In Defence of Attendance Awards

This is a must read blog. It shows how thinking about a policy and adapting it to suit your context can mean that you have a policy which works for you, your students and parents. I’d urge governors to read this, especially if your school has attendance awards.


This is one of those posts that could be seen as slightly controversial but I’ll say it anyway. Lately on twitter I’ve been reading lots of tweets and threads from people who are very upset about giving attendance awards to children at the end of the year. The main reason cited is that it’s unfair to children who have medical problems and will never be able to win this award. Well as harsh as it sounds, life is actually very unfair. It’s a lesson we have to learn in life. We can’t remove the reward for all children because some can’t participate.

I am an Assistant Head at a special school in Blackpool and many of our cohort are profoundly poorly. Every day brings major challenges for our children. For some staying alive is the challenge they face on a daily basis. They are that poorly. I’m talking about children…

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Ofsted Inspection Handbook Sept 2018; knowing what’s changed matters

Ofsted have published the Sept 2018 version of its Inspection hadbook. For my previous blog I had extracted those parts of the handbook which talked about governance. Jude Hunton had asked on twitter if there were significant changes between the updated version and the old one. Elizabeth Boulton, Head of Research Dissemination Ofsted, had kndly responded. She told us how to check for changes in the update (click on show all updates which is next to the publication date) and listed the changes. This may be of interest to others too so I am copying the changes below.

Updated handbook: added privacy notice information, updated ‘Inspection of religious education and collective worship’ section (in annex). Updated ‘Clarification for schools/Ofsted inspection myths’ document: added new information in ‘Evidence for inspection section’ about attainment, added new sections on performance management, safeguarding, and the curriculum.

Updated paragraphs 21 and 23 to clarify that good schools are now inspected approximately every 4 years.

Paragraph 17 has been amended to clarify the position for inspecting exempt schools.

Updated for changes to ‘Requires improvement’ monitoring and changes arising from the second consultation on short inspections.

Changes to the Outcomes for pupils section reflecting changes to GCSE grades and data reports (a new IDSR); updates to Clarification for schools section and mythbuster document around myths and misunderstandings; clarification of arrangements for meeting relevant members of the governance structure and inclusion of chief executives or equivalents in inspections of academies in multi-academy trusts; and new content explaining what happens to schools that receive the ‘requires improvement’ and ‘inadequate’ judgements.

Link to latest inspection blog post with summary of changes to handbook.

Updated to reflect changes in legislation.

Added HTML version of inspection myths document.

Updated clarification document for schools added. This document has been updated to reflect the handbook for use from September 2015.

Final document for use from September 2015 published.

First published.

Ofsted Inspection Handbook (Sept 2018) and governance matters

Ofsted has recently published the School Inspection Handbook (Sept 2018). This handbook is primarily a guide for inspectors on how to carry out school inspections. However, it is made available to schools and other organisations to ensure that they are informed about the process and procedures of inspection. Below are extracts from the Handbook which relate to governors/governance. The Handbook also includes information concerning the meeting which the inspectors will hold with those responsible for governance as well as information about who can attend the feedback meeting and see the draft report. There are many myths around the role of governors during inspection so the clarification is welcome.

Outstanding/exempt schools

21. In addition, exempt schools may be inspected between risk assessments where:

  • concerns are raised about standards of leadership or governance

Short inspections of good schools

As is the case for all schools, a good school may still receive a ‘no formal designation’ inspection carried out under section 8 at any time if:

  • concerns are raised about standards of leadership or governance that suggest that it should be inspected earlier than its next scheduled inspection

Statutory provisions

  • Ofsted will report on any failure to comply with statutory arrangements, including those relating to the workforce, where these form part of the inspection framework and evaluation schedule (Part 2 of this handbook)
  • Leadership and governance
  • As many governors or trustees as possible are invited to meet inspectors during an inspection.
  • For academies, inspectors meet those directly responsible for management and governance, including the CEO/their delegate (or equivalent), the chair of the board of trustees and other trustees.
  • An inspector may talk to the chair of governors by telephone if s/he is unable to attend a face-to-face meeting with the inspector in school.
  • All those responsible for governance need to know the outcome of the inspection as soon as possible. Individual governor representatives must keep the outcomes confidential until the school has received the final inspection report.

Notification and introduction

37. During the initial notification phone call, the inspection support administrator will check the number of pupils on roll at the school, the governance arrangements for the school and whether the school has any special educational needs or additional resource provision.

40. The purpose of the lead inspector’s initial call is to:

  • confirm what the governance structure of the school or academy is,31 including with reference, particularly for academies and multi-academy trusts, to the range of functions delegated to local governing bodies or other committees
  • make arrangements for a meeting with the chair of the governing body or, where appropriate, the chair of the board of trustees and as many governors as possible – they will also invite as many governors as possible to attend the final feedback meeting

41. Inspectors will request that the following information is available at the start of the inspection:

  • documented evidence of the work of those responsible for governance and their priorities, including any written scheme of delegation for an academy in a multi-academy trust
  • any reports of external evaluation of the school, including any review of governance or use of the pupil premium funding.

The start of the on-site inspection

62. Inspectors will not arrive before 8.00am. The lead inspector should meet the headteacher and/or senior leadership team briefly at the beginning of the inspection to:

  • confirm arrangements for meetings with representatives of those responsible for the governance of the school and with key staff

Observing teaching, learning and assessment

67. Inspectors will visit lessons to gather evidence about teaching, learning and assessment and will consider this first-hand evidence alongside documentary evidence about the quality of teaching and views from leaders, governors, staff, pupils and parents. Inspectors will also include evidence from observing pupils learning in, for example, extra-curricular activities. This range of evidence also informs the evaluation of pupils’ progress, pupils’ personal development, behaviour and welfare, and the impact of leaders’ and managers’ improvements to teaching and assessment.

Meeting those responsible for governance

88. Inspectors will always seek to meet those responsible for governance during the inspection. This will usually include maintained school governors or academy trustees and sponsors (including sponsor representatives, where they exist). However, in a multi-academy trust, the board of trustees may have established a local governing body to which it may have delegated certain governance functions. In some other cases, there may be a local governing body that is wholly advisory, with no formal governance responsibilities delegated to it. Inspectors should ensure that meetings are with those who are directly responsible for exercising governance of the school and for overseeing its performance.

89. The contribution of governors to the school’s performance is evaluated as part of the judgement on the effectiveness of leadership and management. As with the meetings between inspectors and pupils, parents and staff, meetings with those responsible for governance should take place without the headteacher or senior staff.

Providing feedback

96. The on-site inspection concludes with a final feedback meeting with the school. Those connected with the school who may attend include:

  • the chair of the school’s governing board and as many governors as possible
  • for academies, the chair of the board of trustees and as many trustees as possible

97. During this meeting, the lead inspector will ensure that the headteacher and governors are clear:

  • about the provisional grades awarded for each key judgement; sufficient detail must be given by the lead inspector to enable all attendees to understand how judgements have been reached and for governors to play a part in beginning to plan howto tackle any areas for improvement
  • that the grades are provisional and so may be subject to change as a result of quality assurance procedures or moderation and must, therefore, be treated as restricted and confidential to the relevant senior personnel (as determined by the school); they must not be shared beyond the school’s leadership team and governors (including those unable to attend the final feedback meeting); information about the inspection outcomes should be shared more widely only when the school receives a copy of the final inspection report
  • about reasons for recommending an external review of governance and/or an external review of the use of the pupil premium (where applicable) and reference to the fact that this will be followed up at the next inspection
  • that, on receipt of the draft report, theymust ensure that the report remains restricted and confidential to the relevant senior personnel (as determined by the school, but including governors) and that the information contained within it is not shared with any third party or published under any circumstances

Special measures

108. When the evidence indicates that one or more of the key judgements is inadequate, inspectors must consider whether the school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education. If this is confirmed by the evidence, inspectors must consider whether leaders, managers and governors are demonstrating the capacity to improve the school. If both of these conditions are met then the school requires special measures. If neither or only one of these two conditions are met, the school has serious weaknesses

After the inspection

Arrangements for publishing the report

121. Inspection reports will be quality-assured before Ofsted sends a draft copy to the school. The draft report is restricted and confidential to the relevant personnel (as determined by the school), including those responsible for governance, and should not be shared more widely or published.

Effectiveness of leadership and management

151. The CIF sets out the overarching criteria for judging the effectiveness of leadership and management.

152. In making this judgement in schools, inspectors will consider:

  • the leaders’ and governors’ vision and ambition for the school and how these are communicated to staff, parents and pupils
  • whether leaders and governors have created a culture of high expectations, aspirations and scholastic excellence in which the highest achievement in academic and vocational work is recognised as vitally important
  • how effectively leaders use the primary PE and sport premium and measure its impact on outcomes for pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this the effectiveness of the action leaders take to secure and sustain improvements to teaching, learning and assessment and how effectively governors hold them to account for this
  • how well leaders ensure that the school has a motivated, respected and effective teaching staff to deliver ahigh quality education for all pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this
  • the quality of continuing professional development for teachers at the start and middle of their careers and later, including to develop leadership capacity and how leaders and governors promote effective practice across the school
  • how effectively leaders monitor the progress of pupils to ensure that none falls behind and underachieves, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this
  • how well leaders and governors engage with parents and other stakeholders and agencies to support all pupils
  • how effectively leaders use additional funding, including the pupil premium, and measure its impact on outcomes for pupils, and how effectively governors hold them to account for this
  • the effectiveness of governors in discharging their core statutory functions and how committed they are to their own development as governors in order to improve their performance
  • how well leaders and governors promote all forms of equality and foster greater understanding of and respect for people of all faiths (and those of no faith), races, genders, ages, disability and sexual orientations (and other groups with protected characteristics), through their words, actions and influence within the school and more widely in the community
  • the effectiveness of safeguarding
  • the effectiveness of leaders’ and governors’ work to raise awareness and keep pupils safe from the dangers of abuse, sexual exploitation, radicalisation and extremism and what the staff do when they suspect that pupils are vulnerable to these issues

Sources of evidence

154. Inspectors will obtain a range of evidence from meetings with leaders and governors and first-hand evidence of their work across the school. Inspectors will use documentary evidence provided by the school, evaluating the impact of leaders ‘and governors’ work, both currently and over time, in conjunction with first-hand evidence. Responses to the staff questionnaire and Parent View will also provide useful evidence for judging the culture that has been established in the school by leaders and managers.


156. In judging the effectiveness of leadership and management, inspectors must also judge whether the school’s arrangements for safeguarding pupils are effective, and whether those responsible for governance ensure that these arrangements are effective. There is detailed guidance on evaluating safeguarding arrangements in ‘Inspecting safeguarding in early years, education, skills settings’.


157. Inspectors will seek evidence of the impact of those responsible for governance. This includes maintained school governors, proprietors or academy trustees. In a multi-academy trust this may include members of the local governing board55 at school level, as well as the trustees.

158. Where a children’s centre is managed directly by the school’s governing body, inspectors will consider the impact of any judgements about the children’s centre or the services and activities offered through or by the centre, in judging leadership and management.

159. Inspectors will consider whether governors:

  • work effectively with leaders to communicate the vision, ethos and strategic direction of the school and develop a culture of ambition
  • provide a balance of challenge and support to leaders, understanding the strengths and areas needing improvement at the school
  • provide support for an effective headteacher or are hindering school improvement because of a lack of understanding of the issues facing the school
  • performance manage the headteacher rigorously
  • understand the impact of teaching, learning and assessment on the progress of pupils currently in the school
  • ensure that assessment information from leaders provides governors with sufficient and accurate information to ask probing questions about outcomes for pupils
  • ensure that the school’s finances are properly managed and can evaluate how the school is using the pupil premium, Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium, primary PE and sport premium, and special educational needs funding
  • are transparent and accountable, including in recruitment of staff, governance structures, attendance at meetings and contact with parents.

160. Inspectors will report on the achievement of pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities. This includes reporting on the pupils in any specialist resource provision managed by the governing body and the extent to which the education the school provides meets the needs of these pupils.

161. Inspectors will recommend an external review if governance is weak. Under ‘What the school should do to improve further’, inspectors should use the following words in the report: ‘An external review of governance should be undertaken in order to assess how this aspect of leadership and management may be improved.’

162. The school should decide how this review will take place and commission it. Reviews should be developmental. They do not represent a further inspection, although inspectors will follow up on the review during any subsequent inspection. Full details of what might be the form and nature of such reviews can be found at:

Use of the pupil premium

163. Inspectors will gather evidence about the use of the pupil premium in relation to the following key issues:

  • how leaders and governors have spent the pupil premium, their rationale for this spending and its intended impact

Grade descriptors for the effectiveness of leadership and management

Note: Grade descriptors are not a checklist. Inspectors adopt a ‘best fit’ approach that relies on the professional judgement of the inspection team.

Outstanding (1)

  • Leaders and governors have created a culture that enables pupils and staff to excel. They are committed unwaveringly to setting high expectations for the conduct of pupils and staff. Relationships between staff and pupils are exemplary.
  • Leaders and governors focus on consistently improving outcomes for all pupils, but especially for disadvantaged pupils. They are uncompromising in their ambition
  • Governors systematically challenge senior leaders so that the effective deployment of staff and resources, including the pupil premium, the primary PE and sport premium, Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium and special educational needs funding, secures excellent outcomes for pupils. Governors do not shy away from challenging leaders about variations in outcomes for pupil groups and between disadvantaged and other pupils nationally.
  • Leaders and governors have a deep, accurate understanding of the school’s effectiveness informed by the views of pupils, parents and staff. They use this to keep the school improving by focusing on the impact of their actions in key areas.
  • Leaders and governors use high quality professional development to encourage, challenge and support teachers’ improvement. Teaching is highly effective across the school

Good (2)

  • Leaders and governors are ambitious for all pupils and promote improvement effectively. The school’s actions secure improvement in disadvantaged pupils’ progress, which isrising, including in English and mathematics.
  • Leaders and governors have an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the quality of education at the school. This helps them plan, monitor and refine actions to improve all key aspects of the school’s work.
  • Leaders and governors use professional development effectively to improve teaching. They use accurate monitoring to identify and spread good practice across the school.
  • Governors hold senior leaders stringently to account for all aspects of the school’s performance, including the use of pupil premium, the primary PE and sport premium, Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium and special educational needs funding, ensuring that the skilful deployment of staff and resources delivers good or improving outcomes for pupils.

Requires improvement (3)

  • Leadership and management are not yet good.

Inadequate (4)

Leadership and management are likely to be inadequate if one or more of the following applies.

  • Capacity for securing further improvement is poor and the improvements leaders and governors have made are unsustainable, have been implemented too slowly or are overly dependent on external support.
  • Leaders and governors, through their words, actions or influence, directly and/or indirectly, undermine or fail to promote equality of opportunity. They do not prevent discriminatory behaviour and prejudiced actions and views.
  • Leaders and governors are not protecting pupils from radicalisation and extremist views when pupils are vulnerable to these. Policy and practice are poor, which means pupils are at risk.

Attendance and punctuality

Sources of evidence

180. Inspectors will make this judgement using evidence seen during the inspection as well as evidence of trends over time. The judgement will be informed by documentary evidence about behaviour, including how the school tackles poor behaviour, as well as discussions with and observations of pupils at break times, lunchtimes and between lessons. Inspectors will assess the school’s use of exclusion, including the rates, patterns and reasons for exclusion, as well as any differences between groups of pupils. Inspectors will gather the views of parents, staff, governors and other stakeholders.

Inspection of religious education and collective worship

Schools with a religious character

The inspectors who conduct section 48 inspections are appointed by the school’s governing body or the foundation governors in a voluntary controlled school, having consulted with person(s) prescribed in regulations (normally the appropriate religious authority) where applicable. The inspectors are normally drawn from the relevant faith group’s section 48 inspection service, although not all faith groups have their own inspectors organised in this way. Regulations specify that section 48 inspections must be conducted within five school years from the end of the school year in which the last section 48 inspection took place.

The relationship between section 5 and section 48 inspections is governed by a protocol between Ofsted and signatory faith group inspectorates. Ofsted’s lead inspector should check the section 48 arrangements and:

  • if no section 48 inspection by a suitable person has taken place, the lead inspector should check the arrangements; if the governors have not arrangedfor a section 48 inspection, inspectors should conclude that they have failed to carry out a statutory responsibility and refer to this in the section 5 inspection report, as part of the governance narrative under the leadership and management section of the report.

31This must be checked with the headteacher as part of the call. Where multi-academy trusts have delegated responsibility to local governing bodies, this should be set out in a scheme of delegation. Academies should also set out their governance structure in their annual statement of accounts, which can generally be accessed through the DfE performance tables’ site. Inspectors should clarify where responsibility lies and who they should talk with during the inspection, especially where a school is part of a multi-academy trust.

55In a multi-academy trust, this could include meeting with a local governing board where relevant responsibilities are devolved in accordance with the scheme of delegation.

Governance matters at Festival of Education Part 2

Photo Credit: Cat Scutt
Left to right: Mark Lehain, Katie Paxton-Dogget, Naureen Khalid, Jo Penn, Will Malard

On Friday 22nd June 2018 I chaired a panel discussion at the Festival of Education at Wellington College. With an ever increasing number of schools joining Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), there is a need to understand how these are governed. This was a well attended session. It was good to see so many people take an interest in governance. What was especially pleasing was that governors and trustees and even a Member of a trust were present.

The session looked at “The Brave New World of MAT Governance“. The experts who took part in the discussion were

  • Jo Penn: Jo has many years of experience as a school governor. She is currently Chair of a Local Authority Primary School Governing Body and on the Board of a Secondary Academy. She has also been a member of a Special School Interim Executive Board and Chair of a Foundation School/converter Academy for four years. Jo is an experienced National Leader of Governance
  • Katie Paxton-Doggett: Katie is the author of ‘How to Run an Academy School’ and ‘Maximise Your Income: A guide for academies and schools’. Dual-qualified as a Solicitor and Chartered Company Secretary, Katie has significant experience in providing specialist governance support to various academies and MATs
  • Will Millard: Will is a Senior Associate at LKMco where he undertakes research into education and youth policy, and works with a range of organisations to help them develop new projects, and assess and enhance their social impact
  • Mark Lehain: Mark has a wealth of educational experience, having founded one of the first free schools (Bedford Free School) in the country. Bedford Free School has thrived and they have created the Advantage Schools MAT. Mark is the Director of Parents and Teachers for Excellence. He was appointed Interim Director of New Schools Network in March 2018

The discussion started with the panel being asked to define effective MAT governance and to suggest ways by which we can judge how good or otherwise the trustees are. The panel was in agreement with Jo who said that effective governance is effective governance irrespective of the structure. For governance to be effective we need a clear strategic vision, transparency, accountability, ethical leadership and effective training at all levels. Katie agreed that training should be mandatory. She also made the point that there is no need to re-invent the wheel; we can learn from other sectors. Will referenced the research  published recently by LKMco. It is difficult to answer what is effective MAT governance because research has shown that MATs are different and they change as they expand which brings about changes in the way they are governed. As it’s difficult to define, it’s difficult to design a matrix to judge how effective it is. Mark said that if the outcomes for students are good and the right decisions are being made at the right time we may be able to say that the trustees are doing a good job.

Talking about MAT expansion led the discussion to whether governors are coping with moving from governing one school to governing groups of schools in MATs. Katie was of the opinion that governing MATs requires a massive change of mindset and people need to understand that they need to step away from representing just one school. Jo talked about her own experience. She has been a governor in almost all settings but the biggest challenge was the change from being a trustee in a single academy trust (SAT) to a member of the local governing body (LGB) when the SAT joined a MAT. She explained that when the SAT trustees were discussion joining a MAT, the most challenging discussion was around giving up some autonomy to gain other advantages. Jo also warned that we need to be cautious and careful as we now have a two tier system. We may leave those governors behind who are governing LA schools if we aren’t careful because we are so busy talking about the importance of MAT governance.

Talking about LGBs led us to discussing schemes of delegation (SOD). Mark agreed with Jo that when schools join a MAT they have to give up something to gain something. Mark warned that there is a danger that if we take too much away from the local governors and give it to the centre then people may not want to put themselves forward to serve on LGBs. When Bedford Free School was forming a MAT and was talking to other schools there was a great deal of discussion around the SOD. They put in a lot of thinking around the SOD and have kept it under review. Like everything else, there isn’t a one size fits all SOD, appoint made by Katie who said MATs should look at a SOD and then adapt it to their schools and context. Katie talked about the work she has done with community MATs. The back office services were centralised but the teaching and learning and how students were doing, the “proper governance” stuff happened at the local level. So the SOD is about delegation at the local level and the trustees having an oversight rather than doing it at the board level.

The panel then discussed whether centralisation of some services like finance and delegating monitoring of teaching and learning o the LGB would make serving on the LGB more or less attractive. Jo was the opinion that if the LGB feeds back to the board who then take decisions then the LGB may not feel empowered making it less attractive. Katie pointed out that there are models which empower the LGBs. Jo also made the point that the SOD is not written in stone and the board is legally allowed to change it if it wishes to do so.

The panel also discussed how performance of MATs could be judged. Mark was of the opinion that at the minute we have no one who has enough experience of running MATs to be able to judge performance of other MATs. There is also the fact that MATs are very different. For example Harris, ARK, Tauhedul, Inspiration, Reach2 are all very different from each other. Mark’s worry is that by trying to judge MATs we may end up trying to standardise the way they are run. Mark admitted that there have been failures in the way MATs are run but there have been examples of poor governance in the maintained sector too. What we should do is try and learn from these failures. Will said that the research had not shown a clear relationship between SOD and MAT performance and he reiterated Mark’s point that there is no clear one good way to judge MAT performance. According to Katie, the success/failure is not about structures but about the people, about what they are doing and how they are using the structures. With MATs we are at a stage where we can still shape things.

We talked a little about the executive function in MATs. Mark said that in theory there should be a difference between the executive leaders of single schools and those of MATs but in practice people are still finding their way. The role of a MAT CEO is very different to that of a head of a single school

I then asked the panel to give me a short answer to the following question before we took questions from the floor.

What is the one thing you would change to make MAT governance effective?

Jo: Mandatory training for everyone involved in governance. Accredited pre-appointment training same way as it’s done for magistrates. People join boards without a real understanding of the role. It takes a while to get to grips with the role.

Will: Agree with Jo.

Katie: Not sure the MAT structure actually works. Take a step back and see how schools fit together in the legal structure.

Mark: Training of company secretaries. The role of the clerk in a maintained school is an important role but a completely different one to that of a Company ecretary in a MAT. We sometimes use clerk and Company Secretary as interchangeable terms but they are different roles. How many clerks know their Articles of Association inside out and understand the law around that?

Questions from the floor:

Is there a tangible way for businesses to support governance in schools?

Jo: Businesses should encourage their staff to become governors and give them the time and space to do it.

Katie: Businesses should understand that their employees will be getting board level experience which they can bring back to their companies.

Are the challenges in recruiting to MAT boards different to recruiting to boards of single schools?

Naureen: People may find it more attractive to govern in their local school, in a school in their community as they feel connected to it than joining a MAT board which may sit in a different city. People may ask themselves if they have the skills or the time to govern 20 schools.

Katie: The more specific I have been about the skills I want, the more successful I have been in recruiting. This is true for parent governors too. Even in small schools if you are very specific about the skills you want then weirdly it brings more people forward. So rather than sending out a general letter, be very specific about the skills you are looking for and people reading the letter will go “Ooh that’s me”. It appeals to their sense of worth

Jo: Don’t think with MAT boards we’ve reached a point where the boards are massively recruiting.

Will: Don’t think the people in general realise how complex the system is. There is a PR challenge in actually setting out that this is what is and this is what you are stepping into.

Question form Katie to the Trust Member: How connected do you feel to your MAT and what do you think you are contributing to the organisation?

I have recently become a Member. I realise that the role is different to that of the trustees as Members have fewer duties than trustees. I see the role as one of holding the trustees to account. It is a brave new world. This is why it is good to come to groups like this and learn from each other.

Mark: We have a come a long way since 2010 when  people did not have a clear understanding about the difference between Members, trustees, directors and governors. People now understand that Members really need to appoint good trustees. We are in a much stronger position now. It may not be quite right but we are much closer to a really effective system now.

And on that positive note, the session came to an end. I’m very grateful to Jo, Katie, Mark and Will for their valuable contributions and to everyone else who attended the session. Like the gentleman said the value of these sessions is in the learning which takes place when we talk and discuss issues with each other. I’m already thinking ahead to the 2019 Festival of Education and hope to see many of you there.

Schools Week covered our session in the Festival of Education coverage (Note: The piece mentions Gillian Allcroft from NGA whereas it was Katie who was part of the panel).

I have previusly blogged about other sessions which I attended and which were aroud goverance.

Thinking ahead/planning for the new governance year matters

As this year draws to a close, governors may be starting to think ahead to 2019. You may be thinking of elections for chair and vice chair. You may be planning to hold parent/staff governor elections if the terms of the incumbents are coming to an end. You may be aware that terms of some appointed governors are also coming to an end and vacancies will need to be filled. Hopefully, you have agreed the procedure of election for the chair and vice chair and equally importantly have a succession plan in place. Hopefully, also, you have conducted a skills audit so you can

  • Let parents know which skills are lacking so anyone with the required skills may consider standing
  • Appoint governors to plug the gap in skills

Once you have new governors in place, what should you do to ensure they are productive members of the governing body (GB)? Below are some suggestions. Is there anything else you would add?

Have a fit for purpose induction programme in place

People, who join a GB, in the very vast majority of cases, do so because they want to support the school. If this is the first time they have become a governor then, in all probability, they will not have a sound knowledge of what is involved. Even if they have been a governor elsewhere, no two schools are alike and therefore an induction bespoke for that particular school and GB is needed. I have written about induction in detail before. In short, some of the things a good induction programme should cover are

  • The core responsibilities of governors
  • The difference between operational and strategic matters
  • To ensure that elected governors understand that their role is not to represent the constituency that elected them.
  • To understand what is meant by conflicts of interest and how these are managed
  • To understand that as governors you are not there to follow your personal agendas/look after your own child

Mentoring programme

It is a good idea to ask an experienced governor to mentor the newly appointed governor. A good induction and a good mentor can bring a new governor up to speed quite quickly.

Continued Professional Development (CPD)

A CPD programme is essential. Governors need to ensure that they continuously evaluate personal and GB’s training needs and put into place mechanisms for governors to access these. I have previously written about this. Governors should be encouraged to attend educational events too. If your GB is an NGA member then do try to attend their conferences. Twitter is a great way to keep up to date. Encourage governors to sign up and follow accounts such as @UKGovChat Ofsted, National Governance Association, Sean Harford Department for Education  

Facebook is another avenue to explore for CPD. There are groups which you can join which allow members to network and support each other such as School Governors UK, Jane-School Governor’s Group, SEN School Governors Forum (UK) and others.

Elected governors

People who join the GB after winning an election are governors, like other governors. They should understand that as governors they need to evaluate the information before them and come to a decision based on what they think is in the best interest of ALL children (for governors of single schools or member of local governing bodies (LGBs) this means ALL children of their school; for trustees this means ALL children of ALL the schools in the trust).

Have a code of conduct in place

It is very good practice for GBs to have a code of conduct which all governors read and sign upon joining and then annually. The code should cover the purpose of the GB and describe appropriate relationship between individual governors/trustees/LGBs, the whole GB and the executive leaders. It should also cover how breaches of the code would be handled.

Role descriptors

It is also a good idea to have agreed role descriptors. These should cover

  • All governors
  • Chair
  • Vice Chair
  • Committee chairs
  • Link roles
  • Safeguarding governor
  • SEN governor

Having a document which lists what people occupying any of the above roles should do/should not do will help with the smooth running of the GB.

A school visit/monitoring visit policy

It is good practice to have a monitoring/visit policy in place. This should be drawn up with input from governors as well as the head and staff. A policy agreed by all will help in ensuring that the visits are productive. I have written about this before too.

Good communication channels

Sometimes parents/staff bring concerns to parent/staff governors because they have no other way of communication with the GB/school. Parents/staff may feel that the role of the parent/staff governor is to represent them. In such cases the governor should advice the parent/staff member about what to do. This may involve sign posting the complaints policy to the parent. The GB should ensure that there are good communication channels which parents can use to voice their views. This may involve conducting parent/student/staff surveys. Policies such as the complaint policy, grievance policy, whistleblowing policy, freedom of information policy should be readily available (on the website and in hard copy for those who want it). The website should also list names and contact details of governors.

When things go wrong and the role of the Chair

In the large majority of cases difficulties arise because people have not understood their position and role properly. A governor may go into school on a monitoring visit but do it in such a way that the head/staff feel uneasy. An elected governor may be under the impression that they are there to represent the people who elected them. A governor who has a child at the school may, unwittingly, be promoting the interest of the child rather than ALL the children. The induction programme and the code of conduct should cover all this but if there is still an issue then the role of the chair becomes crucial. In the vast majority of cases the Chair can help resolve the situation by having a quiet word with the governor. As I mentioned before, in the vast majority of situations difficulties arise when people aren’t clear about governance and the Chair can clarify this. This should be done in such a way that the governor does not feel they are being picked upon. This is why a quiet word is better than tackling it in a meeting. It may also transpire that the governor has legitimate concerns which the Chair can think about and take appropriate action. Another thing which chairs should watch out for is that it is not the head’s role to have a word with the governor. If the head has some concerns then they should speak to the chair who will then try and resolve the matter.

Self evaluation

It is good practice for governors to evaluate their own and the entire GB’s performance so that any changes which need to be made can be highlighted.


If you do not have an independent, professional clerk, then do think of appointing one for next year.

Hopefully, with these measures in place governance will be smooth.

One last thing; governor wellbeing matters. As governors you work very hard during the year. This is on top of your day jobs/other responsibilities. Do take the opportunity to relax and recharge over the summer.

Informing governors about Ofsted inspection matters

Education, like other fields, has its fair share of myths. One of the persistent myths concerns the role of governors during an Ofsted inspection. Shena Lewington had first raised the matter of governors meeting inspectors, being able to attend the feedback meeting and seeing the draft report. Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director, Education, to his credit, has tried to bust the myth that not all governors can meet inspectors, attend the feedback or see the draft report again and again. This myth, however, refuses to die! This is why I am very happy to see this addressed again in the July edition of the School Inspection Update (Issue 14). I am copying the relevant passage below.

Informing governors about an inspection

It has been brought to our attention that some schools have not informed all of their governors/trustees about the inspection of their school, nor invited them to meet inspectors during the inspection.

Inspectors should make clear to the headteacher, at the start of the inspection, that all governors/trustees must be informed 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.

There you have it! Governors and trustees must be informed that their school is being inspected. The school should make arrangements so as many governors/trustees can meet inspectors/attend the feedback meeting as possible. Ofsted and Sean do all they can to publicise this. People sometimes say that not everyone is on twitter and so these clarifications are missed by those who aren’t. It is therefore appreciated that the school inspection update has clarified this yet again. It is up to us as school leaders/governors/trustees to keep ourselves informed by reading these updates. Please pass this on to your chair/head/governors/trustees and governor/trustee colleagues in other schools so that we can all help kill this myth once and for all!

Governance matters at Festival of Education Part 1

I attended the Festival of Education held at Wellington College on 21st and 22nd June 2018. The fact that there were sessions related to governance was greatly appreciated by everyone who has an interest in school governance. We even got a mention when Julian Thomas, Master of Wellington College addressed the speakers at the end of day one!

Below are the notes I made during the governance related sessions. In order to keep the blog to a reasonable length, the blog will be in two parts. I hope they will be of some use and you will think of putting in a proposal yourself next year or just come along to listen to the various speakers.

Handling public difficulties – essentials for school leaders and governors (Ben Verinder;
Managing Director of Chalkstream).

This was an informative session. As governors/trustees there may be times when we are facing a difficult situation and have to communicate with the press/public/parents/communities. Ben made the point that teachers and school leaders are trusted by the public so we are starting from an advantageous point. Other points made by Ben are as under

  • If at all possible speak while standing in a classroom
  • Never say “No comment”. There will be times when you can’t say much. In these situations rather than saying no comment say something along the lines of “I’m sorry I can’t say much at the moment because…” and give the reason. Just saying no comment makes people think you are hiding something.
  • It is a good idea to have key facts about your school on your website so journalists researching the story will be able to use that
  • If you have journalists coming to the school then it may be better to invite them in. He advantages of this are that
    • They won’t harass staff/students at the gate
    • You have some control
    • By asking them in you are being open and inviting and they may be less harsh in their write up
  • It is essential to have a risk management and the most important thing to have in place is a team which will come into action when needed. The team
    • Should evaluate the situation and judge how “scared” it needs to be
    • The team needs a leader and a spokesperson. These shouldn’t be the same person as the spokesperson will be handling the communications and can’t then be expected to lead too.
    • Make sure all communications are consistent. The messages sent to staff/parents/press should be the same. If the press are told one thing and the staff/parents another then there are chances that the communications sent to parents/staff will find their way to the press.
    • Chair of Governors/nominated governor could be on the team. They could help take care of the head and staff
  • The way you develop relationships is important. If you have invested in building a relationship with your local press then this will be useful when you are dealing with a crisis
  • You will be receiving lots of advice from different quarters. Evaluate it. Ben gave us the example of Thomas Cook (carbon monoxide poisoning at one of their properties) and Alton Towers (accident at one of the rides). Thomas Coo didn’t apologise whereas Alton Towers immediately did. The reputational damage was lass in the latter case
  • Remember everyone will want to comment on your school. Be prepared for that
  • If you have a bad Ofsted report
    • Say you are sad and at the same time indicate that you are not complacent and have a plan of action to tackle issues raised in the report.
    • Say what you will do to address the concerns raised in the report
    • Highlight the good things that the report has listed
    • Important the message to the staff and parents is consistent
  • Issues with school uniform
    • If you are changing the uniform then make sure this is communicated well and in plenty of time
    • Be very clear what is acceptable and what is not
    • In this case too, a relationship which has been developed over time with the local media will be useful. Pre-empt challenges
    • Before making changes/bringing in new rules do think if they are necessary or are they over the top.

Academies – asset stripping, profit-making and disempowering? Panel Discussion. Katie Paxton-Dogget, Panel Chair. Author How to Run An academy School; Emma Knights OBE, CEO NGA; John Banbrook, Finance Director Farringdon Academy of Schools, Jon Chaloner, CEO GLF Schools; Sarah Chambers, Academy Support Manager)

Katie started by asking if headlines of asset stripping, power stripping etc are true. Emma made the point that disasters happen in all sectors. It’s effective governance which can stop these from happening. We are bad at recognising bad practice. We have too many related part transactions. We need to get better at learning from instances when things have gone wrong. These are all reported publicly but what we need is independent review of these cases so lessons can be learnt. We need is to ensure that we have no crooks, cronies cowards!

Katie then asked the panel that if she was a governor of a single school would she/her school lose power if her school joined a MAT. Jon answered by asking a question himself, “What powers do you think you have?” He went on to say that it is important to remember that in MATs the responsibility rests with the MAT board. John made the point that there really wasn’t great autonomy under local authorities either. Outstanding schools had converted because they wanted to take control of the funding and school improvement. He and his school improvement team have a great deal of contact with the schools in his MAT.

The discussion then moved onto funding. Sarah made the point that legally the MAT board can top slice or do GAG pooling. Emma said MAT trustees need to understand the role of a MAT trustee. Some still think of in terms of “it’s my school” rather than the whole trust. Jon said that GAG pooling doesn’t sit well with him. His trust has schools no one wants. Funding is an issue which will keep commanding our interest for a long time to come. John said that when thinking about funding people have to consider the cost of teaching staff. Teachers working for his trust are happy and tend to stay, resulting in schools having staff with high salaries. Schools also find it difficult to appoint NQTs as it is an expensive area where NQTs tend not to apply.

This was a really interesting session and could have done with more time but we could not overrun as Emma was chairing one after this one.

A Vision for State Schools in England: Where Do We Want To Be – And How Are We Going To Get There? Panel Discussion. Emma Knights OBE, CEO NGA, Panel Chair; Alison Critchley, Chief Executive RSA Academies; Andrew Warren, Executive Director/Chair Manor Teaching School/ Teaching Schools Council; Ros McMullen, Executive Principal Midland Academies Trust.


This was another very interesting discussion. Ross made the point that that we are where we are and asking to go back to the old LA controlled system won’t be beneficial. She also said that school leaders who work in special measure schools and help them to get to good are the people who actually know how to improve schools. This high quality leadership is the magic bullet if there is one. She also wanted a change in the system so that school leakers did not spend time writing bids which they usually never manage to get. The Headteachers Round Table would like an end to this system. She said that workload has reduced to some extent for staff but not for heads. She would like the Secretary of State to stop visioning and let school leaders get on with their jobs. She would like schools/MATs to work together and help each other so that collaboration isn’t force upon us from the centre.

Andrew’s worry was that a large number of schools are not in MATs and they don’t have LA support now. This is especially worrying for schools in rural areas. We have a responsibility to help these schools which aren’t in the MAT “club”.

Alison was of the opinion that there are various ways schools can collaborate and cooperate with each other. They should be allowed to do so and the structures can follow after the ways of collaborating have been worked out.

This session ended with Ros saying that leaders need to be given time and space. It’s about our mindsets too. We tend to beat ourselves a lot. We need to talk up schools, the large majority of which are good, happy places.