The Governor’s Role from a non-governor perspective; Guest Post by Dr Christine Challen

Dr Christine Challen is a Lecturer who describes herself as being passionate about supporting students & preparing them for HE. She believes that continual reflection in practice is key to successful teaching. She is a new blogger who has found her writing muse. Below are her reflections on the role of a governor from the perspective of someone who is not a governor herself.

I thought it would be a great way to start the New Year, with a different spin on Governance. Having never been a governor myself what do I perceive to be the role of a governor within a governing body? More importantly how does and should this impact on the school or college both for staff and pupils/students and ultimately the vision and/or future of the institution?

Before we begin let’s explore what the role of the governor within a governing body is:

“The role of the governing body is to provide strategic management, and to act as a “critical friend”, supporting the work of the headteacher and other staff. …Governors must appoint the headteacher, and may be involved in the appointment of other staff.”

I have specifically chosen this definition as I like the term “critical friend,” However, while it is easy to be taken in by the word friend, for some this will conjure up an element of pleasing and not wanting to “stir the broth.” This is well balanced by the word critical in front because for me that is exactly what a governor should do.

Now I do not for one minute want you all to think that this means it is all about finding fault and being negative but it is key to be questioning, and within this sometimes thinking outside the box for a positive impact not only on staff and students but the future vision of the school.

The term “strategic management.” is an unfortunate description as it implies “continuous planning, monitoring, analysis and assessment” which by default suggests accountability.

In my Bera Blog (2017) I  have described how the presence of business and accountability in education is damaging not only for staff and student wellbeing but also what the real and true meaning of education is about.

The press, media and twitter are full to bursting with real genuine concerns and views from senior experienced educators about high numbers of staff and students with mental health issues as well as challenging behaviour and how we tackle this and provide a truly inclusive education for all to contribute positively and successfully to society and employers. Additionally, there is now an even greater need to embrace the view that we need enriching curriculums that will provide much more individualised approaches to education rather than the constant assessment and exam culture.

The big question is how do I see the role of a governor from an inexperienced eye?

My pet hate is folks that treat this role as a great addition to a CV, instead of a commitment to institution, pupils and staff and a serious role paid or not.

Governors need to fully embrace the attribute of “critical friend” even if it means challenging questions and asking for changes that may not necessarily tick boxes but have lasting changes both personally and academically for schools, pupils and staff alike.

Although Governors need to work with leadership teams, they also need to stand firm in their views even if they are counter to the popular opinion within school boards if we are truly to change education.

Wellbeing, inclusion and individualised education need to be a top priority if we are to ensure that all are able to contribute positively and effectively to a better academic and pastoral environment for all.

They may well be reminded that “rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men” and this for me sums up how governors can affect change.

As we pack away our decorations for another year  here is my message to all governors out there – remember your role is pivotal to making changes. Be creative, be questioning, think outside the box, challenge the school and heads and keep at the forefront of your mind the pupils and staff both new and experienced.

Your voice is important and can make changes for the better.

So, as we all ring in the New Year all governors alike let the bells ring even louder for the changes you can make in our schools and education to ensure we do our future generation proud. Look after our teachers not just professionally but their wellbeing as well.

Finally, and aptly as governors remember the words of Nelson Mandela

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” as governors use your voice to enable this for a better future and social justice in society.

 

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All I want for Christmas …… are governance things that matter

As Christmas is fast approaching this is a seasonal blog but with a message. The link to Christmas maybe a bit tenuous but I hope you will enjoy it nevertheless.

On the first day of Christmas my governing body sent to me an induction package.

New governors need support to understand the role and their responsibilities. One way we can do this is by having a good induction programme in place. I have previously written about induction for new governors.

On the second day of Christmas my governing body sent to me a subscription to online training.

Professional development is important for new governors as well as those who have been on the governing body for some time. Training ensures that we remain effective. Governors may find online training fits in better with their day jobs and home life. Governing bodies should investigate if their members would prefer online training. My previous blogs discussing training are here, here and here.

On the third day of Christmas my governing body sent to me contact details of my mentor.

One way a governing body can help a new governor understand the role is by asking an experienced governor to act as a mentor. This will help ease the new person into the role. They may feel more comfortable asking questions/clarifications outside of meetings.

On the fourth day of Christmas my governing body sent to me a governor expenses policy.

Governors are volunteers and paying them to carry out their duties is not allowed.However, they are allowed to claim legitimate expenses such as photocopying costs, childcare expenses etc. Governing bodies should have a Governor Expense Policy in place. Having a policy in place and governors being clear that that no individual should be prevented from becoming a governor or carrying out their duties because of expenses incurred doing so is important as it ensures that the governing body is inclusive.

On the fifth day of Christmas my boss told me how much time I could have off for governance.

Employees can get time off work for certain public duties as well as their normal holiday entitlement. Governance falls into this category. Employers can choose to pay them for this time, but they don’t have to. We should make sure our governors know this. We should also try and encourage employers to make it as easy as possible for their employees to carry out their governance duties.

On the sixth day of Christmas my governing body sent to me the bio of our new, young governor.

Younger people continue to be underrepresented in school governance. The graph is taken from School Governance in 2018, a report of the annual survey by the NGA in association with Tes.

Having younger people on governing bodies means we get a different perspective and the young people who join us get valuable experience.

On the seventh day of Christmas my governing body sent to me news of the appointment of an independent, professional clerk.

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. It is considered best practice to have independent and professional clerks. Having school staff clerk governing body meetings can give rise to conflicts of interest so is best avoided. We must also realise that good clerking is much, much more than minute taking. The clerk should be able to advise the chair on matters of governance and help ensure that the governing body works in an efficient and effective manner.

On the eighth day of Christmas my governing body sent to me a protocol for virtual meetings.

Governing bodies are allowed to meet virtually, via Skype, for instance. This is a good way to involve people who may find it hard to get to the meeting on time. It can also help where the governing body is discussing something of an urgent but important nature and one or more governors cannot get to the meeting. I would recommend that the governing body agrees a protocol for this.

On the ninth day of Christmas my governing body sent to me papers well in advance of the meeting.

In order to have an effective meeting, it is essential that governors are sent papers to be considered at the meeting well in advance. This allows them to study them and come prepared to the meeting. We all should take responsibility for this. Reports which have been requested from the school should be sent out on time. If governors are writing a report, they too should ensure that it goes out on time.

On the tenth day of Christmas my governing body sent to me a promise that meetings would run to time.

Everyone’s time is precious. Heads, SLT and governors would either have put in a whole day’s work before coming to the meeting or will be heading to work after the meeting ends. In both cases it’s important that the meeting runs to time. There is also the fact that if the meeting is a very long one then concentration may start to wane. If the discussion goes on and on then chances are that its going around in circles. The role of the chair is very important. The chair should ensure that everyone stays on topic and that the discussions are sharp and focused. Timed agendas are one way of trying to keep to time.

On the eleventh day of Christmas I met a head who understands governance.

The vast majority of heads do understand governance and the important role played by governors and they work with them to bring about school improvement. They understand that one of the roles of governors is to provide challenge.These heads relish these opportunities to show the work being done by them and their teams. But there are a few heads who think in terms of us and them. When a head understands governance and when the governing body understands the role of the head then they work well together and the children benefit. The National Governance Association (NGA), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Local Government Association (LGA) collaborated to produce a guidance document on what do school leaders and governing boards expect of each other which is well worth a read. The National College(as it was then) had also produced a resource, Working effectively with a Governing Body.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me the Ofsted myth busting document.

There are lots of myths around how many governors (and which ones) can meet inspectors during an inspection, who is allowed to attend the feedback meeting and who is allowed to see the draft inspection report. Ofsted has helpfully published a myth busting document addressing all these myths. Have a look also at two of my blogs where I’ve talked about Sean Harford addressing this issue. These can be accessed here and here.

What twelve  governance related gifts would you like your true love to send to you?

Reviewing 2018 and governance matters. With links

The year started with a new Secretary of State, Damian Hinds,  taking up office and ended with him writing to Amanda Speilman, HMCI, about Ofsted’s summary evaluations of multi-academy trusts (MATs).

The notable events of the year as they happened:

January

Emma Knights, CEO National Governance Association received an OBE in the New Years’ Honours List along with other governors.

Damian Hinds became the Secretary of State for Education. Sam Giymah replaced Jo Johnson as minister for higher education, Robert Goodwill was removed from his post as minister of state for children and families and Nadhim Zahawi was appointed as parliamentary under-secretary of state.

The updated its statutory careers guidance for schools to bring it in line with the government’s new careers strategy.

Amanda Spielman, while speaking at the Association for Science Education’s annual conference discussed the importance of a challenging curriculum with sufficient time to teach science stating “exams should exist in service to the curriculum, rather than the other way around.” She also said that “too few governing bodies look to understand curriculum quality or hold leaders to account for the curriculum beyond looking at test outcomes”.

Staff wellbeing was in the spotlight throughout the year. Figures released as a result of a freedom of information request showed that 3,750 teachers were on sick-leave for a month or more during the 2016-17 school year as a result of stress and mental health issues.

Sir David Carter (National Schools Commissioner) said governors and trustees are the “unsung heroes of the education system”. He also said that “effective governance lies at the heart of school improvement.”

Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP (Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee) wrote to Lord Agnew, the minister with responsibility for the school system and school governance, expressing “concerns over a lack of transparency and accountability” in the multi academy trust (MAT) system, lack of communication to parents and an overlap between the roles of regional schools commissioners (RSCs), Ofsted and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in the accountability system and MATs “stripping assets from their schools”.

National Foundation for Educational Research (NEFR) published a report on the effect of changes to school funding on school spending in England. Amongst other things it found that

  • The “observed benefits of higher spending are typically greater” for disadvantaged pupils
  • Schools are expected to face ongoing significant cost increases, especially in regard to staffing

The £45 million MAT Development and Improvement Fund, announced last year, was allocated to over 400 multi-academy trusts (MATs) “to improve underperforming schools” with £30 million of this money going to around 300 academy trusts in areas facing the greatest challenges across England”.

The next six Opportunity Area plans (Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent) were announced. They would share £25 million across 75 projects aimed at giving “more support for schools, many of which will increase pupils’ literacy and numeracy skills”.

Damian Hinds, wrote an article in The Times welcoming the “rigorous new curriculum and a return to core academic subjects” introduced in recent years and supporting the need for “high-quality vocational routes” post 16.

The changing role of governors in MATs was discussed in tes and concern expressed that the number of governors was being slashed as schools joined MATs.

The revised 2016/17 GCSE exam data for secondary schools and were published showing 365 schools are below the floor standard in 2017 and 271 meet the coasting definition”. This means that 12% of state-funded schools are “below the secondary floor standard”.

DfE released official statistics on MAT performance measures for 2016-2017. The MAT performance tables comparison and benchmarking of performance for both Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4. These tables currently only include MATs with three or more schools that have been part of the trust for at least three years.  According to these tables, 45% of MATs performed “significantly below average” in terms of pupil progress in Key Stage 4 in 2017.

DfE updated its guidance for schools causing concern emphasizing that formal action for coasting schools would occur only in exceptional cases and, most commonly, “the RSC will look to work collaboratively with school leaders to bring about improvement” using a range of support mechanisms.

Damian Hinds and Nick Gibb spoke at the World Education Forum. Damian Hinds spoke about core academic subjects being at the heart” of preparing students for success in the future and the importance of soft skills, character and resilience.  Nick Gibb spoke about the importance of a curriculum in ensuring education equity by furnishing pupils with the knowledge they need, so that they are best prepared for the rigours of a globalised 21st century jobs market.

Automatic disqualification rules for charity trustees and charity senior positions were issued. As academies are chariots these will apply to academy trustees too.

Sir David Carter wrote an article for NGA’s Governing Matters magazine setting out how governing boards can help support disadvantaged pupils.

February

During a debate at the Institute of Education Sir David Carter said that he would bring to an end the practice of visits on behalf of RSC in close proximity to visits by Ofsted as that created pressure and added to the workload of school staff.

National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) called for a “national framework for salaries within the state school system” following concerns of high pay of certain academy CEOs.

The Local Government Association (LGA) submitted a briefing to the House of Lords focusing on the LGA’s concerns around councils having no power to enter homes or see children who are home educated which made it difficult for them to carry out safeguarding duties. The briefing also raised concerns around illegal schools.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi MP, responded to questions on educational outcomes of children with autism recognising that it is frequently taking too long for children to receive a diagnosis of autism and the disproportionate number of children with autism being excluded from school.

The Education Committee held its second evidence session into Alternative Provision (AP). Witnesses were critical of rigid school behavioural and zero tolerance policies. Witnesses emphasised the failure to recognise the impact of poverty.

March

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System, Lord Agnew, wrote to the chairs of all academy trusts in England

  • Recognising the important work that they do for young people’s education. He emphasised that trusts that are performing well should not see frequent interventions from the Department for Education (DfE).
  • Urging them to ensure that budgets are managed to deliver value for money, particularly when setting the pay of lead executives
  • Emphasising the role of chairs in reducing teacher workload by only collecting the necessary information
  • Ensuring that trust governance contacts are up to date

The National Audit Office (NAO) published a report on conversion of maintained schools into academies.

  • The conversion of almost 7,000 schools has cost roughly £745 million since 2010-11.
  • Challenges around the conversion of schools into academies are likely to increase in future
  • Creating coherence in the school system “will be crucial to secure value for money and provide children with access to good end-to-end schooling”.

In 2016 the government had consulted on its proposed reforms on reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect.  The outcome of the consultation and  the government’s response confirmed that no further legal duties will be imposed on school staff (and other practitioners, groups and organisations) to report child abuse concerns or to take appropriate action where they know or suspect a child is at risk of or actually suffering from child abuse.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman told the Education Select Committee that “accountability systems need to reflect the way that the system actually operates today” which was why Ofsted would like to be able to inspect MATs. While speaking at the ASCL Conference she talked, amongst other things, about curriculum, about Ofsted not expecting schools to prepare for inspections and about moving away from a compliance approach to safeguarding.

DfE announced a review to better understand the inequalities surrounding the school exclusion system.

The Education Select Committee heard from Damian Hinds (who acknowledged the significant cost pressures that schools are experiencing but suggested there would be no additional funding ahead of the comprehensive spending review in 2019, did not answer directly if Ofsted were to be permitted to inspect MATs) and  Nick Gibb (who told MPs that the DfE is not struggling to find sponsors for schools across the country as a whole).

April

The chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, Eileen Milner, wrote to the chairs of all academy trusts in England that pay two or more salaries between £100k and £150k, asking them to justify these salaries.

James Bowen, a senior director at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) writing inTes talked about the important role played by governors and trustees in schools. He also emphasised the need for high quality training, mentoring and support.

Ofsted announced changes to its inspection timeframe under which schools previously judged ‘good’ will now receive a short inspection approximately every four years rather than every three years. Schools judged ‘requires improvement’, ‘serious weaknesses’ or ‘special measures’ will be re-inspected within 30 months (previously the timeframes were 30, 18 and 24 months respectively) while monitoring inspections would continue as before.

The Education Select Committee announced inquiries into the level of school and college funding and into support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Ambition School Leadership and LKMco published research “into the leadership, vision, strategy and operations of multi-academy trusts (MATs)”. Five models of school improvement within MATs were identified, which trusts may move through as they grow.

Sir David spoke about the crucial role of governance in ensuring schools are the best they can be at the London Regional Conference. He also expressed the view that it was not good practice for the lead executive in an academy trust to also be a trustee. Later on in the month Sir David announced his retirement from the Civil Service.

May

Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, addressed the National Association of Headteachers annual conference in Liverpool and  discussed the role of Ofsted, the future of accountability measures, academisation and improving career support for teachers.

DfE  announced the setting up of a Selective Schools Expansion Fund of £50 million for existing selective (grammar) schools to expand their premises to create new places.

The Education and Skills and Funding Agency  published information on the enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate that chairs of academy trusts must have. Chairs are also required to have their application countersigned by the secretary of state for Education.

The Public Accounts Committee heard evidence from Emma Knights of NGA as part of their inquiry into the value for money delivered on converting schools to academies.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report on the value for money of Ofsted inspection of schools. It found that “as a result of decisions by the Department and Ofsted, the level of independent assurance about schools’ effectiveness has reduced”. It also reported that 44% of headteachers said that inspection had led to improvements in their school while 71% agreed that inspectors provided useful feedback. 99% of Ofsted inspectors who are also serving practitioners said that the knowledge and experience gained was valuable to their own school(s).

The House of Commons Education Select Committee held an accountability session with the minister for school standards, Nick Gibb. Grammar schools, executive pay, recruitment and retention and English Baccalaureate were some the topics he was asked about.

June

The NGA, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) published a joint letter to thank school governors and trustees.

Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds and Shadow Secretary of State Angela Rayner attended the NGA Summer Conference. The Minister announced

  • Doubling of funding for governance training and support to £6 million up to 2021.
  • Requirement for academy trust accounts to detail staff earning over £100,000 and the percentage of teaching time those individuals undertake.
  • A “more robust process” to manage related party transactions within which “from April 2019 trusts will have to seek approval from EFSA [Education and Skills Funding Agency] for related-party transaction payments of more than £20,000” whilst “transactions below £20,000 will need to be formally declared”.

The Academies Financial Handbook, effective September 2018, was published

  • Requiring rusts to share monthly management accounts with the chair
  • Requiring trusts to meet regularly enough and for bigger trusts to consider meeting more than three times a year
  • Removal of the term “ex officio” from the description of the senior executive leader, to show that he or she does not automatically become a trustee.
  • Requiring trust boards to ensure their approach to executive pay is transparent, proportionate and justifiable

Dominic Herrington was  confirmed as the interim National Schools Commissioner (NSC).

Education Policy Institute published a report comparing the performance of ‘academy chains’ and the collective performance of maintained schools under different local authorities. They found

  • “What matters most is being in a high performing school group, not being in an academy rather than a local authority maintained school or vice-versa”
  • Local authorities in London outperform other areas of the country
  • There are cases of high performance and of sustained underperformance among both local authorities and academy chains

The education and youth ‘think and action-tank’ LKMco and the school mental health organisation Minds Ahead  published a report into the scale and causes of youth mental health issues. The report found that “75% of mental health problems begin before the age of 18”. The report also highlighted that “school leaders, including governors [and trustees] have the power to set the climate within their schools and to place pupil wellbeing at the heart of their decisions”.

SEND Governance Review Guide commissioned by Whole School SEND and co-funded by the DfE and Driver Youth Trust in partnership with governance leaders was published.

Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) published a guide for governing boards on Understanding your Data setting out the broad range of information governing boards might need to consider when fulfilling their duties.

Secretary of state Damian Hinds appeared before the House of Commons Education Select Committee to answer MPs’ questions on a whole range of issues including school funding, careers guidance, the wellbeing of pupils, exclusion of children with SEND, the accountability system and teacher workload and retention.

July

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman spoke at the Education Policy Institute about the inspection of schools which are part of multi-academy trusts (MATs). She reported two common misconceptions that inspectors encounter:

  • Schools in MATs often see themselves as separate to the leadership of the trust rather than part of the same legal entity
  • “Local governing bodies” are the accountable body for the governance of the school when in fact that is the role of the trust board

She also reported that Ofsted will begin a training programme to improve inspectors’ understanding of MAT structures and governance.

DfE published non-statutory guidance for mixed schools (maintained, academies and other independent schools) on gender separation and aims to provide support to school leaders, staff and governing boards in identifying what is legally acceptable when it comes separating pupils by sex.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) published a new analysis comparing changes in school spending per pupil in Wales and England since 2009-10. It found that spending per pupil reduced by 8% in England compared to 5% in Wales.

Ofsted published an update for its inspectors, which includes a clarification that schools should inform all governors/trustees of the inspection and that arrangements should be made for inspectors to meet the chair of governors/chair of the board of trustees and as many governors/trustees as possible during the inspection, and that as many governors/trustees as possible should also be invited to attend the final feedback meeting.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published a report in to its converting schools to academies inquiry. The report said that the government seemed not to be learning the lessons from high profile academy failures. It called for greater transparency for parents and for support for schools which wanted to become academies (including finding sponsors).

Education Select Committee (ESC) took evidence from experts as part of its inquiry into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). In her evidence Baroness Warnock said that schools should be rewarded for inclusivity.

Data released by DfE showed that there was a 15.5% rise in the number of permanent exclusions and a 12.5% rise in the number of fixed rate exclusions in 2016/2017 compared to 2015/16.

A new research report from Ofsted into obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in primary schools outlines that schools should not be seen as a “silver bullet” to tackling the complex societal issue of childhood obesity.

August

DfE published the results of a study using a series of “two-day, in-depth, qualitative case studies” with a range of London and non-London schools with consistently good and poor outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. The research looked to assess whether school cultures and practices conducive to high performance were “unique to, or more deeply ingrained in, high-performing London schools” compared to others across the country.  The report concluded that pupil performance was a better indicator of cultures and practices than where a school was located geographically. High-performing schools tended to “hold particularly high expectations”, “engender positive relationships” across the school community and “responded positively to pupils’ aspirational goals” regardless of location.

Ofsted published the findings of its Annual Teachers Survey 2018: Teachers’ Awareness and Perceptions of Ofsted. It found:

  • 51% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “Ofsted acts as a reliable and trusted arbiter of standards across all different types of schools in England” compared with 35% who agreed or strongly agreed
  • 62% of teachers whose school had been inspected by Ofsted felt “the final judgement reached by the inspection team was a fair and accurate assessment”.
  • Two thirds (66%) of teachers had heard of off-rolling and a fifth (21%) had seen it happen

A ruling from the Upper Tribunal means that schools must make appropriate adjustments for pupils with violence linked condition before looking towards exclusion.

September

The Tes/NGA survey report, “School governance in 2018” was published. Amongst other things it found

  • Three quarters of governors and trustees have a negative view of the government’s performance in education over the past year
  • Just one in five are confident that they can manage budget constraints without compromising the quality of education. Only half of respondents said that that they are balancing income and expenditure with almost a third drawing on reserves
  • Staff recruitment is particularly challenging in regions surrounding London and in schools with lower Ofsted grades

In a letter written to CEOs, principals and Chairs of Trustees, Eileen Milner, Chief Executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), outlined the most significant changes to the Academies Financial Handbook. The letter drew their attention to the changing of rules on related party transactions, the expectations for trusts to ensure that they are “transparent, proportionate and justifiable” in regard to executive pay, the role of trustees in scrutinising the trust budget, and ensuring they keep up to date on the monthly financial management reports of the trust.

Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Ofsted, published a new commentary which outlined that a new inspection framework will have the curriculum as a central focus and acknowledged that Ofsted had placed “too much weight on test and exam results”.

Over 1,000 headteachers from all over the country marched to Westminster to deliver a letter to Phillip Hammond, the chancellor, calling for increased funding and outlining how seven years of budget cuts have resulted in financial crisis for a lot of schools.

October

Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education, announced key policy measures:

  • English hubs
  • Maths hubs
  • £10 million to “support the spreading of best practice and knowledge on behaviour management and classroom management”
  • Careers guidance
  • T Levels: capital funding to support the roll-out of the new technical qualifications
  • Sports Action Plan

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, has announced some of the changes Ofsted plans to make to the schools inspection framework. The aim of these changes is to move Ofsted’s focus from headline data to how schools are educating pupils and the substance of the curriculum. A formal consultation on the new draft framework will take place from January with implementation planned from September 2019.

Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education, announced a £24million government investment in the North East of England. The “Opportunity North East” scheme is intended to provide opportunities and job prospects to young people, tackling issues which can cause areas to feel “left behind”.

Key for School Leaders published a report entitled The Challenges of Leading a Rural School . It discussed the specific issues facing rural schools.

While speaking to the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) Nadhim Zahawi, children and families minister, talked about  the important contribution maintained nursery schools make to closing the attainment gap.  He urged “all councils, all local authorities, not to make premature decisions on the future of these schools at this stage.”

November

The Institute of Directors published report setting out six key challenges facing school governors, as it seeked to encourage and enable business leaders to bring their expertise to the boards of schools and school trusts.

House of Commons education select committee heard from educational experts, schools and local authorities as part of their inquiry into education for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

DfE’s Workload Advisory Group published its report which includes recommendations for governing boards. The Secretary of State for Education accepted all of the report’s recommendations and committed to take action in a joint letter which was signed by NGA, amongst others.

The Department for Education (DfE) published the academy sector annual reports and accounts for 2016/17. The accounts show

  • 125 trusts (4% of academy trusts) were paying at least one member of staff more than £150,000
  • Details of the numbers of academy trusts (185 in all) in cumulative deficit at the end of August 2017
  • The number and value of related party transactions conducted in that year: 2,399 totalling £134 million.
  • Figures for pupil attainment in different types of school

DfE updated its guidance on mental health and behaviour in schools with information on how to identify behaviours that may be related to a mental health problem. It Also covered are the questions of working with other professionals and external agencies, along with where to find extra support.

DfE announced that a new statutory assessment system for pupils not in subject-specific study will replace P scales 1 to 4 from 2020. The ‘7 aspects of engagement’ approach focuses on abilities in specific areas such as awareness, curiosity and anticipation.

School Dash and RS Assessment produced a report exploring the association between pupil characteristics and outcomes in primary reading and maths. The data which will be useful for governors focuses on

  • Performance of summer born children as compared to their peers
  • Comparison of performance in maths between boys and girls
  • Comparison of attainment in reading between disadvantaged children and peers

House of Commons Public Accounts Committee held an inquiry into academy accounts and performance.

December

Ofsted published its annual report for 2017/18.

Key findings relating to schools:

  • 95% of early years providers are judged good or outstanding, with 86% of schools judged at least good.
  • Between January 2016 and January 2017, 19,000 pupils in years 10-11 “dropped off schools rolls”, with around half of these not appearing on another school roll.
  • Ofsted identified around 300 schools with “exceptional levels” of pupils coming off-roll.
  • Local area SEND inspections found continued lack of coordinated 0-25 strategies and poor post-19 provision.
  • A subsection of schools which have been persistently judged less than “good”, with over 490 “stuck in a cycle of poor performance” since 2005. Spielman called these “stuck schools”.
  • Leadership capacity within the sector is “worryingly thin”.

Priorities for the year ahead:

  • In December, following some targeted piloting and inspector training, Ofsted will be changing the process for reviewing MATs by introducing MAT summary evaluations.
  • From September 2019 Ofsted will use the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) to rebalance inspection and look more into school curriculums.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director, Education, published a blog setting out “A new approach to evaluating the work of multi-academy trusts”. Ofsted published guidance for inspectors for summary evaluation of MATs. Damian Hinds wrote to Amanda Spielman saying that Ofsted will “need to be clear that these are in no sense a school inspection, or something which can affect the normal schedule for school inspections, and ensure there is no suggestion that these schools have been assessed or inspected.” He also urged that inspectors “ensure that these visits do not create undue burdens on the schools or MAT”.

Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards, wrote to Amanda Spielman asking that Ofsted increase the level of inspection for outstanding schools to 10% (rather than the current 5 – 10%).

Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) released new guidance to help schools engage with their parents to “improve children’s academic outcomes”.

Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) released new guidance to help schools engage with their parents to “improve children’s academic outcomes”.

Primary school performance tables for 2017/18 were released.Governors can compare the performance of their school with comparable schools.

Schools Week published my review of 2018 which can be read here.

Teacher workload matters; what does the Report say about the role of governors

The Report of the Teacher Workload Advisory Group, chaired by Professor Becky Allen has been published recently. This is a hugely important piece of work. Below, I have extracted those parts of the report which apply to governors. I would encourage you to read the whole report too.

Overarching recommendations (Page 6)

  • School and trust leaders and governors should review their data processes according to these principles. (Page 6)

Reporting on different groups of pupils and spending

Supporting disadvantaged pupils to succeed at school is quite rightly a focus, and schools should be expected to make good use of public money – governing boards have a role in agreeing this spending and monitoring its impact. However, the current DfE requirements to report on the effectiveness of pupil premium spend to Ofsted at the point of inspection, and via reports on the school website, can create unnecessary burdens for teachers, school and trust leaders and governors. There is insufficient evidence to show that the current approach to reporting has a positive impact that justifies the burden. (Page 16)

Reporting to governing boards (Page 19)

Governing boards are responsible for setting strategic direction for their schools, holding senior leaders to account for performance and overseeing financial performance. They need access to high quality data in order to carry out these functions effectively. However, they need to be clear that theirs is a strategic oversight role rather than an operational management role, and the data they need should be commensurate with this role.

Governors should normally be prepared to receive information in whatever form it is currently being used in the school. They should agree with school and trust leaders what high-quality data they need, and when, in order to fulfil their role effectively and to avoid making unreasonable, ad hoc data requests during the course of the school year. This includes consideration of any in-year data they receive, how meaningful this is and whether this can be reduced.

Governors should also consider whether data is proportionate, how school and trust leaders are collecting it, and the frequency and time costs of data collection. For example, they should not routinely see data on individual pupils, ‘flight paths’ or other teacher judgement tracking data. They should understand the limitations of attainment, progress and target setting data, and be able to access training on the effective use of data on pupil performance.

Recommendations

  • The DfE should revise the governance handbook, competency framework and other guidance to reflect the principles of this report, and speak to governors to test what guidance and training they need.
  • The DfE should incorporate myth busting for governors into the teacher workload toolkit or other guidance, to address misconceptions of what is required by the DfE or Ofsted and where policy has changed.
  • The DfE should also continue to improve the content and usability of Analyse School Performance based on feedback from schools and governors, and place emphasis on supporting governor needs. The DfE should ensure schools are able to access comparative performance information as soon as possible.

ANNEX A: Summary of recommendations

Recommendations to the Department for Education:

 Revise the governance handbook, competency framework and other guidance to reflect the principles of this report, and speak to governors to test what guidance and training they need.

  • Incorporate myth busting for governors into the workload reduction toolkit or other guidance, to address misconceptions of what is required by the DfE or Ofsted and where policy has changed.
  • Continue to improve the content and usability of Analyse School Performance based on feedback from schools and governors, and place emphasis on supporting governor needs. The DfE should ensure schools are able to access comparative performance information as soon as possible. (Page 23)

Recommendations to Ofsted and other organisations:

  • School and trust leaders, and governors should review their data processes according to these principles.
  • Local authorities and multi-academy trusts should not request data on targets and predictions to hold schools to account. Where this is required to enable, for example, providing additional support to schools, this should not be in a different format to the format the school uses, and should not add to the number of data collections. (Page 24)

ANNEX B: Summary of advice to schools

 Governors should:

  •  normally be prepared to receive information in whatever form it is currently being used in the school. They should agree with school and trust leaders what data they need and when. This includes consideration of any in-year data they receive, how meaningful this is and whether this can be reduced. (Page 25)

Further reading:

Government Response

Important points of the report: Twitter thread by David Weston 

Some important quotes from the report: Twitter thread by Benjamin D White

 

 

 

David Weston Picks Key Points of the Teacher Workload Report

The Report of the Teacher Workload Advisory Group, chaired by Professor Becky Allen has been published recently. David Weston tweeted what he considers to be key points of this report. David’s thread is reproduced below with his permission.

Dynamite new DfE report from Professor Becky Allen group. One of the most important things anyone in school, LA and MAT leadership should read right now.

And it’s backed by *all* the major players

Let’s look at some key points.

  1. Teachers should be able to record behaviour as they happen in an MIS, not have to fill in paperwork later
  2. Schools should stop collecting teacher assessments of attainment and progress and use external or properly moderated major assessments instead. Teacher and pupil performance cannot, in most circumstances, be correctly inferred from collecting and analysing teacher assessments
  3. Schools should have *no more* than 2 or 3 data collection points each year, and even then not all classes and subjects should have to collect at the same time.
  4. Flight paths and teacher predicted grades are rarely, if ever, valid and useful in assessment systems and should not be used for monitoring.
  5. Eligibility for pay progression should *never* be based on a single set of sets of test data or exam performance for one or two classes – this is not a valid nor reliable way to judge teacher performance.
  6. Governors should not routinely see pupil progress monitoring information and should not routinely ask for complex and time consuming reports to be compiled that the organisation’s leaders would not otherwise be using themselves.
  7. Schools should avoid burdensome requirements for lengthy report writing to parents: there is nothing statutory to support this and little evidence that it’s helpful.

A massive round of applause to Professor Becky Allen and colleagues and to DfE for publishing and welcoming this.

Just found this very helpful summary

Further reading:

Teacher workload matters; what does the Report say about role of governors

Some important quotes from the report: Twitter thread by Benjamin D White

Government Response

 

Benjamin D White Picks Some Important Quotes from Teacher Workload Report

The Report of the Teacher Workload Advisory Group, chaired by Professor Becky Allen has been published recently. Benjamin tweeted quotes from the report. This twitter thread is reproduced below with Benjamin’s permission.

Whilst revising my talk for Wednesday I’ve pulled together 10 interesting quotes from Professor Becky Allen‘s working group advisory report. I think there is still plenty of data nonsense around but there’s growing support for school leaders who decide to cut it right down. (1/10)

On predicted grades: ‘ Aside from their inevitable inaccuracy, predicted grades are rarely connected to processes that help students learn.’ (p14) (2/10)

On group analysis…’ Conducting analysis on pupil premium students or by gender might be straightforward, but is not an educationally meaningful way to determine interventions and actions because students within these groups do not always share similar needs.(p16)

On identifying students for ‘intervention’: it is not efficient for leadership to collect data on 1500 pupils in a school if they only plan to work with a small group of 30 pupils. In these instances, they should try to find alternative approaches to identify the…group(p16)4/10

On accountability: The exam performance of a class depends on many factors, most of which are outside the control of the person who happens to have them in their final year…pay progression should never be dependent on quantitative assessment metrics, (e.g.) test outcomes.’ 5/10

On performance management….Proxies for teaching quality: Pupil assessment scores, grades in lesson observations, and scores following book scrutiny are all quite poor proxies for whether or not somebody is teaching well. (p17) 6/10

Well-being ‘If teachers are held to account for things that are largely outside their own control… test performance or progress based on flight paths, it is not only unfair, but induces high levels of stress and is likely to lead to burnout + attrition from the profession. 7/10

On using commercially produced targets (see image below) 8/10

Reports: ‘Lengthy written reports to parents and carers are usually burdensome for teachers to produce, and there is insufficient evidence to suggest that this is the best or only way to engage parents and carers in education.’ (p20) 10/10

Here’s the whole report: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/754349/Workload_Advisory_Group-report.pdf (11/10!)

Further reading:

Teacher workload matter;-what does the report say about the role of governors

Important points of the report: Twitter thread by David Weston

Government Response

School curriculum change: What is the role for governors?

Considering Curriculum

Being actively engaged in Edu-Twitter it is becoming more and more evident that education consultants, teachers, and headteachers are becoming increasingly engaged with the discussion about curriculum – what is it? How is it structured? What is its ethos? What does it look like in the classroom? This can be seen by the increasing number of blogs about the subject and the recent issue of Impact by the Charted College of Teaching which was focused on curriculum (and some of the articles are open access for those who are non-members like myself)

This is a welcome debate that many agree is long overdue. It is being driven, in part or in whole (depending on your political leanings), by Ofsted announcing curriculum will become more of a focus in the forthcoming framework due January 2019.

For my part I have to think how I engage in this debate, and change, at…

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