Thursday, 30 June 2011

Who Governs the Governors: Remuneration


In the current challenging economic environment, the creation of payment for positions currently unpaid may appear to be unwise.

However, we believe that schools should consider whether, in common with registered housing providers and other public bodies, some form of payment may be applicable to reflect the contribution made by governors and their commitment in terms of time.

With smaller boards, the costs could be lower. Introducing remuneration may also serve to increase the diversity in terms of background, age and gender. It would provide compensation for board members who may otherwise have to forgo work or fund child care in order to enable them to attend board meetings and associated events.

At the very least, we believe that individual schools or groups of schools should consider what is best for them. Chairs, in particular, will often spend the equivalent of 10-15 working days for no remuneration and boards may consider whether payment may be appropriate for chairs if not for board members. Parents may be engaged in the process of making this decision and voting on such a change to either of these changes.

In comparison, the reform of housing association boards will increase “the time requirement for [housing association] board members” and their stance on remuneration is that “payment, whether it’s right or wrong, establishes an enforceable commitment – you are being paid to do something.”

A full copy of the report can be found here

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Who Governs the Governors: Corporate comparisons

Corporate comparisons:a model to emulate?

We suggest that the corporate model of executive and non-executive boards would be a good one for school governing bodies to consider emulating. The governors must set the strategy and vision for the school. Executive members seem best placed to formulate a strategy for arriving at a given objective however it is our belief that often they do not have enough educational experience to know best how to achieve this vision.

The Eversheds Board Report (2011) highlighted the role of the chair as being fundamental to the board’s success. An effective chair will enable constructive,strategic thinking.

Whereas most corporate boards will be composed of a majority of non executives,this is clearly not the case with charities and independent schools. Nonetheless, in each case there is usually a qualified finance professional as the Chair of the Audit of Finance Committee. This category will invariably be combined with the others, although it may also provide diversity in terms of wider background, profession and careers (such as the arts, heritage, sport or politics).

Many governing bodies, in common with corporate boards, will have fixed terms, renewable for a further term or two. Schools may consider that this enables them to refresh the boards whilst retaining continuity of knowledge. Since many Heads will serve for more than ten years, there may be a case for an exception on governing bodies by having one or more “senior independent” governors who may be entitled to have a longer term to ensure continuity and corporate knowledge.

“[In the state sector,] many of the most successful schools have smaller governing bodies with individuals drawn from a wide range of people rooted in the community, such as parents, businesses, local government and the voluntary sector… We will legislate in the forthcoming Education Bill so that all schools can establish smaller governing bodies with appointments
primarily focused on skills.”

A full copy of the report can be found here

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Who Governs the Governors: What can the state sector learn from the independent sector?

What can the state sector learn from the independent sector?

Comparisons between the state and independent sector should not be made too closely, since the size and scale of the former provision is much greater, more complex and the challenges are, overall, greater. However, there may be some useful lessons to be learnt in terms of governance which may be applied in some state schools
Earlier research into the governing bodies of 100 leading independent schools in 2008 sought to establish their composition, typical size and diversity and background. These are the key findings:

Size and diversity

1. The average number of governors is 21.

2. There are, however, significant variations which are not always based on the size of school in terms of pupil numbers.

3. The gender balance amongst governing bodies varied, to some degree, according to the type of school.

4. Of the 34 girls’ schools considered, only 10 had a majority of female governors.

5. Of the 23 boys schools, all had a male majority governing body, with only Trinity School Croydon (part of the Whitgift Foundation) having equal numbers of male and female governors.

6. The coeducational schools considered varied in terms of whether or not they are fully coeducational and whether or not their status changed in recent years (several were previously all boys). Nonetheless, all those considered had a majority of male governors.

A full copy of the report can be found here

Monday, 27 June 2011

Who Governs the Governors: Recruitment


“In order to ensure that governing bodies have the necessary skills and the independence to perform their function effectively, the routes by which governors are recruited need to be reviewed and improved. This will increase the number of skilled volunteers and help avoid the position where the head teacher has to “twist arms” to recruit sufficient governors who then find themselves having to scrutinise the head teacher’s performance, potentially
compromising their independence.

Governing our Schools – A report by Bob Wigley and Business in the Community

If we accept the common sense and logic of this approach, what is the mechanism for attracting the best governors into schools?

• We suggest the recruitment process should be set more fully in the public domain, to allow for increased transparency and diversity. The current model for candidates wishing to become governors is through the Public Appointments vacancies database or through word of mouth. We regard this course as too reactive and unresponsive.

• We would argue the need for a national database to which both candidates and schools have access through a password protected scheme, and which can match the two appropriately. This could be provided through a commercial education business and would enable candidates to update their profiles at any time and for schools to search by skills, location and experience. This would enable chairs and nominations committees to draw up their own shortlists of candidates for vacancies quickly and efficiently through an annual subscription.

At the same time, vacancies could be emailed to candidates directly and advertised.

• A national advertising campaign could also be provided to support the above, such as earlier successful campaigns to recruit new teachers.

• Headhunting for specific skills needed may also be an option which individual schools may wish to consider when advertising fails to generate the quality of candidates needed.

Alongside this, we suggest campaigns to increase awareness of this new form of recruitment and raise the profile and opportunities of becoming a school governor as a valuable non executive opportunity alongside a full time role or within a non executive and trustee portfolio.

A full copy of the report can be found here

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Who Governs the Governors: Accountability and sanctions

At the end of May, Neil Carmichael MP and Edward Wild published a report called 'Who Governs the Governors'

Accountability and sanctions

We need a more structured, systematic approach to internal auditing. The head and governing body must work together to deliver on set targets – both qualitative and quantitative.

The Schools White Paper highlights: “[there is a] need to make it easier for parents and the public to hold schools to account.

In the past, too much information has been unavailable to parents, too difficult to find or not presented comprehensibly.”

We want parents to be able to make a more informed choice about the schools they choose and the opportunity to ensure that it meets their expectations.

This will be a move away from nationally regulated provision of education; we are now looking toward local solutions and services for local communities. Information about the education services provided must become more easily available:

Furthermore, the board needs to become adept at self-evaluation and review, particularly if members are elected by virtue of their skills set rather than through a representative structure. Boards should become self-regulatory with an external eye.

‘Accountability for performance’ is a key aspect of the Policy Exchange’s paper

‘Blocking the Best – Obstacles to new independent schools’11, which highlights increasing “[a] fair and rigorous framework for monitoring educational standards and holding schools to account for their performance [as] an essential component of a successful education system”. This must be flexible enough to allow for innovation, which will be a complex but crucial balance to strike.

We would argue that in the event that a governing body demonstrably fails to deliver its obligations to the staff and pupils, then mechanisms put in place should give the majority of parents the opportunity to vote to force a resignation of chair or – in extreme cases – full boards.

Failing boards may have an even more detrimental impact on schools than failing teachers by their inability or unwillingness to take decisive action. This situation should be changed and the opportunities which the White Paper presents should be seized by forward looking schools.

A full copy of the report can be found here

Saturday, 25 June 2011

School Governing Body Meetings and Audio/Video Conferencing

School Governors who are often away on business and cannot attend meetings often ask whether they can participate through video or telephone conferencing.

The Department for Education (DfE) states ‘unless the governing body applies to the DfE to experiment with video/telephone conferencing, skype etc, the normal rules apply.

In other words, if the governor is not present at the meeting, they have no vote and they do not count towards the quorum.

If only one governor needs to join via audio or video conferencing then this probably doesn't present a huge problem as long as the governing body is quorate and the school governor attending via video conferencing understands they can nor take part in any votes.

One example of this recently blogged on gave an example of a School Governor attending Governing Body meeting via Skype from New Zealand.

If the whole governing body wanted to meet via video or audio conferencing then they would need to apply for permission to the Department of Education.

One example of a Community school governing body being granted permission to use Video Conferencing is Monkseaton Community High School in North Tyneside

They have an order granted in March 2009 which exempts the governing body of Monkseaton Community High School from certain requirements contained in the School Governance Procedures (England) Regulations, the Order relaxes the requirement for all governors to be physically present at governing body meetings, and allows the use of technology such as e-voting and video conferencing when making governing body decisions. The governing body have previously found that this relaxation has helped attract new parent and corporate governors to the school, and has helped ensure all governors can play a full role in the effective management of the school. The 2009 Order was made for three years and must be renewed every three years.

Link to the order:

Academies Act

However, If you are a governor of an Academy you can participate in meetings by telephone/video conferencing provided you give:

. 48 hrs notice and contact details

. you have access to appropriate equipment

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

Friday, 24 June 2011

E-Mail Protocol for School Governors

There are often concerns raised by School governors and headteachers regarding the inappropriate use of e-mail in the context of conducting the work of the governing body.

As the governing body is a corporate body then all decisions should be taken in an open and transparent manner,utilising the processes defined in the governing body’s terms of reference.

Although e-mail is excellent tool to distribute agendas and papers for meetings using it to make decisions outside of the meeting process nor to rally support for a particular initiative is questionable to say the least.

It is suggested that governing bodies might like to discuss which topics are appropriate for communication by e-mail, and this would probably include the review of policies.


• Is e-mail the correct medium for what you want to say? Might it be better to talk on the phone or even face to face?

• Write concisely and get to the point. As with any written communication – re-read before sending. A common criticism of e-mail is that it can be abrupt in tone – how will your email be received do you think?

• Never discuss performance appraisal or competency concerns via e-mail

• Complex issues should be discussed at meetings in order that all concerned have an opportunity to influence the outcome

• Do not use e-mail as an opportunity to vent your frustration when things are not going well!

This is based on an article in Surrey Governor by the Governance Manager as a gentle reminder to school governors to consider whether to e-mail or pick up the telephone or even call a meeting.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

School governors and social media

School governors and social media
by julia Bramble based on a shortened version of her blog article.

[I have been] thinking about the two roles I undertake, I was struck by the simplicity of the similarity between the two. Basically, being a school governor and being a social media manager have one theme that links them – the need to engage. In using social media for promoting a business, rule no. 1 is to engage with customers and potential customers – reach out to them and engage. And what do we increasingly need to do as school governors? Well – engage! We need to engage with the local community so that it supports the work of our school and we need to engage with parents and carers as they provide us with our customers – the pupils! As governors we need to ask questions, listen to the answers and be active in the conversations that ensue, just as we would on facebook and twitter. We need our parents/ carers on board as we know that children whose parents/ carers have an involvement with the school on the whole progress further than those with parents/ carers who don’t. And isn’t the same true in business? Are you not more likely to get repeated custom from a customer with whom you have online conversations, or at least share updates with, than from one you have no connection with? It’s probably indicative of how life in general is now but at least it makes it easier for me just to have one message – engage!

Learning Pool What is Social Media?

Modern Governor What is twitter?

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

ICT School Governor

ICT School Governor
The ICT Governor

Many Local Authorities and Schools still consider it to be "best practice" to appoint an ICT governor to be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the school's ICT policy. The former British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) previously outlined the following strands for the role of an ICT governor:

To consider funding and training requirements to meet ICT targets.

To contribute to the formulation of the ICT policy and plan.

To co-ordinate the ICT plan across the curriculum.

To co-ordinate the ICT plan for administration with the curriculum plan.

To monitor legal requirements for ICT.

To monitor the development of ICT as a curriculum subject.

To realise the potential of ICT as a resource for governors.

A Framework for the ICT Governor

In consultation with the headteacher, the governor with responsibility for ICT should, ensure that:

All staff are adequately trained to use ICT to enhance teaching and learning and that they make effective use of the resources available.

The school receives value for money in its negotiations with ICT contractors for hardware, software, training and maintenance.

The ICT policy is implemented effectively and takes on board any new government initiatives or policy.

All avenues for further funding for ICT are explored.

School Governors should be aware of the future plans for ICT development in the school. More than any other subject, the ICT hardware provision relies heavily on a vision of future technologies.

Some questions for ICT Governors to ask

Where do we see the ICT provision in the next five years? (A hardware plan is a vital document to determine the amount of money allocated for ICT provision).

What provision is made for ICT in the School Development Plan?

How are computers to be accessed by the children? Is there space for a suite of computers or if not, how are they to fit into the classroom area?

Are the computers networked? If so, how are these managed and what is the provision for technical support?

How are new technologies to be introduced, e.g. multimedia projectors, interactive whiteboards, video-conferring, Ipads, Tablets, laptops etc? (As schools take on board more advanced technology it is important that governors evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of ICT resourcing across the curriculum).

What controls are there on pupil access to inappropriate Internet sites?

Some further points

At a curriculum level, a governor with responsibility for ICT should be familiar with the ICT policy including the school's position on Internet access and Esafety.

School Governors should be aware that ICT could be used to enhance teaching and learning across all subjects, in addition to the strands within the ICT curriculum, and that it can effectively support children with special educational needs.

As staff undertake training there should be evidence that ICT is being used effectively for subject areas.

For management purposes governors should encourage and support staff on the hardware and software applications to be used to improve efficiency and reduce costs in school administration, and should act as a "critical friend".

Based on advice from Thurrock Council

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Teachers Strike 30th June Advice for Governing Bodies

On 14th June Members of the NUT & ATL voted to strike for one day on 30th June

The NUT FAQ on Industrial Action can be found below

The ATL FAQ on Industrial Action can be found below

The Law

Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992

Employment Relations Act 2004

Test Legal Case why Pay Deductions are calculated at 1/365th instead of 1/195th

The Unions are required to give notice to employers which could be the Local Authority or a Trust for Foundations and Academies.

School Governors are piggy in the middle yet again between Government reforms, the local authority employers and the teachers.

Some Advice from the LGG

Advice for Governing Bodies from Local Authorities

Advice from Surrey County Council can be found here

Advice from Suffolk County Council can be found here

Advice from West Sussex Council can be found here

Advice from Staffs can be found here

Advice from Norfolk can be found here

Norfolk Industrial Action FAQ here

NGA National Governors Association Advice on Industrial Action'%20Pensions%20industrial%20Action.aspx You need to be a NGA member to login to access this link

Department of Education Emergency Planning Advice

Michael Gove Letter to Local Authorities

Michael Gove Letter to Head Teachers and copied to Chair of Governors

Michael Gove Letter to Academies

More Resources

Advice from the National Employers’ Organisation for School Teachers (NEOST)

Clerk to Governor Blog Advice

What will the other unions do?

NAHT Story in TES that Headteachers will be balloted for industrial action

The Voice Union and their No Strike principle

NASUWT Decision to wait for outcome of negotiations before taking action

I have started two forum threads on the subject on both UKGovernors.Org.UK and Linkedin UK School Governors Group which you might want to join in on. I am also interested to hear any other advice you have received from your Local Authority or Governor Association.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Professionalisation of Clerking: Enhanced powers and responsibilities

Enhanced powers and responsibilities

The role of the clerk should be expanded significantly, taking on some of the responsibilities and powers currently invested in governing bodies. In short, these are:

Ensure accountability

The clerk could become the governing body's lead officer for ensuring proper, clear and regular accountability with specific responsibilities for:

Collecting and collating relevant data

Ensuring that governors regularly self-assess their performance of accountabilities

Writing and publishing an annual report.

Lead communication role

Without diminishing the role of the chair, the clerk could become the recognised gatekeeper and gateway of all communications to, between and from governors, ensuring efficiency, effectiveness and consistency.

Ensure statutory responsibilities are met

As the main legal adviser to the governors, the clerk could ensure and report annually on governors' fulfilment of their statutory responsibilities.

Shaping the agenda

The clerk's responsibility for shaping an agenda in partnership with the chair and headteacher should be enhanced to make the clerk the lead officer for constructing and publishing the agenda, including statutory and strategic items which he or she knows to be essential. The clerk could also take responsibility for ensuring that agendas are relevant, purposeful, reflective of governors' three key roles (especially the strategic role) and capable of being dealt with adequately in the time allowed.

Increased powers

The clerk could be given the power to:

disqualify governors

recruit and appoint community governors

deny papers and decisions if not compliant with regulatory requirements

receive complaints and ensure process followed

appoint appeals panels for staff dismissal and pupil exclusion.

Performance management

The clerk's accountability would continue to be to the governing body. The chair of governors should manage the clerk's performance annually, in the same way that governors manage the head's performance.

This article is based on a paper shared at the Co-ordinators of Governor Services (COGS) conference 2010.

Written by: David Marriott

About the author

David Marriott is an education consultant specialising in governance and school leadership.

Taken from School Governor Update

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Professionalisation of Clerking: Addressing accountability

Benefits to governing bodies and schools

Enhanced status, powers and responsibilities for clerks to governing bodies would provide the following direct benefits to governing bodies and schools:

Free governing bodies and headteachers from areas that sap time and energy and which divert them from the strategic agenda.

Clarification of communication routes.

A neutral bridge between schools and their communities.

Governing bodies employing clerks meeting nationally agreed standards could be confident that they had the professional support and guidance needed to fulfil their hugely significant but nevertheless volunteer role.

Headteachers would be relieved of the burden of trying to guide less effective governing bodies and/or provide clerks from their staffing complement.

Removal of conflict of interests: clerks employed at the school in other roles are often under pressure from other staff to disclose confidential information.

If implemented these proposals would need to be underpinned by clearly defined national criteria and a statutory requirement for accreditation and training for clerks to governing bodies. Clerks could continue to be appointed by governing bodies through most of the existing wide range of paths.

This article is based on a paper shared at the Co-ordinators of Governor Services (COGS) conference 2010.

Written by: David Marriott

About the author

David Marriott is an education consultant specialising in governance and school leadership.

Taken from School Governor Update

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Professionalisation of Clerking: Enhanced status

Enhanced status

Enhancing the status of clerks has the potential to transform the way governing bodies work and maximise their impact on school effectiveness. Shifting important responsibilities from the volunteer group to a professional postholder will allow governing bodies to focus on their strategic and scrutiny roles.

The clerk would continue to serve the governing body but would have clear responsibilities and independent decision-making powers designed to ensure governing body accountability and effectiveness.

Ofsted criteria for judging governing body effectiveness have made the need for trained clerks more explicit. In tandem with the introduction of enhanced status of clerks, should be training requirements so that expectations are detailed and standards consistent.

The introduction of a nationally recognised qualification with set standards, allied to those required of company secretaries, would provide clerks with high-level transferable skills and a career path.

This article is based on a paper shared at the Co-ordinators of Governor Services (COGS) conference 2010.

Written by: David Marriott

About the author

David Marriott is an education consultant specialising in governance and school leadership.

Taken from School Governor Update

Friday, 17 June 2011

Professionalisation of Clerking: Addressing accountability

Addressing accountability

Lack of accountability to the taxpayer is a continuing theme to which the media regularly return.

Specific to governing bodies was the removal of the requirements to provide a written Annual Report to Parents (ARP) and to hold an Annual Report to Parents Meeting. The ARP was replaced with the School Profile, an online document. This is generally viewed by governors, headteachers and other professionals as not fit for the purpose intended and the lack of parental awareness of the existence of this document bears out that view. The abolition of FMSiS also threatens the governing body's financial transparency.

By giving the clerk to the governing body responsibility for enhanced public-facing accountabilities, governing bodies will be confident that they are being accountable and being seen to be so.

This article is based on a paper shared at the Co-ordinators of Governor Services (COGS) conference 2010.

Written by: David Marriott

About the author

David Marriott is an education consultant specialising in governance and school leadership.

Taken from School Governor Update

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Why the Professionalisation of clerking is essential in raising standards of governance


In the next few years government policy is likely to result in a smaller public sector and many more schools operating independently of local authority control, either individually or in various forms of collaborative arrangements. For that independence to prosper, it must be based on solid foundations. Increasingly, schools will have to maximise their own resources in a more open market for support services.

In responding to the increasing demand on schools to be more business-like, the role of the professional school business manager as a key member of the school's leadership team has evolved in recent years from what was once a rather lowly post within an admin team in the school office. A parallel development has occurred in governing bodies, whereby the humble note-taker has become a professional clerk, often employed by a local authority clerking service. Recent reports recommend that this evolution should go further – but without saying how.

Comparisons are often made between governing bodies and boards of directors. The parallels aren't exact but there is some validity in the observation. To the extent that it is true, the role of the governing body clerk should be similar to that of company secretary.

This article is based on a paper shared at the Co-ordinators of Governor Services (COGS) conference 2010.

Written by: David Marriott

About the author

David Marriott is an education consultant specialising in governance and school leadership.

Taken from School Governor Update

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Who Governs the Governors: Promoting the role of governors

Promoting the role of governors

One of the best ways to give back to the community is by serving and supporting local schools to become more successful and to enable their pupils to achieve their best. Many companies encourage their employees to become more involved in their local communities. Developing a stronger pool of talent, particularly to populate the boards of failing schools which are historically the least successful, is already being achieved through effective partnerships.

We see this as one clear area where the Government should encourage further links to improve the contribution businesses can make to improving the quality of boards and, in so doing, driving up standards in schools.

Ultimately we also need to raise the profile, opportunities afforded and overall appeal of becoming a school governor. It will also be essential to ensure that there is a greater and more widespread awareness of the role, responsibilities and rewards of such a position to potential candidates.

We view Teach First’s effective recruitment and training of able graduates as an ideal model upon which to develop and increase opportunities for talented young people to become involved in teaching and volunteering in the education sector.

The strong competition for places on the Teach First scheme (5,000 graduates competed for 560 places on the scheme and Teach First is currently seventh in The Times Top 100 list of graduate employers6) ensures the very best are recruited to improve levels of teaching in failing schools. The contribution which Teach First graduates will be able to make to boards, even when they have changed careers,should be developed as a key source of candidates who would bring first-hand experience of education to school boards.

The ‘Governance for Change’ initiative emphasises the worthwhile nature of volunteering as a school governor, and encourages graduates from Teach First to continue to make valuable contributions to schools after completing the scheme.

It will give Teach First ambassadors “the opportunity to contribute their unique perspective and develop their leadership skills whilst maximising their long-term impact on addressing educational disadvantage by serving on a school governing body.”

We hope that this program will help to raise the social prestige of volunteering as a governor, in demonstrating that this is a meaningful way to influence long-term, positive change in schools.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Who Governs the Governors: Different Models of Governance

Different models of governance

‘Freedom and flexibility’

The governance models of academies, federations, cluster schools, and free schools suggest that the freedom to develop innovative approaches to schools and their governing bodies has often been associated with improved education across the country for many children, regardless of their catchment areas.

The success of academies, such as Ark Schools and the Harris Federation of South London Schools, where “results for English and mathematics have improved by up to four times the national average in each of the last four years”,demonstrates, that the independence to introduce strategies that are suited to individual school circumstances allows for rapid and often dramatic improvement in failing schools.

Free Schools Movement

The Free Schools Movement advocates a similar degree of autonomy for schools. Founded by parents, organisations, and other interest groups dissatisfied with the provision of education in their catchment area, a free school can be set up if the group can show a viable business plan.

A key difference between academies and free schools is the latter’s funding by the government. Another difference is that academies are also built on the foundations of unsuccessful schools, concentrating on their positive features and reforming the negative, including “an approach to attendance monitoring and educational welfare which has significantly improved attendance and timely procurement of educational psychology and special needs support”.

This argument which propagates the benefits of economics of scale that can be achieved by schools working in federation has previously been outlined in the Policy Exchange report, ‘Blocking the best – Obstacles to new independent schools’“One of the arguments against schools outside local authority control is that they will also be outside local authority support...Yet local authorities are not the only route to those economies. School chains or federations –
where ‘back office’ functions are shared by a number of schools to cut down costs standardise practice, and free up schools to teach – and have the advantages of a local authority without removing the bene.ts of competition and innovation.”

The academy movement has seen an increasing number of ‘multi-academy sponsors’ – central institutions which take on administrative functions and leave their individual schools to educate. Like local authorities these have the advantages of scale, but without being a geographical monopoly. Other school providers can compete and costs are lowered.

Just as federation and partnership models are being developed for teaching, we see a powerful case for developing this model for school governance as one way in which accountability can be increased and the calibre of governors may be improved at the same time. Giving boards wider responsibility and oversight for more than one institution will also appeal to potential candidates to serve on such boards.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Who Governs the Governors asks MP Neil Carmichael

At the end of May, Neil Carmichael MP and Edward Wild published a report called 'Who Governs the Governors' which I will cover in 6 parts over the next 6 days.

The twentieth century saw many changes within English education, leading to the abolition of the majority of grammar schools during the 1970s, and the introduction of comprehensive schools. Subsequent legislation led to the creation of Grant Maintained schools and, more recently, the establishment of academies under the
last Labour Government.

Improving both the performance of individual schools and driving up standards to ensure greater freedom of choice must be the hallmark of any well formulated education policy.

How will academies and other schools, without the day to day involvement of LEAs, ensure that the leadership of their school or groups of schools (in the case of federations) meets the expectations of pupils, teachers and parents whilst addressing the educational challenges of the future?

The report has identified six key areas to consider and will consider them in the context of the White Paper, key research undertaken into governance, corporate and other models and the interviews and seminars we have held from November 2010 – April 2011. The key areas are as follows:

1. The benefits and disadvantages of representative or Skills Based Boards and how to assess them;

2. The essential and desirable experience needed on all boards and the specific requirements for each school;

3. Remuneration for chairs and board members;

4. Attraction and retention of governors from the widest possible range of backgrounds and area to ensure that boards meet the needs of the school they serve;

5. Formal assessment of chairs and board members; fixed terms and extension of tenure;

6. What opportunities should be provided for a majority of parents, if they see serious failures of leadership and oversight by their governing body, to replace the chair and board?

A full copy of the report can be found here

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Commercialisation & Advertising in Schools

Earlier this week I was asked by BBC Breakfast to comment as a parent on commercialisation, advertising and product placement within schools.

My interview said that commercialisation in Schools was nothing new and it is my hope that Schools and governors would take a common sense approach while using a moral compass on what is right and wrong where exposure to brands of children or young adults are concerned.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) are calling for UK wide guidelines like the one's adopted in Scotland but my view is these guidelines already exist in England too.

In 2000 the ISBA together with the then DCSF released guidelines on commercialisation. These guidelines have been updated again in 2008.

I believe the guidelines for England are still relevant and can be found here:

I also said government should not bring in yet more regulations for schools and governors on this matter.

The latest advice from Scotland published in 2009 entitled Pupils before Pounds

Obviously my comments weren't controversial enough as my interview remains on the BBC cutting room floor. I was speaking as a parent and as a spokesman of so I guess they were hoping I was going to angrily speak out against Schools or the Advertisers.

In the current financial climate I believe Schools & Governors should decide on a case by case basis whether they should enter into commercial agreements with companies and where it is appropriate.

I still remain in hope that governing bodies and parents would call a school to account if they cross the moral line with over exposure of brands of advertising messages.

UPDATED: The full BBC news story including an interview our school's head teacher lasting 17 minutes can be found uploaded on Youtube here:

Much of the playground school imagery in the clip was filmed at our school.

I am keen to hear people's views on commercialisation and advertising in Schools.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: Winchcombe School, Gloucestershire

Winchcombe School, Gloucestershire

Winchcombe is a small secondary school. It has specialist status for science and leadership.
Governors and staff had a firm grasp of their respective responsibilities. This enabled the governors to fulfil their role very well. The governing body was very well organised and benefited from the detailed work of its committees in considering the progress of the school and from very good support from the clerk. Governors were extremely well informed about the work of the school through detailed reports from the headteacher and other key staff and from visiting the school themselves. As a result, governors were very well placed to ask questions about the school’s performance and seek explanations from senior staff. Questions elicited a positive response from senior leaders and resulted, where appropriate, in reviews and revisions of practice.

The governors set out to remove any perceived barriers between the school and the local community and to ensure broad local representation on the governing body. As a result, there was a good mix of governors, including several with community links, who had a wide range of skills and networks with others.

Community governors were willing to share their skills and expertise with the pupils. They had made a key contribution to the school’s regular ‘flexible days’ when the usual curriculum was set aside to support wider activities, including business enterprise. The school’s involvement in ‘Young Chef of the Year’ and in hosting 30 Chinese pupils for a term also owed much to the governors’ links to the community. The ‘Sports Hub’ currently under construction is a striking testimony to the strength of these links. The governing body agreed with the town council to provide a site for an all-weather pitch that would serve a wide range of organisations in the community and be available for pupils to use during the school day. New classroom accommodation had also been incorporated in the buildings associated with the Sports Hub, securing significant cost advantages for the school. The governors’ role in the complex discussions necessary to carry forward such a project was crucial to its success.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: West Alvington CoE Primary School, Devon

West Alvington Church of England Primary School, Devon

This is a small primary school that serves the village where it is located and its surrounding area. At the start of the 2009/10 school year, the school joined a federation of two schools, with a shared governing body and an executive headteacher.

Governors and staff had confidence in each other and were clear about their respective roles and responsibilities. The governing body was continually striving to secure excellence in all aspects of the school and was not satisfied with features being merely ‘good’. It was exceptionally well organised with an annual cycle that set out very clearly what needed to be done month by month, with very good support from the clerk. The committees carried out much valuable work in drawing up and reviewing policies and checking the progress of the school, with good reporting to the full governing body. Governors saw the school at work through planned opportunities to meet staff and observe learning in the classrooms. They were also well known to parents and pupils. As a result, they had information which helped them to see the impact of their decisions.

The governing body was closely involved in monitoring progress against the school’s development plan through governors’ membership of teams linked to particular priorities. Teams met regularly to review action taken and its impact. Governors strongly supported the development of the school’s leadership potential for the benefit of the two schools in the federation.

The governing body fulfilled its role in partnership with the executive headteacher and her staff, to ensure that there was a shared sense of purpose and trust. As a result, governors were welcomed into school. Regular and informal contacts with the school were underpinned by a more formal programme of visits to the school that included meetings with members of staff and planned visits to classrooms to see learning. There was clarity about what was and was not appropriate for governors to comment on; this was set out in agreed protocols. As a result of these approaches, the governing body had very clear information on the progress that the school was making with its priorities.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: Waterville Primary School, North Tyneside

Waterville Primary School, North Tyneside

This average-sized primary school has a high proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals and pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities. It has a speech and communication unit.

Some years ago when the school was underperforming, newly appointed governors became aware that governors were not being provided with sufficient information to be able to challenge senior leaders robustly. They also identified that the business of the governing body was not being managed efficiently and effectively. At this time governors benefited significantly from clear guidance and support from the local authority’s governor services. They received training in the appointment and performance management of the headteacher, very useful guidance on planning governing body meetings, and briefings on local and national developments.

The school’s performance has improved significantly over many years and outstanding performance has been maintained at two Ofsted inspections. Improvements to governance have been significant in driving the improvement of the school.

Governors received comprehensive information on the performance of the school and could benchmark it through external audits. The governing body ensured that governors had the skills and experience needed to challenge the information provided by senior leaders. Strong educational challenge was provided by three governors who brought substantial experience and knowledge of primary schools at local and national level. They ensured that other governors understood the information presented so that whole governing body decisions could be made. As a result of the accuracy of the information provided and the school’s track record of success, governors had high levels of trust and confidence in the school’s senior leaders. They were clear about their role in setting and monitoring the school’s strategic priorities and left the operational management to school staff.

A key part of the governing body’s strategy to sustain excellence was their determination to appoint outstanding teachers and to provide them with an environment which ensured that they enjoyed working at the school. They ensured that teachers and other staff were provided with excellent professional development and support that was linked to the achievement of the school’s strategic priorities.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: The Charter School, Southwark

The Charter School, Southwark

The school was established in 2000. Students are from a diverse range of cultural, ethnic and social backgrounds. The school became a business and enterprise college in September 2005 and was awarded high-performing specialist school status in April 2009, with science as a second specialism.

Effective links had been established with key curriculum leaders and their staff through the link governor system. This allowed governors to discharge their statutory obligation to ensure that the National Curriculum was being delivered as well as being an integral part of the school’s cycle of monitoring, review and self-evaluation. The information gathered by link governors on the curriculum, teaching and learning, staffing and resource allocation helped them to undertstand the context of the school’s improvement planning and its impact on students’ achievement. By visiting the school and engaging in formal dialogue with curriculum leaders, link governors appreciated the realities of school life and the issues faced by staff and pupils. The system also helped school staff understand the role of a governor and fostered closer links with the governing body.

High quality written guidelines set out a clear, shared view of the link governor role and their responsibilities and duties. The purpose of the system, and how it worked, was made clear. Link governors made at least one visit during the academic year. The focus of visits was closely aligned to school improvement and curriculum priorities. The visits were fact finding with the aim of building a ‘critical friend’ working relationship. They enabled more effective and better informed governance of teaching and curriculum issues. Helpful written prompts were provided to identify what a link governor might look for during a school visit. These were very broad ranging and included reviewing: changes to personnel; the curriculum; and professional development priorities for team members and the progress made towards meeting them. A proforma to record notes of the meeting, agreed by the link governor and the curriculum leader, was shared with other governors and the results were reported on at full governing body meetings.

Governors relished the opportunity to be involved and curriculum leaders saw the process as an integral part of their self-evaluation. They valued the opportunity to celebrate success and raise issues that were relevant to their area of work.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: The Byrchall High School, Wigan

The Byrchall High School, Wigan

The school is a larger than average secondary school situated in an urban area. It has specialist status for mathematics and computing and is also a Training School and a Leading Edge School.

Over a three-year period, governors, working in close partnership with the headteacher and the school leadership team, had developed a strong sense of trust and openness which enabled them to both challenge and support the work of school leaders. This approach to governance had been particularly effective in raising standards in science. The governors became aware of concerns related to the effectiveness of the science department because those who were parents themselves voiced concerns about teaching and learning. Concerns were confirmed when governors met with the school improvement partner and the headteacher as part of the target-setting processes at the school.

An action plan was drawn up. When this plan was shared with governors there were detailed discussions about the planned actions and timescales. As a consequence, governors asked for some points for action to be brought forward. One governor volunteered to become the link science governor and was closely involved in monitoring and reporting on progress in the science department to the full governing body. This involvement with the department included regular meetings with the deputy headteacher who had line management responsibility for the head of the science department. Discussions between the link governor and staff focused on systems for tracking the attainment and progress of students. These identified some classes where students were not on track to reach their targets and the link governor was able to ask what support was being provided for individual teachers and students. The leadership team responded by providing additional support and training for teachers and some pupils. The link governor made regular reports to the curriculum and staffing committee so that all governors were able to monitor performance. Both the head of the science department and the deputy headteacher were invited to present reports to the two committees.

Although governors understood the underlying issues related to staff absence, they were clear in their expectation that the students deserved to be doing as well in science as they were in other subjects. The most recent results at the school indicated that attainment and rates of progress in science were continuing to improve and were almost in line with attainment in English and mathematics.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: Pickering Community Infant and Nursery School, North Yorkshire

Pickering Community Infant and Nursery School, North Yorkshire

The school serves a market town and the surrounding rural area.
The three governors who were delegated to carry out the headteacher’s performance management developed particularly effective practices for setting, monitoring and evaluating the headteacher’s performance on an annual basis. Objectives were set that were linked to the school improvement plan priorities. Governors then agreed the success criteria to be used to evaluate each objective. Each of the three performance management governors took responsibility for one of three objectives. Using the school improvement plan, each governor identified with the headteacher the range and type of activities that would be taking place during the course of the year and how the governor would be able to collect evidence that activities had been undertaken and were having an impact. Each governor was responsible for collecting the agreed evidence. For example, one objective related to improving standards in writing across the school. The governor visited classes to collect examples of writing at the beginning of the year, during the year and at the end of the year; attended writing workshops with the subject leader; observed staff training sessions on writing; spoke to pupils about their attitudes to writing and about the progress that they were making.

At the termly review meetings, each governor was responsible for reporting on the progress that had been made towards their allocated objective. Governors stated that this process had allowed them to get to know the work of the school first hand and had given them a better understanding of the process of school improvement.

Governors were also effective in supporting and training new governors to understand how to implement this process. As a result of the success of this strategy, individual governors have adopted some aspects of the implementation of the school improvement plan to monitor and evaluate

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: Market Rasen De Aston School, Lincolnshire

Market Rasen De Aston School, Lincolnshire

Market Rasen De Aston School is a larger than average secondary school with foundation status. It has specialist status for mathematics and computing and serves a large rural catchment area, where 70% of pupils require transport to and from school. The school provides boarding accommodation for up to 70 pupils.

Shortly after the appointment of the new headteacher, the governors collectively, and with the support of the headteacher, identified that they could be more effective in their ways of working. Without any formal self-review scheme, they evaluated and re-shaped the work of the governing body. They noted that the committee structure had been in place for a long time and new governors were expected to join the committees where there were vacancies rather than where they had particular skills or interests.

Governors identified that they needed to focus more on the attainment and progress being made by their students, including those in the boarding provision. As a consequence, governors reviewed and improved their working practices. They restructured into more relevant key committees, which included the academic standards and quality assurance committee, the student welfare and boarding committee and the resources committee (including staffing and finance). Each committee had a specific additional responsibility for the boarding students. For example, the academic standards and quality assurance committee considered the attainment and progress of all groups, including those who were boarders; the student welfare and boarding committee was directly responsible for the boarding development plan; and the resources committee was responsible for monitoring the staffing and budget in the boarding house.

An annual, full governing body business meeting was introduced. This meeting reviewed the work of the previous year, agreed roles and priorities, confirmed committee membership and identified training needs for the forthcoming year. The programme for all meetings was agreed and the objectives from the school improvement plan were allocated to the committees. This process ensured that the terms of reference for each committee had strong links to the school improvement plan. Each full governing body meeting included reference to each of the objectives and progress towards achieving the committees’ agreed priorities.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: Linden Lodge School, Wandsworth

Linden Lodge School, Wandsworth

Linden Lodge is a large day and residential special school for pupils aged 2–19 years with a wide range of visual impairment and other complex needs, including severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties. The school also provides: mobility training; a range of therapy, including physiotherapy; occupational therapy; speech and language therapy; and music and play therapy. A nurse is on site to cater for pupils’ medical needs. Pupils come from a wide catchment area that includes 28 local authorities.

Trusted and valued members of the school, governors were exceptionally involved in all aspects of school life. The chair of the governing body stressed the importance of communication, trust and integrity. Governors were encouraged to be open and honest with each other, and with staff, parents and partners, and to openly express their opinions. There was a strong emphasis on providing informed challenge and holding leaders to account. Governing body meetings were characterised by robust, high-quality debate and discussion. New initiatives were always fully debated, and the consequences and outcomes anticipated and evaluated.

Governors learnt from past experience of managing projects and painstakingly assessed what could have been done better. They used the knowledge gained from these assessments to inform and plan future development. For example, the local authority raised a proposal to include pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities at the school, who would be accommodated in a new custom-built centre. The governing body reached a consensus to accept the proposal and, using a calm, measured and thorough approach, they challenged at every stage. They made sure that they gathered accurate information and sought the views of all those involved, including parents, students, health professionals and staff. The governing body visited provision in other schools and consulted partner schools. They negotiated certain conditions with the local authority so that management of the new provision rested with the governing body and the school budget was not compromised. The governing body stipulated the timescale for building work so that an existing project, the installation of the hydrotherapy pool, would not be adversely affected.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: Kingsmead Community School, Somerset

Kingsmead Community School is a smaller than average 11–16 secondary school serving a large rural area.

The governing body was very well organised and its committees provided the key for challenging and supporting the leadership of the school. These committees were closely involved in drawing up the school development plan and in monitoring progress against its priorities. Governors were passionate about the school and contributed a wide range of knowledge, skills and experience.

They ensured that they were well informed about the school’s work and undertook appropriate training as necessary, for example on RAISEonline and Fischer Family Trust data provided for members of the curriculum, learning and school performance committee.

Governors expected initiatives to be considered carefully and discussed in full. They subsequently provided strong support as well as rigorous scrutiny through the most appropriate committee. The views and ideas of the students were considered carefully through the representative for the student voice on the student services and pastoral committee. Students felt that they were listened to and that they made a real contribution to improving the school.

Governors’ ‘open days’ provided planned opportunities for approximately six governors to gather first-hand information about the school at work on one day each term. Governors visited a series of lessons, usually in pairs so that they had mutual support and someone with whom to discuss and share their thoughts. Governors also met with members of staff relevant to their role and spent time visiting alternative curriculum provision. The programmes for the days were designed to ensure that every member of staff was visited in the classroom by governors once a year.

Crucial to the success of these occasions was the trust and openness which characterised
relationships throughout the school, including those between staff and governors. Governors were there to see ‘the school in action’, talk to students when appropriate and observe relationships between them and between students and staff. At the end of an open day, participating governors met informally to compare their thoughts and share ideas with the headteacher. They also fed back orally to their committees who reported in turn to the whole governing body.
These days played a key role in enabling the governing body to check on progress with improvement priorities and to contribute strongly to shaping the direction of the continuing improvement of the school.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: Horton Grange Primary School, Northumberland

Horton Grange Primary School, Northumberland

The school is larger than most primary schools. Nearly all pupils are of White British heritage. A higher than average proportion of pupils are eligible for free school meals. The proportion of pupils identified as having special educational needs and/or disabilities is higher than average, as is the proportion of pupils with a statement of special educational needs.

In 2007 the school was judged to require special measures. It went through a turbulent period as a consequence of high levels of staff absence and staff turnover. The current headteacher is the fourth to lead the school since November 2007. In January 2008, the local authority replaced the existing governing body with an IEB. Eight teachers, the headteacher, the deputy headteacher and a member of the senior leadership team have been appointed since January 2009.

Following an Ofsted monitoring visit in 2008, members of the IEB were informed that they were not receiving accurate information about the school. They reviewed the effectiveness of the initial IEB and decided to reduce the number of members to a core group with the skills to take the school forward. The IEB took action to appoint a replacement full-time headteacher. These robust actions were significant in moving the school forward rapidly.

The members of the smaller IEB shared a common sense of purpose and determination to drive improvement. They had the essential skills of education, finance, management and administration. In addition, they had experience of working on other governing bodies. The chair of the IEB was also the chair of a federation of schools. As a result, governors received accurate information about the school so they were able to robustly monitor and challenge. The school improvement partner provided regular and comprehensive reports on the quality of teaching, learning and pupils’ progress.

The IEB placed a high priority on appointing excellent teachers and devoted significant resources to the process. The school established a link with an outstanding school in a neighbouring authority to share practice and help with implementing improvement strategies, particularly the arrangements for appointing senior leaders and teachers. The headteacher and the school improvement partner went to see applicants for the deputy head post teaching in their own schools before short-listing took place, and then all were observed teaching in the partner school. The applicants for the deputy head post were observed by the head, the school improvement partner and the head of the partner school. The local authority has provided guidance and support to the IEB and the headteacher to deal with underperforming staff, using capability procedures.

At the previous inspection, there was no school self-evaluation or quality assurance of teaching and learning. A massive change was to get staff to take greater responsibility for their own performance. Governors supported this change by regularly monitoring reports on the outcomes of observation and quality assurance of teaching and learning. They triangulated the evidence on pupils’ assessment outcomes, looking at pupils’ work and observations of teaching and learning to ensure they had an accurate understanding of the school’s performance. They also undertook ‘learning walks’ to seek the views of staff and pupils.

In December 2009, the overall effectiveness of the school was judged as satisfactory and governance was judged to be outstanding.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Effective Governing Body Case Study: Hexham Priory School, Northumberland

Hexham Priory is a community special school for pupils aged 3 to 19 years with severe learning difficulties, often in association with medical or other complex needs. The school serves a large rural area and the number of pupils has grown steadily over the last decade.A significant proportion of pupils are dual registered and also attend their local mainstream school on a part-time basis. The school moved into new purpose-built premises in September 2009 and has a full complement of 12 governors. The full governing body meets termly, supported by three committees for curriculum and standards, finance and premises.

Governors had a wide range of skills and had high expectations for the school and its pupils. Many governors were former parents who wanted to give something back in recognition of the progress that their children had made while at the school. These members understood the needs of parents and could provide high-quality guidance to other governors on the requirements of children with special needs and their families.

The governing body established a way of working where members felt valued and able to make a contribution to meetings. Governors were equally determined to achieve a successful school and to improve their own performance as governing body members. They established an excellent mechanism for strategic planning and self-review of their performance. An annual ‘Away Day’ was used to review the performance and impact of governance on the school. A key element of the day was to build a team of governors who worked effectively together. The outcomes were short- and long-term priorities for the school that fed into the school improvement plan. The day allowed governors the time to have an open discussion about the issues that were important to the school away from the formal agenda of the full governing body meeting and committees. From the Away Day, they produced notes and an action plan which reviewed achievements during the previous year and analysed where governors wanted to be in the future in areas such as relationships with parents, inclusion and the emotional health of pupils. Highly developed team- working by the governing body was evident in the building of new accommodation for the school.