The Governance handbook Section 5: Working out what’s new matters. Part 6

This blog looks at Section 5 of the new Governance handbook. Additions in the new handbook are in red. Black text indicates that the text is from the old version and my comments are in green. The numbering used is that of the Governance handbook.

Section 5 – Ways of Working

5.1 Conduct

6. A code of conduct should be maintained and communicated to all prospective governors to set clear expectations of the governors’ role and behaviour. Explicit agreement to the code of conduct will mean there is a common reference point should any difficulties arise in the future. The NGA Model Code of Conduct aims to helps [sic]governing bodies boards draft their own a code of conduct which sets out the purpose of the governing bodies board and describes the appropriate relationship between individual governors, the whole board and the leadership team of the school.

I agree with the suggestion that the code of conduct should be communicated to prospective governors. Boards should make clear the expectations they have of every governor, including prospective governors.

5.2 Duty to have Having regard to the views of parents

7. Maintained school governing bodies All boards should assure themselves that mechanisms are in place to engage meaningfully with parents and to enable all parents to put forward their views at key points in their child’s education. The board should be able to demonstrate the methods used to seek the views of parents and how those views have influenced their decision making.
As part of the wider inspection process, Ofsted considers responses to its online survey Parent View. The views of parents help inspectors form a picture of how a school is performing and Parent View can provide valuable information on how well the school engages with parents. Governors can access the toolkit Ofsted has developed for schools. This is now part of Section 7.

5.4 Charitable and corporate duties 1.6 The role of academy trustees

13. Academy trustees are charity trustees As trustees of a charity, academy trustees. As such, they must comply with the following duties under charity law:

• Ensure the charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit

• Comply with the charity’s governing document and the law

• Act in the charity’s best interests

• Manage the charity’s resources responsibly

• Act with reasonable care and skill

• Ensure the charity is accountable

• compliance – they must ensure that the charity’s resources are used for the charitable purpose and that the charity complies with the law and its governing document i.e. the articles of association.

• care – they should take reasonable care in their work. In practice, it simply means ensuring that the academy trust is managed efficiently and effectively. It also means considering the need for professional advice on matters where there may be material risk to the charity.

• prudence – they must act responsibly, making sure that the academy trust’s assets are protected and used for the benefit of the charity. The trustees must make sure that the academy trust is solvent and keeps appropriate financial records. These requirements are reflected in the funding agreement and the Academies Financial Handbook.

14. These requirements are reflected in the funding agreement and the Academies Financial Handbook. More information on the role of a charity trustee is available on the Charity Commission’s website (CC3).

15. Academy trustees should also be aware of must also comply with their statutory duties as company directors, which are set out in sections 170 to 177 of the Companies Act 2006.

NOTE: Governors should not only “be aware” but must also comply with their statutory duties as directors.

5.5 Dealing with complaints

17. The governing bodies boards of all schools have a duty to consider complaints about the school and any community facilities or services that it provides. They must reassure themselves that their school has a procedure to deal with complaints and that the procedure is publicised. An academy is required, through the obligations set out in its funding agreement, to ensure that a complaints procedure is drawn up and carried out effectively.

18. Academies must make available on request a procedure for dealing with complaints. The expectation is that this should be published online. For complaints from parents of pupils, this procedure must comply with The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 and offer

• an opportunity to resolve the complaint with the academy on an informal basis, for example through discussion with a senior member of staff;

• a formal complaint stage when the complaint is made in writing and usually responded to by the chair of governors; and

• a hearing with a panel set up by the academy trust, comprising at least three people not directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint, one of whom must be independent of the management and running of the school. A governor may not serve as the independent panel member. The funding agreement also sets out a requirement for an academy to handle complaints that arose in part or in whole before the academy opened.

Although not present in the new version, governors must ensure they are aware of the process to be followed when a complaint is made.

5.6 Whistleblowing 1.7.5 Whistleblowing

Whistleblowing arrangements are designed to respond to malpractice and wrongdoing areas including the following, but the precise coverage and terms used can vary:

• any unlawful act, whether criminal or a breach of civil law;

• maladministration, as defined by the Local Government Ombudsman;

• breach of any statutory Code of Practice;

• breach of, or failure to implement or comply with Financial Regulations or Standing Orders;

• any failure to comply with appropriate professional standards;

• fraud, corruption or dishonesty;

• actions which are likely to cause physical danger to any person, or to give rise to a risk of significant damage to property;

• loss of income to the school;

• abuse of power, or the use of the school’s powers and authority for any unauthorised or ulterior purpose;

• discrimination in employment or the provision of education; and

• any other matter that staff consider they cannot raise by any other procedure.

Academies

Academy trusts should have appropriate procedures in place for whistleblowing, including making sure all staff are aware to whom they can report their concerns, and the way in which such concerns will be managed. It is also good practice for academies to consider how they will deal with complaints from people who are not parents of attending pupils and who wish to raise a concern. Section 2.4.5 of this Handbook covers complaint handling.

The EFA handle financial and non-financial whistleblowing complaints in open academies where the complainant does not wish to contact the academy first, although complainants will be encouraged to do so.

Complainants will also be encouraged to submit the complaint confidentially rather than anonymously, as anonymity can hinder the EFA’s ability to progress the complaint.

EFA’s External Assurance team handles allegations of financial irregularity.

Maintained Schools

All maintained schools should have whistleblowing arrangements in place and governing body minutes should record that they do. For maintained schools, the arrangements 24

should be based on the local authority policy (which applies to all schools within its remit) and could be tailored as appropriate for the school.

The governing body should think how the local authority’s policy could be tailored so that it fits the specific circumstances of the school and ensure that it has appointed named member(s) of staff and governor(s) whom other staff can report concerns to.

If staff are not currently aware of the whistleblowing arrangements, they should be informed about them in a way that is easy for all to see. In particular, they should be made aware of the:

• protection that is available to all members of staff (including e.g. temporary staff and contractors);

• areas of malpractice and wrongdoing that are covered; and

• routes available within the school and the local authority for raising issues.

Further information

For maintained schools, further information should initially be sought from staff appointed by the local authority to deal with whistleblowing. This will almost certainly be on a confidential basis.

21. All schools and academy trusts should have appropriate procedures in place for whistleblowing. The board need to ensure that staff and governors alike are aware of to whom they can report their concerns, and the way in which such concerns will be managed.

22. The whistleblowing charity, Public Concern at Work (PCAW), provides support for organisations confidential independent advice to employees about wrongdoing in the workplace. You can contact PCAW at:

• Tel: 020 7404 6609 Email: services@pcaw.co.uk UK advice line: whistle@pcaw.org.uk

The guidance on whistleblowing is not as extensive as in the old version. Relevant links are still present and governors must ensure that they follow correct procedures when dealing with a whistleblowing case.

23. The whistleblowing page on GOV.UK provides further information on the areas for which whistleblowing arrangements should cover.

Part One looked at Contents

Part Two looked at Section 1

Part Three looked at Section 2

Part Four looked at Section 3

Part Five looked at Section 4

Shena Lewington has an online version of Section 5


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6 thoughts on “The Governance handbook Section 5: Working out what’s new matters. Part 6

  1. Nick Johnson

    Kind of ironic that we go out of our way to say that a parent governor is not a representative of the parents.

    But then the handbook states ‘All boards should assure themselves that mechanisms are in place to engage meaningfully with parents and to enable all parents to put forward their views at key points in their child’s education’

    You can’t help thinking that there is the potential for contradiction and confusion, with a parent governor asking parents what they think in certain situations (e.g. parents evenings). But when ta parent governor is approached by another parent telling them what they think they then have to say I am not a representative of the parents on the GB.

    Reply
    1. governingmatters Post author

      This probably is a result of so many parent governors not understanding their role. Even at parent evenings I expect to seek general views. I don’t think it’s my role to take back a specific complaint to the board.

      Reply
      1. Nick Johnson

        But there is an assumption there that what a parent will tell you is a complaint. It may be just a specific thought or comment which if repeated then becomes a way of parents putting forward their views.

        I would argue we need to reevaluate the phrase ‘ Not a representative of the parents’. Totally agree we are not there to take on board their specific complaints or vote based on what they tall you to do, but if parents views are rightly gaining in importance, then parent governors may need to put on a ‘parents representative’ hat on a bit more.

        As it could be a very useful channel to get views we could be not cultivating. As parent engagement is something that a lot of schools traditionally struggle with. To me the saying ‘representative parent’ and not ‘representative of the parents’ is becoming a little too simplistic and potentially confusing for both governors and parents.

      2. governingmatters Post author

        I see where you’re coming from but my worry is that this becomes just a way of few parents to get their views across. If you do want to act as a parent representative then that should be done via parent councils etc. Parent governors can tell the board that the parent body feels it needs a way to increase communication. The GB can then see what the school can do. Taking back views of one or two parents who spoke to us in the playground is just that; views of those one or two parents.

      3. Nick Johnson

        But in reality that is what most parent representation is, a few parents getting their views across. Parent councils are fine in theory, as are PTAs, parent drop ins etc etc. But in a lot of schools they are very poorly attended and engagement is low. And those that do attend tend to be the same people. So you could argue you are just getting the views of a handful of parents that way.

        I just feel a lot of time and effort is put into trying to get communication right (and it never is if you ask parents, and of course it is always the schools fault) and engaging parents through various methods. When in most GB you have at least 2, usually more, parents that can act as one additional channel to get parents views in. Yes it will not be a total cross section, but very few methods are.

      4. governingmatters Post author

        Letting parent governors be in effect parent representatives is dangerous! Anyone who stands for this role should be told and should understand the role. PTA/parent councils etc are not responsible bodies so it matters slightly less if they haven’t got a cross section of views. A parent governor is part of the governing body and letting one or two governors represent the view of a few parents is, like I said, dangerous.

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