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

 

 

 

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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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Schemes of Delegation matter

On Friday, 5th October 2018 I attended the ICSA Academy Governance Conference. The day was packed with really good, thought provoking presentations. In this blog I will write about what various presenters had to say about schemes of delegation (SoD).

A SoD is a key document which lays out which functions have been delegated to which body. The trust boards of multi-academy trusts (MATs) determine the extent of delegation to local governing bodies (LGBs). Once this has been decided the SoD must be published on websites.

Leora Cruddas (CEO Confederation of School Trusts) spoke about the importance of a good SoD. She said that trustees need to own their SoD and not get someone external to the organisation to draw it for them. Sam Henson, Head of Information National Governance Association, spoke in the afternoon. He said that NGA publishes model SoD but he agreed with Leora that trustees should look at these model documents and adapt them to their MAT. Different MATs use different SoD. Sam informed the delegates that NGA now uses the term “mixed delegation” rather than “earned autonomy”. Leora also said that the SoD should not be a long, complicated document but should be simple and easy to understand by anyone reading it.

As MATs grow they need to keep the governance structure under review. It is also a good idea to review your SoD and see if it is still fit for purpose. Is it making the LGB feel part of the MAT? Do they feel that they are an effective and valuable part of the whole organisation? As Leora said why have committees if you don’t give committees work to do? The MAT does, however, need to ensure that the LGB understands that it is the trust board which is the legally accountable body. At the same time the board needs to assure that the work is not being duplicated at any particular level. The role of the LGB is not to hold the board to account. This does not mean that there can or should be no challenge from the LGB. Good governance requires good, constructive challenge. The LGB should be acting as the eyes and ears of the trust board and feeding back local concerns as well as what is working well to the board.

Liz Dawson and Anna Machin (Ark Schools) spoke about how governance is structured in their organisation. They have decided to call their SoD Accountabilities Framework. They said that important points to remember when drawing up a SoD is that you are really clear about the role, purpose and function of each layer of your governance structure. As an organisation matures or grows it is helpful to review your SoD. It is also a good idea to get feedback when you are thinking of revising your SoD. This will help people feel part of the process and they will feel they own the document.

The fact that the SoD can and should be under review is a very important one. When MATs are looking for schools to join their organisation they should make it clear to them that the SoD the MAT has at that moment in time may not be the same further down the line, that revisions are possible. Any governing body which is considering joining a MAT must realise that the SoD is something which the trust board is legally allowed to change. They should understand that powers delegated to them may be withdrawn or increased in the future. If and when this happens, it must not come as a shock. This is not to say that the board should not explain why that has happened. As noted above revisions which have considered feedback from everyone concerned will have more buy in from everyone. A very interesting point was made by an audience member that if anyone was going for a headship in a school which was part of a MAT, they should consider the SoD carefully. This brings me to another important point. Everybody who is involved with MAT governance should know their Articles, SoD and other governance documents inside out.

Functions which are delegated to LGBs may include monitoring how the school is operating within the agreed policies, managing its finances, meeting agreed targets, engaging with stakeholders, reporting to the board, etc. Liz and Anna had mentioned that although their heads of schools are not line managed y the LGBs, the chair of the LGBs are part of the heads’ appraisal team as they work closely with the heads and their input is valuable.

SoD also came up in the presentation by Hannah Catchpool (Partner, head of academies, RSM) and James Saunders (Audit Director, RSM). They said that questions from an auditors’ point of view concerning the SoD are

  • How up to date is your SoD?
  • Are all staff aware of it?
  • Are people following the SoD and only approving/signing off things they have delegated powers to do so?

In summary, the scheme of delegation is a very important document. It lays out the functions delegated by the board to the LGB. It should be easy to read and understand. It must be published on the website and everyone in the organisation must be aware of it and should know what they are delegated to do. The board is legally empowered to change the SoD. The SoD should be kept under review and this is especially important when the MAT grows or undergoes other changes.

If you are interested in reading the tweets from the conference, you can do so using this link.

Blogging matters

Blogging 2

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

During my time on social media I have noticed that more and more have started to blog. I have also noticed that  governors are not well represented amongst these bloggers. I think that governors should think about blogging about their experiences, thoughts, best practises etc.

Why blog?

  • Blogging is a powerful means of getting your ideas out to a wider audience.
  • You can use blogs to highlight issues which may interest other governors (for example, I had asked Ofsted to clarify what they expected governors to do during a school monitoring visit. I published the response I received on my blog which meant that governors who follow my blog were able to read Ofsted’s response).
  • Blogging can be a means of sharing good practice (for example how to carry out monitoring visits).
  • Blogging can be a means of starting a debate (for example should Ofsted inspect MATs).
  • Blogging can make you reflect on your own practice.
  • You can use certain times of the year (your blog anniversary, New Year) to look back and celebrate your achievements or examine why you didn’t accomplish all that you had hoped to and then work out what to do next.
  • Blogs can be used to collate information. At the end of each calendar year I write a review of the year where I collect links to important information published during the year. This saves me time when I need to look up something.
  • You can use it to compile resources. I, for example, have been collecting questions governors have been asked during Ofsted inspections.
  • I use my blog to “store or file” important documents (I have the links to Governors Guide to the Law and the various versions of the Handbook saved on my blog.
  • You may find posts on other blogs which are of interest to you. These can then be re-blogged on your site bringing them to the attention of people who follow your blog
  • I have used blogs to write about conferences I have attended. This serves two proposes. It becomes a permanent record of what I found interesting which I can go back to. This also means that people who could not attend the conference in person can read about it on my blog.
  • If you are writing a thesis, article, book or preparing a speech, then blogging can be a means of “road test” your ideas.
  • Sometimes, while discussing something on Twitter, you are constrained by the fact that you can use 280 characters only. Following the Twitter discussion with a blog is one way of getting your point of view across fully.

What stops people blogging?

  • Some people may feel they don’t have enough free time to blog. I feel that if you feel strongly about blogging then you can find time to do so. Educational bloggers, for example, are all holding down jobs but do manage to blog.
  • Lack of confidence may stop some people. Like anything else you may do, confidence comes with time. If you have someone who can read your drafts and give you feedback, that may be one way of building up confidence. Blogs are not books or academic theses and therefore are easier to write.
  • Thinking you have nothing to say, or nothing interesting to say may stop some people too. Everyone has something to say!
  • Governors, for example, may feel that governance issues are confidential issues and therefore they don’t feel they can blog about these. Of course, confidential issues must never be blogged about but that is not what I’m saying you should do. You can write about these in such a way that confidentiality isn’t breached. For example, if your board has an issue with the Chair becoming too “cosy” with the head, you can blog about qualities of a good chair and highlight that a good chair will maintain a professional relationship with the head. As long as you don’t indentify the people involved you will be ok. If you feel unable to talk about the issues even in general terms then there is still a great deal which needs to be discussed; Ofsted’s expectations of governance; are they real or not, for example.
  • Some people would like to start blogging but don’t know how. Read on, help is at hand!

A (short, simple) guide to blogging

  • Think about what you would like to write about. You can read blogs written by other governors here to get an idea of what other governors are writing about. Try to find something you feel passionate about which perhaps is not already being covered.
  • Choose a name for your blog and try to steer clear of common names.
  • While there are many blogging platforms, I prefer WordPress. There is a free option so you don’t have to pay to start a blog. Go to the WordPress site and set up your blog. You will need a valid email address before you can set this up. I won’t go through all the steps here but feel free to get in touch (or ask on Twitter) if you need any help.You can remain anonymous if that’s what you prefer to do.
  • If you are on Twitter and/or Facebook, then link your blog to these sites. This way whenever you publish a post it will be publicised on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Write as much as you can about yourself (unless you are blogging anonymously of course). People who will read your blogs would like to find out a bit more about you.
  • Blog posts should not be too long as people either don’t read them or give up half way. 1000-1500 words is about right.
  • Once you have published your post do tweet about it. If you are a member of a group on any other social media platform, then post a link to your post there too. Promoting your posts is a completely acceptable way of increasing traffic to your blog.
  • Ending the post with a question may encourage people to comment on your blog. If people comment on your blog then do engage with them. You can set your blog up so that comments will need to be approved by you before they are published.
  • If you decide to use an image then make sure you are not breaching  copyright rules. There are many sites which will allow you to download free images.

As you can see, blogging isn’t difficult and there are many benefits to be had. So, let’s get some more governors blogging!

 

Maximising governance time matters; a checklist. With thanks to Aidan Severs

I recently read a very interesting article by Aidan Severs on how to maximise learning time in lessons. He gave a ten point checklist which people could use to streamline lessons. I read his checklist and thought that it could be adopted for governance. So, here goes.

1. Reduce distractions
When you’re in a governors’ meeting does it sometimes go off into tangents which have nothing to do with the topic being discussed? If this happens then, as Chair, you should try and gently bring the discussion back to the item on the agenda. This will help keep attention focused on what needs to be discussed and also stop the meeting overrunning.

2. Match activities to lesson objectives
Aidan explains why this is important in a class setting. Matching activities to governance objectives is just as important. For example, if governors carry out school visits, the reason for the visit must be clear and should feed into how we challenge and support our school leaders. Some boards find it useful to ask governors to monitor specific areas or classes. Others align the visits to specific areas of the school development plan. Which ever way you do it, you should ensure that these activities lead to maximum understanding of how the school is performing.

3. Intelligent sequencing
Match your meeting agenda to what happens in schools. Discussion of exam results and finances/budgets should happen at particular times of the year. Also give some thought to the order in which you want to cover the various items.

4. Lesson structure
Aidan says lessons should be organised in a way which will make the most use of the available time. For board meetings structure of the meeting is of similar importance. Plan the agenda well in advance. Seek input from the head. Your clerk’s help is invaluable in drawing up the agenda. They will help ensure nothing of importance is left off the agenda. Decide how much time each item should be allocated to each item on the agenda. If you have invited a staff member who usually doesn’t attend your meetings, then try and put the item to which they would be contributing at the top of the agenda and once that’s been dealt with let them leave.

5. Scaffolding and differentiation
Aidan talks about how teachers can structure lessons so each child’s learning is maximised. This made me think of governors who have just joined the board. Though not scaffolding in the sense that Aidan was talking about, but we, especially chairs, can take steps to ensure that the new governor understands what’s being discussed. First and foremost, if your new governor is from a field other than education then do make sure they have a glossary of terms which they’ll come across. For someone who has not worked in schools terms like SDP, AfL, DSL, EBacc, FFT, FSM etc will mean nothing. They may not feel confident enough to ask what these terms stand for so it’s a good idea to provide a glossary to new governors.

6. Preparedness
Aidan says, “Precious learning time is often lost when teachers are less prepared than they could be.” The same could be said of our meetings; precious meeting time is often lost when governors are less prepared than they could be. The expectation that everyone would have read the papers beforehand should be made clear to all. Governors should also submit any papers they have prepared in enough time for the clerk to add them to the meeting pack which should go out seven days in advance.

7. Written instructions
I think it’s of great importance to agree and write down policies and procedures which will dictate how you conduct business. For example, procedure for electing chair/vice chair, governor monitoring visit policy, terms of reference, procedures around conducting virtual meetings, etc for your committees, etc.

8. Routines
Aidan talks about how routines can save time and hence maximise learning. Routines can also help save time during meetings so you get the maximum amounts of work done. For example, you may consider asking governors to send you/the clerk any typos or spelling mistakes in the draft minutes before the meeting so that these can be corrected and time isn’t spent on pointing these out during the meeting. You may also like to consider labelling every item on the agenda as “For discussion/For information/Requires action” etc. Once this becomes routine you may find that it saves time by focussing attention on what needs to be done.

9. Feedback
Aidan talks about in-lesson feedback to ensure that no child ends up wasting valuable learning time. Feedback is important for governors too. Consider asking your governors for feedback on how they think meetings have worked out, what has been achieved, how the chairing/clerking has helped (or not). The chair should also try and meet individual governors so they can talk about how individual governors feel about their role and what support they may need in the coming year.

10. Behaviour management
Aidan talks about how and why good behaviour maximises learning time. Good behaviour is important for good governance too. Punctuality is the first thing which comes to mind. No one likes to be kept waiting. Yes, sometimes things happen which will mean people can’t get to the meeting on time but these should be the exception rather than the norm. Chairs have an important role to play here. If you see someone dominating the conversation then make a point of asking others for their contributions. A code of conduct should be agreed and signed by all at the start of the year. It might be an idea to devote some time to discussing this at your first meeting of the year so that people understand what the code requires and how breaches, if any, will be dealt with.

Is there anything you would add to the above list?

Related blog:

Meeting matters: 3 reasons why leaders sould talk less in meetings