficult task.

Sometimes parent groups lobby me with their particular problem but this can be a one sided view.

Earlier this year I did a guest blog on PGRs for the Modern Governor website.


I am interested to here from other Parent Governor Representatives or Surrey parents.

Chair of Governors Autumn Meeting

This week I attended the autumn term chair of governors meeting with Surrey County Council.

Unsurprisingly academies, school finances and school place provisioning dominated the agenda.

Last month Surrey made national headlines when the media suggested all Schools in Surrey could become Academies at the same time.

Guardian’s coverage of that story can be found here.

Only one Surrey school called Cleves School in Weybridge http://www.cleves.co.uk/ has converted to an Academy with a second going through the process.

Despite last month’s media coverage of all Surrey schools becoming academies the message to Chairs of governors couldn’t be more different.

Councillor Peter Martin, Surrey County Council Cabinet member for Children and Learning said “I am not convinced that academies are the best thing in Surrey”

Surrey Head of Schools and Learning, Nick Wilson added “I am uncertain about the benefits of any Surrey school becoming an academy” and “If it ain’t broke don’t break it!”

Both were concerned that if too many Schools opt out of Local authority central services then there could be a tipping point where it might be difficult to provide continue to provide those services for those remaining.

There was also doom and gloom on School budgets with a view it is difficult to predict final funding for next year's budget with current information available from the DfE.

It was suggested it was unlikely that any of the Pupil premium funding would come Surrey’s way.

Although the national School Budget increased by 0.1% when you factor in Inflation currently at 3.2%, rising energy prices, Teacher & support staff pay increments and loss of extra funding such as the Technology grant which paid for broadband access Surrey suggested that Governors should prepare for 10% increase in School expenditure over the next two years while receiving funding broadly based on last year. The reality is this could mean a 5% cut in School budgets which in most Schools will mean reductions in staffing levels.

I believe it is estimated that up to 40,000 teaching and teacher assistant jobs could be lost in the next two years as the reduction on Local Authority funding bites.

In Surrey’s case they need to reduce their budget by 28% over four years, 12.5% of it in the first year.

This equates to 19 million pounds this year and 53 million pounds over four years.

Access to capital will also reduce by 45%.

If that wasn’t depressing enough we then moved on to School place provisioning. The birth rate in Surrey has grown by 18.3% between 2000 and 2008. Primary school places are required across Surrey but there is little access to capital. Surrey plan to borrow 145 million pounds over the next four years to meet their legal obligation of providing school places for a rising population in Surrey.

Peter Martin said he would be delighted to hear from groups of parents who wanted to open Free schools in Surrey. There is a number places in Surrey which require extra school capacity and funding for new Free Schools would come from central government therefore reducing the burden of borrowing money for Surrey tax payers.

Friday, 19 November 2010

School Governors allowed to sue Local Authorities for Libel

The High Court has been asked to consider whether the rule which prevents public authorities from suing in libel (to allow uninhibited criticism of government institutions) also has the effect of preventing libel actions being taken by individual managers and employees of those institutions.

This was a claim by the defendants to strike out a libel action on grounds of abuse of process.The claimants are respectively head teacher, director of educational development and chairman of school governors of a primary school in Lambeth.

They brought claims for libel and under the Human Rights Act (“HRA”) in respect of emails, widely published by the London Borough of Lambeth, alleging financial and employee mismanagement at the school. The HRA claim was under the right to reputation protected by Article 8. The claimants sought a declaration of falsity in relation to the allegations and damages pursuant to the right to a remedy under Section 8 HRA.

Full Story can be found here


Academy Programme Expanded to Good Schools

This week Michael Gove announced an expansion in the Academies programme. Good schools with outstanding features will now be able to apply for Academy status and Special Schools should be able to apply from January 2011. All schools regardless of their last Ofsted judgement will be able to apply for Academy status, providing that the team up with a Outstanding school.

The full details can be viewed here


Thursday, 18 November 2010

School Governors resign in protest of interference of Local Authority

School Governors at a primary school have resigned in support of a headteacher accused of bullying.

Nine members of Coundon Primary School’s governing body say headteacher Linda Halliday was undermined by teaching staff and that the fact was not recognised by local council chiefs.

Durham County Council said there had been a breakdown in management, relationships and governance at the school after receiving complaints.

Some staff lodged a joint grievance procedure against Mrs Halliday for bullying.

An emergency action plan put together by the school governing body was branded insufficiently robust by the local authority.

The authority warned governors they faced being replaced by an interim executive board.

School Governors said Mrs Halliday had done nothing wrong.

Governing Body Spokesman Phil Graham said: “The crisis is not at the school, the children are happy; the crisis is not with the management. The crisis, as far as we are concerned, is in the Children and Young People’s Services department at County Hall.”

The school governors’ resignation letter reads: “Her (Mrs Halliday’s) continued task would be much easier if the authority would recognise that whilst the majority of staff are supportive and professional in their duties, there is an element who are incapable of accepting their own accountability and who further possess a pathological inability to respond to direction or instruction.”

Tommy Taylor, another school governor, is considering taking legal action against the council for threatening to remove him.

Full story can be found here


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The death of FMSiS! But what will replace it?

Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the decision to scrap the "complex and burdensome" Financial Management Standard in Schools (FMSiS).

Following discussions with local authorities and schools, there was an overwhelming consensus to scrap FMSiS and develop a simpler standard.

FMSiS was introduced in the early 2000s and made compulsory in 2007 for all schools.

Schools were required to meet the standard every three years by going through a burdensome self-evaluation tool. Schools, particularly primary schools, found the system required too much documentation and was implemented in an overly bureaucratic manner.

For example, it required them to submit documentation to meet more than 100 different assessment criteria ranging from providing evidence that meetings on school budgets were 'consistent with the deadlines for important financial decisions' to showing how the school had made staff aware of the local authority whistle-blowing policy.

It is hoped the replacement system will be introduced next year. Gove said: "We are committed to reducing the administrative burden on teachers and school governing bodies and have already cut the burdensome self-evaluation forms for school inspections."We are ending the overly bureaucratic Financial Management Standard in Schools, and we will continue to work with schools and local authorities to reduce the bureaucratic burden further."

Full Story : http://www.edexec.co.uk/news/1400/fmsis-is-scrapped/

Personally I agree that FMSIS was both time consuming and distracting! My only concern is that it's replacement will be as time consuming & distracting for primary schools. Lets hope they stick to their promise of a simple standard. I won't hold my breath though ;-)

Lord Hill's Speech at NGA Conference

Two weeks ago Lord Hill gave a speech to NGA members at their Annual national conference.

The full speech text can be found be found on the link below on the DfE website


I listed some of the quotes from the speech worth highlighting below.

It is refreshing to see a minister supporting School governance!

Lord Hill Quotes from speech:

"I believe that school governors are the unsung heroes and heroines of our education system"

"I wanted to come here to say a huge thank you through you to all of the 300,000 school governors up and down the land who slog away, for hours on end, in their own time, often at the end of a long and busy day, to help their local schools improve, to give something back to their local communities, and to do their bit in the common endeavour in which we are all engaged – driving up standards so that all children have the chance to aim high, achieve their potential and get on in life. I cannot think of a better embodiment of volunteering and of civil society than the work that governors do, and I want you to have the recognition that I believe you deserve"

"we want to devolve more power and responsibility down to the lowest possible level – away from Whitehall, towards schools, hospitals and local communities"

"We want to spread autonomy and trust professionals to get on with the job"

"We want to bear down on needless bureaucracy, targets and paperwork"

"In short, we want to get out of people’s hair – but provide support where they want support and encourage professionals to share good practice and learn from each other"

"Far too many governors tell me that they spend hours in meetings discussing what are, frankly, relatively trivial issues, when they could be concentrating on strategic leadership and making a difference. And the recent NGA report on bureaucracy raised a series of important issues that we need to address"

"First, it is absolutely clear to me that the most important decision-making group in any school is the governing body"

"Second, governing bodies should set the overall strategic direction of a school, hold the headteacher to account and have a relentless focus on driving up standards – but not get dragged into micro-managing the school or the minutiae of its day-to-day activities"

"Third, we need to ensure that governing bodies have the best possible people, with the right mix of skills and expertise, rather than just because they are there wearing a particular hat"

"Fourth, all schools are different and need different things at different stages of their development – so school governance needs to be more flexible"

"Fifth, we must mount an energetic and sustained attack on the culture of guidance and paperwork – a lot of it issued by my Department – that tells you how to do your job. I know it’s all meant to be helpful – and I am sure some of it is useful – but if you are serious about trusting people, you have to start trusting them"

"And finally, we need – even in these straitened times – to find ways of supporting governors, especially chairs of governors, including by providing access to high-quality training and also making it easier to see a wide range of information and data about the performance of local schools"

"I do not pretend that it is all going to be plain sailing. There will be difficult decisions ahead. But I think that there is also an opportunity to move to a system where schools are more autonomous, where professionals are trusted and given more respect, and where funding is fairer, more rational and more transparent"

"Central to all of this will be the role played by governors, which is why I end how I started – by thanking you for all that you do and by saying that I will do all I can to support you in that role"

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

'The Hidden Givers' A study of school governing bodies in England

The Hidden Givers' is a study of school governing bodies in England by Professor Chris James, Steve Brammer, Michael Connolly, Miles Fertig, Jane James and Jeff Jones from the University of Bath.

Professor James presented at the NGA National conference and their main findings were:

The role of the chair Governors is a significant educational and community leadership responsibility.

The local authority governor role can be unsatisfactory.

The lack of a capable governing body is a substantial disadvantage for a school

School governing is always changing – sometimes rapidly.

Primary and secondary school governing are different - and the link to pupil attainment is different.

Governing bodies’ have the same effect on attainment in different socio-economic settings.

The powerpoint presentation from the NGA conference can be http://www.nga.org.uk/uploadfiles/The%20Hidden%20Givers-1.ppt

The full 132 report can be found here http://www.cfbt.com/evidenceforeducation/pdf/6CfBT_HG_web.pdf

Monday, 15 November 2010

NGA Conference AGM

Two weeks ago the National Governors Association held it's AGM & National conference in London.


Unfortunately I could not attend due to family commitments although 170 NGA members did.

Personally I think it is a shame only 170 members attended from a supposed 300,000 School Governors in England. I don't know how many School Governors are NGA members but I would expect more 170 attendees.

Clare Collins, Chair of NGA, opened the conference. The Chair regretted that the Secretary of State had been unable to attend. His original undertaking to speak had been contingent upon his availability at the time. Mr Gove had had to be elsewhere, travelling, and in his stead the keynote address was given by Lord Hill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, whose remit included school governance.

Lord Hill paid tribute to Baroness Howe, NGA’s President, as a champion of governors in the House of Lords, calling her ‘tenacious’ in her pursuit of issues. Governors were the unsung
heroes and heroines of the system and he thanked all for their tireless work in driving up standards and helping all children and young people to achieve their potential. There was no better example of volunteering than school governance and it needed more visibility.

He wanted to make it easier for people to become governors and make a contribution.

I will be blogging about Lord Hill's speech later this week.

Emma Knights CEO of the NGA thanked Lord Hill for his words of thanks to governors. Although ministers have always said this, Lord Hill had gone further by saying that ‘Governing bodies were the most important decision making people in schools’.

Sam Ellis and Malcolm Trobe from ASCL, spoke on finding the match between curriculum and budget. (The slides used in this presentation are available on the NGA website here http://www.nga.org.uk/uploadfiles/NGA%206%20Nov%202010.ppt)

There was also a presentation from Professor Chris James, University of Bath, who used the conference for the launch of his new research, The Hidden Givers, a study of school governing bodies in England. I will be blogging a full article on his research project tomorrow.

The conference was addressed by Judy Hargadon, Chief Executive of The School Food Trust, on the topic of School Food – Value for Money?

(The slides used in this presentation are available on the NGA website here http://www.nga.org.uk/uploadfiles/School%20Food%20%20Value%20for%20Money%20without%20notes.ppt)

The final part of the conference was a panel session on the lines of Westminster Forum debates (i.e. panel members make very short presentations on the chosen topic and them as a group take questions.) The panel consisted of: Stephen Kingdom (DfE), Paul Bennett (National College), William Simmonds (NASBM), Sandun Dambawinna (Randstad Education) and Angela Hands (National Audit Office).

Clare Collins then closed the conference and the NGA AGM began Draft minutes of the AGM are available separately here http://www.nga.org.uk/uploadfiles/events/AGMMINS061011%20v3.pdf

The full Conference & AGM Report can be found here http://www.nga.org.uk/uploadfiles/events/2010%20NGA%20Conference%20report.pdf

Sunday, 14 November 2010

NCOGS Manifesto for Governance

I am sure this draft manifesto will have passed the majority of School Governors by.

In fact many will ask who NCOGS is? Well NCOGS is the National Co-ordination Of Governor Services. I don't know who runs their public relations but this hardly hit my radar and google news alerts didn't even register their annual conference or manifesto launch. I only read it by chance 3 weeks after publication after reading a NGA article about COGS in Matters Arising.

This is draft NCOGS Manifesto from members of the annual conference

New Models – Differences and Implications

•NCOGS recognises diversity in schools, and encourages its members to adapt and use the Toolkit, and support governors in whatever decision they make

• Central and local government, COGS, the NGA and governing bodies promote and use the toolkit

Delivering Services

•Central government should enable governors to promote educational achievement; governance in integral to school improvement.

•NCOGS, with partners can provide framework for quality of services provided to governors

•Continue to have access to high quality services

•Identify LAs as the stewards of high quality government


•Every GB has an outstanding accredited professional clerk to support effective governance;

•There should be a single national standard

•No school-based clerks

•National standard recommended pay scale

•National association who will be a source of support for clerks and guardians of professional standards

•Transfer of powers to clerks to free up GBs to be strategic


•Develop models of leadership that define role of chair, including relaxing legislation to allow different approaches, e.g. Co-chairs, develop role of vice chair

•Expectation and entitlement to training and support and mentors at no cost to the individual, incl. paid leave

•limit on length of term of office. Accountability as leader of the GB and self evaluation at the end of each year.

Governors & School Improvement

•Entitlement to specified and identified information in plain English

•HT takes a role in enabling GB to develop own GB competence in professional challenge

•Threshold competencies for all Governors

•Statutory induction training

•Schools are judged by success in their community


•Some flexibility introduced in the stakeholder model

Heads and Leaders

•School leaders & governors have a common and well informed understanding awareness of each others’ roles & responsibilities

•Preparation for school leadership roles must include substantial and compulsory components on governance

•School CPD leaders must ensure that they include governing body development in school CPD arrangements.

Some of these ideas are common sense but others such as No School clerks and maximum terms for chairs are more controversial.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Governing Bodies have a ridiculous amounts of power!?

A former Chair of Governors at a Primary School has taken the unusual step of going public with her bizarre views on school governing bodies, saying they have “ridiculous amounts of power.”

Liz Ashby is the former chair of the governing body at Northfields First School. While in post, she claims she became aware of loops in the system, which she feels can be abused. She also feels there are not enough checks and balances to ensure governing bodies don’t exploit their power.

She criticised the current system saying: “Anyone can go in there with very little training and make decisions on local schools which have huge implications.” She added “I think governing bodies have ridiculous amounts of power, should they choose to use it.”

Full story in local press of South Norwich News


Is it me or is this story just bizarre? Does anyone else believe governing Bodies have a ridiculous amounts of power.

School governors have been called many things but power crazed dictators with an ambition for world educational domination is not one of them ;-)

Friday, 12 November 2010

Former School Governor faces charges

I read a story this morning about a former school governor of Plymstock School in Devon being charged with a string of child pornography offences.


This is about the forth story in the media this year where a former School governor has been charged with child pornography which is very sad in itself.

Other stories about former School governors involve fraud or assaults.

Whilst I understand and support the local media stance to expose and name this individual on the grounds of public interest I do question the relevance of whether he was once a school governor and therefore tarnishing both the image of the school and governing body which he served on.

In this story I believe it was much more relevant that he was the president of the magic circle with possible access to children rather than a school governor with limited or supervised access to children.

It seems to me that when anyone is charged with any criminal offence the fact they were once a School governor is dragged up and becomes the headline of the story.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

GMB calls for Chair of Governors to resign

The GMB union is calling for a primary school governor to resign after 'failing to act’ over a complaint of sexual harassment against the head teacher.

The GMB received a complaint from a female member of staff against headteacher Andrew Gould at Westcourt Primary School in Gravesend.

The GMB claim Graham Walker, the school’s chairman of the governors, has so far failed to act on the information received.

The complainant alleged that an email sent by headteacher Andrew Gould, about her, said: "slags me of one minute and as nice as pie the next..is it her whoremoans".

This story hit the local press


This is the GMB press release


Obviously we have to take the story at face value as reported but it seems strange that a Chair of Governors would not investigate a serious allegation like this against a head teacher.

I am sure there is a clearly defined complaints procedure so it begs the question why it has got to this level with the GMB.

Unfortunately Graham Walker the Chair of the Governors has little chance of right of reply but if you are reading this Graham you can set the record straight here on my blog.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Speechless Teacher wins £156,000 settlement

The scary education story of today is the part-time teacher, Joyce Walters who received a combined £156,000 out of court settlement from Hillingdon Council because she lost her voice through through shouting in her class room.

Joyce taught English part time at Harlington Adult education centre since 2005.

The scary part of this story is not the huge payout but the precedence this may cause with other potential legal cases in education.

Many local authorities and school governing bodies will be raising their eye brows at Hillingdon's decision to settle out of court for a combined payout of £156,000.

Joyce claims she was forced to raise her voice because of the size of classes and nearby Children's play area.

I wonder how often primary and secondary teachers suffer from the same problem?

Hopefully most teachers have strategies not to raise their voices too often in class but I hope this is not the start of schools being encouraged to complete risk assessments of teachers vocal effort.

I believe this story reflects a move in this country to move to a compensation culture which has plagued America for years.

The story was covered in detail by both the Guardian & the Telegraph.



Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Boy isolated from School over hair cut

This morning I was listening to Nick Ferarri on London's LBC Talk Radio station when he carried a story about a 13 year old boy called Sheldon Nelson who is excluded from school since the 22nd September this year because of his hair cut.

The story has been picked up by the London Standard, Telegraph and ITV London TV programme among others media organisations.

The London Standard article with picture of the young chap can be found here.

Teacher TV Video Clip http://www.teachers.tv/news/80631

Both the boy's mother and the executive head teacher of Church of England Blackheath Bluecoat school were interviewed by Nick on his programme as the argument continues to be played out in the media.

The boy's mother claimed the School's uniform code is unclear and just says the hair cut should be of conventional length and style. She also claimed that the 'border line' hair cut was a cultural thing for black boys. She says she has spoken to the School Governors and her local MP but there was still a stand off. She also claimed he had been given no school work to complete at home.

The executive head, Jeffrey Risbridger was also interviewed, he claimed the school dress code was very clear, he was following government guidelines and the boy needed to be isolated to set an example and to avoid copy cat breaches of dress code.

It all seems a sorry state of affairs being played out in the media and the real loser is Sheldon who is missing out on his education while two grown ups fight it out in the media. Surely Sheldon's education should come first!

Now I understand the School's position with the need for rules to be adhered to, but I also understand the mother's perception that the rules are not clear and the hair cut is part of her son's culture.

Community Cohesion comes to mind here.

There has been little clue in the media stories what role the School Governing Body is playing in this saga but surely the best way forward is for the adults to compromise and get Sheldon back to school as soon as possible.

On Twitter, a user by the name of David Prescott aka @DavidPrescott who is the Chair of Governors at Blackhealth Bluecoat School says he backs his Executive head.

Obviously we don't know the exact details but it would seem sensible to me that the school clarifies it's definition of the school dress code and Sheldon then complies with the clarified code. If both sides can claim a small victory without ritual humiliation or climb down from their entrenched positions then the issue is likely to resolved sooner rather than later.

Would be keen to hear what others think about this story.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Longevity of Chairs

I have decided to blog more often about School Governing news & issues.

Many of you will know that I run a micro blogging service called @schoolgoverning on twitter which covers news and issues on School Governing & education.

Sometimes you can't fit everything you want to say in 140 characters so I will use this blog to expand on School Governor hot topics or Education subjects that have got me hot under the collar.

Today I want to discuss longevity of Chair of Governors. Over the weekend I read an article entitled ‘When enough is enough’ by Stephen Adamson in the National Governors Association (NGA) magazine called 'Matters Arising' (November/December issue).

Stephen Adamson is a Vice Chair of the NGA and Chair of the NGA's policy committee. He is also the founder and managing director of Adamson Publishing which publishes the School Governors' Year Book among other titles http://www.adamsonbooks.com/.

In his article Stephen supports the NGA policy view that a Chair of Governors should serve a maximum six year term of office to avoid staleness, cosiness and coasting along. http://www.nga.org.uk/pol-governance.aspx

I think it is slightly amusing that Stephen's half page article shares the page with article about a long serving governor called Jo Wakeman receiving a MBE for 27 years service to Education. To be fair to Jo it appears she has had varied governor roles within those 27 years.
Within the NGA policy published on their website it says:

‘The role of the Chair of the governing body is a crucial one and the NGA supports the proposal in the Ministerial Review on Governance (April 2010) that there should be an expectation that Chairs should undergo specific training. Although there is no legal constraint on the length of time a Chair of governors can serve, the NGA also believes that an element of regular reappraisal and renewal is beneficial to all schools, and that all Chairs should normally expect to step down after a maximum of six years in post.’

Personally I agree with this view and the revolving leadership model in Governing bodies. Of course there will always be the argument that no-one else wants to step forward or they are such a good chair we don't want to lose them.

Chairs should also be subject to succession plans. I am starting year two as Chair of Governors at a Surrey infant school but have openly told my head and governing body I plan to serve no more than five years as chair of governors.

After five years I will look for a new challenge possibly Chairing another governing body with different challenges.

I would be interested to hear what other people think about this subject.


Sean Whetstone @SchoolGoverning on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/SchoolGoverning