Monday, 31 January 2011

Management Interview Questions for a Candidate Head Teacher

On Saturday I blogged about the process to recruit a new Head teacher

Yesterday I added Curriculum interview questions

Today I will cover Management interview questions used by a recent governing body selection panel.

1. Welcome & introduction of panel members

2. Could you outline your philosophy and approaches to behaviour management?

3. Tell us about a recent management initiative that has had an impact on your school and how you have dealt with it?

4. Tell us what you would do to get the best out of your staff and maintain their motivation?

5. Teachers today are subject to high levels of stress. How would you help them to manage this?

6. How do you keep your stress levels under control?

7. How would you approach this situation? A group of parents come to you with complaints about a teacher that you know is weak and has various difficulties in the classroom?

8. How would you work with the Governing Body to budget and monitor expenditure? What criteria do you think are important when monitoring the impact and effectiveness of spending decisions? How would you manage this monitoring?

9. Tell us about a failure that you have experienced. How did you deal with it and what did you learn from it?

10. How would you build relationships with our children and parents and develop the profile of the school in the local community?

11. As new technology is developed how do you expect new technologies to impact on school management?

12. What do you feel is the role of school admin staff and how would you incorporate them in your team?

13. Describe the professional relationship you would like to have with a) the governing body and b) the Chair of Governors

14. Any questions from candidate?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Curriculum Interview Questions to ask a Candidate Head Teacher

Yesterday I blogged about the process to recruit a new Head teacher

Today I will cover Curriculum interview questions used by a recent governing body selection panel.

1. Welcome and introduction of panel members

2. What do you do in order to address the specific needs of individual children in order to help them fulfil their potential?

3. How would you promote and monitor educational inclusion?

4. As new technology is developed how do you see the role of the teacher changing?

5. What would you expect to see now in a successful teaching and learning environment?

6. As you may have realised from your tour around the school, we have limitations with regard to space available. How would you develop and further improve the aspects of our curriculum that will be affected by this lack of space?

7. You may have read in regular items in the press that children today do not often know where their food comes from, believing, for example, that potatoes grow on trees? If you found that to be an issue here, tell us what you might do to give our children, who come from a suburban environment, the knowledge and appreciation of our agricultural past, present and future.

8. Can you tell us the benefits and disadvantages of the current regime of testing children on entry to school and at the end of Key Stages 1 and 2.

9. Tell us about a recent curriculum initiative that has had an impact on your school and how you have dealt with it. This could be an external initiative or one that you have developed and chosen to lead.

10. Describe to us how you would motivate Key Stage 2 boys who begin to become demotivated from and disaffected by education.

11. Could you suggest an addition or enhancement to our curriculum that you'd like to add, and how would you implement it?

12. Any questions from candidates?

Tomorrow's blog is the management Interview questions used by the selection panel.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Recruiting a new Head Teacher Process & Interview Questions

My younger brother is also a School Governor in the London Borough of Kingston Upon Thames. He has been a School Governor a few years longer than me and is a member of the governing body of my childhood primary school.

Last week his governing body recruited a new Head Teacher and he sat on the recruitment panel so I asked him to share his process and interview questions so I could share them with others on this blog. Tomorrow (Sunday) I will cover the management interview questions they used, on Monday curriculum interview questions used and finally the final headship interview questions used on Tuesday's blog.

The Process:

Once application sifting was done the panel chose the three strongest applicants picked from all responses to advert.

Day one Morning

Task one: Candidates were asked to perform a 30 minute lesson of their choice based on an object they brought in with them to a mixed ability group of pupils.

Task two: They were quized by the school council for 20 minutes with supervision from panel members who took notes on the candidates responses and overall interaction with children.
(pre-determined questions only so we could make sure all questions were appropriate)

Task three: The candidates were asked to perform a data handling exercise to show their knowledge of Raise Online, Target Tracking & Pupil Tracking.

Each of these tasks were done on a carousel system with different members of the panel observing each task.

Lunch with existing Key Stage Leaders and their Teaching Assistants's to see how they interacted with current staff.

Day one Afternoon

Task one: Management Interview questions (Will blog about these on Sunday)

Task Two: Curriculum Interview questions (Will blog about these on Monday)

Task Three: In tray exercise with example letters from parents and staff. Looking for prioritising and appropriate responses.

Day two was a 10 minute presentation on "What are the 4 main things do you think make an outstanding school?"

Then the full final formal interview with the headship questions (I will blog about these on Tuesday).

(Anyone deemed not suitable after day one wouldn't have been asked back for the second day)

Friday, 28 January 2011

Making Sense of School Performance Data

School Governors need to be satisfied that their schools are reaching high enough standards and exceeding national thresholds and that this demonstrates at least satisfactory and preferably better progress for all groups of pupils, given their starting points when they joined school
Data alone is simply not enough to make the judgement but needs to be balanced by an understanding of the wider issues facing the school. In addition, an understanding of the quality of the school’s provision including teaching and learning, the curriculum and care support and guidance.

In order to support and challenge effectively school governors need to ask three key questions:

1 What is the context of our school and how does this compare to other schools?

2 What do our pupils attain in each year group and in national tests?

3 What progress do our pupils make given their starting points?

The full advice ‘Making Sense of School Performance Data’ 47 page paper produced by Learn Together Partnership and provided online by Cheshire East Governors can be downloaded here[1].pdf

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Education Bill First Reading

The Education Bill had it's first reading in parliament yesterday and I had my first reading of it today. The term 'governors' is just mentioned 6 times but the term 'governing body' is mentioned 93 times on a quick count.

The quick highlights are the duty for Governing body to ensure out a School profile is removed and Governing bodies can be made up of Parent Governors and the head teacher plus any other governors that the governing body see fit. For a non-foundation School there is no obligation to have Staff, Authority or Community School governors in the future.

I am still reviewing the papers to make sense of the Education bill but one omission appears to be mandatory training for Chairs of Governors was not included.

The full Education bill and explanatory notes can be found here

It is worth reading Part 5 and in particular the following pages.

Repeal of duties of governing bodies, local authorities and others

Page 30 Duties to co-operate with local authority
Page 31 Duties to have regard to children and young people’s plan
Page 32 Duty to prepare and publish school profile
Page 33 Duty to appoint school improvement partners
Page 34 Duties in relation to school admissions
page 35 Duties in relation to school meals etc

Governing bodies: constitution and dissolution

Page 37 Constitution of governing bodies: maintained schools in England
Page 38 Discontinuance of federated school: governing body not to be dissolved

Local Authority School Governors Research

Local authority representatives

There was evidence that the role of the local authority representative was interpreted in a range of ways and to varying effect. At one School, a school in a disadvantaged setting, the local authority representative, who was a local authority councillor, was not fully committed to his governing responsibilities.

The local authority representative at another School was a parent who had been assigned that role but was unsure what its significance was and what his relationship with the local authority was to be. He was a former parent governor and his appointment as local authority governor was “all rather protracted”. It had taken several months. He thought that “maybe the letter (of appointment) got lost”. When the appointment letter finally arrived, it was brief and as a result “he was not aware of any additional responsibilities”. He checked the website but there were “no terms of reference” and “the clerk didn’t have any either”. He felt that the lack of information was because local authority governors “tended to be local councillors” – which he was not. He said: “I expected a little bit more.” Across the dataset, there was a clear sense that the local authority governor held that role in name only. Local authorities did not relate to these governors in any way beyond the initial designation. No particular responsibilities came with the title.

Taken from the Hidden Givers

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Parent School Governors Research

In a number of schools reviewed by the Hidden Givers researchers, it was clear that parent governors were important members of the governing body. Although they did not always play a significant role in meetings, their involvement was typically beneficial.

• In one governing body,almost all the members of the full governing body were parents of pupils or their children had attended the school in the past. Our general sense was that this probably contributed more to the governing process than they realised.

• There were issues that related to recruitment and participation as we discuss below, but at another school, which was located in a disadvantaged area, a parent governor who was an experienced foster parent was singled out for particular praise by the Chair of governors.

• At one School, a parent governor was leading the way in an ad hoc group which had the purpose of improving governor effectiveness.

There were numerous other examples of the considerable and beneficial involvement of parents.
Parental involvement in governing was not without difficulties. Confidentiality could be an issue, for example on staffing matters relating to redundancies and retirements. Generally these issues were managed effectively. The perspective of parent governors could be problematic with some joining the governing body with a narrow interest in their own child’s education. As one headteacher put it: “One governor can only see his daughter”. Others may join to find out how the system works, which again can distort their perspective on governing. In the main though,
such governors, in the view another headteacher do “step up” to the full governor responsibility. This view was supported by others we interviewed.

However, there was evidence in one school that having a high proportion of parents on the governing body can be problematic. At one school the clerk to the governing body felt
that a “high proportion of parents” had in the past hindered the work of the governing body. She considered that the governing body “was not balanced”. This issue had been addressed by the new Chair of Governors and the incoming headteacher by the recruitment of members from the school’s wider community. There was however a countervailing sense with the governing body at one school. It had a high level of parental presence on the governing body but also considerable professional expertise too.

As a parent governor myself I see the pros and cons of Parent governors.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Staff School Governors Research

Staff governors

Teachers and leadership team members who were School governors made a mixed contribution to the governing of the schools we studied. However, the contribution was typically beneficial. Even when they attended meetings as observers, members of staff could make a significant contribution.

There was also evidence where over involvement could lead to weak governance

One governing body in the Hidden Givers study were clear that staff governors “provided knowledge and insights that many of the governors lacked” (Headteacher).

A similar view was voiced by the Chairs of Governors and headteachers of two other schools.

The status of the staff governor was of interest in relation to membership and activity of teacher unions. The staff governor at one School was not a union member although she felt that the school had a strong National Union of Teachers (NUT). However, the NUT played no part in selecting her as staff governor. At another school, the staff governor was clear that she was “representative of the staff and was not the staff representative”.

Many schools did not need to hold elections for staff governors. Potential staff governors had to be persuaded to take on the responsibility.

• The staff governor of one governing body had held the post for a very long period largely because no other member of staff wanted to take on the responsibility. She was very active in the school, organising a number of formal and informal activities. This staff governor had agreed to join the governing body in the absence of other volunteers.

•Another School did not hold elections for staff governors; appropriate members of staff were asked if they would like to undertake the responsibility.

•At another School the staff governor was “appointed in essence by the headteacher” • The staff governor had taken up the responsibility because he “felt it would help his career progression”.

In one of the meetings the researchers observed, the interactions were unusually antagonistic.In this instance, the staff governors appeared to take up a ‘defensive-aggressive’ stance in relation to the lay governors especially in the face of particularly challenging questions of which there were a number. There were other instances however where staff governors helped to ‘bridge a gap’ between the staff and the lay members.

This gap was reported by one Chair of Governors as a potential problem. At one School, the headteacher was dynamic, much liked and respected. There was evidence that the teacher on the governing body did not step up to her governing role. She “was somewhat in awe of the headteacher”, as indeed were the other members of the governing body.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Local councillor involvement on Governing Bodies

Local councillor involvement

There is evidence that local councillors acting as local authority school governors/members of governing bodies bring both advantages and disadvantages. There was evidence that local councillors in the local authority governor role can bring important expertise and experience and can have a helpful wider policy perspective.

Their involvement may not be explicitly ‘political’ (in the party political sense). For example, the headteacher of one School was clear that their involvement was “not political”.

When they participated at governing body meetings, they did not seek to bring party politics into the debate. At another School, the Chair of Governors was a local councillor who saw the responsibility as an important aspect of his work as a councillor.

In other examples, there were problems, typically about conflict over roles. In one School, tensions existed over a local authority decision to exercise claw-back from the school budget. The local councillor chose not to attend when the issue was being discussed at a meeting of the governing body.

At another School, where there were significant budgetary matters, including a clawback
of the school’s budget, the local authority governor attended the relevant meeting. At the meeting, he defended the local authority decision, which was to the school’s disadvantage. His line “irritated the other governors” who argued that he should resolve this conflict of interest.

The involvement of local councillors can bring complications.

• A local councillor who was the local authority governor at a school had resigned
from the governing body because he was in conflict over a grant to a charity in which he and another governor were involved. The Chair was holding open a community governor vacancy place on the governing body in the hope the councillor would return when the conflict had been resolved.

• The Chair of Governor of one governing body felt that the local authority councillor, who was also the local authority representative on the governing body, was not as committed to his responsibilities as he might have been because of other duties.

• The headteacher at one school was very direct: “local authority governors let us down”. She added: the councillors are “in it for political reasons – their party, they want to be part of a successful school in the area but they don’t attend, don’t know much about the school, and they’re not committed.”

• At another School, the continual non-attendance of a local councillor at governing body meetings was a source of considerable tension. Over a number of years, the governor concerned had attended only two of the meetings previous to the one observed where he was again absent. His apologies were once more not accepted by the meeting.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Distance Learning Governor Resource: Taking the Chair

A distance learning programme has been designed by Southend Council for Chairs, Vice-Chairs and Chairs of committees to enable them to better understand the role and carry it out effectively. The programme aims to:

• Strengthen and develop your capacity to lead the work of the Governing Body

• Deepen your understanding of the role of the Chair
• Enhance your confidence and skills in managing the role and relationships
• Widen your strategies for developing the partnership between the Governing Body, the Headteacher and the staff
• Encourage you to share leadership and make good use of the skills and knowledge of others

Programme design

This programme has been designed as a self-study programme. It takes account of:

• The variety of ways in which people prefer to learn
• The different school contexts within which chairs operate
• Varying levels of experience in the role

The content of the programme has been addressed through:

• The text, to provide you with information and stimulate your thinking
• Activities to encourage you to explore how theory works in practice

The activities will provide opportunities for:

• The development of knowledge and understanding of the role of the Chair
• The development of leadership and management skills
• Drawing on existing knowledge and previous experience
• Identifying issues and problems and thinking through solutions
• Reflection – leading to changes in thinking and action which can improve the effectiveness of the Governing Body

The programme focuses on how the Chair carries out the leadership and management role rather than the detailed procedures associated with school governance. It is the quality of that leadership and management that can make a difference to the effectiveness of the Governing Body.

Guidance for participants

This is the Distance Learning version of Taking the Chair and is intended as a self-study option for those who find it difficult to attend face-to-face training or who prefer to read around a subject on their own.

Programme Content

The programme focuses on what the chair uniquely does to assist the governing body in carrying out its three key roles. The programme will enable you to develop knowledge and skills in:

• Managing relationships
• Leading and managing the work of the governing body
• Leading and managing challenge and support for school improvement

The role of the chair in supporting the governing body in carrying out its ‘critical friend’ role is threaded throughout the units.

The programme is divided into five units:

Unit One: The Chair and the Headteacher
Introduction to the course

The role of the Chair

The relationship between the Chair and the Headteacher

Unit Two: The Chair and the Governors

The relationship between the Chair and other governors

Team leadership and team effectiveness

Recruiting, inducting and developing governors

Unit Three: Leading and Managing the Work of the Governing Body

Structuring the governing body

Effective meetings and decision-making

Unit Four: The Chair’s Role in Supporting Strategic Leadership

The Chair’s role in supporting strategic effectiveness and the strategic use of information

Unit Five: The Chair’s Role in Ensuring Accountability

The Chair’s role in ensuring the school is held to account for standards and accountability to stakeholders

The distance learning course can be download or loaded online for Free from

Thanks to Southend on Sea Borough Council & Southend Governors for making this resource available online

Saturday, 22 January 2011

What does 'Outstanding School Governance mean?

Since the introduction of the new framework for inspection in September 2009, Ofsted has given much greater prominence to evaluating the effectiveness of the governing body, usually reported on in the “leadership and management” section. In fact the performance of the governing body is graded as one of the contributory factors in coming to the overall leadership and management judgement. So it may be of interest to see just what an “outstanding” governing body looks like. There is an increasing number of such governing bodies up and down the country. A selection of comments from some of their reports underlines just what qualities they exemplify.

Firstly outstanding governing bodies demonstrate the ability to both support and challenge: Governors effectively challenge as well as support the school leadership (Ofsted 2010),maintaining at all times the delicate balance between constructive criticism and help, knowing what to ask, when it is appropriate to intervene, when it preferable to listen and learn. Secondly, an outstanding governing body knows it school and its individual members are known by staff and pupils: Governors visit the school regularly to celebrate its achievements”(Ofsted 2009). Thirdly, an outstanding governing body has a clear understanding of what is happening in the school and what it is striving to achieve: The experienced governing body has a very clear insight into the school’s performance (Ofsted 2010) and, with this knowledge, is well placed to help establish a climate of continuous improvement. Fourthly, along with the headteacher and senior staff, the governing body is part of the school’s leadership team: Governors are actively involved in setting a clear direction for school improvement....

School Governors vigorously monitor the safeguarding of pupils and maintain up to date and effective systems in the school to ensure that all staff are fully aware of their responsibilities….The high expectations of the school are shared by governors.(Ofsted 2010). And finally an outstanding governing body is fully aware that a school is an integral part of the community it serves as well as being a community is in its own right. It therefore promotes community cohesion, basing what it does in this regard on a clear analysis of the school’s context and its contribution towards a cohesive society.(Ofsted 2009)

And now, for a real-life example of what this means in practice, Ian Ritchie, Chair of Governors, Norbury Hall Primary School, which received the “outstanding governance” accolade, reflects on why he thinks this was the outcome:

It is difficult to pinpoint what constitutes 'outstanding' in terms of governance and I have no first hand experience of what other schools do to achieve this. My belief, from experience over time, is that a school or governing body does not become outstanding overnight and certainly cannot do so through training alone. It is more to do with how consistently and effectively a school works day to day and from term to term. At Norbury we have an exceptional headteacher who is a very effective leader and has had a clear vision for the school since his appointment 13 years ago. I was part of the appointment panel and have worked closely with the headteacher, both as a governor and as chair for the last 10 years. We have a shared vision for Norbury Hall which is supported by a dedicated and hardworking senior management team and staff and we are fortunate in being able to recruit and retain governors who have a genuine interest in ensuring we do the very best we can for our children.

We did not have much time to prepare for the inspection due to the short notice, not more than 2 or 3 days. However, there was not a great deal of preparation to do, since, as governors, we receive detailed briefing papers from the head before every meeting so that everyone attending is prepared for the discussion on the day. I share all of the communications I receive from various sources, ie NGA, briefings with all our governors - they have a weekly update from me. I also speak to the headteacher daily either by phone or e-mail.

We have a close working relationship, built up over the past 13 years. During our inspection three governors were invited to meet the inspection team. I attended as did the vice chair and a parent governor. We talked about our various roles; the only questions we were asked directly were whether we could explain our statutory responsibilities and how well we knew our parental community. On this latter point, we know our parents very well because we work together for the children and ask for regular feedback from them via questionnaires. My belief is that being outstanding is something that is not a specific part of our agenda. In our case it happens as a result of the way we always work together as a whole school, setting ourselves high standards and having high expectations of ourselves and our pupils. We try to do everything properly and to the best of our abilities. I think it also helps if you like the people you are working with!

Taken from GOVAS (Governors Association Stockport) Website

Friday, 21 January 2011

Responsibility for raising standards in Schools

Responsibility for raising standards

Despite the volume of legislation and regulations affecting school governance it is a common complaint, not least among governors, that the role of the governor is unclear. At the outset of local management of schools in the 1980s, there was a strong movement towards governors acting as quasi-managers. They consequently tended to become involved with non-educational matters, such as premises, as many of them felt more comfortable with these than with those closer to the heart of education. Opening up the 'secret garden' of the curriculum to lay governors was not an easy job, but training and support from local education authorities helped break down the barriers.

The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and subsequent regulations went a long way towards clarifying what governors should be doing. This Act put the governor's role in the context of the drive to improve schools and pupil performance – a principle that is now 12 years old but is still as valid as ever.

'Raising standards' might seem to be a finite task, related only to academic performance and pre-supposing a level at which exam results can get as good as can realistically be expected. But this is not the real point of this much repeated phrase. For one thing, the quality of education offered by a school cannot just be measured in academic results. But more importantly, behind this upwards drive is the recognition that, in a rapidly changing world, education cannot stand still. Schools need to adapt to change and, even better, to anticipate it. No school can therefore remain where it is; it will either improve or deteriorate. The primacy then of seeking improving standards comes about through a recognition that schools need to look at how they do things, because what worked well 10 years ago, or even last year, cannot be relied on still to work well tomorrow.

Written by: Jane Martin and Stephen Adamson

About the authors

Dr Jane Martin is currently Local Government Ombudsman and Vice-Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England. A former local authority officer responsible for school governance, she has researched and written widely on education and school governance issues.

Stephen Adamson is an author and publisher of books offering practical guidance for school governors. He is Vice-Chair of the National Governors' Association.

The full article can be found at

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Why do we have school governors?

Why do we have school governors?

The majority of our children are educated within the state system. What is taught in our schools is set within a framework prescribed by the government. Teachers are employed and paid by the state and our schools are built and funded by the state, sometimes supported by benefactors. But the state runs the system on behalf of the public. In this sense state schools are 'public' schools.

Funded by taxpayers' money, schools offer an education to the children of the citizens of the state – hence, they are providing an essential public service. Moreover, what is taught in our schools, how and what our children learn and how the education they receive is organised and delivered are of public concern – not only to parents, but to all of us, and in particular to local communities and employers. From a wide range of perspectives, we all want a society where our children are educated to be happy and fulfilled individuals, to be worthwhile members of society, of the community, of the family and of the workforce. As taxpayers we want to be sure that our money is being put to good use.

The public needs to know, and has a right to know, what is happening in our schools. The public has a right to affect how things are going. In other words, there has to be public accountability. This is the reason why we have school governors.

Representing parents, staff, the local authority (LA), the local diocese or church, the local community and other benefactors, school governors are the voice of the public in our schools. A public service must be run in the interests of the public it serves and those who manage the public services need to be informed by those who best know the needs of the public. Moreover, the public that pays for the service must have confidence in it and when it comes to schools, parents who use them should be able to trust them to do the best possible job.

Just as private organisations use market research techniques to stay close to the customer, it is no longer good practice for public services to be run solely by 'detached' professionals who reckon to know best the public's wants and needs. Yet education is more than a product on the supermarket shelf, so market research techniques are themselves inadequate. More sophisticated methods are needed to produce a dialogue between school managers and the public. The governing body is the appropriate mechanism for this.

Could public accountability be exercised some other way? Don't local elected councillors have the right to question what goes on in our schools on behalf of their constituents? Don't we elect Members of Parliament to represent the views of the public to the government about what they are doing? And shouldn't parents go directly to the school if they are unhappy about something to do with their own child? Certainly these are ways in which members of the public, directly or indirectly through representatives, can and do seek information and present concerns at a local or national level. But these are inadequate on their own. The first two are too remote, likely to be retrospective and influenced by other concerns. The last one is too individual, and only answers specific grievances.

Written by: Jane Martin and Stephen Adamson

About the authors
Dr Jane Martin is currently Local Government Ombudsman and Vice-Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England. A former local authority officer responsible for school governance, she has researched and written widely on education and school governance issues.

Stephen Adamson is an author and publisher of books offering practical guidance for school governors. He is Vice-Chair of the National Governors' Association.

The full article can be found at

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

What is expected of a School Governor?

What is expected of a School Governor?


Attend a meeting of the full governing body at least once a term.

Join and attend at least one committee meeting per term.

Read reports and background papers prior to meetings.

Attend other School occasions such as concerts, open evenings, sports day.


Show an interest in children and their education and participate in many of the school's activities.

Attend School governors' meetings.

Readiness to accept responsibility.

Get to know the staff, the pupils and their work.

Offer support and expertise.


Follow educational news and debates.

Attend training sessions.


Work co-operatively and creatively with others.

Use personal qualities and expertise in the interest of the school, senior leadership team, its pupils and teachers.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Governance is about calling the headteacher to account not the School

The task of governing

The focus of interest of the governing bodies appeared to be ‘the school’ in its totality. Governors in high quality governing bodies of successful schools rarely viewed the task of governing as focused on the headteacher or the school leadership. Thus, construing ‘governing’ as ‘calling the headteacher to account’and ‘challenging the headteacher’ is at odds with notions of how governing was construed in many of the schools 'the hidden givers' report researchers studied.

Viewing School governing in this way is all the more problematic because headteachers and other members of the school staff are also members of school governing bodies. The task that was evident in many of the governing bodies they witnessed, especially those that were deemed to be effective,was ‘scrutiny’ – checking, asking questions, making sure the right decisions were being made, querying data, ensuring due processes had been followed, and so on. This scrutiny applied to strategic matters of course, but to significant operational matters too. Where governing was weak, or was reported as having been weak in the past, lack of scrutiny was at the heart of the weakness. Scrutiny of performance data is essential and the effective governing bodies they looked at were adept at performance data scrutiny.

Interestingly, the effective governing bodies they witnessed in action were very much self-scrutinising – ‘Are we doing the right thing here?’ This notion of self-scrutiny is understandable given that headteachers and staff are members of school governing bodies.

Further, some of the work of a full governing body will be scrutinising the work of its own committees. In addition, some of the exchanges they witnessed in full governing body meetings referred back to, and corroborated, previous decisions. This self scrutiny seemed to be part of ensuring the governing body was acting properly.

In all the schools The Hidden Givers report studied, it was axiomatic that school governors supported the school and the headteacher, and any reservations about the school and what it was doing that were voiced – and we did hear some – were couched positively.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The collective nature of school governing

The collective nature of school governing

A powerful and substantive matter to emerge from the 'Hidden Givers' data was the importance of viewing the governing of schools as a collective activity in which the headteachers, members of staff and lay members collaborate in the governance of the school. From this standpoint, the governing body should not be viewed simply as ‘an external body’ calling the leadership of the school, that is, the headteacher and senior staff,to account. The work of a good governing body is more sophisticated than that. The school leadership and the governing body are “two sides of the same coin” and the valuable coin is of course, good governance.

Where the collective nature of governance is weak, that is, where there is a serious discrepancy between the authority of the headteacher and the Chair of Governors/governing body, it is likely that the governance will be weak.

Sound working relationships appeared to be the key to collective governing. They were emphasised as being important in good governing in the schools we studied. However, such relationships will only have significant value if they are between players who have authority. So, for example, a headteacher who lacks capability and a Chair of Governors who similarly lacks capability may add value to each other’s capability.

However, such a relationship is not likely to be as productive in a governing sense as a relationship between a headteacher and Chair of Governors with a high level of capability. Part of the relationship’s capability is enabling the other(s) to take up their role.

The most beneficial outcome of collective governance is the securing of the school as an institution. From the stories 'Hidden givers' collated during the data collection, the 'hidden givers report' researchers were struck by how fragile schools are as institutions. Significant events and incidents can impact on schools, even the best ones, which can potentially change them dramatically and need to be managed. We would argue that collective governance, where the school is appropriately ‘held’ by a group who have a significant interest init, is the best way to secure schools as important institutions.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Difference in Governing in high and low Social Economic Status schools

Governing in high and low SES (Social Economic Status) schools

Governing bodies of schools in low SES settings are likely to have fewer potential members. This finding is expected and may be explained in a range of ways.

• Involvement in school governing may not be a priority in those settings.

• The cultural norms in such settings may put off potential governors.

• They may be high mobility settings, which again militates against involvement.

Again, this effect may well be moderated by the recruitment activities that are undertaken to ensure that potential recruits come forward. These recruitment activities are part of the ‘agency for governance’,Schools with low SES may seek governors to represent the interests of
particular community groups. One explanation of this finding is that these schools may serve more varied communities and seek to ensure the involvement of those different stakeholder groups in the governing of the school. That is, there is a difference in the context for governing.

Mentoring of new governors and their participation in induction is more prevalent in high SES schools. This finding may relate to the eagerness of potential governors to join such governing bodies, a finding that emerged in the analysis of the case study data. This high level of motivation then contributes to new governors’ willingness to participate in induction activities.

The governing body task

Governing bodies of schools with high SES are more likely to see the task as:

1. long- and medium-term planning

2. financial management

3. representing community and parental interests.

One interpretation of giving task 1 priority is that high SES schools are less likely to be turbulent and are more secure. These features may enable the governing bodies to focus on longer-term planning. An explanation of the attention given to task 2 is that there is less attention given to pupil attainment matters in such settings. However, there may be other interpretations. The priority given to task 3 may be that a school’s relationship with its community stakeholders and parents is more significant in high SES settings. This interpretation again relates to the resources a school has for governing and the way the school interacts with those resources.

Governing body functioning

In the governing bodies of schools with high SES:

• governors from different stakeholder categories are more likely to work well side-by-side

• attendance is more likely to be good

• members are more likely to feel able to speak their minds

• the clerk is more likely to work in the school in a different capacity.

These findings point to a general difference in governing body functioning. It may also relate to other differences such as:

• the human resources for governing that are available to schools

• the more diverse nature of governing bodies of low SES schools (see above)

• the pressing tasks that schools in low SES setting may have to deal with.

All these will impact on the way school governance functions. Clerking capacity may be more available from within high SES schools.

Effectiveness and impact

Governors in governing bodies of schools with high SES are more likely to think their governing body works very effectively.

Governing bodies exert a broadly similar effect on pupil attainment in both advantaged and disadvantaged settings. Again, this finding is the outcome of a multi-level modelling analysis of data. That SES status does not have an effect on the impact of governing bodies on pupil attainment is an important finding.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The difference between Governing in high and low attainment schools

Governing in high and low attainment schools

Recruitment, induction and training

Schools in low attainment settings are likely to have fewer potential governing body members available to them. There may be a range of explanations for this finding. One possible finding is that low attainment schools are not held in high regard by potential governors. Such schools may be located in settings where schools are not highly valued generally. This assertion could explain both low pupil attainment and the lack of potential governors. The effect of this finding on recruitment is likely to be moderated by other factors. These include the resources that are committed to finding potential governors regardless of the setting.

The governing body task

There is no significant difference between the way governors on governing bodies of high attainment schools and those of low attainment schools describe their task. One explanation of this finding is that the task of governing is specified and governors draw on those specifications to describe what they do.

Governing body functioning

Governing bodies of high and low attainment schools broadly function in the same way. This similarity of functioning may be because the governing bodies in both kinds of schools have generally similar functions to perform.

Governors in schools with low attainment find it more challenging balancing their role as a governor with other responsibilities. One interpretation of this finding is that schools with low attainment have fewer potential governing body recruits available to them (see above). They are therefore likely to recruit members who already have a range of other commitments.

Effectiveness and impact

Governors in governing bodies of high attainment schools are more likely to think their governing body works very effectively. This difference may be because governing bodies of high attainment schools overall do have an effect on performance and thus consider themselves to be effective.

The effectiveness of primary school governing bodies has a positive link with pupil attainment but there is no clear link between secondary schools’governing body effectiveness and pupil attainment. This finding is an outcome of the multi-level analysis. That the level of governing body effectiveness only correlates with pupil attainment in primary schools and not in secondary schools is a very important finding. It is consistent with the interpretation that primary school governing is ‘closer to the operations’ of the school, a finding that was borne out by the case study data.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

Friday, 14 January 2011

The difference between Governing in primary and secondary schools

Governing in primary and secondary schools

Recruitment, induction and training

Participation in training is more likely by governors of primary schools.

One explanation of this finding is that primary school governors are likely to be inexperienced in governing and may therefore have a greater need for training and development. Their motivation to undertake training may be higher. The recommendation by the headteacher is more influential in terms of the attributes sought by primary school governing bodies. Headteachers may be more familiar with the attributes required of governors more clearly than the rest of the governing body especially in terms of the skills required. They seek capabilities to complement their own.

Secondary school governors are more likely to describe the task of governing as:

1. monitoring plans and targets

2. carrying out a scrutiny role

3. being a source of information about business, industry and careers

4. collaboration with other community institutions including schools.

The priority given to tasks 1 and 2 points to the more ‘long-distance’ way secondary schools are governed, as opposed to the closer involvement that was a characteristic of primary school governing in the case studies (see Chapter 4). Task 3 may be explained by the age range of secondary school pupils. Task 4 may relate to the size of the institution, the links with other institutions for curricular provision, and the greater likelihood of more collaborative links with other institutions including further education colleges and primary schools.

Governors of primary schools are more likely than those of secondary schools to see the task of governing as carrying out operational tasks. This finding may be because the task is differently construed. It may relate to the closer involvement of primary school governing bodies in the life of the school. However, because school governors of primary schools engage in more operational work, it does not necessarily mean that they govern strategically any less effectively. Indeed, the operational work may give them more knowledge and understanding of the institution on which to base strategic decisions and scrutiny. This interpretation is supported by the case study data.

Governing body functioning

Governing bodies of primary and secondary schools broadly function in the same way. This lack of difference between primary and secondary governing body functioning may be because primary and secondary governing bodies generally have similar functions to perform, which is again a finding borne out by the case studies.

Primary school governors find balancing their role as a governor with other responsibilities more challenging than secondary school governors. This finding may be because primary schools have fewer potential governing body members available to them. They may therefore be more likely to draw on potential members who already have a range of other commitments.

In secondary school governing bodies, the clerk is more likely to work in the school in a different capacity. This finding may be explained by secondary schools typically being larger organisations. They may therefore have more ‘clerking capacity’ available to them within the institution.

Effectiveness and impact

The range of views of primary and secondary school governors of the effectiveness of their governing bodies is similar. Thus, there is no difference between the views of primary governors and secondary governors as to whether their governing body works very effectively. Moreover, their assessments of their effectiveness agreed broadly with Ofsted assessments. The case study research supports this finding. It did not reveal any substantive differences between primary and secondary school governing body processes. However, as we discuss below, the effectiveness of primary school governing bodies strongly links to pupil attainment.

The link between secondary school governing body effectiveness and pupil attainment is only very weak. Thus primary school governing body effectiveness relates to pupil attainment in a way that secondary school governing does not.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The impact of school governance on school performance

The impact of school governance on school performance

Data which demonstrates that good governing has a direct effect on school performance is lacking. However, a number of studies have shown a close association between the quality of governing and school performance.

There is a strong association between inspection assessments of a school’s effectiveness and the assessment of its governing body. Two groups of schools were compared, one judged to be very effective by Ofsted and the other less effective with both controlled for contextual factors.

There was a distinction between the effectiveness of the governing bodies of the two types of school. A study by Ofsted in 2002 showed a similar association.

A small-scale study, showed an association between performance and the type of governing body.

The ‘executive board’ and ‘governing body’ types were more closely associated with higher performance. Such governing bodies exercise functions of scrutiny, strategy and accountability.

It is argued that scrutiny is the main strategic function of the best primary school governing bodies which they consider to be:

• assuring quality and standards of education in the school by bringing high

• ensuring full deliberation and questioning of policies, budgets and practices

• putting systems in place for monitoring and reviewing the standards of achievement, financial plans and the policy developments in the school.

It is very likely that such practices will lead to improvements in school performance,even though demonstrating a causal effect is difficult. One report showed that the following features of governing are associated with the improvement of primary schools:

• governing and governance are valued

• the governing body represents the diversity of its parent communities

• partnership between the headteacher and the governors is characterised by mutual support

• there is clarity of roles

• the governing body functions as such or as an executive board

• scrutiny is the strategic function of the best primary school governing bodies

• the governing body assures the quality and standards of education in the school

• it embodies the values and ethos of the school

• there is close attachment of governors to the life of the school

• there are close ties with the community.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Typologies of School governing bodies

Typologies of School Governing Bodies

Various typologies of governing bodies have emerged from various studies.

The Governing body typology is based on the power relationship between the headteacher and the Chair of Governors and the extent of corporateness of the governing body in its deliberations. There are four types of governing body.

1. A deliberative forum – where discussions of the school are determined and led by the headteacher. School Governors, especially parent governors, will not feel they can question the authority of the headteacher.

2. A consultative sounding board – where the headteacher brings policies and strategies to the governing body for consent and authorisation. School Governors authorise decisions but have little role in, or responsibility for, shaping them. There will be discussion but the headteacher decides.

3. An executive board – where there is a partnership between the governors and the school and especially between the headteacher and the chair. There “may be a division of labour.” Governors have “overall responsibility for the business aspects of the school: the budget, staffing, and the infrastructure of the building.” The headteacher assumes “overall responsibility for curricular and pedagogic aspects of the school.” In this type, “there is likely to be a strong structure of subcommittees with considerable delegation of responsibility”.

4. A governing body – where headteachers maintain strong leadership, but are seen as “members rather than leaders of the governing body that acts as a corporate entity”. Chairs of Governors have the main role in agenda setting and leading meetings. The governing body “takes overarching responsibility for the conduct and direction of the school”

Importantly, research has found that the deliberative forum and the consultative sounding board were predominant.

A factor contributing to the variation in governing body roles may well be the relationship between the headteacher and the governing body and the degree to which they share the leadership function.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

School governor retention

School governor retention

There are significant benefits to retaining capable school governors. However,it has to be said that there are also benefits from the continual turnover of governing body membership.School Governors are likely to remain in post if they feel valued . The main factors that make School governors feel valued and want to stay in post are:

• being welcomed and accepted by the headteacher and by fellow School governors

• being invited to use their skills.

The aspects that discourage governors and are thus threats to governor retention are:

• exasperation at the inadequate level and complexity of school funding

• frustration about the local authority

• irritation about central government policies.

Aspects of school governing that made it worthwhile are:

• involvement in the life of the school

• working with and supporting staff

• being part of, and celebrating, the school’s success

• making a difference and seeing children benefit

• advocacy on behalf of the school

• their own development

• using skills acquired elsewhere to benefit children

• supporting and coaching other School governors

Those aspects that are least worthwhile are:

• the amount and complexity of the paperwork

• an unrealistic workload and responsibilities

• inadequate support for governing bodies

• central government interference

• problems with the local authority, central government and private contractors

• budgetary unfairness

The overall picture is that governors want to be valued and welcomed and to undertake work for the governing body and the school. They also enjoy being associated with successful schools and seeing children benefit. All these factors are motivators. Factors that lead to dissatisfaction appear to come under the headings of workload, complexity, dealings with outside agencies and financial problems.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Models of corporate School Governance

Models of corporate school governance

In this blog I will discuss some of the models of corporate governance that are relevant to School governors. The concepts come from the 'Hidden Givers' report which is linked at the end of this blog article. I will also cover other sections of the Hidden Givers this week in my blog.

The principal-agent model is the dominant model of organisational governance. It originates from the ‘professionalisation’ of management and the consequent division between ‘ownership’ and ‘operational control’, and the potential conflicts of interest that may arise from such arrangements. Alternative perspectives on corporate governance have emerged as a result of the limitations of the principal-agent model.

Two are relevant to governing in schools: stewardship and stakeholder models.

The three models are as follows.

The principal-agent model. This model formally recognises that the owners of companies, the shareholders or ‘principals’, are often separate from the managers of the company, the ‘agents’. Company managers are seen to have an informational advantage over the owners because of this arrangement. Moreover, managers are assumed to act in their own interests, which may not necessarily accord with those of the principals. The ‘manager in the mind’ of the principals is one who is:

• eager to take advantage when the circumstances arise

• likely to act in her/his own best interests when circumstances permit

• not be naturally motivated to act in the company’s best interests.

From this perspective, the primary goal of ‘good governance’ is to reduce the degree of imbalance of information between the manager and the board and to control the manager. The board thus has a monitoring role. It receives reports from managers, and establishes internal systems of accountability and reporting in order that the board (the principals) can control the operational management. The principal-agent model is a form of hierarchical governance.

In the principal-agent model, the board is to some degree at least independent of operational management so it can undertake the monitoring role. Boards may be eager to align the incentives of the agents with those of principals to encourage the agents to act in the principals’ interests. The design and implementation of remuneration packages are likely to be important in aligning the interests of the board (the owners/principals) and the managers (agents). In a pure principal-agent model, the managers would not be members of the board. Such an arrangement would blur the principal-agent boundary.

The stewardship model. This model is often contrasted with principal-agent models largely on the basis of the very different sense of the ‘manager in the mind’. This perspective on the manager conditions the assumptions on which this model is based. In the stewardship model, the manager is seen as:

• ready to act in the common good

• co-operative

• motivated to act wholeheartedly to meet the organisation’s objectives.

Financial incentives are thus likely to be less important as motivators to encourage the alignment between the objectives of the manager and the board. Managers want to run the organisation effectively and the interests of managers and owners are naturally aligned. Managers may possess knowledge superior to that of the board but that is of little consequence in practice. It is assumed they will use this knowledge to the benefit of the corporation.

In the stewardship model, the board’s role is to empower the management and to collaborate with it. The board is essentially facilitative and seeks to collaborate with the operational managers in taking actions that are in the corporation’s best interests. Remuneration arrangements typically reward performance rather than incentivise it. The board will typically comprise experts who are able to work jointly with the management to enhance decision quality. If the corporation’s managers were members of the board, it would not be at odds with the underpinning principles of this arrangement.

The stakeholder model. This model comes into play when a range of players have an interest or stake in the organisation and these different interests need to be recognised in the constitution of the board. The stakeholder ‘representatives’ may be elected or nominated by the existing board. The board has a role in balancing stakeholder needs and making appropriate policies and strategic decisions. Under the stakeholder model, the relationship with the manager can be either of the principal-agent kind or of the stewardship kind. It would be contingent on the way the manager was viewed, the alignment of the managers and the board, and the concern about any asymmetries in the knowledge of the managers and that of the board.

The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies can be found linked below.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Governor Mark Standard

Governor Mark is a national award. It is a kite mark which provides external evaluation of the quality of School governance in a school.

The Governor Mark Standards Document is freely available to any School governing body to use as a comprehensive health check.

Should your governing body wish to apply for the award, you will find detailed guidance showing how to go about making an application in the Governor Mark Application Form.

This is a challenging award. Not only does a governing body need to show that it follows good procedures and fulfils statutory duties, but there is a high value placed on evidence of impact – the difference the governing body makes to a school.

Sometimes School governors work hard and make a real difference, but no proper record is ever made of this. Governor Mark helps to sharpen practice as well as create the framework through which governor support and challenge can be shown through real evidence.

There are two documents to support your governing body self assessment:

Governor Mark Standards Document
Gives the background to the standards, descriptions of the standards and suggestions as to evidence against each standard

Governor Mark Guidance and Application 2009/10
Offers guidance to governing bodies on how to use the standard as a self assessment tool and how to apply for accreditation against the standard.

There is also a detailed list of suggested evidence sources

Personally we used it last year as a Self assessment toolkit in a Full Governing Body workshop.

All documents can be downloaded from here

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Effective Governing Body Meetings How does your governing body measure up?

Effective Governing Body Meetings
How does your governing body measure up?

The effectiveness and efficiency of the governing body and in particular its
meetings, has a relevance in many areas, but most importantly in school
improvement and School governor retention and improvement. Governing bodies have a lot of business to cover, therefore prioritising and effective working practices play a key role.

It is good practice for all governing bodies to self review, the working practices and efficiency of meetings should feature highly on that review.

The contributors to effective governing body meetings are:

•Time management
•The head teacher
•The chair of governors
•The clerk
•All governors

Checklist – Effective Meetings

The checklist can be circulated to all governors at the beginning of the
academic year as a quick review of governing body practice and procedure.

Carried out as a 15 minute exercise, it can help to focus the working practices of the governing body.

In General:

•The timing of governing body meetings should have regard to the worklife
balance of school leaders attending meetings

•Equally school leaders need to have regard to governors’ work and
other commitments.

The Clerk:

•Ensure that dates for Governing Body (GB) meeting are set by chair with governors for the year

•Set up contact details for all governors, preferably e-mail to ensure quick and easy communication with all governors

•Agenda agreed with chair of governors and head teacher at least 2 weeks in advance of GB meeting

•Ensure that agenda includes the relevant topics for that meeting

•Agenda and any papers sent to all governors at least 7 days before GB

•Ensure that any tabled papers are ready for the meeting and copied

•Arrives promptly ready to prepare for the meeting

The Chair:

•Liaises with head teacher and clerk with regard to the agenda for the
meeting, at least 2 weeks in advance

•Has met with the head teacher recently to discuss issues and prioritise business

•Reads and familiarises himself/herself with the agenda and papers before the meeting

•Starts the meeting on time

•Follows the agenda

•Facilitates and encourages discussion from all members of the GB

•Keeps all GB members on track and avoids distractions away from the agenda and decisions needed

•Ensures that discussions do not get heated or dominated by one person

•Is firm over ‘Any Other Business’, only items previously submitted will be discussed

•Ensures GB meetings only last 2 hours. 2 and ½ hours is the maximum

•Finishes the meeting on time

The Head Teacher:

•Liaises with chair and clerk with regard to the agenda for the meeting,at least 2 weeks in advance

•Has met with the chair of governors recently to discuss issues and prioritise business

•Ensures that the room for the GB meeting is prepared

•Ensures some sort of refreshment for governors is provided – water,tea, coffee

•Ensures that where possible, reports and papers are prepared & sent to the clerk to forward to governors at least 7 days before the meeting

•Limits the number of papers tabled for the meeting

•Limits the use of jargon and acronyms in papers

•Ensures relevant members of the senior leadership team attend the meeting

All Governors:

•Read any papers circulated before the meeting

•Attend all meetings and arrive on time

•Send apologies to the clerk before the meeting if cannot attend

•Contribute to the discussions where relevant

•Avoid anecdotal distractions

•After debate, accept the majority view of the governing body

•Respect the confidentiality of issues raised

I have slightly edited this checklist down for the blog but the full checklist produced by Bedford Borough Council can be found online here. My thanks to them for sharing this resource on the web

Friday, 7 January 2011

Questions School governors might ask their Head Teacher

Questions School governors might ask their Head Teacher

o Are standards at the end of Key Stage 1 or 2 declining or improving?

o Are targets likely to be met?

o Are outcomes likely to exceed FFTB (Fischer Family Trust B Targets) or FFTD (Fischer Family Trust D targets) estimates?

o Are the outcomes different for individual subjects/groups of children?
Examples could be Boys v Girls, Summer Borns, Free School meals (FSM),English not as first Language, Traveller community,

o What additional steps are being taken to 'close the gap' for these children?

o Are the right priorities identified in the improvement plan or School Development Plan?

o What are the key actions/programmes/interventions planned to address these?

o How will the impact of these actions/interventions be monitored/by whom/when?

o Do we need to make changes to current provision/resource deployment given the needs within each year group?

o Is spending correctly prioritised?

o What is the profile of the quality of teaching across the school? How do you know?

o What steps will be taken to secure at least 'good' teaching in all classrooms?

o How reliable/accurate is the assessment data which is used to track individual
progress? Are there inconsistencies? If so, what is being done to tackle these?

o How often are pupil progress reviews held and how do these inform planning?

Taken from Bristol City Council Suggestions at

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Teachers threaten strike if their school is turned into an academy

Teachers in east London are threatening to go on strike if their school is turned into an academy.

Staff at Haggerston school in Hackney are worried it will become a “satellite” of a nearby academy, with the same headteacher looking after both.

More than 80 per cent voted to walk out if the school is taken out of local authority control.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, who was drafted in to act as executive principal at Haggerston last year, is also head of Mossbourne Community Academy. He was described as a “real hero” by Education Secretary Michael Gove for turning the school around.

But teachers at Haggerston fear the school will become an academy when he leaves next April.

Mark Lushington, of the NUT's Hackney branch, said: “We are not in favour of executive heads, where you have a huge all-embracing CEO sitting in a panopticon, seeing everything.”

Sir Michael said the school's governors had been impressed with his team's results and would like Mossbourne to support the school “in a more structured way”.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

NGA view of Parental Involvement in Schools

NGA view of Parental Involvement in Schools

The NGA say they believe that a distinction needs to be made between parental involvement in the education of their children and parental involvement in the running of schools. The first is essential; the appropriate mechanism for the second is through representation on the school governing body. Governorship is a rewarding experience and allows parents to have direct influence on the vision and strategy for a school.

Effective governing bodies will ensure that policies are in place to: engage, support and report to parents. Such policies will not just meet the statutory minimums but will seek to foster an attitude of inclusivity.

In setting the culture and ethos of the school governing bodies (GBs) should consider what role parental views and values should play. GBs should see parents as part of the life of the school and actively seek their views.

The NGA supports the Home School Agreement and believes that parents also have to take responsibility for their children’s education and behaviour and support the school’s policies.

Effective governing bodies (GBs) will ensure they have a variety of mechanisms in place to consult parents, including:

Regular surveys of parents’ views

Mechanisms for parents to submit views at any time

Parent councils or other means (e.g. Parent Teacher Associations PTAs) to directly engage with parents to seek parental views

Complaints procedures which are well publicised and easy follow

The NGA say they fully accept that parents want the best education possible for their children and where insufficient places are available locally we support the provision of new schools. The NGA do have concerns that ‘Free Schools’ being set up to increase choice will have a negative impact on resources.

Taken from NGA website

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

NGA view of School Governor Expenses

The National Governors Association (NGA) firmly believes that all governing bodies should adopt an allowances policy and that all school governors should claim.

The Education (Governors’ Allowances) Regulations 2003 provide the legal framework for governing bodies to pay ‘out of pocket’ expenses to their school governors. The DCSF guidance which accompanied those regulations states:

“It is good practice to pay such allowances as governors should not be out of pocket for the valuable work they do”.

Legitimate allowances include: travel allowances to Governing Body, Committee meetings or training courses, cost of child-care while attending meetings/training, cost of photocopying/printing papers for governing body business.

Back in 2005 the DfES commissioned the National Governors’ Council (now the NGA) to carry out research about the payment of allowances by governing bodies. Over 250 governors responded to the survey, which revealed that:

75% of respondents said that they were out of pocket as result of being a school governor

The Chair of governors was likely to have expenses exceeding other members of the governing body

32% of respondents said their governing body had no allowances policy in place

10% of respondents said their school governing body had an active policy NOT to pay allowances – with a further 31% of respondents saying that claiming allowances was discouraged

The research highlighted that school governors were reluctant to claim allowances for two main reasons:

As volunteers they did not think they should receive any ’reward’ for their role

As the payments came out of the school budget it was seen as ‘taking money away from the children’.

The payment of allowances is not a reward; it is recognition that being a school governor is not a cost-free exercise. Attending governing body meetings may involve travelling expenses, particularly in rural areas.

Some school governors may be able to afford the out of pocket expenses their role entails, but this is not true of all potential school governors and restricting the right to claim may prevent someone from becoming a school governor or force them to resign their position.

The NGA understands the reluctance to use school funds to pay school governor allowances, but if school governors are continually expected to meet the costs of fulfilling an essential role out of their own pocket then there is a real danger that a culture of doing the bare minimum will ensue; meaning school governors will not undertake training and will be poorly informed. Many governing bodies who have adopted an allowances policy set an annual limit on claims.

As a minimum the allowances policy should include the right to claim for:
travelling expenses to governing body meetings and training courses
the cost of child-care while attending meetings/training courses
the cost of photocopying/printing papers for governing body meetings

The Chair of governors should take the lead in encouraging school governors to claim by ensuring that s/he claims. The use of school funds for this purpose does not take away funding from the pupils; this ensures that governors are properly informed and equipped to carry out their role, which must be in the best interests of their pupils.

A governing body with a policy of paying allowances claims will also be going some way to meeting their duty to promote community cohesion by encouraging participation by all members of the community, not just those with deep pockets.

A model allowances policy from the NGA can be found here

Monday, 3 January 2011

What Makes Schools Financially Efficient?

A new report reveals that larger schools have innate advantages when it comes to improving financial efficiency.

A recent study based on research carried out in March 2010 has concluded that the size of school budgets may be a determining factor in financial efficiency. As primary school budgets tend to be much smaller than secondary budgets, it follows that primary school structures are less flexible and there is a perceived requirement within some schools for a certain number of teaching assistants per class. Secondary schools have more flexibility, not only due to their greater budgets but also their ability to consider staffing in terms of how a subject is covered which lends itself to more creative approaches.

There is a broad understanding of the concept of efficiency in terms of the 3 Es:

Economy: minimising the cost of resources used

Efficiency: the relationship between outcomes for children and resources

Effectiveness: the extent to which objectives have been achieved.
However, there is no clear consensus regarding what this means in specific terms and there is a lack of clarity as to whether schools are expected to run in a similar fashion to businesses or whether efficiency can take into account educational outcomes.

The study found barriers to change in some schools which felt that:

• they were already as efficient as possible
• that factors beyond their control limit their efficiency
• action in areas other than staffing will be insignificant.

The study also found that governors were clearly an influential force within the financial management of schools. This varied on governors’ willingness to get involved and their level of financial understanding. One school said “we’re advantaged because we have a very experienced governing team who are experienced in financial matters and they question our rationale”.

The study found that more efficient schools are more likely to:

• employ bursars who are more qualified, more experienced and come from a private sector background
• have headteachers who are financially interested and proactive and who are supported by finance teams who can be relied upon to run the school finances without micromanagement
• recruit and involve strong, reliable governors with financial experience
• have greater flexibility in its budget after staff costs have been accounted for.

This article is taken from the Financial Efficiency in Schools study by Craig Ross Dawson, published in April and commissioned by the previous government.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Legislation Governing the Appointment of Headteachers

Legislation Governing the Appointment of Headteachers and Deputy Headteachers

The governing body must:

1. Notify the Local Authority

This would ordinarily be done by the chair of governors as it is to the chair that the headteacher should submit their resignation. Faith schools governors should also inform their Diocese, as they too may wish to offer support and take an active role in the recruitment and
selection process.

2. Appoint a selection panel

The panel must be appointed by the whole governing body and should comprise of no less than three governors. It is essential that the panel members understand the time required to fulfil this vital responsibility and that they commit this time at the start of the process of recruitment. The power to appoint is not delegated to the selection panel. They are responsible for the management of the recruitment process and select a candidate for their colleague governors to consider.

The selection panel must then present their chosen candidate to a quorate formal meeting of the governing body, who will ratify the selection decision. This process means that the full governing body formally accept the recommendation of the panel. In doing so, they signify their full support to the new headteacher or deputy headteacher.

3. Review the School Range

Guidance on how to do this can be found in the current School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Service Document. All schools are sent a copy of the latest version of this key document by the Department of Education (DfE). It is available to download from

4. Ensure Safer Recruitment practices are followed

Schools are under a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Recruiting staff without following guidance and statute may put the safety of pupils at risk. It is important that schools not only follow guidance, but are seen to be doing so. The best way to minimise risk is to ensure that there are open processes and clear expectations of all in regard to safeguarding children.

An appropriate statement should be included in all publicity materials, including the Application pack, job description and person specification, advertisements and the school website etc. e.g. “This school is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people and expects all staff and volunteers to share this commitment”.

5. Advertise the vacancy

All headteacher and deputy headteacher posts should be publicly advertised in a recognised national newspaper such as the Times Education Supplement (TES).

6. Confirm NPQH Status

All candidates seeking their first headteacher appointment must have achieved the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH). The selection panel should seek evidence that this is the case. Any serving headteacher appointed to their first headship since April 2004 should also now possess an NPQH.

The full Guidance is available as a free download from the NCSL website

7. Take Advice

Governors are required to accept external advice on the appointment of their new headteacher.

All headteacher appointments must include at least one representative of the Local Authority advising the selection panel. This will be the schools attached Leadership and Management Consultant/School Improvement Partner. Governors can engage other advisors to meet any needs they identify. The selection panel is advised to discuss and make decisions about whether to involve additional advisors in the headteacher recruitment and appointment process.

Please note that advisors do not have the right to vote in the selection decision, their purpose is to assist the selection panel in the fair gathering and analysis of evidence which will inform the selection decision. In very extraordinary circumstances the Local Authority (LA)representatives may advise the governors to reject their selected candidate.

All secondary school headteacher appointments are attended by the schools LEO (Local Education Officer) who attends the process in an advisory capacity.

8. Other Legislation

The appointment of all staff, including headteachers, is governed by data protection and extensive employment legislation, particularly in respect of discrimination. This establishes the rights of individuals not to be discriminated against on the grounds of sex,race,disability,religion (except in some cases where schools with a religious character are able to justify this because there is a genuine occupational qualification (GOQ) requirement for the post),disability or pay.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Will 2011 be the year of Academy Conversion?

Happy New Year everyone. What will 2011 bring to School Governors?

Will 2011 be the year of Academy Conversion for many?

In December 2010 the National Governors Association updated their Answers to our members’ questions on the Academies Act to version 9

The ninth edition of their Q&A on what the Academies Act 2010 actually means to School Governors. The latest edition has been updated to take account questions asked during the NGA’s autumn regional meetings. It also takes account of changes to the Department for Education’s website which affected the links in earlier versions of the Q&A.

This version also includes the update that the Secretary of State announced that maintained primary and secondary schools which are rated ‘Good with Outstanding Features’ by Ofsted may now apply to become Academies.

The Department for Education has a dedicated section on its website relating to academies - DfE Academies Information. They have produced Q&As DfE Academies Q&A and guidance for schools wishing to convert DfE How to become an Academy. The DfE continue to update their information which can be found here.

The NGA Q&A aims to include advice and guidance for governing bodies considering undertaking the process with particular emphasis on the issues a governing body needs to consider before making a decision; whereas the DfE guidance in effect starts from the point of the governing body having made that decision.


Academy Act 2010

Department of Education Information on Academies

Department of Education FAQ's on Academies

Department of Education How to become an Academy

Department of Education Academy Supporting Documentation