In his second monthly commentary, Sir Michael Wilshaw discussed the role governance plays in today’s complex educational landscape. The important points in his commentary, for me, are as below.
1. Importance of training: Sir M Wilshaw is of the opinion that people who do not have the right training and the understanding of the role have no place on boards. He is disappointed that there has been no progress on making training mandatory. He believes high quality training, especially for chairs and vice chairs is essential. He has asked inspectors to focus on training and the arrangement to schools make for this when they judge governance.
I agree with all of this and have previously written about it here and here . Governors themselves have been asking for training, at least induction training, to be made mandatory. This is especially important as governors in academies are company directors and charity trustees and need to understand what this entails.
2. Payment: He asks once again if the time has come to think of paying governors, at least the chair and vice chair, in order to recruit the most able people to serve on boards of schools in difficult circumstances.
Nothing I have read so far convinces me that paying would help raise governance standards. I have written in more detail about this here.
3. Board constitution: Sir M Wilshaw discusses “representative governors”, in particular parent governors. He agrees with the Department’s view that governance should be about the level of knowledge people bring to the board rather than how many people represent particular groups.
Sir M Wilshaw goes on to say that commitment to the role is essential and there is no place for people who serve on boards just to enhance their CV’s (I am reminded of Gove’s “local worthies”!).
4. In depth survey into board effectiveness: Ofsted will carry out an “in-depth and far-reaching survey” into effectiveness of governance. The report will be published next year and will be looking into
- Do boards have enough professional skills and experience?
- Paying governors
- Do LA’s and Regional Commissioners intervene soon enough?
- Are there provisions for training?
- Support received for appointments of heads and the board’s role in succession planning
- Role of NLG’s
- Are external reviews of governance an effective tool to bring about improvement?
- Challenges of governing stand alone academies
- Relationship between MAT boards and their local governing bodies
This seems like it will be an extensive piece of work. I’m interested in finding out how it will be done. Will governors of schools being inspected between now and when the report is published be used to inform Ofsted’s views on the above matters? I think governors of schools due to be inspected should be ready to answer questions on at least some of the above (training will definitely be asked about, I think).
One concern is whether Ofsted has the governance expertise to undertake this task.
As part of this survey he is calling for evidence from anyone who has a view to express. I hope governors and trustees will take part in this survey so that our views are expressed and hopefully inform the report.
It has been pointed out that clerks are conspicous by their absence in this commentary.
I share these concerns. Clerks can make or break a governing board. For a board to be truly effective it needs to have the services of a good, independent, well paid, professional clerk. Maybe the survey Ofsted will carry out needs to look at this too.
Emma Knights of NGA responds.
Martin Mathews responds.
Sir John Dunford comments.