Governance is undergoing quite significant changes. How governing bodies perform is under scrutiny as never before. There is also a shift to making governing bodies (and the preferred term is now governing boards) more skilled based bodies. Advocates of the stakeholder model are dismayed by this. They see this as reducing stakeholder engagement, accountability, democracy and local representation. I, personally, think the stakeholder model has had its day and I am quite happy to move towards a skill based model. (By the way I consider every governor to be a stakeholder. We wouldn’t agree to be appointed as governors if we didn’t feel we had a “stake” in the success of the school). My biggest problem with the stakeholder model is the fact that the elected governors are by and large untouchable! The Governing Board cannot remove an elected governor; the most that can be done is suspension. (In Academies you can use Company Law to remove a Director but this is quite draconian and should only be used as a last resort). If an elected governor does not perform his/her statutory duties there is almost nothing the board can do except wait for the governor’s term of office to end. As most governors are elected for four years this means the board will have to carry an ineffective governor for four years which is a long time (more than half the time a student will spend in a primary or secondary school!). The Department has been trying to make it clear that “Once appointed or elected, all governors must operate in the best interest of pupils, not as representatives to lobby on behalf of their constituency.” This is a very important statement and it is because of this I think that the stakeholder model should be replaced by a different model. The model I propose can be termed as the “Skilled stakeholder model”. So, what would this board look like?
I think in the past governing bodies have been too large and unwieldy. A board of 7-12 governors, I think would be ideal. It is not too small or too big.
In my model there would still be two parent governors but these would be appointed governors. This would ensure that there is parental engagement but the board does not have to keep its fingers crossed that people with the needed skills will get elected! This also means that the board will not have to wait for the term to end in four years for an ineffective governor to leave. I have heard many colleagues say that they find it very hard to recruit parent governors as no one puts themselves forward for election. Appointing parent governors this way may help solve the problem as people usually find it hard to say no when approached directly. As far as democracy and parent voice is concerned, the turnout in every parent governor election I know of has been very poor. Taking into consideration the fact that not all schools are able to find parents willing to stand for election and the low turnout isn’t it better to appoint rather than elect parent governors?
Maintained schools will now have only one staff governor. I would keep this as is but again this category would change from an elected governor to an appointed one which would ensure that the governor with the needed skills is appointed. Academies already have the freedom to appoint staff governors using a procedure of their choice and do not necessarily have to hold elections. I would extend this freedom to all schools. It may also be a way of making sure that support staff become governors too if they have the needed skills.
The Department has now given governing bodies the right to wait till they have the candidate they require before appointing the LA Governor. The nomination is still by the LA but the governing body can set the eligibility criteria. My skilled stakeholder model will use the same procedure when appointing LA governors.
In my model governors in this category would also be appointed by the board in the same way as LA governors..
Partnership and co-opted governors
These are currently appointed and in my model would continue to be so.
Headteacher as governor
My view is the same as that of the NGA’s. One of the functions of the Board is to hold the Head to account. It therefore follows that the Head should not be part of the body which is holding him/her to account. The Board would expect the Head to attend all meetings.
The Board would advertise the vacancy making clear what the Board is looking for, a person specification and job description, if you like. The prospective candidates would be asked to meet with the Chair/Vice Chair and Head (not for staff governors). From September my Local Authority is offering a course for prospective governors. This is one of the best things they could have done. In an ideal world this course would be available to everyone. Candidates would be expected to attend this before applying. Till this happen, a meting with the Chair/Vice Chair/Head will be used to make the prospective candidate aware of what is involved. In maintained schools the governing body will be appointing authority and in Academies the Members, as is the case at the present.
And there you have it, my recipe for the dream team of governors! This model, I think, will mean there is no weak link in the chain which can only be a good thing!
Following the publication of this post, I had a Twitter discussion with Andrew Wilkins which is reproduced below.
The other thing which happened soon after was Sir Michael Wilshaw’s statement before the Education Select Committee in which he said he would like two “professionals” on boards of “amateur” governors. He said he would like ex-Heads and HMI’s to sit on these boards and be paid to do so. That’s a whole different blog!