@ICSA_News and House of Lords’ Select Committee report matters

ICSA: The Governance Institute is the professional body for governance with members in all sectors. They work with regulators and policy makers to champion high standards of governance and provide qualifications, training and guidance. Below is their article discussing the House of Lords’ Select Committee’s report concerning the revised Governance Code. I thought this article would be of interest to academy trustees too so I am reproducing it here with their permission. The original can be accessed using this link.

ICSA: The Governance Institute welcomes the supportive and helpful report that the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities has published today, especially its support for the revised Governance Code for Charities that aims to improve governance in the charity sector and ensure that charities and their stakeholders focus more effectively on the needs of beneficiaries.

‘The report is particularly timely as it will form part of a trio of governance and regulatory recommendations coming from it, the code and the Law Commission review due in the summer,’ says Louise Thomson, Head of Policy (Not for Profit) at ICSA: The Governance Institute. ‘We particularly welcome the Committee’s positive comments on the draft governance code, which we have helped to author and which we believe will bring substantial benefits to the charity sector.’

Welcome recommendations in the Select Committee’s report include:

  • Support for the revised code and the Charity Commission’s decision to refer to it as the benchmark for governance in the charity sector
  • Regular skills audits of trustee boards. Annual audits for large charities
  • Greater emphasis on trustee induction
  • Board diversity
  • Time limits on trusteeships
  • Regular board reviews. For large charities, this should be annual
  • Good governance reporting, for example charities including a statement in their annual report that they follow the Governance Code for Charities, or a similar specialist governance code relevant to their work, and report any actions taken in light of the code
  • Stakeholder feedback: the provision of regular information to stakeholders that enables them to measure the charity’s success in achieving its purposes.

‘All of the above are important considerations and will help to strengthen governance within the sector. Regular skills audits are essential as they are the primary way that charities can ensure that trustees have the necessary capabilities to undertake their vital governance role. With specific regard to the Committee’s suggestion of a template for inductions and free access for smaller charities, we have guidance on this which smaller charities are welcome to access.

‘ICSA actively supports governance in the sector and welcomes opportunities to work with partners to further enhance understanding and the application of good governance in all sizes of charities,’ adds Louise.

Some of the questions about the role of the SEND Governor which matter

The other day StarLightMckenzie led a @UKGovChat discussion on “How can governors ensure SEND gets the attention it deserves?”  There were some very important questions raised during the discussion. I thought it would be helpful to collate them here.

  • Do you consider it good practice to have a single SEND Governor even though it’s the responsibility of whole GB?
  • Where SEND is key role for one governor, how do we ensure the rest of the GB take responsibility?
  • Does it make a difference if the SEND governor has SEND themselves or is the parent of a SEND child?
  • Should the SENDCo work closely with and report to the SEND Governor, if there is one, to ensure best practice for all?
  • How often should the SEND governor meet with the SENDCo?
  • Is it better for the SEND Governor role to be taken on by a parent, community or staff Governor, ideally?
  • Should the GB ask to see documents to show how all trips are made fully SEND accessible for all?
  • What SEND specific training or knowledge is essential for a GB to fulfil their duty?
  • Should the SEND Governor meet with the SENDCo frequently and if so, how frequent should the meetings be?  What about other staff members?
  • How do you know if children with SEND are achieving their potential?
  • Aside from progress, on what else should the SEND Governor challenge the school?
  • Do you think there is a need for a SEND Governors to network and support each other across schools/nationally?

A question which was posed on Twitter after the chat: What should we do if we find SEND but without EHCP making less progress than those with?

If you would like to read the entire chat then please click here.

SEND Governor matters

I was invited to the launch of the Driver Youth Trust report, Through the Looking Glass. There were interesting presentations followed by a panel discussion. During the panel discussion StarlightMcKinzie asked a very important question, “Shouldn’t all governors be governors of SEND?” The short answer is yes. All governors should be clear that their role is looking after the interests of ALL the children and hence they are all governors of SEND too. However, many governing bodies do have a designated SEND governor. The Department for Education’s SEND Code of Practice states

6.3 There should be a member of the governing body or a sub-committee with specific oversight of the school’s arrangements for SEN and disability. School leaders should regularly review how expertise and resources used to address SEN can be used to build the quality of whole-school provision as part of their approach to school improvement.

Legally there is no requirement for a particular governor to take on the role of SEND governor. What must happen is oversight, review and monitoring of the SEND provision. The governing body (GB) decides how best to do this. Many GBs decide to appoint a SEND governor who then reports back to the GB. This, in my view, is a good way to function. The advantages of having a named SEND governor are

  • One named person takes the lead and ownership and then reports back to the whole GB
  • There are many areas which the GB needs to monitor and for all of these areas school visits will form an integral part of the monitoring. Having named governors for these areas means that the
    • Work load is divided and few governors do not end up doing all the tasks. As governors are volunteers this is essential so that their time is utilised effectively
    • Having one governor “look after” SEND means that one governor is then “accountable” for monitoring. This ensures that SEND doesn’t get neglected because everyone assumed someone else would do it
  • The SEND governor would, as part of the monitoring visits, meet with the SENDCo. One named governor performing the role of SEND governor means that the SENDCo can develop a professional relationship with that person. This would be difficult if different governors came into school to have conversations with the SENDCo
  • Because these monitoring visits would be arranged between two people, the SEND governor and the SENDCo, it would be easier for them to schedule regular visits as only two diaries need to be consulted. Different people coming in to meet the SENDCo would be more difficult to arrange than just one governor visiting. Having more than one person coming in may also increase the workload of the SENDCo as different people may want to focus on different things and also lead to duplication
  • Governors should attend training which would help them to function effectively. Having one named governor taking on the role of SEND governor means that there are more chances of this governor attending relevant training/briefing.
  • Different governors bring different skills to the boardroom. The GB may be lucky enough to have someone with a good understanding of SEND issues or someone who is interested enough to attend training/briefings/read research so as to become well informed of SEND issues. Giving this governor the role of SEND governor means that the GB is utilising the skills available to it effectively

Though having one named governor is, in my opinion, a good way to monitor and evaluate the SEND provision, the GB must ensure that ALL governors are aware of the issues and take responsibility for the SEND children. This is done by ensuring there is regular reporting by the governor and SENDCo and that SEND is a regular item on the agenda. At the end of the day although having one named governor is an efficient way of performing the role, the GB is a corporate body and the responsibility is a corporate responsibility.

Some other points to consider:

  • It may be better not to take on this role in the school your child attends if you are the parent of a SEND child
  • The SEND governor should have frequent meetings with the SENDCo (perhaps termly so that the GB has reports to consider at every meeting).
  • It would also help if the SEND governor could also meet with the pastoral team in order to get acquainted with the complete picture of the support available to SEND children

Are there any other points which should be added to the above?

Fourth Anniversary Matters

I started blogging four years ago this March. At that time I didn’t know how long I would keep on writing so I’m quite pleased to be still here four years later. As in previous years, I’ve decided to look back at the year that was.

I’m pleased that my viewership is gradually increasing as is the number of people who follow my blog.

The top ten posts of this year were:

10. Good practice matters for governing bodies

9. Educational events matter; what I took away from #Michaela

8. “Types” of heads and sustained school improvement matters

7. Competency Framework matters; knowledge and skills needed by all

6. Parent governor matters

5. Competency Framework Matters- The Slides!

4. Ofsted Inspection Handbook and governance matters

3. Ofsted questions for governors

2. Ofsted Grade Descriptors, Sept 2015. Guest post by Shena Lewington

And holding on to the first position from last year was the post

1. Questions you may be asked and other Ofsted Inspection matters

Ofsted also featured in the top five search terms which led readers to the blog.

  • Ofsted questions for governors
  • Ofsted annual report 2016
  • Ofsted grade descriptors 2015
  • Ofsted grade descriptors

My blog, surprisingly, was viewed in 79 countries. Many obviously would have ended up here by mistake as I don’t know why anyone living in Brunei or Madagascar for example would be interested in school governance in England!

I enjoy blogging as it gives me a chance to put down my thoughts, tell people where I stand on various issues and enter into debate on governance related topics. I also use it as an archive for various links, reports etc (for example see my end of the year review post. And its because of blogging that I was asked to review 2016 for Schools Week.

This blog was also the reason I started my other blog A Roller In The Ocean I found that once I started blogging there were many other issues I wanted to write on but they had nothing to do with governance which is why I started the othe blog. 

Thank you to everyone who reads and comments on my blogs. Hopefully, I’ll see you at the 5th anniversary party too!

Principles and personal attributes which individuals bring to the board matter

Governance is coming under increasing scrutiny and rightly so. Every school deserves to have a good governing body and a governing body can only be as effective as the people serving on it. Below are some of the attributes that people serving on trust boards and local governing bodies (LGBs) should have.

Seven principles of public life; Nolan Principles

It is essential that school leaders (be they trustees, heads, SLT, people serving on LGBs) live by the seven Nolan Principles of Public Life.

  • Selflessness

    People serving on public bodies should act only in the interest of the public. In the case of people involved in governance they should ensure that they serve the interest of the school, students and the school community.

  • Integrity

    They must not place themselves under obligation to anyone who may influence them. They must act in the interest of the school and not take decisions in order to gain personal benefit.

  • Objectivity

    They must act fairly, without bias, not discriminate, and must base decisions on evidence.

  • Accountable

    They must understand that they are accountable for the decisions they take. Trustees and people serving on LGBs in MATs should understand that the trust board is the accountable body.

  • Openness

    They should act in an open and transparent manner. They should not withhold information from the public unless there are sound and lawful reasons to do so.

  • Honesty

    Honesty and truthfulness are essential characteristics for anyone involved in governance.

  • Leadership

    They should lead by example and challenge poor behaviour.

Seven “C”s from the Competency Framework for Governance

The recently published Competency Framework for Governance lists the following attributes which those involved in governance should have.

  • Committed

    They should be committed to doing the best that they can. They need to be committed to their development. The need to commit time and energy to the role. This will involve attending meetings well prepared and carrying out that they’ve been asked to do.

  • Confident

    They need to be confident enough to act independently, have courageous conversations and take part in discussions by expressing their opinions.

  • Curious

    They should be able to ask questions and be analytical.

  • Challenging

    They should not accept data at face value. They should be able to ask challenging questions in order to bring about school improvement.

  • Collaborative

    They should be able to work in a collaborative manner with the rest of the members of the governance team, head, senior teachers, parents, students and community.

  • Critical

    They should understand their role of a critical friend. They should be endeavour to improve their own performance as well as the performance of the whole team

  • Creative

    They should be able to be creative while solving problems, try new approaches and be innovative thinkers.

Other attributes

  • Provide challenge and support

    They should understand what is meant by support as well as challenge and be prepared to provide both. Many people find the challenge bit of the job hard, but that is the most important bit! Many people think that the word challenge means you have to be confrontational. That is not the case. Challenge just means asking the right questions to get all the information you need to perform your job.

  • Pull their own weight

    Governance is a huge and complex undertaking. Every member of the board should do his/her fair share of the work. The right governor will volunteer to do some of the tasks that have to be done. This may be monitoring visits, learning walks, attending school events and taking up a specific role (such as the SEN Governor).

  • Understand difference between strategic and operational

    They should understand the difference between being strategic and operational. The right governor is one who can be described as “eyes on, hands off” or “strategically engaged, operationally disengaged”.

  • Team player
    The governing body is a corporate body and each and every member needs to understand this. Governors should understand that

    (a) They cannot do anything they have not be delegated to do
    (b) Once a decision has been made, then that is the corporate decision and governors need to abide by it. They are allowed to express their opinion (and should!) during the discussion stage. Once a decision is reached, even if that wasn’t their preferred option, they have to abide by it and carry it through.

  • Not afraid to speak up

    They should be able to speak their mind. They should be able to bring up a difficult topic during a meeting and only during a meeting! This goes hand in hand with the point (b) I made above. If they feel strongly about something they should be able to speak up at the meeting. If the other members don’t agree then they should accept it and not carry on the conversation outside the boardroom.

  • Manage conflicts of interest

    They should be able to recognise and manage conflict of interests. There will be times when there will be conflicts of interests. The right governor is one who can recognise when these situations arise and knows what to do when this happens.

  • Understand duties

    They should understand and fulfil their statutory duties. They should understand their responsibilities under equality legislation. Academy Trustees should understand that they have duties under the Company Law and Charity Law.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure you can add more to the list so please do because for good governance getting the right people around the table matters. It is also important to remember that it’s not necessary that everyone will have these skills when they join. As long as you are willing to learn and develop these skills, you will be an effective governor.

I’ve made a Powerpoint presentation based on the above.

Multi Academy Trusts matters; Education Select Committee Report 

At midnight tonight (28th Feb 2017) the Education Select Committee published its report into the inquiry examining a range of issues relating to multi-academy trust accountability and governance structures. The report also looks at characteristics of successful trusts and the Government’s plans for future expansion.

The Report can be read here.

Evidence given by Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System, Department for Education, and Peter Lauener, Chief Executive, Education Funding Agency. Oral Evidence Watch the session.

Evidence given by Jennifer Bexon-Smith, Regional Schools Commissioner, East Midlands and the Humber, Rebecca Clark, Regional Schools Commissioner, South West England, and Janet Renou, Regional Schools Commissioner, North of England. Oral Evidence   Watch the session

Evidence given by Dr Melanie Ehren, Reader in Educational Accountability and Improvement, UCL Institute of Education, Professor Merryn Hutchings, Emeritus Professor, Institute for Policy Studies in Education, London Metropolitan University, Natalie Perera, Executive Director, and Karen Wespieser, Senior Research Manager, National Foundation for Educational Research; Paul Barber, Director, Catholic Education Service, Reverend Steve Chalke, Founder, Oasis Community Learning, Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association, Reverend Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer, Church of England Education Office, and David Wilson, Director, Freedom and Autonomy for Schools, National Association Oral Evidence   Watch the session.

Department for Education-Written Evidence

Jamie Reed MP Written Evidence

Philip Kerridge Written Evidence

Supporting your governing body’s clerk matters

A good clerk is pivotal in ensuring that the governing body is as effective as it can be. It is true that good schools will have good governing bodies. It is, I think, equally true that good governing bodies have good clerks. For the purpose of this blog, I will assume that your governing body has an independent and professional clerk. What follows are some ideas on how you can support your clerk in order to help the clerk support you.

  • Write a good job description so that everyone is clear about the roles and responsibilities of your clerk. A clear job description also supports the clerk’s effectiveness.
  • Your clerk will be responsible for writing the agendas (in consultation with he Chair and Head) and circulating the agenda and papers. The Chair should make sure they make time to discuss the agenda with the clerk well before the meeting.
  • If you are responsible for a preparing a paper for the next meeting, do send it to the clerk in time for the clerk to include it in the meeting pack.
  • If you had some actions from the last meeting let the clerk know where you are with them. It will make the clerk’s job less stressful if they don’t have to chase you for papers or updates on actions.
  • As the Chair do ensure that when the clerk sends you the draft minutes you turn them around as quickly as possible. Consider using track changes which will help your clerk.
  • Support your clerk by ensuring they have access to good CPD.
  • Chairs should do a low stakes annual appraisal of clerks. This should be an opportunity for both to discuss how they think the governors and clerk worked together, what went well and what could be improved and how.
  • Ensure that your clerk feels like a valued member of the team. Ask for and listen to their advice when you are unsure.
  • Being introduced to and meeting the clerk should be part of your induction process for new governors.
  • There should also be an induction for a new clerk. They should be shown around the school, especially the room where you normally meet, introduced to the Head/SLT and any other member of the school staff they may need to contact and introduced to all the governors.
  • It may be helpful to agree a routine for regular communication between the Chair and the clerk which may contribute to effective use of both the chair’s and the clerk’s time.
  • It may be helpful to have a school email address for your clerk. This can be communicated to everyone via your website. This has various advantages
    • It will help parents and others know how to get in touch
    • It’s preferable than having the clerk’s personal email address in the public domain
    • If your clerk works for other governing bodies then this will help them in organising paperwork for the different governing bodies
  • Can your school provide a pigeon hole for your clerk? There may be instances where people will write to the clerk/GB/Chair. This correspondence should go to a dedicated pigeonhole which the clerk can access easily.
  • Encourage your clerk to keep up with the latest legislation/developments. If your governing body is a member of NGA (and I highly recommend that they are) then see that your clerk knows this and has signed up for the weekly newsletter.
  • Any governor can ask for an item to be put on the agenda. It would be helpful if the Chair would remind governors how to do this and how much notice is required. Clerks shouldn’t have to deal with last minute requests. (If there is a really urgent matter that can be dealt with under AOB and the governors should have an agreed process for this).
  • Make sure the clerk’s pay reflects what they do.
  • Lastly, and very importantly, in all your dealings with your clerk do consider their life/work balance. The chair should not hesitate to intercede if they feel that unfair demands are being made of the clerk.

Is there anything you would add to the above list?