Wednesday, 9 May 2018

"For things to remain the same, everything must change"

I was interested to see an article in a recent edition of the White Horse News on the discovery of the grave of John Matravers. When he died in 1753, Matravers left £1000 in his will to set up an educational establishment for the children of Westbury. His bequest was used in 1814 to found a new 'charity school' for the sons and daughters of ordinary working people. Matravers School, named in honour of the benefactor, is a direct descendant from that original place of learning. I wonder what the man himself would think of modern Matravers, with its interactive white boards, and other techy stuff? 

My time as chair of governors at Matravers doesn't quite stretch back to the school's historic origins. But mine has been rather a lengthy period of office, starting in July 2013. It's been a privilege and I still enjoy serving as chair, but from now on I will be sharing the role with a colleague, Mr. Brian Ralph. 

Brian has been a governor at the school since November 2014. He was vice chair of governors and is chair of our Resources committee. Brian's children attended the school. With his background in the military and business management skills, he brings a wealth of experience to his role as co-chair. Brian is as committed as I am to ensuring that Matravers School continues to go from strength to strength. 

Our ambition is to be a system leading school. The board's Vision Statement includes the commitment, "Our bespoke collaborations with other organisations will positively influence both our own learning community and the wider education system." The move to co-chairing is designed to enable me to play a wider role in the school system. I have joined the board of the Wiltshire Governors' Association and have been appointed to serve on the Wiltshire Education Standards Board. WESB has been set up to oversee all schools and academies in the county from September 2018. 

It has been said, "For things to remain the same, everything must change". John Matravers wanted to ensure that children from the Westbury area had access to an education that would help set them up for life. We remain true to that same vision, although approaches to schooling will have changed massively over the centuries. 

There have been many changes at Matravers even during the time I have served as chair. Hopefully for the better. But the school's essence remains intact. We continue to offer a broad, balanced, arts-rich education to the young people of Westbury and beyond. I hope old John Matravers would approve. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Governor Visit Day: Term 4

It was a case of 'back to school' for the governors last Tuesday for one of our twice-yearly Visit Days. While we access a wealth of data and information about the school in our governor meetings, there is no substitute for spending time in school, visiting lessons and speaking to students. 

It was great to see students engaging so well with their studies. Their behaviour around the school was exemplary. We were grateful to the teachers who kindly received us into their classrooms. Sitting in on a Year 10 assembly helped the governors see how high expectations of conduct and commitment are promoted to students. 

The focus of the visit was on the curriculum. We wanted to see whether Key Stage 3 students were stimulated and stretched by the range of lessons on offer. The students to whom we spoke appreciated the breadth of the curriculum at Matravers. They especially enjoyed arts subjects. The Year 9 students on our panel had evidently given thought to their future career choices, which helped inform their  GCSE options. 

It was reassuring to hear that the students felt safe and cared for in school, and were aware that they can always talk to members of staff should they have any problems. The students said they felt proud to be members of the Matravers community and were happy that they had come to our school. They appreciated recent investments in the school’s facilities and resources. Particularly the resurfaced tennis courts and new style exercise books. The latter were a real aid to learning. All the governors were impressed by the students’ polite attitude and the spirited and thoughtful answers they gave to our questions.

The visit concluded with an excellent lunch at the school canteen. We didn't just come in for the food, though. Honest. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Effective School Governance by Mark A'Bear

Very few people know exactly what they are letting themselves in for when they join a school governing board. I certainly didn't. 

Whatever your preconceptions may be, you'll find that it isn't quite as you imagined. Your admirable desire to 'make a difference' will have to be channeled through the appropriate decision making processes.

You may have skills that could be of use to the board, but knowing how to apply them in the context of governance is another matter. For example, the role of a governor with accountancy expertise isn't to do the school accounts. That's the business manager's job. But your background may help you enhance the board's ability to ensure value for money is achieved in the use of school funds. That's the idea, anyway. 

The same applies whatever one's work experience or skill set. Governors aren't there to do stuff, but to decide what important stuff needs doing and ensure that it's done well. In the jargon, governance is a strategic, not operational role. 

If  that doesn't appeal, there are always other things people can do with their time. 

Mark A'Bear would agree. He even has a chapter on 'When should you not become a governor?' But there are many good reason for becoming one, and those who do should want to maximise their effectiveness. 

Good governance makes a difference by giving a school a clear sense of direction, and then ensuring progress is being made towards the direction that has been set.

It's all about vision and strategy. 

Simples. But how do you go about creating a compelling vision for a school, how may governors contribute to the strategy devised to make that vision a reality, and how can they tell if the vision is being achieved? 

That's where A'Bear's book comes in. He breaks down the essentials of governance into their component parts, chapter by chapter, and puts them all back together again at the end. A bit like James May does on the telly with Hornby train sets, or electric guitars, but in this case the author is working with the concepts and procedures of school governance. 

All the key parts are here, including who should govern, stakeholder engagement, operating strategically, establishing accountability, governance structures, the roles of the chair and clerk, Ofsted preparation, and more besides. 

A'Bear writes in a  clear, crisp and accessible way that will not leave new recruits to the world of governance scratching their heads. More experienced colleagues will find his guide a useful primer and source of best practice.

The recent Ofsted survey report, 'Improving Governance' suggested that lack of self evaluation is a common feature of weak governance. This book is a self evaluation aid in itself and contains some of the key documents that have been produced to help governing boards evaluate their effectiveness. Such as the All Party Parliamentary Group's 20 questions for governing boards and an equivalent 21 questions for MAT boards (Appendix V). Governors would do well to use the material in this book to help them reflect critically on how their own systems of governance measure up. If we don't, Ofsted certainly will next time they come a-knocking. 

A'Bear has governed in both primary and secondary sectors, but those involved in governance at secondary level will notice some gaps in his coverage. For example, newly appointed secondary colleagues could probably do with having things like Attainment 8, Progress 8, EBacc, and Sixth Form accountability measures included in the glossary alongside info on SATs and Sports Premium Funding. Can't have it all, I suppose. Maybe such gaps can be made good in a second edition?

As the author acknowledges, it isn't easy to keep up with the rapidly changing world of education in England. He does his best to ensure that his treatment is up to date, addressing both the LA maintained and academy sectors. He also has a word or two to say about the shiny new world of multi academy trusts (MATs). Greater attention is given to governance in the maintained sector, however, with details provided of the different categories of governor in LA schools that don't apply in academies. Little is said about the roles of members, trustees and local governors in a MAT. The main functions of governance apply whatever the type of school, but more academy-specific information wouldn't have gone amiss.

The government has made it clear that it would like to see all schools become academies, with MATs the preferred model. According to the Department for Education, 97% of schools converting to academies in the last couple of years have joined MATs (see here). In his foreword to the new Governance Handbook Lord Nash urges schools to consider the benefits collaborating within MATs. The model is central to the DfE's vision of a 'school led system'. MAT-land is the direction of travel for education in England.

A key question for governors of LA schools is whether they will take the initiative and form a MAT with other like-minded local schools, or wait until they have to join an already established one to avoid being left high and dry. It would have been useful had A'Bear given some guidance to schools in making that choice, or at least flagged up the excellent materials provided by the National Governors' Association created to help governors make informed decisions regarding academisation options - see here and here (subscribers only). 

A'Bear's Effective School Governance lacks the political dimension present in its nearest equivalent on the market, Improving School Governance by Nigel Gann (Routledge, 2016). The latter title could almost be styled A Guardian Reader's Guide to Governance. You won't find a critique of Thatcherite educational neoliberalism and its deleterious effects on schooling in A'Bear's volume. Both books cover similar ground when it comes to the practicalities. Gann is stronger on the history of school governance. But I'd probably want to place Effective School Governance into the hands of a new colleague ahead of Gann's lengthier work.

Educational structures in England are in a state of flux at the moment and school governance is being shaken up as the system moves towards wholescale academisaion. This timely book is a reminder that good governance makes a difference and sets out exactly what that looks like in practice. Let's ensure for the sake of our pupils' education that school governance at all levels is as powerfully effective as it can be. That's certainly one of the things that needs to happen if we are going to construct a school led system in which every child exceeds their expected potential.

* I am grateful to the publishers for providing a complementary review copy. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Governor Situations Vacant

Governors. What are they for, exactly?

For starters, we set the vision of the school. A vision may be defined as 'a clear mental picture of what  could be, fired by the conviction that it should be.' You will find our Vision Statement on the right hand side of this blog. It offers, we think, a compelling picture educational excellence. In essence we want Matravers to be 'a world class centre for teaching and learning at the heart of the Westbury Community'. What's not to like? 

It's one thing to have a vision, but you also need a carefully devised plan to make it happen. Governors work with the Headteacher to develop an all-encompassing school improvement strategy that is designed to make our vision a reality. 

We also set 'Key Performance Indicators' so we can judge whether the actions detailed in the strategy are having the desired effect. Some of them concern the academic progress of pupils, others are related to student attendance and behavior, staff development, enhancements to the school site, and so on. Governors then hold the Headteacher to account for delivering these goals.

Governors monitor the school budget to make sure that funds are spent on our strategical priorities and that value for money is achieved. 

But it isn't all facts and figures. We have two Governor Visit Days per academic year. Governors get to sit in on lessons and speak to students about their experiences of school life. We never cease to be impressed by what we see. Fascinating lessons. Exceptional students.

When we visit the school, we often ask students what they think we as governors do. Recently a Year 7 student piped up, 'You try and make the school better'. That's about it, really. Under the leadership of our Headteacher, Dr. Riding, Matravers has been on a rapid journey of educational improvement over the last few years. It's been a privilege for those of us who have served on the governing board to have played our part in this transformation. But we are not at all complacent. We want Matravers to be better still, for our students, staff and the local community. 

Being a governor takes time, effort and commitment. We make no bones about that. But we believe it's worth it. Education can have a massive effect on children's life chances and they only get one shot at schooling. We want to make sure that the education they receive at Matravers is nothing less than 'world class'. 

Right now we have a number of vacancies on the Board of Governors – 1 for a parent governor, 2 in a ‘co-opted’ governor position and 2 in a ‘partnership’ position. Co-opted governors can be anyone with the relevant skills, including parents of children at the school, and local authority or school employees, as well as other members of the community. Partnership governors are nominated by parents or other members of the community, but cannot be parents of children at the school, or members of staff. 

See the Governor Vacancies page of the school website, which also contains contact details if you want to find out more. We have extended the deadline to 18 November to give time for more people to apply.

You don't have to be from the world of education to be a school governor. Current members of the board bring a wide range of skills and experience to their role. New governors receive induction and training. Opportunities will be flagged up to undertake further training for specific areas of governor responsibility. We may not be paid for what we do, but that does not make us any less professional in our attitude and approach to governing the school.

Help make Matravers even better. Consider becoming a school governor. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Chair's Handbook NGA Guide

The Chair's Handbook: A guide for chairs of school governing boards,
Gillian Allcroft & Emma Knighs, National Governors' Association, 5th Edition, 2016, 72pp

I didn't especially want to be Chair of Governors. I joined our school's governing board as a Parent Governor, not really knowing much about governance. The existing chair seemed pretty well established and didn't look as though she was going anywhere. Only I was wrong about that. One FGB she suddenly announced that she was standing down. Soon. By that time I'd only been a governor for a year (since January 2012) and didn't feel up to taking on the role. Neither did anyone else for that matter. "Would anyone like to be considered as chair?" asked the outgoing one. The wind whistled around our ears like in that tense moment after a gunfight in a cowboy film when the Colt 45s have fallen silent. No one made eye contact. Tumbleweed rolled across the boardroom floor. "That's a 'no', then." Certainly was.

The LA was approached and they managed to rustle us up a recently retired headteacher to act as chair. Her main task was to oversee the appointment of a substantive headteacher, as an interim head was in place at the time. Oh, and she also had to lead us through an Oftsed inspection a couple of months after taking the chair. We were judged Requires Improvement. Another thing was to spot a successor from our own number. A substantive headteacher was appointed, with Dr. Riding due to start in September 2013. That job done, the chair could now concentrate her efforts on digging an escape tunnel. Cue 'Great Escape' music. 

Only I was the escape tunnel. Won't bore you with the details, but I was persuaded that I was the right man for the role and was duly elected to serve as chair in July 2013. Steep learning curve. You don't know what it's like to be chair until you're it. The clerk is calling for a decision. The headteacher wants to discuss how best to handle a tricky situation. Then there's the board. You have to ensure that they become a strategic leadership team, united behind a common vision, working with the Headteacher in pursuit of shared goals. Now you can't become aware of an 'issue' and think, 'Oh I'm sure someone else will see to that', because if you don't get it seen to, it's likely no one will. 

I was used to chairing meetings and leading a group of volunteers, which was a good start. Those bits are part and parcel of my role as a Baptist Minister. The Church Members' Meetings which I chair as pastor have formal agendas; the church's vision, goals and activities are discussed, accounts received and so on. But those were the only types of meetings that I'd ever chaired. I was a bit worried that I'd begin my first FGB in a non-denominational school by saying, "Let us pray" and finish up pronouncing the benediction. Thus far I've managed to avoid confusing pulpit and chair.

When Ofsted came to call in February 2015 they found the GB in much better shape. The school was judged 'Good' with many outstanding features. We're forging ahead with our ambition to ensure that the school is a world class centre for teaching and learning at the heart of the local community. But there's still a lot to do and I'm going to need to be at the top of my game as chair to ensure that the governing board plays its part effectively. That's why the NGA's The Chair's Handbook is such a useful publication. For newbie chairs it is an invaluable guide to help you get a handle on a role that has in all likelihood been thrust upon you. For more experienced colleagues, the work offers an opportunity for us to review what we do against the models of best practice offered here. 

In crystal clear prose and with the help of user friendly diagrams the guide focuses on on seven crucial areas for chairs: 1. Leading governance in schools. 2. Leading and developing the team. 3. The chair, the headteacher and accountability. 4. Leading school improvement. 5. Leading governing board business. 6. Becoming the chair. 7. Leaving the chair. This edition is fully up-to-date, including when required, differentiated advice for chairs of governors in maintained schools, Academies and MAT boards. It really is a one stop shop for all things chairy.

Especially when you've been chair for a few years it's good to stand back, take stock of your work and consider what needs improving. With clinical accuracy authors Gillian Allcroft and Emma Knights expose chairing shortcomings that need correcting. I tend to be quite self-critical anyway so reading stuff like this can be quite painful. But there we are. I suppose it's worth triggering a bout of gloomy introspection if it makes me a better chair. There's certainly nowhere to hide for poor practitioners, from control freaks who can't delegate to inadequate numptys into whose heads a remotely strategic thought has never popped. Although they don't put it quite like that.

I once heard a fellow-chair say that his role was not to give the board leadership. That kind of thing was down to the headteacher. While it's true that the head is expected to lead the operational running of the school, it's not his/her job to lead the board to which they are accountable. That is very definitely the chair's role. As the headings listed above indicate, the guide has a welcome emphasis on the chair as leader of governance. The authors state,
The chair leads the governing board, ensuring it fulfills its functions well. The culture of the board is largely determined by the chair, for better or worse. A good chair will ensure its focus is on the strategic, and it is no exaggeration to say that the success or failure of the board depends heavily on the caliber of the chair. (p. 10)
No pressure, then.

Reading The Chairs Handbook may also serve to highlight issues that have been relegated to the back burner which need to be addressed with greater urgency. Succession planning is one thing. I don't want to leave the GB in a position where they are unable to appoint my successor from among our own number. By the time I'm done, who knows what help the LA may be able to offer? 

Being chair of governors is an immense privilege and is actually rather enjoyable. Especially as you see the board growing in strength, colleagues stepping up to take on new roles, and, above all the school you serve going forwards in leaps and bounds. It also helps if you like a challenge. But more is required of a chair than well-meaning enthusiasm. They need a clear understanding of their role and the qualities needed to make a success of it. The Chair's Handbook very definitely points us in the right direction. The guide should be mandatory reading for all current practitioners and wannabes.

Thanks, @NGAMedia. An electronic version for Gold members would make it easier to share some of the excellent material for board-level discussion.  

Now to that escape tunnel. Da da dah dah dah da da...

Monday, 18 April 2016

Improving School Governance by Nigel Gann

Improving School Governance: How better governors make better schools,
by Nigel Gann, Routledge, 2016 second edition, 249pp. 

The recently published white Ppaper, Educational Excellence Everywhere landed landed like a hand grenade in the playground of educationalists. Its shock waves are still reverberating around schools and their governing boards. That's the case even though many of its headline proposals had been long trailed by the DfE, especially governance-wise. But what makes the white paper explosive is the shift from persuasion to compulsion. HMG has argued for some time that schools would be better off as academies, preferably grouped together in Multi Academy Trusts, but most have remained stubbornly attached to their LAs. Now almost all must become academies by 2022. Similarly, none too subtle hints have been dropped that the days of stakeholder governance were drawing to an end, but now the requirement to have parent governor posts on boards will be removed. Skills alone matter. (See here for my take on the value of parent governors). 

The white paper's vision is for a post-LA 'school-led system' under the auspices of MATs. In these groupings all the powers of governance reside with the MAT board. The local governing boards of individual schools function as committees of the MAT board, with as much or little power delegated to them as the MAT board sees fit.  

To say the least Educational Excellence Everywhere hasn't exactly commanded universal support, even from Conservative local Councillors and backbench MPs.  The element of compulsion for schools to join MATs and the removal of the requirement of boards to reserve places for elected Parent Governors (as opposed to governors who just happen to be parents) are key sticking points for many. Nicky Morgan has signaled that she is not for u-turning, but it may be that Education Secretary will have to give some ground as the White Paper makes its passage through parliament. 

In some ways, the publication of the DfE's white paper renders Gann's work slightly out of date, even though it is an updated second edition brought out only this year. That in itself is a mark of how rapidly the educational landscape is changing. Which is not to say that the writer fails to give attention to new developments in education and how they may impact upon governance. The last two chapters 'Schools in uncertain times' and 'The future of governing schools' hint at future possibilities and challenges, and lay down some useful 'future proof' principles. But the publication of the white paper means that governors are in need of more detailed advice on joining or setting up a MAT and what that may involve for their governing board. At the very least governors considering joining a MAT should first read this book and weigh up the extent to which they will still be governing their school after they have signed on the dotted line. 

Little work has been done on producing model Schemes of Delegation that will allow local governing boards to retain a large element of their strategic powers within a MAT set up. The National Governors' Association talks about the need to get this right, but showing what that looks like in terms of a guidance document containing various adaptable Scheme of Delegation models is another thing. (Their Governing Groups of Schools is useful, but provides no model SofDs). The NGA are hoping to make good this lacuna soon and a good thing too. For GBs looking to join or set up a MAT that is one of the key factors to consider. No SofD is set in stone, however, and changes may be made to the founding document by the MAT board without LGBs having a say. Many have been enticed to enter the Promised MAT-Land, only to find themselves robbed of their powers with the MAT board imperiously calling the shots. Result; some seriously disgruntled local govs. (See here for my plea for a re-balancing of the powers of MAT boards in relation to LGBs). 

Gann commends a more collaborative model of school partnerships where 'power and control are dispersed rather than concentrated' and 'local stakeholders and staff can have a sense of belonging'. But in large MATs, or 'chains' such as E-ACT those are often the very things that are lacking. These 'stretchy MATs' that link together schools scattered across England operate less like governing boards responsible for a collection of schools and more like LA's. Sir Michael Wilshaw agrees, writing in a recent memo to the DfE, "many of the trusts manifested the same weaknesses as the worst performing local authorities and offered the same excuses."

Yet the role that governing boards are meant to fulfill needs doing, both at the individual school level and in terms of an overarching MAT board. It's got to be about vision, strategy, accountability, ensuring value for money, stakeholder engagement, and so on. When governance structures start looking more like dysfunctional local authorities something has gone badly wrong. Schools are best governed individually and collectively by properly skilled and empowered local stakeholders. 

Which is why it's still worth taking a look at this thought provoking and informative book. Most everything Nigel Gann has to say about school governance is excellent. I don't propose to rattle through what he discusses in detail, though. That would mean having to write a proper review as opposed to taking the opportunity to sound off about stuff. What would be the fun in that? Anyway, as you'll see from this low-down the book's coverage is pretty comprehensive. Attention is given to the history, role and functions of governance. Sound and sensible advice on best practice is offered. One of my favourite lines was on governor training, culled from an 1878 survey of school governors (they used to call them Managers back then):
There is no training...for Managers. Many, indeed, have by great pains and application overcome this difficulty...but some do not see their deficiency, or trust to the light of Nature to make up for it, without any special effort on their own part; and much mischief is the result. (p. 17)
Let that be a warning to us all. Makes any conscientious governor  want to sign up for Governor Services training on RAISEonline immediately, or break off reading this do to a Modern Governor online module on Health & Safety. Making do with the 'light of Nature' simply won't cut it. Governors, be they co-opted for their skills, or parents should be committed to ongoing training and development to enable them to fulfill their roles properly. At its best stakeholder governance involves being fired-up enough to make a difference, and also skilled-up enough to do the job effectively.

If governing boards operated in line with Gann's guidance we would indeed have better governors making better schools. But it is possible that MATs may be set up in such a way that many of the powers of governance described by the author could be stripped altogether from local GBs. In that case they would end up as little more then 'focus groups' reporting to the MAT board, if the exist at all. A regrettable scenario to my mind. Maybe I am biased, but I believe that the rapid improvements seen at Matravers over the past few years are at least in some part due to the strength of the governing board in contributing to the school's strategic leadership. 

For our part, as a LA maintained Foundation School Matravers already has many of the freedoms associated with becoming an academy. The board of governors keeps the status of the school under constant review, however, and is considering how best to respond to the policy announcements set out in Educational Excellence Everywhere. Rest assured, we will seek to ensure that any decision the board takes with regard to academisation will be in the best interests of our students and staff, and will enable us to forge a strong alliance with other schools which share our vision and values.

* I am grateful to the publisher for a providing a complementary review copy. 

Monday, 11 April 2016

Governance: A Guide for the Perplexed

Anyone interested in becoming a governor at Matravers will be issued a copy of our Guide to the Perplexed, which serves as a introduction to the work of the Board of Governors. Perplexed about the role of governors in the school? Read on. 

People become governors for a number of reasons, but the common factor is a desire to make a difference in their local school. However, attendance at the first governors’ meeting plunges new recruits into a strange new world of educational jargon, policies for this, that and the other, detailed performance data reports, and so on. It can sometimes take a little while for new governors to begin to see the wood from the tress. At least that was my experience. Hence this ‘guide for the perplexed’. It should be read in conjunction with the ‘Role Description – Matravers School Governor’ and other documents referred to below. 

1. Purpose

The Board of Governors takes responsibility for the conduct of the school. It promotes high standards of educational achievement in order to ensure that every student exceeds their potential. Our ambition is for Matravers School to become a world class education facility at the heart of the Westbury area community for students aged 11-18. In addition the board has legal ownership of the school site (land and buildings) and acts as the employer of school staff.

2. Strategic Leadership and Accountability

The Core Functions of Governance are:

  • Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
  • Holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils
  • Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.
 Our main task is to provide the school with strategic leadership and accountability. If the school were a vehicle, the role of governors would be to punch the coordinates into the educational ‘SatNav’, setting direction travel. That done, the Headteacher and Senior Leaders collectively get behind the wheel, put their foot on the gas and drive the school to the required destination. Along the way Governors hold leaders to account to ensure that the school isn’t going off track.

Governors set the vision and underpinning values for the school, agree the ‘Route Map’ strategy for making our vision a reality, and measure progress by setting Key Performance Indicators.

Vision: For Matravers School to be a world-class centre for teaching and learning at the heart of the Westbury community. Achieving this involves ensuring that every Matravers student exceeds their expected potential in all aspects of their education.

Values: Our core values are Resilience, Creativity, Ambition, Happiness, Success and Dynamism.

Key Performance indicators: Governors set targets for school improvement in areas such as leadership and management, pupil achievement and attainment, the quality of teaching, student behaviour and attendance, and the best use of financial resources. See the Key Performance Indicators, Goals and Action Plan documents for this year’s targets.

The Board endeavours to make an objective analysis of school performance in order to recognise and support strengths, and identify and challenge weaknesses. To that end governors scrutinise both external performance data such as RAISEonline, FFT Governor Dashboard and Ofsted Data Dashboard, and the school’s internal self-evaluation reports. Governors also visit the school in order to gain first hand experience of what is happening on the ground.

3. Structure

The Full Governing Board meets once a term, as do most of the committees. The Steering Group is responsible for leadership and management, and strategic planning.
Full Governing Board

Educational Standards - Every Child Matters - Resources  

                      Steering Group

New governors will be asked to join a committee on the basis of their skill set. See the Scheme of Delegation for a full breakdown of the responsibilities of the different elements of the Governing Board. (Our Annual Report sets out the remit of the Full Governing Board and its Committees as of 2014/15. 

4. Scrutiny, support & challenge

Governors have access to a wide range of performance data. Some is produced externally, like RAISEonline. This is usually ‘historic’ data, based on the previous year’s exam results. We also have access to internally produced contemporary data that charts the progress of students during the course of the academic year. Reports should be received with three questions in mind: What? So what? Now what?

For example. The GCSE results for subject ‘x’ are below what is expected. The data reveals that they fall short of internally set predicted grades and the national average for that subject. That is the ‘What?’

Then governors will begin to ask, ‘So what?’ The obvious point is that students did not achieve as well as expected in subject ‘x’. That may narrow their options when it comes to future study, or work. It will also impact on how the school is measured on the national Performance Tables. Governors will therefore ask questions to try and get to the bottom of why the results were not as good as expected.  Was the issue with Higher, Middle, or Lower ability students, or with disadvantaged students in receipt of Pupil Premium funds as against those who are not? That is something of what can be gathered from interrogating the data and asking, ‘So what?’

But we can’t leave it there. Next, governors must ask, ‘Now what?’ When that happens scrutiny becomes challenge. Governors want to know what measures will be taken to ensure better exam results in subject ‘x’ next time around and for that reason may ask the subject leader to report to the Standards committee.

But it’s not all ‘challenge’. In many subjects Matravers students perform above the national average and when that happens, governors will express support and celebrate success. 

  5. The Strategic/Operational divide

Governing Boards need to ensure that they do not cross the Strategic/Operational divide. When that happens rather than setting the overall direction of the school and making sure that it is getting there, the Governing Board begins to meddle with its everyday running.

The dividing line is not always easy to discern, but as a rule of thumb, concerns about individual students or members of staff are operational matters. Concerns about groups of students or teachers are of strategic importance. For example, if one of the Special Interest Groups (SPIGs – boys, girls, Pupil Premium etc) is falling behind, governors will challenge Senior Leaders to address the matter. If the quality of teaching in a particular subject area is below that is expected, once more governors will raise a challenge.

The perceptions of Parent Governors, or governors who are parents are bound to be shaped in part by their children’s experiences of the school. Their perspective is a reminder that what governors decide has an impact on real flesh and blood children, not simply statistics on a page. But if governors who are parents have a concern about how their child is getting on at school, strictly speaking that is an operational matter and should be dealt with as a parent. The problem should be taken up with relevant person in the school; a teacher, tutor, head of subject, or Senior Leader as appropriate. Meetings of the Governing Board are not an extension of the school’s Complaints Policy by other means. After all, our task is to ensure that every student fulfils their educational potential, not just our own children.

In the case of governors who are parents, other mums or dads may sometimes ask for your help. Advise any concerned parent to speak to the appropriate person in the school. Do not offer to take up the cudgels yourself. Governors only come into play when all other means of redress have been exhausted. Even then, if the child in question is known to you, that would constitute a conflict of interest on your part. In that case you would be excluded from any formal process that involves the Governing Board.

When Governing Boards routinely transgress the Strategic/Operational divide they lose their focus and begin to major on minors.

6. Training

All new governors are strongly encouraged to attend the New Governors’ Course provided by Governor Services. In addition, governors will want to attend further training sessions to sharpen their expertise in areas of special interest. In-house training is provided to help governors get to grips with data reports such as the FFT Governor Dashboard and RAISEonline

7. Interviews & Panels

The Governing Board is the de facto employer of school staff. Governors participate in job interviews for senior management posts. In matters such as staff redundancy, discipline or capability; a panel of three non-staff governors will be convened. The panel will consider evidence presented by senior management before making a decision with the support of a HR advisor provided by the Local Authority.

8. Communications

Governors should not comment on any issues concerning the school, whether in a personal capacity or in connection with their school links via the media or any type of social network. The Headteacher and/or Chair of Governors alone are authorised to communicate with the media on behalf of the school. Others may do so only with express permission from either Head or Chair and with the contents of any communications having been duly authorised.

Any communication intended for the attention of whole Governing Board should be sent to the Clerk and will only be forwarded to colleagues with the authorisation of the Chair of Governors.

9. Safeguarding

We take the safety and welfare of our students extremely seriously.  By law all new governors must apply for a DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) check within 21 days of their being appointed to the board. Only once a DBS certificate has been produced will governors be issued with a personalised lanyard for the purpose of visiting the school. Until then they will be treated as visitors and will need to be accompanied at all times. Whenever visiting the school governors must sign in and out at Main Reception. All new governors will be trained in the school’s safeguarding procedures as soon as possible on their joining the board.

10. Contact

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11. Confidentiality

All governor business is to be regarded as confidential.

* If this guide is of any use to colleagues from other GBs it may be 'borrowed' and adapted to suit with appropriate acknowledgements.