Monday, 28 February 2011

Healthy Schools : A Questions Framework for Governing Bodies

Healthy Schools : A Questions Framework for Governing Bodies

Achieving Healthy School Status

What guidance is available and how are other schools going about it?

What are our priorities in developing a Healthy School?

• Food

• Anti-Bullying

• Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning

• Travel

• Environment

How can we involve pupils, parents and carers?

When will we achieve Healthy School status?

What are the barriers?

How can governors support Healthy Schools developments?

How can governors mobilise, motivate parents/carers and the wider community?

Have we got partner health professionals involved?

How will we measure the impact of Healthy School initiatives?

How can the governing body monitor progress?

How do our priorities and plans link to Service District priorities?

School Travel Plans

What are School Travel plans?

What statutory requirements do we need to meet?

What support is available to develop a School Travel Plan?

What will the benefits to the school be?

How does it affect new school buildings?

How does it fit in to the Every Child Matters agenda?

How will School Travel Plans fit into the busy curriculum?

Food in Schools

Have we got a whole-school Food Policy?

What guidance is available to help us?

Who should we involve in developing policy?

How has the school meals grant been spent?

Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning

Is our school involved in the SEAL project?

How confident are the staff about delivering SEAL?

Are all staff offered training opportunities? (Support staff, new staff, supply staff)

How do we seek the views of pupils?

How can we measure the things that are hard to measure.

It is often said that Governors fulfil their key roles by Asking the Right Questions.

The Questions framework above is provided by Sheffield City Council as a guide to their School Governors

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Dedicated Headship Time: A Questions Framework for School Governors

Dedicated Headship Time: A Questions Framework for Governors and Headteachers

The provision of Dedicated Headship Time can help school leaders focus on:

• school improvement
• raising standards
• school development
• improved monitoring and evaluation
• improved well-being of staff and pupils.

It is particularly important for governors of schools where head teachers are identified as having a significantly heavy teaching commitment or higher-than-average management responsibility to ensure that they play an active role in monitoring use of Dedicated Headship Time within the school sessions.

This document includes a set of key questions which are further explained by a number of supplementary questions. They are designed as prompts to aid discussion.

A Are we clear about the aims and purpose of Dedicated Headship Time?

• Why is Dedicated Headship Time important?

• Does the Senior Leadership Team understand the aims and purposes of Dedicated Headship Time?

• What are your aims for providing Dedicated Headship Time? How are these related to your school, its context and the experience of your head teacher?

• Have you defined the purpose of Dedicated Headship Time in your school? What’s in it for the head teacher? What’s in it for the school?

• Do you have a policy for Dedicated Headship Time that is known and understood by all key stakeholders? If not, are there specific references to Dedicated Headship Time in other policies? If so, which?

B To what extent do your governors understand your entitlement to Dedicated Headship Time and your need for flexibility?

• Do you as Governors understand your statutory responsibilities to have regard to the work/life balance of your head teacher, of which Dedicated Headship Time is an important ingredient?

• As a Governing Body are you clear about your responsibilities for ensuring that your head teacher has Dedicated Headship Time within the school sessions?

• Is Dedicated Headship Time on the agenda when leadership and management are discussed?

• How do you ensure that a meaningful amount of time is undertaken? How do you ensure this time is matched by sufficient resources?

• How do you engage in discussion with your head teacher about Dedicated Headship Time? Does it form part of your performance management discussion?

C What is your role as head teacher in ensuring Dedicated Headship Time?

• How do you ensure you have work/life balance? Do you provide an effective role model for other staff in this respect?

• How do you currently create blocks of time which enable a substantial piece of work to be completed without distractions?

• How do you provide time for strategic thinking, planning and review, including the formulation of vision, aims, structures, systems, policies and action plans?

• How do you create time for professional reflection and dialogue, reading and research?

• How do you give yourself space to breathe?

D What happens now in terms of Dedicated Headship Time?

• Where do you currently undertake Dedicated Headship Time? In/out of school?

• How do you organise the time during the working week? Do you identify blocks of time such as half or whole days?

• Who do you work with during your Dedicated Headship Time? Do you work individually, with other head teachers, with staff from your school, with other agency staff, with Governors, with a coach or a mentor?

• What happens in other schools?

E How are others involved in supporting Dedicated Headship Time?

• Is there a shared understanding about Dedicated Headship Time within the Local Authority? How does the Local Authority promote and support Dedicated Headship Time?

• How is best practice in implementing and using Dedicated Headship Time shared at cluster/local partnership level?

• How do you involve the School Improvement Partner in making links between the performance management process and Dedicated Headship Time and its impact? Is it part of your performance management discussion?

• What are staff’s perceptions of Dedicated Headship Time?

It is often said that Governors fulfil their key roles by Asking the Right Questions.

The Questions framework above is provided by Sheffield City Council as a guide to their School Governors

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Audit Commission: Improving value for money and efficiency in schools

I recently came across this online document produced in 2009 by the Audit Commission entitled 'Valuable lessons: Improving economy and efficiency in schools' Briefing for school governors.

In July 2009 the Audit Commission estimated that a combined 415 million pounds could be saved by schools through efficiency.

With financial constraints in Schools budgets much tighter than 2009 I decided to revisit their paper and look at the questions they suggested and whether we all ask ourselves these questions as School governors. Many are common sense but some make you think.

Improving economy and efficiency in schools

How much time does your finance committee spend on value for money?

How can you improve the consideration of value for money by the finance committee?

How well does your finance committee challenge the head teacher on value for money?

How does the finance committee keep the full governing body informed about its decisions?

What information on value for money have you made available to staff,parents and pupils?

How well do the spending patterns in your school reflect the school’s development plan and overall vision?

How well does the school development plan cover staff costs?

How are you using this information to challenge your school on the use of its funding?

How does the three-year financial plan assess potential changes in pupil numbers or major costs?

What contingency arrangements does it include?

How will you know if the assumptions in the plan prove to be too optimistic?

Is your school’s surplus balance in excess of the recommended level?

If so, what is the school’s plan to reduce the balance?

How confident are you that the plan will reduce the balance?

Is the school on track to reduce the surplus this year?

School balances can only be spent once; can you be sure that your balance is not committed to recurring spending?

For schools in deficit

Does your school have a deficit management plan?

How will you achieve it?

Buying Goods and Services.

How well do the goods and services that your school buys meet your requirements?

Which goods and services cost the school most and which does the school spend more on than other schools?

Has the school reviewed whether there are better or cheaper alternatives?

Is your school reviewing the quality and cost of each individual service bought from the council annually?

How is the school using technology, including electronic procurement, to minimise the cost of purchasing its goods and services?

If they do not, has your school considered alternatives?

Are the financial limits on buying decisions made by the head teacher,
and other school staff appropriate?

Do you have purchasing thresholds over which quotations or tenders must be sought?

Do you have effective separation of duties between the authorisation and processing of purchasing decisions?

Is there is an audit trail for all major buying decisions?

Has your school made savings by using goods and services more efficiently?

How can your school use Goods or services more efficiently to reduce costs?

Have you challenged your school to consider buying goods and services or carry out joint training with other schools?

What opportunities are there to save money by sharing teaching or non teaching staff with other schools?

What are the opportunities to buy or sell specialist staff skills between local schools?

Has your school reviewed the costs and benefits of federation or clustering with other schools to achieve possible economies of scale?

What did it find?

How well do you understand the financial reports and performance data you receive?

How do they help you to make decisions about economy and efficiency?

Do you know which areas of spending in your school are higher than in a similar school?

And in which areas is it lower?

Do you know why?

What savings has the school made in the last year?

What further savings can the school make this year?

What was the cost to your school of improving outcomes?

What will the school’s future improvement plans cost?

The full report can be viewed on the Audit Commission Website here

Friday, 25 February 2011

School improvement: Skills


If you were an artist and you had a mental picture of a painting you wanted to produce, you would first have to make sure that you had got the paints, brushes and canvas with which to make this vision concrete. In schools, the means of realising the vision are much more subtle and exciting – they are people.

It can be argued that the most important responsibilities that a governing body carries are to do with the appointing, valuing and developing of the staff, including, but not limited to, the appointment of a new head.

When looking for staff it is important that the vision is clear and that needs have been carefully identified, even when the governing body is not directly involved in the appointment process. Moreover, staffing responsibilities do not end when an appointment is made. We should satisfy ourselves that appropriate welcoming and induction procedures are in place for new staff and that ongoing support is provided for all staff. Retaining teachers is as important as recruiting new ones.

Any responsible governing body will want to make the most of its staff and to develop them. All teachers should be change agents, and to succeed in this they have to grow and change themselves. This is where performance management fits into the picture. The responsibility that governors have for this is central to the development of the school and systematic reviews that enable teachers and their managers to identify the teachers' strengths and weaknesses are crucial. When taken in overview such information will give you and the head a strong indication of what skills can be developed within the existing staff and where there are gaps that need to be filled.

The rest of the change equation will be examined in the final part of this series.

The material in this blog article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance book by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010,Adamson Publishing.

It was reproduced on the website which you can sunscribe to for free here

Thursday, 24 February 2011

School improvement: Vision


To be able to steer firmly to an agreed course, it is essential to have a vision and values. The vision and values of a school give it roots. Without them the school is liable to be blown around by transient forces, especially when the rate of change is so rapid. Having a vision is also about having a language for the future.

It is the responsibility of the governors to discuss, define and articulate a vision for how the school is to develop. It must be based on shared values and beliefs and should provide the principles behind decision-making and action. A successful vision links together the various targets that a school sets itself so that they are aligned to the same priorities and governed by the same values.

There are three key points in the work cycle of governing bodies at which it becomes essential for you to get this process of alignment right:

when drawing up the School Development Plan, within which the targets for the whole organisation will be defined
when discussing and agreeing to pupil performance targets each year
when agreeing the headteacher's performance objectives for the year.
All of these should be linked to one another to make sure that they contribute to achieving the overall vision.

This is acting strategically while tackling specific tasks. When governors are involved in school development planning and pupil performance target-setting they are acting strategically. A robust performance management system links some of the strategic and operational responsibilities of the governing body. Establishing the performance management policy for the school is also a strategic act. Other aspects of the governing body's role also link into these tasks, particularly regular school self-evaluation, as the governing body monitors progress and ensures accountability.

Moreover, there are further links between these three points in the work cycle. A robust performance management system can only operate if there is a clearly defined plan that outlines objectives for the school. The objectives for the head and other staff should be agreed within the context of both the vision and that plan. To do so will ensure that all are focused on the development of the school, and that the SDP leads to the desired outcomes in both pupil and staff performance.

The three points can be seen as being linked in a triangle.

The targets at any point on the triangle should inform the objectives at any of the other points. Among the performance management objectives for every member of the teaching and management staff should be ones linked to pupil performance. In response to what has been learned in school self-evaluation the targets in the SDP will identify how the organisation as a whole needs to change its priorities in order to achieve better pupil performance.

Decisions about resourcing, development and rewards should be made to underpin decisions about what needs to be improved and achieved and reflect the values that are embraced in the vision. For example, schools that aim to enable every child to reach their potential (a frequently used phrase) must have resourcing policies that reflect this.

The material in this blog article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance book by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010,Adamson Publishing.

It was reproduced on the website which you can sunscribe to for free here

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

School improvement: Living with change

Living with change

The overarching responsibility of the governing body is to keep the school developing in the context of our continually changing society. You cannot just wind up a school once and expect it to run perfectly or without stopping! In this state of constant change, schools need to use the strategic levers to make frequent adjustments.

For example, we know all too well that members of staff do not stay forever. Each vacancy is an opportunity to consider doing something strategic by reflecting on whether the job description should be changed and what kind of person the school needs now.

The process of achieving successful change or improvement can be expressed in a simple equation:


We can concentrate as much as we like on individual components, but we need to have all of them working to make real progress. If one of them is missing then the desired change will not occur.

The material in this blog article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance book by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010,Adamson Publishing.

It was reproduced on the website which you can sunscribe to for free here

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

School improvement: how governors can secure it

School improvement: how governors can secure it

In the third of four articles setting out the principles of 'joined-up governance', Ann Holt and Stephen Adamson look at ways in which governors can work to bring about lasting improvement in their school.

Without being able to see the connections between the different jobs governors do it can be hard to get a sense of purpose or achievement. But if you understand the key roles discussed in the previous article you have the foundation from which your governing body can make the relevant links between items on its agendas, between one meeting and the next, and between what it is doing and the rest of what is going on in the school.

However, being familiar with the roles would not be of much use unless you also had the means of carrying them out. As a governing body you have a number of strategic levers in your hands with which to do this: planning, allocating resources and appraisal. When they are exercised in the right combinations these levers can bring about major change. Moreover, there are various tools to use in conjunction with each of them, the principal ones of which are the School Development Plan (SDP), school self-evaluation, the budget and the performance management objectives and review.

The material in this blog article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance book by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010,Adamson Publishing.

It was reproduced on the website which you can sunscribe to for free here

Monday, 21 February 2011

Principles of School Governance: Effective delegation

Effective delegation

The governing body has a large number of statutory responsibilities. Some of these must be exercised by the full governing body, but the remainder are usually delegated to a committee, a working group, an individual governor or the headteacher. Indeed, it is recommended working practice that the governing body should delegate much of its work to the headteacher or to groups of its own members.

It is important to understand, however, that functions and responsibilities that are delegated are done so on the authority of the corporate body. This relates the delegation of authority to the first principle of corporateness: no governor has a right to take a decision unless the power has been delegated by the whole governing body, and then the whole governing body takes responsibility for that decision. It is therefore critical for the full governing body to ensure that it has working procedures that not only cover all its statutory responsibilities but which also are clear and transparent to all. It should have clearly defined mechanisms to ensure that the full governing body is kept informed of how groups or individuals are exercising the authority that has been delegated to them.

The governing body cannot delegate authority for responsibilities about its own constitution or which have to be handled by a committee such as an appeals panel. However, it may delegate any others to the headteacher, an individual or a committee. It should set out the terms of reference or remit within which such delegated authority should be exercised. The headteacher must comply with any reasonable direction from the governing body in connection with delegated authority.

Once the four principles and the connections between them are understood that governing body can set about securing school improvement – the topic of the next e-bulletin.

The material in this blog article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance book by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010,Adamson Publishing.

It was reproduced on the website which you can sunscribe to for free here

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Principles of School Governance: Giving support and challenge

Giving support and challenge

Nobody can have been a governor for long without having heard the term 'critical friend'. It features in the next principle of governance, which defines the most effective approach of the governing body. This is the way in which we can fulfil our purpose of exercising public accountability.

The governing body, and every governor, must start from a position of being a friend to the school – someone who supports, offers constructive advice, can be used as a sounding board for ideas, gives a second opinion and just offers help where it is needed. A friend who is critical also has the skills to challenge sensitively, ask questions or seek information to ensure the best ideas and solutions are arrived at in line with the strategic framework. Critical friendship should not be seen as a restriction on the powers of the school's management but as a beneficial quality brought to decision making and policy development since it allows the headteacher and appropriate staff to reflect on their own practice in a sympathetic and stimulating environment.

Challenging ideas and proposals does not mean that a headteacher should have to defend or justify every proposal he or she brings to the governing body. It certainly does not mean their having to explain every operational detail. A challenge from a governor should usually relate to the wider strategic framework or key development priorities. Questions that seek clarification can be helpful but not if details of management functions are repeated and combed through.

A confident headteacher will always invite questions and find challenge stimulating. They will always be willing to answer questions and provide information where the request is reasonable. But challenge should always be on a professional basis and should focus on the area under review. A confident governing body will give the headteacher the space to manage but will expect to hold them to account on how they manage within the strategic framework, not on operational details.

Exercising challenge and support should include some key tasks:

Evaluating the school’s performance against past performance, against other similar schools, and in the context of its operating environment.
Monitoring progress against the approved budget plan and targets.
Reviewing and revising policies and plans.

The material in this blog article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance book by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010,Adamson Publishing.

It was reproduced on the website which you can sunscribe to for free here

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Principles of School Governance: The strategic role

The strategic role

The Terms of Reference Regulations also clearly state that the role of the governing body is strategic. Accompanying guidance defines such a role as 'setting up a strategic framework for the school, setting its aims and objectives, setting policies and targets for achieving the objectives, reviewing progress and reviewing the strategic framework in the light of progress'. What does this mean in practice?

Strategy is to do with setting a course, deciding on a route, looking to the future for the school, thinking about what the school needs to achieve and plotting how to get from where it is now to where you would like it to be in the future. Strategy must be worked out in partnership with the headteacher and senior staff – even if the headteacher is one of the few who choose not to be a governor.

Setting the school's strategic direction includes:

Determining the school’s mission and ethos in the context of developing a strategy for longer-term development.
Approving each year the School Development/Improvement Plan, its targets and the allied budget plan, and making links between them. This should reflect the school’s longer-term strategy.
Setting policies on matters such as performance management, recruitment and development of staff, pay, curriculum, organisation of the school and, where appropriate, admissions. You should make sure that these are consonant with each other and with the overall strategy.
Appointing the headteacher.
But first, playing a strategic role means setting out aims and values for the school.

Although some aims and values seem to be self-evident, identifying them can often be a hard job. Most of us could happily sign up to the aim ‘creating a successful school where all pupils reach their full potential’. But what that means for different pupils in different schools can vary. In a school where most pupils regularly achieve a high degree of exam success, reaching full potential may well focus on ‘rounding out’ the educational experience in terms of music, drama or sport. In schools where academic success is less easily achieved across the board, a wide variety of academic and vocational curriculum goals may be more appropriate. For specialist schools and schools with a religious denomination, the aims will reflect the particular curriculum specialism or faith.

Governing bodies can often be made up of people with different perspectives, so discussions of the aims do not always easily lead to consensus. However, it is the process of reaching agreement that is the key. The discussions may well be more important than the outcome because it is in having them that you confront the unstated ideas that you have about the school.

When finalised, a school’s aims and values are often encapsulated in a mission statement.

The material in this blog article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance book by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010,Adamson Publishing.

It was reproduced on the website which you can sunscribe to for free here

Friday, 18 February 2011

Four key principles on which the role of the school governor

There are four key principles on which the role of the school governor is based:

The governing body only has statutory authority as a corporate body (school governors have no authority as individuals).

The essential role of the governing body is strategic not operational.

The most effective approach of the governing body is to be a ‘critical friend’ to the school.

The recommended working practice of the corporate governing body is to delegate authority to individuals or groups of its members to carry out functions on its behalf.

These four principles were clarified in Terms of Reference Regulations, promulgated in September 2000 and revised in 2003, and feature in A Guide to the Law for School Governors and other government publications.

Over the next 3 days I will cover some principles of School Governance namely

The strategic Role

Giving support and challenge

Effective Delegation

The material in this blog article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance book by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010,Adamson Publishing.

It was reproduced on the website which you can sunscribe to for free here

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Decisions which a full governing body cannot delegate

Decisions which a full governing body cannot delegate

• Head teacher and deputy head teacher appointments (The School Staffing (England) Regulations 2009 require the governing body to set up a selection panel of at least three governors. The selection panel makes recommendations concerning the appointments which have to be ratified by the full governing body);

• To consider a report about forming a federation or joining an existing
federation and to consider whether to leave a federation;

• Functions under the School Governance (Constitution) (England)Regulations 2007 and the School Governance (Procedures) (England) Regulations 2003, as amended: Namely

– To draw up an instrument of government and any amendments thereafter;

– To appoint (and remove) the chair and vice-chair of a permanent or a
temporary governing body;

– To appoint and dismiss the clerk to the governors;

– To hold a full governing body meeting at least three times in a school
year or a meeting of the temporary governing body as often as may be required;

– To appoint and remove community or sponsor governors;

– To consider whether or not to exercise delegation of functions to
individuals or committees.

• To regulate governing body procedures (where they are not set out
in law);

• To suspend a governor;

• Decisions to change the name of the school;

• Decisions to confirm serving notice of discontinuance of the school.

Taken from the The 21st Century School: Implications and Challenges
for Governing Bodies A report from the Ministerial Working Group on School Governance first published in April 2010

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Paperless School Governor Meetings

One of the first things that struck me after becoming a school governor for the first time was the mountain of paperwork. When I joined the governing body the clerk, chair of governors and head teacher were already sending out governing body papers via email but many of the governors were personally printing them out for the meetings.

Our head teacher led the way by bringing in her laptop and viewing all papers on screen, this has caught on and now the majority of our governors bring laptops and our meetings are now mostly paperless.

This complements our environmental ethos being an award winning leading Eco School. I also write another blog called GeekyGreen about Green IT so it a subject close to my heart.

But it is not just about saving trees and carbon there is a cost issue of the paper, printing and often posting out of the papers.

We had hoped to go one step further by using our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called Frog to share school governor papers securely but the pace of this project has been slow for various unconnected reasons.

I am also aware of a service called Online Governor which charges £850 for a Governing Body to turn completely paperless in a secure manner. They claim they can save some schools up to £3,150.

As a small school we would find it difficult to justify £850 in the current financial climate so I am piloting a different system which is free of charge.

I use a a free online file sharing product called Dropbox This allows each governor to setup a free of charge secure 2Gb online storage which can be shared with every governor and accessed from anywhere on the internet.

All the clerk, chair or head teacher needs to do is drop a file or set of files in the dropbox folder on their computer desktop and it replicates to all governors devices whether it be their Windows PC, laptop, Apple Mac, Blackberry, Iphone or Apple IPad or all six devices if they are really flash.

I have recently been using this technology with my Apple IPad which I find perfect for school governor meetings as it is compact, light weight, has a touch screen and 10 hour battery life.

I sometimes think that a free IPad for every school governor funded by the government would be an excellent incentive for becoming a school governor. It would a small price to pay for the time we all give up for our communities.

You don't need online internet access at the governing body meeting as it caches a copy of the papers on the device the first time you open the document or spreadsheet when you are online at home or in the office.

It is as secure as email with all access to the dropbox password protected and there is an option to protect access to files by a pin code.

This pin code protection is the option I use. If someone stole my Ipad the school governor data would be wiped and fully destroyed after 10 incorrect attempts of my pin number.

Dropbox is free at and even better is if you sign up I get an extra 250Mb of storage for referring you ;-)

The other free online resource that I use for School Governing is Google Apps

This allows for a group of School Governors to share a Google Calendar for meetings, Google Docs for documents and spreadsheets and Google Mail for Email. It is also fully password protected.

There is a version for School aimed at the US market but available worldwide for Education organisations for free.

I would love to hear experiences from other governors who have gone paperless in their meetings.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Soft federations

Recently I have been researching Soft Federations, what it actually means to a school governing body and what models exist.

Teachernet describes a soft federation as a formal arrangement under section 26 of the Education Act 2002 by which two or more governing bodies share elements of governance or establish a joint strategic committee with delegated powers. Under these arrangements each school retains its individual governing body.

Soft federation can involve a mix of primary and secondary schools and is based on the principle of allowing governing bodies and joint committees freedom to determine their own arrangements within an agreed framework. It can cover a range of operational models from an over-arching committee delegated to take strategic decisions on behalf of two or more governing bodies, to setting up single-issue committees such as premises or curriculum committees

I also read an interesting report and model of Soft Federations from NCSL entitled 'United we stand'

It says:

The boundaries are changing for patterns of school organisation and there are many examples of innovative new models and structures of leadership. In particular, much has recently been written on the challenges and successes of federation and how it meets the needs of pupil learning and leadership recruitment. A Price Waterhouse Coopers report on leadership, has commented on the perceived benefits of a federated model: Federation “can be shown to have a number of key benefits which, ultimately, impact positively on pupil performance,for example: greater capacity through more distributed leadership; economies of scale achieved through pooling resources; smoother transitions of pupils between phases; and improved progression opportunities for all members of the school workforce. The benefits of this can be manifested
in the primary school sector where groups of schools are able to share resources and access services that would not be viable for individual schools.”

The federation model provides an established framework of shared leadership and joint governance where one or more schools share a single headteacher under one governing body, with a formal legal framework in place. Networks and clustering are at the other end of the spectrum, where
schools work together informally for mutual benefit, for example in Primary Strategy Learning Networks.

Some schools have however sought out different solutions for different reasons. These are not always as formal as federation or as casual as informal clustering activities. Soft
federation falls somewhere in between these two extremes and is the focus of this present study, which sets out to discover the benefits of less formal but still structured partnerships. For instance, the soft federation model could apply where two or more schools want to share key staff including the perceived benefits of a non-teaching headteacher, but to keep everything else separate, especially governance, whilst still joining together for mutually beneficial activities when appropriate. Their report explores four examples where schools have adopted a
similar model of cross-school, soft-federated leadership, and decisions have been made to circumvent current federation styles, by ‘daring to be different’.

The full report can be found on the NCSL website

Monday, 14 February 2011

The legal responsibilities of School governors

The legal duties and responsibilities of governors

School Governors have the following statutory duties relating to:

• the constitution, functions and membership of governing bodies
(sections 19, 20, 23 and 34 of the Education Act 2002);

• the conduct of the school and to promote high standards of educational achievement: promoting the wellbeing of pupils at the school and promoting community cohesion (section 21 of the Education Act 2002 as amended by section 38 of the Education & Inspections Act 2006);

• the control of school premises (section 40 of and Schedule 13 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998);

• the determination of school session times (section 32 of the Education Act 2002);

• the right to a delegated school budget and expenditure for community use (sections 50, 51 and 51A of the School Standards & Framework Act 1998);

• the provision of religious education (section 69 of and Schedule 19 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998);

• the employment and dismissal of staff (sections 35-37 of the Education Act 2002, and additional provisions for staffing at foundation or voluntary schools with religious character – sections 58 and 60 of the School standards & Framework Act 1998 as amended by section 37 of the Education & Inspections Act 2006);

• the primary legislation also places requirements on governing bodies concerning their relationship with stakeholders, for example, by providing parents with an annual report (maintained nursery schools only), having a process in place for dealing with complaints (section 30 and 29 respectively of the Education Act 2002) and having regard to the views expressed by parents of registered pupils (section 21(5) of the Education Act 2002 as amended by section 38 of the Education & Inspections Act 2006);

• the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum (sections 78 & 79 of the Education Act 2002) and to exercise their functions so as to implement the National Curriculum, including any tests (section 88 of Education Act 2002);

• the behaviour, discipline and welfare of pupils (section 88 of the Education & Inspections Act 2006 and section 175 of the Education Act 2002), including home-school agreements (section 110 of the School Standards & Framework Act 1998);

• admissions (Part 3 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998,as variously amended), and further functions in the case of governing bodies who are the admissions authority for the school (Part III, Chapter 1
of the School Standards & Framework Act 1998 (as variously amended);

• consultation with pupils (sections 176 of the Education Act 2002);

• the preparation of a post-Ofsted inspection action plan (section 39 Education Act 2005;

• religious worship (sections 70 School Standards & Framework Act 1998, as amended);

• charging (section 457 of the Education Act 1996);

• the setting of targets for pupil attainment (section 19 of the Education Act 1997);

• foundation governors of a VA school with a religious character must preserve and develop this character and ensure compliance with the trust deed (The School Governance (Constitution) (England)Regulations 2007).

Complementing and supporting these core responsibilities and requirements, governing bodies also have powers relating to:

• innovation in schools (section 1 of the Education Act 2002, with sections 2-5 of the same setting out administrative arrangements);

• the formation of companies (sections 11-13 of the Education Act 2002);

• governing body collaboration or federation, including collaboration with Further Education Institutions (sections 24-26 of the Education Act 2002,section 116 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006);

• the provision of community facilities (section 27 of the Education Act 2002);

• publishing proposals to make prescribed alterations to the school (including to change category). Voluntary and foundation school governing bodies have additional powers to publish proposals to close the school (Part 2 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006).

These lists of duties and powers of governing bodies are not exhaustive but indicate the key areas of governing body functions.

Taken from the The 21st Century School: Implications and Challenges for Governing Bodies A report from the Ministerial Working Group on School Governance first published in April 2010

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Potential models for School Governance reform

Potential models for School Governance reform

I have recently reading a research paper written by Stewart Ranson and Colin Crouch from the Institute of Education, University of Warwick Institute of Governance. It was written in December 2009 but much of it is still valid. One part that caught my eye was potential models of school governance.

Debate within the national school governance policy community reveals three contending, and contested models for the reform of school governance:

1. The business model: schools are multi million pound businesses, too important to be governed by inexperienced amateurs. A smaller executive body of people with experience of running organisations can provide the appropriate support school leaders need. This model does not necessarily exclude people from the community.

2. An executive and stakeholder scrutiny model acknowledges the claims for a smaller executive, but does not want to sacrifice the function of accountability provided buy the stakeholder model. A hybrid model of governance is proposed with a small executive subject to the scrutiny of a broader stakeholder governing body.

3. A community governance model. Building on Education Improvement Partnerships, the challenge for governance is for schools in an area to work together to engage families and share responsibility for all the children in a cluster. The role for governors is to become leaders and enablers of community development.

Recommendations for the future governance of schools

A coherent framework of school governance is needed to support and secure the developing programme of educational change. Our research describes the way local authorities have been experimenting and innovating with new forms of governance. The leading local authorities are now looking to move beyond experiment to establish a coherent system of school and community governance. The principles for such a framework of governance should where possible, we argue, strive to accommodate and reconcile the tensions that presently frustrate the practice of good governance. Can the framework strive to accommodate:

• Multi-layered governance
• Executive and scrutiny functions
• Specialist and civic knowledge
• Difference and deliberation
• Professional and citizen membership

Taken from a 2009 Research Paper entitled 'Towards a new governance of schools in the remaking of civil society' by Stewart Ranson and Colin Crouch Institute of Education, University of Warwick Institute of Governance.

The full 68 page report can be downloaded from CFBT which funded the research.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Academies The Law

School Academies and The Law

Application to convert

• The Agreement lasts for at least 7 years and Secretary of State has to give 7 years notice of termination.

• From the conversion date the relevant independent school standards are treated as met.

Duty to consult

Foundation schools and voluntary schools with a foundation have to consult and consent is required before they can apply to enter into an academy agreement from :

• Trustees

• The body which appoints their foundation governors

Before a maintained school is converted to an academy, the governing body must consult:

• whoever it considers appropriate

• on whether the school should be converted to an academy

• either before or after an academy order or an application for an academy order is made

Articles of Association


No charge can be made for admission to or attendance at an academy except those specified in the terms of the articles or funding agreement.

Status of the academy trust :

• The academy proprietor (trust) is a charity and

• A company limited by guarantee registered in England or Wales

Which means it must comply with relevant sections of the Company Act 2006 and Charities Act 2006 and related statutes.

Some requirements for the trust:

• To advance for the public benefit, education in the UK - establish and run a school which provides a broad balanced curriculum – the object

• To co-operate with other academies, maintained schools and statutory bodies to further the object.

• To provide services to the wider community (all ages)

• To research new techniques in education and publish the results

• Can delegate investment of funds not immediately required to a financial expert - governors set the investment policy and monitor

• To provide indemnity insurance for governors – does not cover wilful breach of regulations or defence costs if found guilty

• No bonuses or dividends can be paid to any member of the Academy Trust

• Member of the trust who is not a governor can receive reasonable payment for services, interest on loans, rent etc

• Liability of trustees limited to £10 each for members of the trust

Constitution Trust Members are:

• Those who signed Memorandum of Association

• A stated number of members appointed by foundation or other appointing body

• Person appointed by Secretary of State – Only in exceptional circumstances

• Chair of Governors

• Members of the trust can appoint and remove additional members as they see fit by unanimous agreement, in writing

All members sign either consent form or the register of members

Appointing bodies can remove and replace those members they appointed – notice is given to the Office

Insolvency automatically disqualifies a member

Members can resign providing this would leave at least 3 members in office.

First Governing Body – The Trust


Every member of the academy trust undertakes to contribute up to £10 should the trust be wound up while he or she is a member.

Information the Registrar must be given:

• First Directors, (trustees) their names and addresses

• First company secretary

• Their written consent to acting in their relevant capacity Articles

Companies Act 2006


• The trustees are the governing body or

• A small number of trustees set the strategic direction and appoints a governing body to which it delegates duties.

Governing Bodies comprise:

• At least 3 members

• No maximum limit on the number of members (but this may be set in the Articles)

Staff Governors

• appointed by Trust Members

• up to 1/3 of total no of governors

• includes Principal who is ex-officio

Parent Governors

• Must be parent of registered pupils at the time of the election to stand for election

• Elected by parents of registered pupils

• Secret ballot if contested

• After the election any remaining vacancies may be filled by GB appointing:

Parent of a pupil, or if not

Parent of a child of compulsory school age

Co-opted Governors

• Governors may co-opt up to 3 governors

• Staff may not be co-opted if this would mean that staff totalled more than 1/3 of the GB

LA Governor

• Appointed by LA

• No other governor may have LA connections

The total number of LA affiliated governors must not exceed 20% - if it does one of them has to resign.

If any member or governor believes that the Governing Body or trust has come under the influence of the LA they have to report this to the Trust.

Governing Body Procedures

• The governing body shall have regard to but is not bound by guidance on governance published by the Secretary of State

• Subject to the Articles, governors may regulate proceedings as they think fit

• At least 3 general meetings must be held per year, convened by the Secretary

• Any 3 governors can requisition a meeting by writing to the Secretary

• Notice of the meeting and the agenda are sent to the governors 14 clear days beforehand unless 90% agree to reduce this timescale

• Chair or Vice Chair can call meetings at shorter notice to discuss urgent matters

• Resolutions or variations can only be discussed if on the agenda

• If a meeting is adjourned, a further meeting must be called within 7 days to complete the business on the agenda

• Quorum for meetings is 3 governors or 1/3 of the total number of governors in office Whichever is the greater.

• If additional or further governors have been appointed by the Secretary of State, (exceptional circumstances) they must make up the majority of the quorum

• If the meeting is inquorate, governors may only fill vacancies or call a general meeting

• The quorum is 2/3 of the total number of governors (rounded up to a whole number) to vote on:

appointment of a parent governor

removal of a governor appointed by the governing body (this does not apply to parent governors)

vote on the removal of the Chair

• Decisions are made by majority of votes and the Chairman has a casting vote

• Resolutions passed must be signed by one or more governors

• Agendas, draft minutes approved by the Chairman, signed minutes and any report or other paper considered at a meeting should be made available at the academy for anyone wishing to inspect them as soon as is practicable.

• Governors can designate minutes as confidential

• Governors can participate in meetings by telephone/video conferencing provided

- they give 48 hrs notice and contact details

- governors have access to appropriate equipment

- if the contact cannot be made, the meeting can continue provided it is quorate

• Governors may be paid reasonable expenses – not foreign travel

• Governors (and immediate relatives) may not receive payment for goods or services

• Employees can be appointed to the governing body and receive their salary but no additional payment

• They must withdraw from a meeting where their contractual arrangements, pay or performance are discussed

• Disqualification criteria similar to those for GBs of maintained schools apply to academy governors


Secretary of State (SoS) may issue a Warning Notice stating what action is required by when if:

• Standards of performance of pupils unacceptably low or

• Serious breakdown in management or governance or

• Safety of pupils threatened

Additional Governors

May be appointed by the SoS if:

• Failure to comply with a warning notice

• Drop by 2 categories in Ofsted judgement Articles 60-61

AGM held at least every 15 months in addition to General Meetings

2 weeks notice unless 90% of voting members agree otherwise

Proxy can be appointed

Quorum is 2 members entitled to vote (can be proxy)

If a meeting is not quorate within half an hour from the time appointed for the meeting, or if members leave during a meeting a meeting so that it is no longer quorate, it is adjourned to the same day in the next week at the same time and place or to such time and place as determined by members.

A Governor, whether a member or not, is entitled to attend and speak at any general meeting.
Decisions are made by a show of hands unless a poll is demanded. Proxy votes may be used in a poll.

Any organisation which is a member of an academy trust may appoint some-one to act on its behalf. They have the right to participate and vote.

Transfer of Funds

Any funds allocated to the school and unspent just prior to the conversion are transferred to the proprietor of the academy. There are regulations to determine the amount.

Staff Procedures will be checked by Ofsted.

Responsibility of proprietor to ensure all members of staff have received enhanced CRB check confirming their suitability to work with children prior to starting or as soon as practically possible after starting.

Agencies may be commissioned to request CRB checks on behalf of an academy.

Enhanced CRB required for Chair of Governors

The Chair of Governors’ certificate must be counter-signed by Secretary of State.

The Chair is responsible for ensuring all other governors undertake enhanced CRB checks.

Secretary of State may require all governors to be CRB checked via DfE in exceptional circumstances

If a Chair already has an enhanced CRB certificate issued via LA – no check is necessary.

Teaching Staff The academy may only employ qualified (or eligible to do specified work) teachers to:

• Plan and prepare lessons
• Deliver lessons to pupils
• Assess the development, progress and attainment of pupils
• Report on this

The exception is when they were employed under TUPE arrangements and had previously been carrying out these tasks.

The trust has to ensure that all teachers have access to the Teacher’s Pension Scheme
As academies have the status of independent schools, they can operate outside the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions document (STPCD) and the National Conditions of Service for School
Teachers, usually known as the Burgundy Book.

However, due to TUPE arrangements, staff salaries are unlikely to change immediately after transfer. Arrangements for new staff need not comply.

The Department for Education (DfE) states that it is the responsibility of the academy to agree levels of the pay and conditions of service with its employees and to employ appropriate staff numbers.

Where an existing school becomes an academy, the staff receive a salary level in accordance with the STPCD and have their contracts protected under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 (TUPE). Variations from the STPCD may occur for new staff.

Curriculum Characteristics are that it will be either :

• Balanced and broadly based and include English, maths and sciense up to age 16
• For secondary education, an emphasis on a particular subject area(s) specified in the arrangements
• Provide education for pupils of different abilities
• Provide education for pupils wholly or mainly drawn from the area in which the school is situated

Or to make provision for pupils with SEN (Special Schools)

Provision has to be made for all pupils to have religious education following the agreed syllabus

Requirements for the teaching of RE and a daily act of collective worship apply as if the academy were a community, foundation or voluntary school.

Denominated academies eg RC C of E – the trust must ensure that collective worship is inspected.

If the acadremy is a secondary school, its curriculum has an emphasis on a particular area(s) specified in the Funding Agreement

The Trust has to ensure that:
• the academy complies with guidance issued by the Secretary of State on assessment
• pupils are protected from inappropriate teaching materials
• they learn the nature of marriage and its importance of family life and bringing up children
• the Academy complies with any guidance issued by the Secretary of State to ensure that pupils take part in assessments and teacher assessments as for maintained schools
• the Academy is subject to monitoring and moderation of assessment arrangements for all key stages
• no courses are offered at the academy leading to external qualifications described in section 96 of the learning and Skills Act 2000 unless the Secretary of State gives approval.

Exclusion The Academy Trust has to ensure that:

• the Principal acts in accordance with the law as if the academy were a maintained school
• the LA is informed of an exclusion decision as is required of maintained schools
• the Principal and the GB have regard to the Secretary of State’s Guidance on exclusions as if the academy were a maintained school
• the academy sets up the appeal panel which must be impartial and follow the Secretary of State’s Guidance – the panel’s decision is binding on the academy
• the GB is not expected to seek the advice of a LA Officer when considering an exclusion
• LA Officer may attend the hearing at the request of a parent
• Money does not follow pupils permanently excluded unless an Exclusion Agreement has been made with the LA to enable this.

Admissions The Academy Trust is the admissions authority

The trust will:

• take part in the Admissions forum set up by LA and have regard to its advice
• Participate in the co-ordinated admission arrangements operated by the LA
• Participate in the local in – year fair access protocol
• Ensure that dissatisfied parents and relevant pupils (sixth form entry) have the right to appeal to an Independent Appeal panel
• Ensure arrangements for appeals comply with the Admissions Appeals Code published by DfE for

Foundation and VA schools

The determination of the appeals panel is binding on all parties

The Secretary of State may direct an academy to admit a pupil after consultation after:

• Application made by the LA
• Where the academy has failed to act in accordance with this annex, the Codes or equalities legislation.

The academy can be directed to amend its admissions arrangements where they don’t comply with the School Admissions Code or Admissions Appeals Code

Faith Academies

The faith body:

• Has to be consulted on admission arrangements
• Has the right to issue guidance on the adoption of faith criteria
• Has the right of objection to admission arrangements
• CE Dioceses also have the right to approve the disposal of land or premises. Academies Act 2010

The academy is required to employ a Finance Officer and inform the Secretary of State of the appointment.

A budget plan has to be agreed by the governing body each financial year (Sep-Aug)

When using the General Annual Grant (GAG) paid to the academy

• Academy trust is required to abide by the Academies Financial Handbook
• Statements of income and expenditure, balance sheets must be produced in the form and frequency the SoS may reasonably request
• Financial statements, Directors’ Report, annual accounts and annual return are to be filed by 31 December each Academy Financial Year
• Accounts to be audited annually by an auditor approved by the SoS
• Annual accounts to be filed in the Companies Registry
• The academy must publish on its web-site:
- Annual accounts
- Annual Report
- Memorandum and Articles of Association
- Funding Agreement
- Names of members of the trust

The trust can, to further its object:

• Set up a bank account
• Raise funds but not undertake any substantial permanent trading action
• Acquire, alter, improve and dispose of property (subject to required consents)
• Offer scholarships Funding Agreement v4 71

Children in Care The Academy Trust is bound by same statutes and regulations as maintained schools and have regard to any guidance and Code of practice as maintained schools for children in care.

School meals

• If the provision of lunches is requested by pupils or on their behalf, the academy must provide them unless it would be unreasonable to do so
• Charges may be levied
• Free lunches must be provided for eligible pupils. Funding Agreement v4 31
SEN Academies must comply with “The SEN obligations” which are the obligations imposed on governing bodies of maintained schools by—
(a) Chapter 1 of Part 4 of EA 1996 (children with special educational
needs), and
(b) regulations made under any provision of that Chapter. “The SEN obligations” are the obligations imposed on governing bodies of
maintained schools by—
(a) Chapter 1 of Part 4 of EA 1996 (children with special educational
needs), and
(b) regulations made under any provision of that Chapter.

The Academy Trust must ensure that

• Pupils with SEN are admitted on an equal basis with others in accordance with its admissions policy

If an academy is to be named by the LA in a statement:

• the trust must be given 15 days notice
• the academy must consent unless the child’s inclusion would be incompatible with the efficient education of other pupils
• the trust must have regard to the relevant guidance issued by the Secretary of State to maintained schools.

Full credit and Thanks to NCOGS. The full document can be downloaded from NCOGS here

Friday, 11 February 2011

Academy FAQ's and Useful links

FAQ's, Links in the For, Against & Neutral

Neutral Views for Governors from the NGA & NCOGS

NGA Academies FAQ Version 9

NCOGS Academy Decision-making Process and Consultation: Process for governing body to decide whether to become an academy

NCOGS Academies: Considering the differences and implications

NCOGS Academy Law: Notes on the emerging picture

Against Camp

Anti Academy Alliance

NAHT Union

NUT teachers Union


ATL Union

Voice the Union

Three Union Letter to Chairs of Governors

Union Briefing for School Governors

For Camp

Department of Education

DfE Academies FAQ

DfE Conversion Process

Specialist Schools and Academies Truest SSAT

Church of England Academies

The National Society and Association of Anglican Diocesan Directors of Education

Catholic Education Services Views of Academies

DfE Youtube Links on Academies


Please let me know any other links I may have missed

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Academy Funding & Costs of becoming an Academy

One of first question many Governing Bodies ask is how much money will we get.

The funding for academies comes in the form of a grant, known as the General Annual Grant (GAG), paid by the Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA). The GAG is made up of different elements, as indicated below:

An amount equivalent to the school's current budget share

By far the largest element of GAG is the school's core funding, know as its delegated budget share. This will be the same as the school's current budget share received from the LA. DfE make a small adjustment to reflect any reduced business rates, paid by an academy as a charitable trust, and for insurance, which is paid separately in GAG.

Local authority central spend equivalent grant (LACSEG)

This is the additional money to cover those central services that the local authority no longer provides. This is not a uniform figure across the country. It varies between LAs and will reflect the amount the LA already holds back to pay for central services. This element of grant is calculated by the Young People's Learning Agency (not the local authority), using a formula, based on an academy's pupil numbers and the amount that the relevant local authority spends on the services and costs. It is not based on the actual costs of the services supplied to the individual school.

This first link on Department of Education website explains Preliminary advice on Academy funding to maintained schools considering conversion to academies including The Principle of Academy funding and the How funding is calculated.

On the department of Education website there are two Microsoft Excel spreadsheet called the Academy funding ready reckoner to calculate the estimated funding without the need to register.

Although each and every School gets a one off grant of £25,000 as part of the Academy conversion process here are some of the ongoing costs you might need to factor in.

Legal Services & Advice

Insurance Costs

Academies are subject to company law and trust law which may attract extra costs

Academies are liable for VAT

Pay for professional premises advice

Pay for HR Services and payroll

Pay for admissions appeals

One off Land transfer Costs

One off Administration of application process

One off Cost of possible rebranding, signage etc

DfE link on Finance FAQ's

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Academy Consultation Process

Who to Consult?

Consulting the full list would be considered good practice

Foundation/Trust, Parents, Pupils, Staff, LA: Staff unions/ associations, Diocese & Other local schools

(Staff don’t have to be consulted except for TUPE later in the process)


Would we want to give notice to all these groups prior to formal consultation?

Do we have contacts for all these groups before proceeding to consultation?

If emboldened this is a statutory requirement?

When to consult?

Before the Governing Body makes its final decision

Avoid perception of decision already having been taken

How To Inform?

Hard copy letter

On-line website



Meetings – School Council, Parent Forums, staff Letter/ email to Headteacher and Chair of Governor of local schools Community or parish magazine W

Who decides on the way in which groups are informed?

Governing Body/ Working Party/ school

Questions raised in Meetings of e.g. School Council, Parent Forums Governing Body should publish the answers

What information should be provided

NCOGS suggest you consult parents, students, staff and local partners. In order for the consultation to be meaningful, full information on the implications would need to be provided. Information could include:

• Main advantages identified by the governing body – including what you would do differently with constraints removed

• The disadvantages that the governing body considered

• details of the proposed academy arrangements;

• details of the proposed governance arrangements including details of the directors of the company which will enter into the Academy arrangements and details of the composition of the governing body;

• any proposed changes in the arrangements for the curriculum, for special educational needs, for pupil discipline, exclusion and for complaints, and confirmation that there will be no change in the admissions arrangements;

• details of the additional money which would be available to the school (either as capital or revenue funding) if it became an academy;

• details of any additional obligations and costs which fall on the school if it became an academy; and details of the support that is proposed to be given to other schools and any other possible effect on other schools. The conclusions you reach as you consider each of the ‘differences and implications’ should have been noted so that they can be included in your consultation document.

Suggested consultation pro forma linked here.


Deadline for responses Allowing reasonable time for stakeholders to respond while maintaining momentum

How to collect and collate views?

Do we know what we want to get out of the consultation process?

What kind of information would be useful?

Methods of collection – questionnaire/statement inviting comments/interviews/ meetings? Sample size?

Responses to go to……. Once you have the data, will it be easy to analyse?

Reporting the results of consultation to the GB

Agree working party members who will collate responses.

Schedule working party meeting to agree report for governing body

Full Credit & Thanks to NCOGS for their Academy Tool-kit on the Consultation process.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Decision Process for a Governing Body in becoming an Academy

On the subject of Academies I have adopted a 'wait and see' approach like
many others. My rationale was that there just was not enough information
available to have a view one way or another.

As more information is released and more secondary schools start their
Academy consultations that stance is hard to maintain. Someone recently
said to me 'you can't sit on the fence for ever' or 'just stick your head
in the sand' 'you should have a view one way or another on Academies'. They were right and this led me do some in-depth research, on-line, on
Academies. What first stuck me was their were two camps with opposite
views. The Department of Education and organisations such as SSAT in the'for camp' while many of the teachers unions and local authorities were in the 'against camp'.

It was very difficult to find a balanced view from a governing body
perspective. The closest to a balanced view I could find was the useful FAQ
version 9 from the National Governors Association (NGA)and the excellent
Academy tool kit from NCOGS (National Co-ordinators of Governor Services).

However, as this is such a massive topic I have separated it into a series
of five blog articles over the next five days.

Today in part one I will tackle the Decision Process for a Governing Body
becoming an Academy.

Part 2 on Thursday will be about 'The Academy Consultation Process'.

Part 3 on Wednesday will talk about 'Academy Funding & Costs of becoming an

Part 4 on Friday will be 'Academy FAQ's and Useful links (Pros and

Finally, Part 5 on Saturday will be the riveting subject about 'Academies
and The Law'.

Discussion Process for Governing Body becoming an Academy - Part One

1. Governing Body: Are we at all interested? Take into consideration the
view of the headteacher and the view expressed by staff governors about
likely feelings of staff….and if a church school, obtain view of the

If yes:

2. Governing Body sets up working party to obtain and consider more details
and make recommendation to governing body.

The recommendation may be that:

• On balance there are clear advantages and the governing body has the
capacity to take on academy status now, so let’s consult stakeholders
(If this is the recommendation the working party should draft a
consultation document for GB to approve).

• On balance the advantages outweigh the disadvantages but the governing
body is not yet ready to take on extra responsibility and will need to
be strengthened in the following ways:

• On balance there are insufficient advantages - and significant
disadvantages - to justify continued interest

3. Working party reports back to Governing Body with recommendations

4. Governing Body considers working party recommendations and decides:

• to proceed to consultation OR

• to ready itself to consider academy status later OR

• not to proceed with the idea.

If GB agrees to proceed:

5. Working party: Consult Stakeholders (NB the GB has not made its final
decision at this stage to avoid perception of fait accompli)

• Working Party: collate responses and provide a paper for the Governing

6. Governing Body considers response and decides - with formal resolution
clearly minuted its intention to pursue Academy status.

7. Ensure that the decision is communicated and explained to Stakeholders

Full Credit & Thanks to NCOGS for their Academy Tool-kit. Tomorrow is
about the Academy Consultation process.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Head teacher view on School Governors & Homework

View from a head teacher

It’s ten o’clock on a cold winter’s evening and a school governors’ meeting is in full swing. The agenda has been long and the debates have seemed even longer because some of the school governors have been too busy to read the pre-meeting paperwork, which you, of course, weren’t too busy to prepare for them! You are tired and have a difficult parent to see in the morning. The final points are being made in agreement with your school improvement agenda item on developing better teaching and classroom management. Then one of the school governors who hasn’t really been following the debate casually mentions the dreaded topic of homework.

The knee-jerk reactions

Suddenly, it is as if spotlights are pointing your way. The parent governors all have loud and different views about homework in general but now start making wild statements about individual teachers not giving enough, giving too much, not making it hard enough, not marking it often enough, not being consistent, etc. A skilful chair of governors will be able to draw the meeting to a relatively swift conclusion but, and you can take bets on this, one of the parent governors will make sure that homework will be on the agenda of subsequent meetings.

As you drive home, you begin to feel that you have been ambushed and all the productive and successful parts of the meeting pale into insignificance against the need to think carefully about what the parent governors said about homework.

Maybe you are being paranoid, but as they say: ‘Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you!’ Perhaps homework (and it could have been all kinds of other issues) is something that you should be looking at now. Or perhaps it isn’t. Whether you stay focused and put it on the back burner, reminding school that it isn’t part of the improvement plan, or recognise that changes need to be made, it is an example of a school governors’ meeting creating a spasm of indecision and generating more work for you and your staff. At the very least it is sowing a seed of doubt in your head. We need to remain strong and focused and not be sidetracked. We need to be assertive in these kinds of situations and think carefully whether such a meeting actually helps to raise standards or benefits children in any way.

You might think that I am exaggerating or describing a fairly irrelevant anecdote. But it actually happened to a colleague of mine who drove home that evening and, rightly or wrongly, embarked on a lengthy consultation process about homework. The process eventually fizzled out because a consensus could not be reached and possibly lack of interest. What was significant about the incident was that time and effort was wasted on something that appeared important but was actually not at all.

This article is part of a larger article entitled 'School Governors Help or Hindrance' written by a former Primary head teacher called Roger Smith. The full article can be found on the teaching expertise website linked below.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Do we really need School Governors?

Do we really need governors? One Head teacher's perspective of School Governance!

To many of head teachers, school governors are at best a mixed blessing. If they are well-informed and really care for the school, head teacher and for our teachers and children, then being a ‘critical friend’ is an excellent way of helping the school move forward in its vision.

But, as a head teacher recently suggested (probably after a difficult meeting), ‘My governors are so far off the pace that I spend most of my time trying to inform them about crucial issues rather than being challenged or held to account.’

Another head teacher, this time relaxing in a pub garden on a July afternoon, made his views quite clear: ‘I’m not convinced my governors influence what we do at all. I’m more influenced by the government and the LA demands and how we can realistically meet them. Whatever my governors think locally about the school and how to move forward is far outweighed by national issues.’

Since the 1980s schools have become increasingly independent of LAs but increasingly accountable to central government. As a result, governing bodies have had responsibilities heaped on them.

But, it needn’t overwhelm them. As headteachers we need to help our governors help us to manage our schools in their local contexts. We need to work together to twist national priorities and shape them to meet our local ones. This is really about governors setting strategic targets so that we can do all the planning and daily tasks that help us meet the crucial long-term strategies.

School Governors should be (and of course need to be) good at offering strategic leadership as well as challenging our performance. But the problem involved in resolving issues is that they need to be able to make the necessary time commitment to fully understand complex educational issues and be able to plan effectively. It is no good having excellent strategies without having the necessary plans to make them work. Commitment is a key factor to this.

Here is another head teacher’s opinion about the role and impact of school governors in education. ‘If you took my secretary away, or the caretaker, or my reception teacher or the SEN coordinator, it would have a huge impact on what happens to the children and how the school meets its targets for raising achievement, but if you took my school governors away! Well, what would happen? Would we notice?’

I am sure that school governors do their best to contribute constructively, and their involvement can help us move efficiently into the future; but let me ask some final questions.

Does the time spent talking to school governors, meeting with school governors, attending school governors’ meetings, providing piles of paperwork to school governors help as much as it should?

If we had fewer meetings, or even no meetings entirely; if we had no school governors at all, would it really make any difference?

Perhaps we should follow the reasoning of David Brailsford, British Cycling’s Performance director, who led his team towards the attainment of so many Olympic medals in China, when he said of his leadership: ‘I don’t do documents. I write very little.’ Aren’t we all capable, on our own, of asking ourselves critical questions and constantly challenging what we do and setting our goals a little higher each time? I don’t know a headteacher who is complacent and who doesn’t want to make every child’s’ life better. Do you?

This article is part of a larger article entitled 'School Governors Help or Hindrance' written by a former Primary head teacher called Roger Smith. The full article can be found on the teaching expertise website linked below.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Recruiting the right people to be School Governors

Recruiting the right people

Some of the local governing bodies that I have known in the past always had members who were ‘time servers’. Many local authority governors were political appointments and, although they may have been councillors who lived close to the school, they often had very little to say that was of any interest. At one nearby school two of the local councillors were known affectionately as ‘Toilets’ and ‘Accidents’ because they had attached themselves to these two topics and always, at every full governors meeting, managed to ask questions about the state of the toilets and how many minor accidents there had been since the last meeting. It was if, and this may seem cruel, they had been ‘put out to grass’ and did not fully contribute within their roles.

Foundation governors, in schools affiliated with churches, are there to support and enhance the school’s links with local churches, and in my experience do this quietly, calmly and well and are always there to remind governors that many school issues have a religious dimension.

If there is one maxim that applies to the discussions and decisions that school governors take, it should be ‘Keep It Simple’. Parent governors should not be able to push the interests of their child over and above everything else. Similarly, community governors should be able to reflect the whole community and not their specific interests and prejudices. It is not easy, but it is important that all governors need to be successful at asking the right questions and taking those relatively simple decisions which help the school to run as effectively as possible.

This is really an illustration of the fact that it not simply a matter of finding people willing to be school governors, but about finding the right people. Many parents will know the school and know many of the teachers, but they won’t necessarily understand how the school actually works. However, like many other school governors, they can bring all kinds of different skills that may or may not be helpful. All school governors need to be able to tackle a complex and demanding role. Unfortunately they can lack the time, confidence and the necessary expertise for this.

Who makes the best governors?

Governors need to represent the wider school community and bring all kinds of different perspectives from ‘ordinary’ life. Whether they be LA, foundation, community, staff or parent governors, they will be most effective if they:

care about children

want children to enjoy school and to achieve the best they can are keen to put something back into the community

are eager to be part of a team with a common purpose and understand the importance of valuing different viewpoints and perspectives

understand the value of being effective and show this by taking relevant training and development opportunities

are willing to accept responsibility

are willing to be supportive when it is appropriate

are willing to ask challenging questions when necessary.

It is the last point that many governors find difficult because they will be asking questions about complex educational issues that they don’t necessarily know much about.

This article is part of a larger article entitled 'School Governors Help or Hindrance' written by a former Primary head teacher called Roger Smith. Full article can be found on teaching expertise website linked below.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Advice from a School Governor

In my search on the internet for useful School Governor information to share I came across this advice entitled 'My Final Blog' by a School Governor called Libby on the website.

Advice from a School Governor

1) Governors SHOULD ask questions about the budget - look in particular at where numbers are very different to previous years. Ask why numbers have gone up or down.

2) This is important, and is difficult to describe without a budget plan in front of you. However, I'll try! In the left hand column of the plan, there is a list of letters and numbers - the important ones are I (Income) and E (Expenses). Now, the key thing to look for is this... Add up I1, I2, I3, I4 and I5 (this is your main income) then divide them by E1+E2+E3+E4+E5+E6+E7 (these are your staffing costs) and you will get a percentage. This is the percentage of your school's money that is being spent on staffing. This percentage should be around 85%. That is healthy. However, if it is 90% or more, then your school is in grave danger of going into deficit. Told you it was complicated, but it will become clear if you have your budget plan in front of you and it is really good advice.

Anyway, that's it. The sum of my knowledge of money.

I am now in my third year as a governor and feel that I now really understand the school and am able to make a valuable contribution. So far, it has been a great learning experience for me and I would recommend it to anyone who may be considering becoming a school governor. If you are - here are things you need to know:

1) Don't be afraid to ask questions - if you aren't sure, chances are at least 10 people will be as confused as you are.

2) Go on training. You won't just pick things up as you go.

3) Commit fully - visit the school. Offer to help (particularly if you are a School governor at a small school)

4) Get the most out of it for yourself - go to the performances, the assemblies etc. Get to know the school - that's the best bit - in comparison the meetings are dryness itself!

5) NEVER forget the following: EVERYTHING YOU DO SHOULD BE IN THE INTERESTS OF THE CHILDREN AND THEIR LEARNING AND WELL-BEING. If you remember that, you can't go wrong!

That's all folks!

Very sound common sense advice! The original blog article from Libby can be found here

About the author: Former teacher Libby Reid was a parent governor at a primary school in 2009. She blogged about being a parent, a governor and the two combined!