Thursday, 31 March 2011

Ten Golden Rules for Good School Governance

The Ten Golden Rules for Good School Governance

Abide by these and you won’t go far wrong!

1. Get to know your school

Attend the special events organised by your school and celebrate its successes

Offer to help at events or with visits

Arrange visits during the school day

Get to know the staff, the pupils and the wider school community

Seek out and read information about your school, including its performance

2. Attend meetings regularly

Make sure you note dates and times of any meetings – ask if you are unsure

Prepare well by reading all the documentation in advance – note any questions you may have or anything you want to say

If you cannot attend make sure you let the Chair know and the reason why you cannot attend

3. Be a team player

Treat all governors as equal

Be willing to help and to learn from each other

Abide by the majority decision even if you don’t agree

Don’t disagree in public with the Governing Body after a decision has been taken

If you want the Governing Body to reconsider a decision you must ask for it to be put on the agenda at the next meeting

4. Make a positive contribution

Make the most of the skills you have to offer

When in doubt about anything, ask

Make sure you are aware of the training available to governors

Make use of the governor websites and other relevant online information

5. Follow procedures in meetings

Signal to the Chair when you want to speak

Don’t interrupt others

Listen to differing points of view and learn

Don’t monopolise the discussion or refer back to matters which have been decided

Don’t raise matters under ‘Any other business’ unless it is genuinely urgent and could not have been foreseen when the agenda was drawn up

6. Remember that as an individual you have no authority

You can only speak and act on behalf of the Governing Body when it has formally delegated the power to you

The Governing Body may also delegate powers to a committee

If you want to raise a matter, you should ask for it to be put on the agenda

7. Be clear – you are neither a representative nor a delegate

You have a duty and a responsibility to put forward the views of those who appointed you
e.g. other parents, the staff etc. This ensures diverse views are put forward

However, when it comes to a vote, you must weigh up all the arguments and vote the way your conscience directs for the good of the pupils and the school.

8. Maintain confidentiality and discretion

Sometimes the business of the Governing Body is confidential-keep this confidence and act
with integrity

Although the minutes of meetings (Part A only) are made public, the details of the discussion that takes place should remain confidential

The Part two or B section of the meeting (if any) remains entirely confidential and minutes are not made public

The more trust placed in you by the school, the school community and other governors, the more effective you can be in your role as a governor

9. Declare any personal interest

Don’t use your position as a governor to gain an advantage or benefit in other situations

If a matter under discussion affects you personally and/or financially, you should declare an interest at the start and you may be asked to withdraw from that part of the meeting

10. Act as ambassador for your school

Find every opportunity to make good news public

Never talk down your school in public

Never gossip about individual staff or pupils with others

If things are going wrong, ask yourself if you are part of the problem or part of the solution

Be there for your school

The Ten Golden Rules are from East Riding Association of Governing Bodies

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Sex Relationship Education: What are School Governors responsible for?

Earlier this month the Daily Mail raised the whole subject of Sex Education again when explicit images produced by Hit UK were approved by some Local Authorities for use on children as young as five.

The full story can be found here:

This story was followed up this week by claiming 'Fury at equality watchdog after it calls for teachers to ask 11-year-olds if they are gay'

The full story can be found here:

So what is statutory position and how does it affect School Governors?

The Learning and Skills Act 2000 amended the Education Act 1996 and places responsibility for determining sex and relationship education firmly with headteachers and School governors.

All schools should have an up-to-date policy for sex and relationship education which is developed in consultation with parents.

The policy should reflect parents’wishes and the culture of the community the school serves and must:

● define sex and relationship education;

● describe how sex and relationship education is provided and who is responsible for providing it;

● say how sex and relationship education is monitored and evaluated;

● include information about parents’ right to withdraw; and

● be reviewed regularly.

Headteachers and School governors are responsible for ensuring that suitable materials
are used in sex and relationship education. Inappropriate images should not be used nor should explicit material not directly related to explanation.

Schools should make sure that the needs of all pupils are met in their sex and relationship education programmes. Young people, whatever their developing sexuality, need to feel that sex and relationship education is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs.

The Sex and Relationship Education Guidance makes clear that teachers should deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support.

Sexual orientation and what is taught in schools is an area of concern for some parents. It is therefore important that schools liaise closely with parents so that they can reassure them of the content of programmes and the context in which they are presented.

It is important that schools tackle all forms of abuse and bullying, including homophobic bullying.

Sex Relationship Education Fact sheets

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

National College priorities for School Governors

The Secetary of State for Education Michael Gove wrote to Vanni Treves, Chair of the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services on 28th March to outline the National College's priorities for the coming year.

In relation to School Governors Mr Gove says:

School Governors

'I see a very strong relationship between governorship and leadership and expect the College to take a key role in supporting chairs of governing bodies to make sure that they have the skills, knowledge and confidence to undertake their role. Chairs of governing bodies must be able to provide strategic direction; as a 'critical friend' to the head teacher and ensure accountability. I expect you to work with my officials to agree a set of learning opportunities to help them to fulfil their role effectively.As my White Paper made clear, all schools should be working to make savings to maximise the resources they have to invest in teaching and learning.
Improving school efficiency is essential and I see this as an important element running through all of the College's work supporting school leaders and governing bodies.'

The full letter can be found here:

Do Some Governing Bodies need Indian Talking Sticks?

On a recent School Governing training course, a fellow School Governor told me about the Native Indian talking stick.

The Indian Talking Stick has played an integral part in Native American government for centuries.

The Talking Stick represents how people with differences can come to understand one another through mutual respect, which then enables them to solve their differences and problems synergistically, or at the very least through compromise.

Here’s the theory behind it. Whenever people meet together, the Talking Stick is present. Only the person holding the Talking Stick is permitted to speak. As long as you have the Talking Stick, you alone may speak, until you are satisfied that you are understood. Others are not permitted to make their own points, argue, agree or disagree.

All they may do is attempt to understand you and then articulate that understanding. They may need to restate your point to make sure you feel understood, or you may just simply feel that they understand.

As soon as you feel understood, it is your obligation to pass the Talking Stick to the next person and then to work to make him feel understood. As he makes his points, you have to listen, restate and empathize until he feels truly understood. This way, all of the parties involved take responsibility for one hundred percent of the communication, both speaking and listening.

Once each of the parties feels understood, an amazing thing usually happens. Negative energy dissipates, contention evaporates, mutual respect grows, and people become creative. New ideas emerge. Third alternatives appear.

Remember, to understand does not mean to agree with. It just means to be able to see with the other person’s eyes, heart, mind and spirit. One of the deepest needs of the human soul is to be understood. Once that need is met, the personal focus can shift to interdependent problem solving.

But if that very intense need for understanding is not met, ego battles take place. Turf issues arise. Defensive and protective communication is the order of the day. Sometimes contention, even confrontation, can erupt!

I wonder whether an Indian Talking Stick either physical or virtual could help in some governing body meeting settings?

Monday, 28 March 2011

Governing Body Health Check: Signs of Effective Governance

Signs of effective governance

The Outcome

Assess the outcome of your examination of the health of your governing body.

Answer the following questions True or False in relation to your governing body.

Our meetings focus on School Improvement, Every Child Matters and Strategic Planning.

We ask challenging questions.

We discuss the School Self Evaluation form (SEF) and all governors understand our school’s strengths and areas requiring improvement.

We don’t waste time discussing operational issues that are the responsibility of the headteacher.

We review the school’s performance data thoroughly on at least an annual basis and set targets which are aspirational but achievable.

Chairs of committees take responsibility for organising committee agendas and are not overly reliant on the Headteacher.

Our leadership structure is sustainable and has the capacity to develop future school leaders.

We meet our statutory responsibilities.

Our working practice enables us to take into account the views of children and young people, their parents/carers and the community.

Meetings are well attended and all governors are prepared and make effective contributions.

We have clear terms of reference for committees and remits for governors nominated for specific tasks.

If Ofsted inspected us now we can confidently predict they would rate us: (Choose an answer below)

Inadequate 4
Satisfactory 3
Good 2
Outstanding 1

The full Governing Body Health Check Document from East Sussex County Council can be found here

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Governing Body Health Check: Reviewing Weaknesses

The Review of Governing Body Weaknesses

Rate your governing body whether each of these weaknesses are either Extreme , Moderate , Slight or Not a problem

Following on from yesterday's 10 questions on strengths.

11.The school fails to meet one or more statutory responsibilities and lacks some of the policies that are required.

12. Governors fail to set a clear direction or priorities for the school’s work and rely too heavily on the headteacher.

13.The governing body has a limited awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the school.

14.The governing body does not have processes for monitoring effectiveness of management structures throughout the school.

15.Governor business is badly organised and lacks focus or influence.

16.The governing body presents no challenge and does little to hold the school to account.

17.The governing body relies heavily on a small number of governors to fulfil its responsibilities.

18.The governing body has a high number of vacancies and poor attendance.

19.The future of the school leadership and the options for the school have not been considered.

20.The governors are not aware of the performance of teachers.

Rate your governing body whether each of these weakness statements are either an Extreme weakness , Moderate weakness , Slight weakness or Not a problem.

The full Governing Body Heath Check from East Sussex County Council can be found here

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Governing Body Health Check: Reviewing Strengths

The Governing Body Review of Strengths

Use the Ofsted criteria at the bottom of this article to assess the current state of your governing body by exploring the statements below. Make a judgement about the impact of each statement. Make sure you can provide evidence to back up your judgements.

Indications of Strength

1. The governing body makes a major contribution to the leadership with a clear focus on raising standards and improving the quality of provision.

2. It is fully involved in strategic planning and formulating policies, and supports
staff in implementing them.

3. The clerk provides advice and guidance and doesn’t just take the minutes.

4. Governors have prepared a headteacher succession strategy and are supporting distributed leadership.

5. The pattern of the governing body’s work meshes well with the school’s development cycle.

6. Governors have a good grasp of the school’s strengths and weaknesses and deal with them openly and frankly.

7. Performance management procedures are very effective and are monitored closely by the governing body.

8. The governing body improves its own performance through appropriate development activities or training.

9. The governing body understands its role in promoting community cohesion and improvement priorities link closely with local priorities.

10. The Every Child Matters agenda is embedded in school governance procedure

Grade of each of these questions 1-4 using Ofsted criteria below:

Outstanding (1)

Governors make an exceptional contribution to the work and direction of the school. They have high levels of insight and are extremely well organised and thorough in their approach. They are vigorous in ensuring that all pupils and staff are safe. In discharging their statutory
responsibilities, they have very robust systems for evaluating the effectiveness of their implementation, keeping the work of the school under review and acting upon their findings. Governors are innovative, flexible and adapt to new ideas quickly, supporting the work of the staff in improving outcomes for all pupils. They are confident in providing high levels of professional challenge to hold the school to account. Governors engage very effectively with parents, pupils and the staff as a whole and are well informed about users’ views of the school. They use these views to inform strategic priorities for development.

Good (2)

The governing body has the capacity to meet the school’s needs and is influential in determining the strategic direction of the school. Governors are rigorous in ensuring that pupils and staff are safe and discharge their statutory duties effectively. They are fully and systematically involved in evaluating the school. Their relationships with staff are constructive and they show determination in challenging and supporting the school in tackling weaknesses and so bringing about necessary improvements. Governors have clear systems for seeking the views of parents and pupils and mechanisms for acting on these.

Satisfactory (3)

Governors discharge their statutory responsibilities and ensure that pupils and staff are safe. They are well organised, are visible in the school community, and support staff and pupils. Most governors know the strengths and weaknesses of the school, understand the challenges it faces and are directly involved in setting appropriate priorities for improvement. The governing body holds the school to account for tackling important weaknesses. Governors engage often with parents and pupils and respond quickly to their views and any significant concerns
they may have.

Inadequate (4)

The governing body has too little impact on the direction and work of the school or The governing body does not challenge the school to address weaknesses and bring about improvement or The governing body’s negligence in failing to meet its statutory requirements places the pupils’ achievement or well-being at risk

The full Governing Body Heath Check from East Sussex County Council can be found here

Friday, 25 March 2011

Governing Body Health Check

Governing Body Health Check


All governing bodies want to be sure that they are providing effective shared leadership with the management team in their schools. We exist as School governors to promote high standards of educational achievement. It is important to remain focussed on this vital element of our role.

To assist governors in assessing the contribution they are making to the success of their school we have devised this governing body health check.


The health check is in four stages and is designed to take a minimum amount of governor time.

Our advice is to establish a small working group of governors who will spend no more than one hour undertaking the first four stages. You will have to work quickly especially when it comes to deciding on the evidence you will cite.

Stage One - Strengths

Spend some time in self-congratulation outlining your strengths and successes.

Stage Two - Weaknesses

Confident in your successes now realistically assess where the governing body has weaknesses. This may in fact contradict some of what you have assessed as successful. Be honest. At this stage this is confidential to the governors in the working group.

Stage Three - Effectiveness

Take on the persona of a dispassionate Ofsted inspector. Answer true or false to the statements. Don’t equivocate. Based on what you have done in stages one and two make a judgement - true or false. Then give yourselves an Ofsted grade for your governance. To help with this the criteria Ofsted use for evaluating leadership and management are at the back of
this pack.

Stage Four – Action

Look at the suggestions for action and decide if some, many, or all of them apply to your governing body. There is space for you to add others of your own. Be sure to identify how you will measure success, who will do the work and when you expect it to be finished.

Report back

Take your health check and its findings to a governing body meeting and share your experiences with all your governors. There will be some who disagree with your judgements,especially if you have found weaknesses and this is where the robustness of the evidence you cite will be important. If it supports your judgements in the governing body meeting it is also
likely to satisfy external scrutiny.

Agree an action plan and make sure it gets minuted

Over the next 3 days I will cover reviewing Strengths, Weaknesses and Signs of Effective Governance.

The full Governing Body Health Check Document from East Sussex County Council can be found here

Thursday, 24 March 2011

School Child Protection/Safeguarding Audit Tool

School Child Protection/Safeguarding Audit Tool

East Sussex County Council devised a Schools Safeguarding Audit Tool which has been extensively revised to align it with the Ofsted Section 5 Inspection Framework for Schools that was last updated in September 2010. Their audit tool has also been updated following several Section 5 Inspections in the south-east in which schools have been found wanting in safeguarding.

The East Sussex Single Central Record (SCR) exemplar has also been revised, to take account of feedback from recent Ofsted inspections.
Download the School Safeguarding Toolkit from here.

The Single Central Record Excel template can be found here

Safeguarding Children Handbook

Record Keeping Guidance in maintained schools

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Mentoring Chairs of Governors

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a process in which a more skilled or experienced person supports a less skilled or experienced person in developing confidence and expertise in a role. Support is offered in a nonjudgemental way in the context of an on-going supportive relationship. Mentoring usually takes place face-to-face, although telephone and email can also be used.

“Mentoring concerns activities that give people the tools and confidence to take control of their own pathway. It is about empowering people to plan their own future and capitalise on their own potential.”

Mentoring activities include:

• listening
• exploring problems
• discussing current issues
• acting as a sounding board
• identifying options
• comparing experiences
• looking ahead
• focusing on priorities

What mentoring is not

• Coaching
• Providing professional or legal advice
• Appointment as an additional governor by the local authority
• Counselling
• Directional

Experience, skills and qualities needed by mentors

A range of skills, and qualities and experiences are needed to be an effective mentor.

These might include:

• empathy
• enthusiasm
• tact
• sensitivity
• listening skills
• ability to develop a relationship
• ability to maintain confidentiality
• a non-judgemental approach
• ability to ask open questions
• ability to build confidence in the mentee
• recent positive experience of chairing a governing body
• recent experience of dealing effectively with challenging issues as a chair
• undertaken leadership training – e.g. Taking the Chair

Situations where you may be required to provide mentoring
Mentoring can be a useful tool for supporting all chairs of governors in a range of situations.

It may be particularly useful to:

• a new chair
• a chair of a new school or fresh start school.
• where the chair is supporting a new headteacher who has little experience of working with a
governing body

Mentoring can also be useful in certain new or challenging situations, such as:

• where a chair is asked to take over from an Interim Executive Board
• where chairs are leading the governance of extended services
• where the chair is attempting to implement training or change within the governing body.

In addition, there may be difficult situations where a range of support services may be appropriate, one of which may be mentoring.

These may include:

• support for chairs in schools which have been identified as a local authority cause for concern or have been placed in an Ofsted category
• where there is potential breakdown of relationships between the chair and the headteacher
• where there is potential breakdown of relationships between the chair and other members of the
governing body.

Advice from NGA Document called Supporting Chairs of Governing Bodies: A Framework for Action

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The School Attendance Debate

This morning ITV Daybreak had a segment dedicated to debate the issue of Parents who take their children out of school during term time for family holidays.

Our Head Teacher did the live slot on the sofa while I added a canned interview to put the governors perspective.

The programme can be seen here:

There is no simple answer to the debate! Holiday companies will say it is pure economics and a case of supply and demand, parents will resent paying higher prices in school holidays, Ofsted will claim attendance is linked to attainment and demand 96% attendance for the School to be graded as outstanding and Schools & Teachers don't want the disruption to their classes and pupils especially when preparing for assessments.

So in connection with today's debate I thought I would cover the school attendance policy and the governing body role in supporting and monitoring it.

The starting point to improving school attendance is a clear Behaviour and Attendance Policy, or an attendance policy that is clearly linked to other relevant policies in the school e.g. SEN or whole school behaviour.

The policy should include the following:

Statement of Aims:

A Statement regarding the importance the school places on good attendance and what constitutes ‘good’ attendance. It is helpful to state the link between attainment and attendance and that school policy is designed to support children and parents/carers.

Parental Responsibility:

The policy should make it clear that it is a parental responsibility to ensure that pupils attend school and the consequences for failing to do so.

First Day Contact:

The school’s policy regarding first day contact. It must be completely clear to parents / carers what contact is expected of them on the first day of a child’s absence.


A clear statement regarding the taking of holidays during term time. And a statement regarding the taking of extended holidays which may result in children being taken off roll

Religious Observations:

A policy regarding additional day’s absence regarding days of religious observance for ethnic minority groups.

Teachers’ Responsibilities:

A section of the policy should spell out the teacher responsibility for taking the register and for understanding and using the codes correctly emphasising the fact that the register is a legal document.

Use of Codes:

A clear explanation of the codes themselves and how they should be used should be included in the policy.

Use of Data:

A detailed description of how attendance data will be used and why.

Truancy and lateness:

The school’s policy regarding post-registration truancy should be outlined as should the school’s policy regarding ‘lates’ i.e. when the register will close and the support/sanctions for persistent ‘latecomers’.


Systems for effective monitoring should be put in place and detailed in the policy

Governing Body:

The role of the governing body in promoting and monitoring the attendance policy should be made completely clear.

Positive Strategies

Strategies to promote good school attendance including working with outside agencies should be briefly outlined in the policy.

As with all policies, the attendance policy should not simply be a box ticking exercise that is left to sit on a shelf. It should be a dynamic document which is updated to reflect changes in policy. It should be accessible and understood by all those that are expected to adhere to it. In short it should be used to help implement good practice and encourage excellent attendance.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Ofsted Proposals for new framework inspections (Summary & Roundup)

Ofsted Proposals for new framework inspections from January 2012

Ofsted officially released their proposals for inspection arrangements at both maintained schools and Academies today.

The words 'Governors' is mentioned just two times, once in the introduction and another on The effectiveness of leadership and management section on page 12.

The word 'Governance' is also mentioned twice, once in The effectiveness of leadership and management section summary on page 23 and another at the bottom of page 13 in relation to Ofsted considering the impact of 'Governance'

The two words 'Governing Body' fairs a little better with four mentions on sections 1, 55, 57 and 59 listed below. This is probably a little light on school governing references considering full Ofsted document is over 8,000 words long.

School Governor related sections:

Introduction: Page 4 para 6

'Of course, inspectors will continue to take account of schools’ self-evaluation, involve school leaders and governors in the inspection process and listen carefully to the views of learners, parents and staff when coming to a judgement about the school’s effectiveness. But the core of the inspection will rest on classroom observation and feedback to teachers. We will continue to make clear recommendations for the school’s improvement'

The effectiveness of leadership and management Page 12 Para 3

'26. Strong leadership creates the climate in which effective teaching and pupil achievement flourish. The current inspection framework sets a clear expectation that leadership and management should focus strongly on improving the quality of teaching and learning, and that leaders and managers at all levels in the school will be driving improvements in achievement. Governors are also expected to challenge the school and ensure that it improves. We propose to retain these as key considerations when judging the effectiveness of leadership and management.'

Sections relating to Governance

Page 13 Last para

'In addition, we propose to consider: the accuracy of the school’s self-evaluation and the use made of its findings; the appropriateness of the curriculum in helping all pupils to achieve well; the impact of governance'

Page 23 Last para

'In addition, we propose to consider: the impact of governance on school improvement'

Sections relating to Governing Body

1. The inspection framework has a strong influence on schools and we do not change it lightly. In revising the framework, we aim to improve it and ensure that it contributes more positively to school improvement. We are consulting on changes to school inspection that will be introduced in January 2012. We are seeking the views of parents, carers and pupils, teachers and head teachers, governing bodies, local authorities, faith groups, diocesan boards, employers and others who may be interested.

Schools requiring special measures

55. In some schools, the pace of improvement is too slow and this is not acceptable for the pupils who attend such schools. We propose, therefore, to shorten the time that schools are in special measures by bringing forward the first monitoring inspection to a few weeks following the inspection and increasing the frequency of subsequent monitoring inspections. This provides schools which are improving rapidly with an earlier opportunity to be removed from a category of concern. Conversely, clear indications that a school is improving only slowly, if at all, may highlight the need for governing bodies

Requests to inspect because of concerns about the school

57. Requests for inspection may relate to concerns about a school’s performance: for example, a marked decline in test and examination results or a significant deterioration in pupils’ behaviour. Such concerns may be raised by a group of parents, the local authority or, in some cases, by the governing body. In these cases, there will not be a charge for inspection. It will be for HMCI to consider the reasons for such requests, in deciding whether to inspect the school.

Requests to inspect to confirm a school’s high or improving performance

59. A good school which has improved significantly since its previous inspection may feel that there is compelling evidence that it might be judged outstanding were it to be inspected. Where a future routine inspection will not take place for another two or three years, the governing body may request an inspection so that the school has the opportunity to be judged outstanding.

Ofsted Proposals Summary

Report on the quality of the education provided by the school, giving priority to the achievement of its pupils and their behaviour and safety, the quality of teaching and the quality of leadership and management of the school

Take account of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils and the extent to which the education provided enables every pupil to achieve her or his potential, particularly disabled pupils and pupils who have special educational needs

Be more streamlined, giving greater priority to detailed observation of teaching and learning

Take particular account of pupils’ attainment and rates of progress when evaluating achievement

Focus strongly on standards of reading and numeracy in primary schools and literacy in secondary schools.

Use measures of relative progress other than contextual value-added indicators

Give more emphasis to reporting on pupils’ behaviour, with particular attention to conduct in lessons and around the school, and each pupil’s safety from bullying and harassment.

Focus more of the available inspection time on evaluating the quality of teaching and the use of assessment to support effective learning.

Evaluate how well reading is taught in primary schools and literacy is taught in secondary schools.

Judge the effectiveness of leadership and management, especially the leadership of teaching and learning.

Judge the overall effectiveness of the school by giving more weight to the quality of teaching and pupils’ achievement, their behaviour and the impact of leadership and management, including how well the school promotes the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils.

Report on the effectiveness of sixth form and early years provision within the other reporting areas rather than as separate sections.

Continue to take account of self-evaluation evidence in the form adopted by the school.

Undertake annual risk assessment of good and outstanding schools beginning three years after their latest inspection.

Stop the routine inspection of most schools judged outstanding at their last inspection.

Inspect schools previously judged as good within five years of their last inspection.

Take greater account of the views of parents and carers in deciding when a school should be inspected.

Strengthen our monitoring of satisfactory schools.

Target inspection to bring about more rapid improvement in schools judged to be inadequate.

Respond more flexibly to requests made by schools for an inspection.

The full Ofsted proposals document can be downloaded or viewed here:

Ofsted are also running an online consultation for their new proposals which ends on 20th May 2011. You can take part here:

Related Links on Ofsted Proposals

ACSL view that Parents’ views should not skew Ofsted inspections

Voice the Union Blog 'Who inspects the inspectors?'

NASUWT comments on Ofsted inspection consultation$21387875$1345015.htm

Guardian Story: Ofsted encourages parents to air concerns over children's schools

Telegraph Story: Parents will be able to direct inspectors to failing schools via a new website to be set up

BBC: Ofsted asks parents to rate schools on new website

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Additional Skills Governor Programme

Yesterday (Saturday 19th March) I attended a full day of School Governor training called the 'Additional Skills Governor Programme' run by Babcock 4S on behalf of Surrey County Council.

The programme is in it's 10th year with 91 Additional Skills Governors now available to Surrey for deployment.

There was 17 of us in the class of 2011. We were mostly Surrey school governors with one Governor from Waltham Forest.

The programme is designed to train existing school governors from effective governing bodies to help with invention in other schools which require help.

ASG can be deployed in a number of ways:

Appointment by the Authority as an additional governor to an existing governing body

Membership and/or Chair of a Temporary Governing Body(TGB) or Amalgamation Committee

Membership and/or chair of Interim Executive Board (IEB)

Mentoring a Chair of Governors

Mediation between a Head Teacher and a Chair of Governors

Observing a Governing Body and giving feedback

The training delivered by Babcock Associate Trainer Steve Barker and Surrey Governance Manager Sue Boustead focused on Local Authority powers of intervention, deployment of ASG's, Surrey's Additional Support and Intervention Programme (ASIP),the difference between temporary governing bodies (TGB)/Amalgamating Committees and Interim Executive Boards (IEB), case studies when ASG have been deployed and performance data including understanding Raise Online and CVA scores.

In the afternoon we explored our personal traits by using the Packtype self discovery programme to find out if we were hounds, guard dogs, pointers, terriers, coach dogs, mastiff's, retrievers or sheep dogs.

I found out I was a Guard Dog first, Terrier second with a hint of Mastiff third.

You can find out more about PackTypes here:

The final part of the programme explored the skill of mentoring and conscious listening to support Chairs of governors.

If you are a Surrey Governor I can really recommend taking part in next year's ASG training to become one of the class of 2012.

If you are not a Surrey governor why not ask your Local Authority Governance team to create a similar programme.

Useful Links

The School Governance (Transition from an Interim Executive Board) (England) Regulations

DfE Statutory Guidance on Schools Causing Concern

The School Governance (Federations) (England) Regulations 2007 Temporary Governing Bodies

Raise Online

Things that school leaders need to know about CVA and RAISEonline

NGA: Supporting Chairs of Governing Bodies A Framework for Action

Teachers TV Mentoring the Chair

Babcock 4S

Saturday, 19 March 2011

What is the current state of clerking?

What is the current state of clerking?

It is impossible at present to say with any degree of precision how many clerks there are. Although each governing body must appoint a clerk (and there are about 24,000 schools), a clerk may serve more than one governing body. Clerks employed by a local authority may clerk several governing bodies. There is no reliable contemporary data.

Currently the post of clerk is fulfilled by a wide range of individuals:

School staff (often the headteacher's PA) who have had the role of clerking to governing body bolted on to their existing post

Retired education professionals wanting to maintain links

Women using the post as a stepping stone to returning to full-time employment

Those needing flexible hours to fit with domestic arrangements

Parents and carers wanting to help their children's schools.

These people may be employed by a clerking service and bought in by governing bodies or recruited and employed directly by a governing body.

The quality and effectiveness of clerks depends upon:

The status they are afforded by the governing body

The quality of the relationship between the clerk and the chair

The effectiveness of the chair in leading and managing the work of the governing body

Access to and learning from high quality training

Access to regular updates and briefings.

Many school staff serving as clerks receive no training as the school is reluctant to allow them to attend during school hours and so have no clear understanding of the role they are meant to fulfil. Often they receive no job description or pay for the work they undertake in this capacity. This understandably results in a lack of priority being given to the role and a lack of enthusiasm for it. They are exposed, too, to conflict of interest: in their school role they are line-managed by the headteacher or another member of staff; in their clerking role they are supposed to be allied to the governing body. This tension can make it impossible for this category of clerk to be effective. There are also problems regarding confidentiality. Arguably this clerk has the worst of all worlds.

So the gap between where we are now and where we should be, according to the reports mentioned above, is large - though variable. In order to narrow the gap, we need to improve the training and accreditation of clerks, raise their status and pay them more – in short, to professionalise them.

All of this is in the hands of the governing body – you get the clerk you deserve and are prepared to pay for.

In the next article David Marriott will be looking at what we can do to narrow that gap between where we are now and where we should be.

This article is based on a paper shared at the Co-ordinators of Governor Services (COGS) conference 2010, It was written by David Marriott and was first published on

Friday, 18 March 2011

Effective governing bodies require trained clerks

Effective governing bodies require trained clerks

David Marriott begins a series of three articles on the importance of clerking by examining why having a professionally trained clerk is so crucial for governing bodies.

The government's White Paper The Importance of Teaching encourages schools 'to appoint trained clerks who can offer expert advice and guidance to support them'. This somewhat lukewarm recommendation follows several years of reports recognising how crucial a professional clerk is to the effectiveness of a governing body and recommending that the status of the clerk be raised accordingly.

Governing Our Schools, the report on governance by the University of Bath (October 2008) recommended that 'The status of the clerk to the governing body should be raised and the clerk should not work in the school in a different capacity to reduce the potential for conflicts of interest' and that 'Training for new governors, chairs and clerks should be compulsory'. It found that: 'The clerk has a clearly specified and important role in ensuring that the governing body performs its functions properly. The role requires a wide range of high level skills and qualities. The study's findings indicate that there is an association between the effectiveness of the clerk and the effectiveness of the governing body.'

The report also recommended that: 'All schools should have professional clerking support, shared among several schools if necessary. Greater support, training and guidance should be given to the clerks of governing bodies. An accredited training programme for clerks (which is available) should be made mandatory for all clerks.'

It recognised that 'the role of the clerk is crucial in ensuring that the governing body operates effectively, but it is not always well understood' and added: 'We believe that all governing bodies should have access to high-quality clerking, provided by trained people either from outside or within the school.' The authors likened the role of the clerk to 'the roles of Company Secretary, one of high status, requiring training and accreditation, and Clerk to the Justices. In the latter the clerk is responsible for the co-ordination of and advice on the selection of magistrates, organising and in some cases delivering training and providing expert advice on and running the administrative systems. Every school should have a trained clerk: training and accreditation for clerks should be compulsory, and their pay should be commensurate with their importance.'

The 21st Century School: Implications and Challenges for Governing Bodies - A report from the Ministerial Working Group on School Governance (2010) concluded that 'all governing bodies should be supported by trained clerks to advise and guide them in the exercise of their functions'. It found that: 'The role of the clerk to the governing body was akin to that of a clerk to a court and they were much more than mere note takers. Effective clerks to governing bodies were essential to give governors guidance on their duties; however, too many governing bodies used the school secretary or head's PA as clerk. This could create difficulties and compromise the individual's position if they had to challenge the head over a course of action that was being proposed.' It recommended that: 'The status, skills and independence of clerks to governing bodies should be raised, so that they can provide a more professional service to governing bodies.'

Any clerk or governor could be forgiven for feeling disappointed in the White Paper's feeble response to these very clear and strong arguments for the professionalisation of clerking and it seems unlikely that the Education Act will remedy the situation.

Tomorrow we ask: What is the current state of clerking?

This article is based on a paper shared at the Co-ordinators of Governor Services (COGS) conference 2010, It was written by David Marriott and was first published on

Thursday, 17 March 2011

School Governor Action checklist: Models of leadership

Action checklist: Models of leadership from National College

Use this checklist to identify suggested short and longer-term actions.

Questions Short-term actions Longer-term actions

Have we considered revising the leadership model for our school for the coming years?

Ask your local authority, and diocese if appropriate, to put you in touch with other schools operating a different leadership model and arrange a visit to share learning and understand experience.

Consider as a school whether formal or informal collaborative leadership structures would make more of your current leadership capacity and offer greater opportunities to those with leadership potential. Use the Yewlands Family of Schools case study on the Innovation Unit website to stimulate discussion.

Do we know how one of these models could help us find, develop and keep good headteachers?

Succession planning – key themes for school governors.

Have we considered the benefits, both to us and to others, of extending the responsibility of our headteacher beyond the school?

Discuss with your headteacher the benefits and opportunities for him or her to take on a role beyond the school.

Contact your local authority, and diocese if appropriate, to establish executive headship opportunities in other schools, children’s services and community organisations, and discuss with your headteacher.

Review opportunities for your headteacher to take on a role beyond the school on an annual basis – most likely as part of the performance management process.

Do we know if establishing a jobshare would help encourage interest from leaders who would otherwise not consider a full-time headship role?

Review practicalities of jobshare to understand how it might work in practice.

Diversity in Leadership – building and maintaining equality to review how you can widen the pool of headship candidates.

Consider advertising your next headship vacancy as a potential jobshare as a means of increasing the number of potential applicants.

Ensure ongoing monitoring of applications, shortlists, appointments, training, promotions and leavers to identify potential barriers to headship application or success.

Have we considered collaborating with other schools to help us build on our strengths and tackle shared challenges?

Consider whether joining forces with other local schools might help you meet some of the challenges you face (eg shared CPD programme; shared specialist human resources; broader curriculum offering) as well as offering wider development opportunities for current and potential leaders.

Ask your local authority to put you in touch with schools already in collaboration, to find out how it works; or build on any existing classroom collaborations developed by teachers.

Watch the keynote address by Simon East on The power of networking and collaboration.

Advice from the National College Action Checklist Models of Leadership for Governors

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

School improvement that will last: Planning for action

School improvement that will last

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

Planning for action

The final element in the change equation is no less vital than the others. Any changes need a well-drawn-up plan to secure the improvements desired. Good action plans should identify:

What actions are to be taken or tasks set

Who will be responsible

Start and end dates

The resources and costs involved

How success will be judged

Who is to monitor them

Who is to evaluate the effect, and how they will do this.

Among the major tools for the governing body in preparing actions are its own agendas. When the clerk, the chair and the head are preparing them they are in fact leading the governing body in what needs to be done. The aim must always be to concentrate on the governing body's key function: to ensure that all children have the best possible education, tailored to their needs, interests and aptitudes. Items on the agenda should be linked to each other, should link with other governing body meetings and committees and should link with the other monitoring activities. A good agenda will make it clear where the strategic thinking is to be done and where there is need for reflection.

Finally, bear in mind that among the most successful schools are those that are prepared to take risks, because the pace of change requires some risky living. The forward-looking governing body will create a climate in which staff are encouraged to 'go for it' but can admit if things are going wrong so that the governing body can then join forces with them to solve the problems. In too many governing bodies it feels as though difficult issues are covered up rather than confronted. In adversity some governors either behave as though they don't want to know or come down like a ton of bricks on someone they can blame. Where either response is typical, heads try to avoid telling the governors anything that might be construed as bad news and, as a consequence, any notion of accountability goes out of the window.

It is vital that governors and heads establish a feeling of being in things together. Then we all have available a collective wisdom, gleaned from both the internal and external perspectives. By joining up the different elements of our school's governance we should create a school that is not overwhelmed, feeling itself to be the victim of pressures from elsewhere, but is in control of where it is going – one that has a clear view of what is good for its pupils.

The material in this article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010, Adamson Publishing and first published on the School Governor Update from

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

School improvement that will last: Resources

School improvement that will last

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


Where resources are insufficient or badly deployed then instead of progress or change you get frustration.

Even without an economic squeeze, the amounts given to schools are not generous and require careful stewardship. Furthermore, funding does not all come in one pot; getting extra money often depends on the school making a case for it and that in turn calls for a sense of purpose and clear strategic thinking. The governing body is the normal arena for such thinking.

Since staffing takes at least 85% of the budget in most schools, it is crucial that the expenditure on this item is carefully monitored. You have a considerable range of ways of increasing the pay of individuals. However, decisions should not be made piecemeal but in the context of your school's pay policy and staffing structure. In considering these discretions, you can use information from the performance review statements, in the following ways:

Up to threshold (ie, up to the highest point on the teachers' main pay scale) teachers can expect an annual increment if their performance is satisfactory. Double increments may be awarded for exceptional performance evidenced by a performance review.

Teachers who have reached the threshold and want to move to the upper pay spine have to apply. They are assessed by their headteacher, using evidence from performance reviews. If the head decides they should be moved across the threshold, the headteacher asks the governing body to do so.
Performance also forms part of the evidence where schools are considering moving post-threshold teachers up to Excellent Teacher status, giving a Teaching and Learning Responsibility position or recommending that a teacher become an Advanced Skills Teacher.

It is usual for the governing body to give the head and senior management team a fair amount of discretion over spending, within defined boundaries that are linked to the school's priorities. When a major investment is to be made, such as in technology or a new reading scheme, this should be discussed at governor level (either full governing body or finance committee). It is appropriate for you to want to know subsequently how effective such an investment has been when it comes to judging progress.

The reason for setting a budget linked to the school development plan is to ensure that resources are targeted efficiently and effectively to maintain the quality of education provided and improve standards. Budgeting is not just about balancing the books.

Budgeting becomes linked to development planning when you ask these sorts of questions:

What do we need to do to raise the quality of our educational provision?

What is our financial provision?

What do we need to spend this year and in the future?

What are our options?

What will the budget look like in the next two years?

The material in this article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010, Adamson Publishing and first published on the School Governor Update from

Monday, 14 March 2011

School improvement that will last: Staff Incentives

School improvement that will last

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


Having got the best staff we can, how do we encourage them and keep them motivated? For, without motivation, progress will be at best gradual or sluggish, and may not be achieved at all.

The incentives available to governors range from the simple thank-you to financial rewards and promotion. Money is clearly important but it is not the only incentive, or even the most important one. When a number of teachers were asked what kept them going they stressed two things: being appreciated and having the ability to influence and exercise some control over what was happening in their school.

Appreciation costs little but it is so easy to overlook. The note that lets someone know that you have noticed their efforts and achievement can be a real encouragement. We also have a significant part to play in praising the school in public and to parents when it is deserved.

The staff of the school feel more secure and therefore more in control when they sense that the school's leadership knows where it is going and what it wants done. They want to know that the governors and the head have a grip on things and are able to keep that strategic overview, which in turn will help the managers and teachers to get on top of the detail.

Governors have specific additional responsibility for the welfare of school staff. As well as ensuring that teachers get their 10% PPA time, governors are meant to check with the school management that other measures are in place to give teachers a good work-life balance and should themselves give the headteacher the same benefit.

Incentives and skills are closely linked. Staff will be more highly motivated if they know that you are funding and supporting a properly thought-through continuing professional development programme. You will not be involved in the detailed implementation of this but you should expect regular reports from the head about the achievements, development and wellbeing of the staff, and how they are serving the process of school improvement. These are vital if you are going to monitor the performance management policy and its impact, as indeed you must.

The material in this article has been drawn from Joined-up Governance by Jane Martin and Ann Holt, revised edition 2010, Adamson Publishing and first published on the School Governor Update from

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Headteacher Appointment Process - A Summary

Please remember that when appointing a headteacher, the serving headteacher should take no part, even if they are still in post. There must be a full governing body meeting that starts the process. This enables all governors to have a say on the type of person, specific requirements, characteristics, experience etc. that they believe their school needs. This is their statutory right. The LA representative will be present in an advisory capacity at this meeting and must be invited to attend. This officer is representing the Local Authority who similarly has a right to be present at all parts of the process, in order to advise. The officer does not have decision making powers but is there in an advisory capacity.

There must be a properly called (at least 7 days notice) and clerked full Governing Body meeting to ratify the panel's selection. This is usually on the evening of the interviews. If the meeting is not quorate, the selection cannot be ratified. The candidate must not be offered the post if the selection is not properly ratified. The purpose of the meeting is for the full Governing Body to formally approve the recommendation of the selection panel. This is usually a short affair but allows those governors not on the selection panel to ask questions about the process, to ensure it has not been flawed. For example, to ensure that equality and diversity requirements have been adhered to or that no candidate has been advantaged or disadvantaged and so on. This is particularly important when there is an internal candidate.

The Governing Body must ensure that at least one member of the selection panel has successfully completed the NCSL's (now CWDC's) on-line safer recruitment training or has attended the accredited LA face-to-face training. This is mandatory and failure to have done so would alone be sufficient to declare the process invalid and flawed. It is the one appointment where the Headteacher having done the training is not applicable, so it is crucial that at least one governor has achieved this. The DfE has a log of schools that have a governor trained through the on-line training, as does the LA for the face- to-face training.

It is understandable that Governing Bodies sometimes find themselves in a very tight timescale because of resignation deadlines, however, please remember that this appointment is probably the most important thing you will ever do as a governor for your school. Taking short cuts often leads to problems later. Our advice regarding timescales is as follows:

From advert to closing date - allow 2 weeks. This is usually a TES advert on-line and in the paper on the Friday, closing 2 weeks later (but allowing for Monday's morning post).

• There should be 10 working days between short listing and the
interview dates to allow for Letters of Representation to be sent to other LAs and the replies to be received. This activity is a statutory duty placed on all LAs and must not be undervalued.

At the same time references can be collected. Under the new Bichard requirements we should not consider appointing any candidate without signed, dated references on headed note paper.

• Allow two clear days from closing to allow the administration (photocopying of applications and packaging) to take place. Therefore, the earliest that applications can be collected for distribution to the selection panel is late afternoon on the Tuesday.

• In order that every member of the selection panel has an opportunity to read and evaluate each application, short listing cannot take place any earlier than the Thursday after a Friday closing.

• After the ratification has taken place, the CoG is able to make a verbal offer to the selected candidate. This should only ever be made "subject to satisfactory checks being undertaken". If letters of representation or the required number of references have not been received, this should also be "subject to.."

Advice Written by Pam Reynolds School Link Officer, Governor Support Calderdale and featured in their 2010 Summer Newsletter

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The role of school governors in extended services

What are extended services?

All schools are expected to provide access to a ‘core offer’ of extended services – and governing bodies have an important role to play in making sure these services are designed to meet the needs of children, young people, families and the community.

Extended services can help you deliver the vision for your school and your school cluster. They increase the school’s capacity to meet children’s needs and can be a powerful mechanism for improving life chances. Extended services are a key building block for the Government’s vision of a 21st century school that develops the talents of all children and young people and equips them for the future. This will support further integration of extended services, high-quality teaching and learning, a skilled workforce and effective partnership working.

The core offer comprises:

• a varied menu of activities (including study support and play) plus childcare in primary schools

• swift and easy access to targeted and specialist services

• parenting support to help them engage with their children’s learning, and

• community access to facilities such as playing fields, sports halls and ICT suites.

The role of school governors

Governing bodies must ensure that extended services help to promote high standards of education. The schools that see the greatest benefit are those that ensure extended services have explicit objectives that are linked to the school improvement plans and pupils’ learning needs – for example, improving literacy,communication skills, confidence and team working. Provision is often most effective when targeted to particular groups of pupils to achieve specific outcomes and planned across a locality where possible. Appropriate governance arrangements are an essential element of setting up extended services.

More information from

Friday, 11 March 2011

Schools Financial Value Standard (SFVS)


The Department of Education is now consulting on a new standard called Schools Financial Value Standard(SFVS)which is planned to replace FMSiS. The consultation ends on 30th April 2011 with the first run through of SFVS questions by Governing Bodies expected before September 2012; or in the case of schools which had not attained the Financial Management Standard in Schools (FMSiS) before the end of March 2012.

It does certainly seem a lot lighter touch than FMSiS which can't be a bad thing!

There is no prescription of the level of evidence or assurance that the governing body should require: the important thing is that they should be in a position to feel confident about their answers. The governing body may wish to delegate the consideration of the questions to a Finance/Resources Committee or similar; but the chair of governors must sign the completed form. There should be at least a minuted report to the full governing body.

Each question requires an answer of Yes, In Part, or No. Where the answer is In Part or No, the column for comments, evidence and proposed actions should be used to enter a very brief summary of the position and proposed remedial action. Where the answer is Yes, the column should be used to indicate the main evidence on which the governing body based its conclusions.

The standard will not be formally assessed like FMSiS. However, a copy of each signed record must be sent to the local authority’s finance department, where it will be used to inform the programme of financial assessment and audit.

The questions which form the standard are divided into five sections.


A: The Governing Body

1. In the view of the Governing Body itself and of senior staff, does the Governing Body have adequate financial competence among its members to fulfil its role of challenge and support in the field of budget management?

2. Does the Governing Body have a Finance Committee (or equivalent) with clear terms of reference and a knowledgeable and experienced chair?

3. Is there a clear definition of the relative responsibilities of the Governing Body and of the school staff in the financial field?

4. Does the Governing Body receive adequate monitoring reports of the school’s budget position on at least a termly basis?

5. Are business interests of Governing Body members (and senior staff) properly registered and taken into account so as to avoid conflicts of interest?

B: The School Staff

6. Does the staff include people who between them supply the school with an adequate level of financial competence?

7. Does the school have adequate arrangements to cope with the absence of specialist finance staff, eg on sick leave?

8. Does the school have policies and mechanisms for deploying the staff of the school to best effect in view of their talents and competencies and the needs of the school?

9. Does the school review its staffing structure regularly?

C: Setting the Budget

10. Is there a clear and demonstrable link between the school’s budgeting and its plan for raising standards and attainment?

11. Does the school make a forward projection of budget, including both revenue and capital funds, for at least three years, using the best available information?

12. Does the school set a well-informed and balanced budget each year (with an agreed and timed plan for eliminating any deficit)?

13. Is end year outturn in line with budget projections, or if not, is the Governing Body alerted to significant variations in a timely manner, and do they result from genuinely unforeseeable circumstances?

D: Value for Money

14. Does the school regularly benchmark its expenditure against that of similar schools and investigate further where any category of spend appears to be high?

15. Does the school have procedures for purchasing goods and services that both meet legal requirements and secure value for money?

16. Are balances at a reasonable level and does the school have a clear plan for using the money it plans to hold in balances at the end of each year?

17. Does the school maintain its premises and other assets to an adequate standard to avoid future urgent need for replacement?

18. Does the school consider collaboration with others, eg on sharing staff or joint purchasing, where that would improve value for money?

19. Can the school give examples of where it has improved the use of resources during the past year?

E: Protecting Public Money

20. Is the Governing Body sure that there are no outstanding matters from audit reports or from previous consideration of weaknesses by the Governing Body?

21. Are there adequate arrangements in place to guard against fraud by staff, contractors and suppliers (please note any instance of fraud detected in the last 12 months)?

22. Are all staff aware of the school’s whistleblowing policy and to whom they should report concerns?

23. Does the school have an accounting system that is adequate and properly run and delivers accurate reports, including the annual Consistent Financial Reporting return?

24. Does the school have adequate arrangements for audit of voluntary funds?

25. Does the school have an appropriate business continuity or disaster recovery plan, including an up-to-date asset register and adequate insurance?

More information including the Consultation questions, the draft standard and some sample questions can be found linked below:

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Department of Education Updates School Governance Information

After a lengthy wait and said by many to be long overdue, the Department of Education has finally updated some sections of School Governance information yesterday (9th March) the day of the publication of the SEN Green Paper.

The following sections have been updated on website:

Governor support and resources

Specific roles within the governing body

Parent governor representatives

Taking the chair

National Training Programme for New Governors: Workbook

National Training Programme for New Governors: Toolkit for trainers

National Training Programme for New Governors

National Training Programme for Clerks

Leading together

A handbook for new school governors

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Summary of Special Educational Needs (SEN) Green Paper & links

School Governors are mentioned 15 times in the SEN Green Paper and Governing Bodies just 3 times. Not bad you might think but the Green Paper is a whooping 134 pages long with 56,489 words so 18 mentions is a very small proportion that is dedicated to what role governors play in SEN provision.

The main paragraph talking about School Governors is section 3.23 reproduced below:

"School Governors are vitally important in improving outcomes for children with SEN. Many good schools have dedicated SEN Governors whose remit is to ensure that the school is held to account for improving outcomes for pupils with SEN or disabled pupils. In The Importance of Teaching, we set out the key questions that Governors should ask, including how schools can raise standards for children with SEN. We will ensure that Governors have more data so that they can provide effective support and challenge to schools, holding them to account for the progress of pupils with SEN. The National College will also provide high quality training for the chairs of Governing bodies to ensure that they can carry out their role effectively."

A Summary to what has changed:

SEN Statements will be replaced by a new single assessment process and a combined ‘education, care and health’ plan

Parents will be given their own budgets by 2014, giving them control over their child’s funding

Assessment plans will run from birth to 25 years old

Outside organisations will be able to bid to run Every Child A Talker, Every Child A Readers and Every Child Counts programmes.

Phonics-based training will be offered to children who need extra help in reading SEN specialists will contribute to work developing the reading test for six-year-olds to identify children who need extra support.

Download the SEN Green Paper

SEN Green Paper Presentation

Sarah Teather's letter to HT's & chairs of governors introducing them to the SEN & Disability Green Paper

Response to Green Paper from Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA)

Initial National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) analysis of SEN Green Paper

NDCS highlights gap between Government’s SEN policy and local action

Take part in the Department of Education Online Consultation which close on 30th June 2011

SEN Green Paper views in the News & Press Releases

Nursery World Coverage

Education Investor

Children and Young People Now

BBC Video of MP Sarah Teather

NUT comment on SEN Green Paper$21387669$1343025.htm

NASUWT comments on the special needs green paper$21387674$1345015.htm

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Family Relationships on Governing Bodies

The LA is often asked about the rules on more than one member of the same family serving on a governing body. Although there is no regulation that prohibits this, there is plenty of evidence that it creates problems. Husbands, wives or partners have been known to take it in turns to attend meetings so the full governing body was never present! That is the least damaging - there is lots of evidence of much more serious manipulation that I am unwilling to put into print.

The same applies to School governors and staff family relationships. Imagine a Governor who is married to a member of staff. The "what sort of a day have you had darling?" takes on a whole new perspective in terms of confidentiality, what is the business of the governing body and what not, conflicts of interest and so on.

I could also give examples of where this is not a problem at all and this is great but rare.

So, our advice is that such situations should be avoided if at all possible. We are not saying that the current situation must change (so no resignations) but we are saying that it should be rectified at the earliest opportunity, for example, the governor's end of term of office.

Advice by Pam Reynolds who is the School Link Officer, Governor Support for Calderdale

Monday, 7 March 2011

School Policies - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Policies - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The whole area of policies – which ones you need to have, how frequently to review them, etc can seem like a minefield! Here are some frequently asked questions which may answer some of your queries.

1. Why do we have policies?

A number of policies are required by law. (see next question)
Aside from this requirement it actually makes sense to have an agreed approach to an issue, and done well a set of policies provides the framework in which a school can operate effectively with due regard to fairness and equality of opportunity.

2. Which statutory policies do we need?

A full list of the current statutory policies is in The Guide to the Law for School Governors and can be found at the back in Annex 2.

3. We need a new policy. Where can we get a model policy to use as a guide?

An excellent resource book is available called ‘Policies: A Guide for School Governors and Headteachers’. This comes with a range of sample policies and includes a CD with the policies to enable you to use them. This publication can be purchased from Adamson Publishing Ltd.

4. How often do we need to review policies?

There are few hard and fast rules on how frequently policies should be reviewed, but best practice would be every one to three years unless otherwise dictated by the FGB or by changes in legislation.

5. Who should review policies?

Usually the job of reviewing a policy would fall to a committee, and this should be reflected in the committee’s terms of reference. Once a committee has agreed a policy it should then be recommended to the full governing body for approval. Many of the policies in school eg policies on individual subjects in the curriculum are usually developed and reviewed by the Headteacher and staff.

6. Does the full governing body have to approve all policies?

Unless specifically delegated to a committee, the governing body should approve all the statutory policies listed in the Guide to the Law and any others that affect the strategic direction of the school.

Other policies eg those to do with specific areas of the curriculum, would normally be presented to the appropriate committee, agreed by them and just reported to the governing body.

7. How do we go about reviewing policies?

The full governing body (FGB) should establish a system of regular reporting by whoever is responsible for implementing the policy in question. Some policies come up for review in the course of the annual cycle of the school development plan and budget. Others may need reviewing as a result of statutory changes.

When reading about developments in education eg in Clerks’ briefing papers or other sources, Governors and Clerks should be mindful of the possible impact on the currency of school policies.

In reviewing a policy, the FGB or relevant committee should consider whom, apart from the head, it should consult before reaching a decision. It is good practice for those involved in writing a policy to be consulted when it is subsequently reviewed.

8. It’s difficult keeping track of which policies need reviewing and when! Any suggestions?

One suggestion would be to split your list of policies for review into terms and have a rolling programme of policies to be reviewed each term. Have a table listing each term’s policies, who needs to review it, if any changes are required, if these have been implemented, etc. You can then keep track of what has happened to each policy. Each year create a fresh table for each term and you will have an ongoing record of what was reviewed and when.

9. Why doesn’t the local authority provide us with model policies for all the ones we need to have?

The LA does provide many model policies for schools to adopt where appropriate eg a model complaints policy for schools. However ‘off the peg’ policies that can be rubber stamped and filed away are not ideal because the governing body must take ownership of what the policies say and understand the implications of implementing them.

The discussion involved in the development of a policy is valuable and can bring up other factors that need to be addressed and included. Each school is individual and it is important to tailor policies to your school.

10 The list of policies always seems to get longer and longer. Can we ever dispense with policies?

As part of the review process governors should take an overview and consider whether there is a continuing need for some policies. In some cases it may be possible to combine policies into one. For example it is quite common to combine the Race Equality Policy, the Gender Equality Policy and the Disabilty Equality

Policy into an Equal Opportunities Policy. In this case you do need to make sure that the statutory sections are clearly identified. Similarly all aspects of Child Protection can be included as sections in a Safeguarding Policy.

Questioning the need for a policy should form part of the review process.

11 Do all policies have to be in the same format?

The short answer is no but a consistent format will make them more accessible to everyone. This does not have to be done all at one time, but perhaps as each is reviewed.

Another useful resource is:

Writing a Policy How to make your policies: clear, concise, consistent.

Published by the NAHT

This advice was produced by Bracknell Forest Council for their School Governors

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Procedures for Dealing With a Complaint Against a Governor

The following approach is recommended to governing bodies for complaints against a School Governor.

It should be noted that a school governor must be disqualified if one of the disqualification criteria

Recommended approach

1. Informal stage

The Chairman of Governors to discuss the difficulty or dispute with the governor concerned
and, if possible, resolve the issue with whatever guidance, warning or rebuke is necessary.
If the issue has not been resolved informally, or is thought to be sufficiently serious that the
informal stage is inappropriate….

2. Formal stage

a) The Chairman of Governors should seek information in writing from the governor about
the difficulty or dispute and the reasons for it. The governor should be given an
opportunity to respond in writing to any allegation. The issue may be able to be closed at
this point, with guidance, a warning or rebuke, either orally or in writing depending on the
seriousness of the issue.

b) If the Chairman of Governors is not satisfied with the response, then an investigation
should be held. The Chairman of Governors should appoint an Investigating Officer.
This should be someone impartial and not involved in the difficulty or dispute in any way;
it could be a member of staff or another governor, but need not be anyone associated
with the school.

c) The Investigating Officer to investigate the issue, taking evidence from ALL interested
parties. As interviews are likely to be a part of this process another person should
accompany the Investigating Officer. The investigation should be documented in full,
including notes of interviews that should be checked back for accuracy with the
interviewee. If a child is involved, the child should not be interviewed without a
parent/carer also being present.

d) The Investigating Officer should report back in writing to the Chairman of Governors.

e) The Chairman of Governors to decide on the appropriate course of action. This could be:

(i) guidance, warning or rebuke, either orally or in writing depending on the
seriousness of the issue.

(ii) Recommend to the governing body suspension for a period of up to six
months. Suspension can only be made if one or more of four grounds apply

Any motion to suspend must be specified as an agenda item of a governing body meeting for which at least seven days notice has been given. Before the governing body votes to suspend the governor, the governor proposing the suspension must give their reasons for the suspension. The governor who is proposed for suspension must be given the opportunity to make a statement in response before s/he withdraws from the meeting and a vote is taken. The DfE state that a vote to suspend should only be taken as a last resort.

Taken from Advice on Bracknell Forrest School Governor pages

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Why is 'staying strategic' important?

Why is 'staying strategic' important?

School governors' main role is as part of the school's strategic management team, accountable to the community that the school serves for its overall performance. It is the headteacher who is accountable - to the Governing Body - for the day-to-day running of the school.

Separating 'strategic' from 'day-to-day' is important for two main reasons: confusion and ambiguity about who runs an organisation is often damaging, tending to lower staff morale and'customer satisfaction';

School governors must avoid involvement with matters that could come to them on appeal. (Someone who has raised an issue with school can appeal to the Governing Body if dissatisfied with the outcome.)

Elected governors (staff and parents) always have a day-to-day connection with the school and perhaps, therefore, have more of a challenge in avoiding being drawn inappropriately into day-to-day issues.

Tips to help with 'staying strategic' - these apply equally to all governors:

Focus, as a governor, on dealing with matters of policy, principle, high-level planning and associated documentation: the so-called 'helicopter view'. You should generally be looking outward from school and forward in time, helping to drive improvement in the school service in whatever circumstances you foresee.

If you become aware of a groundswell of opinion among stakeholders on a topic, positive or negative, it may be helpful to informally let the headteacher know.

Promote use of the agreed suggestions / complaints / grievances procedures: avoid promising to 'solve a problem' or bringing individual's issues to the Governing Body.

You are strongly encouraged to visit the school to maintain contact and gather information on the progress of plans and application of policies. Visits are learning opportunities that assist you with informed decision-making, and are also opportunities to emphasise your strategic role. (Visits should always be pre-arranged as part of a plan and protocol, and any queries arising should be raised informally with the headteacher.)

Taken from Advice on Birmingham City Website For School Governors