Another busy year for governors. The year started with local governing bodies featuring in the news and ended with Ofsted’s report into governance. The notable events of the year as they happened.
The academy chain E-Act replaced its local governing bodies (LGBs) with academy advisory groups.
The House of Commons Education Select Committee’s first report of this parliament, into the role of regional schools commissioners (RSCs) was published.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, launched a new website, Educate Against Hate, which provides practical advice for parents, teachers and school leaders that will help to protect children from a “spell of twisted ideologies”.
Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw spoke at the education think tank CentreForum, setting out his ambitions for the future of English education. He stated that good leadership was the most important force in driving up standards, but that we currently do not have enough good leaders or governors. He said not a lot had been done in the past three years to improve the professionalism of governing bodies. He reiterated that governors should always been chosen for their skills. He also opined that paying governors should be considered.
Future Leaders Trust published a report (Heads up: Meeting the challenges of headteacher recruitment) into headteacher recruitment.
Sir David Carter was appointed as the new National Schools Commissioner (NSC) from 1 February 2016 taking over Frank Green.
The Education and Adoption Bill 2015 completed its passage through Parliament, requiring every school judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted to be turned into a sponsored academy. It would also allow the SoS to issue directions, with time limits, to school governing bodies and local authorities, to speed up academy conversions.
Ofsted published the outcome letter from its inspection of E-Act. The inspections found that, although progress had been made in the two years since the last focused inspections, “the quality of provision for too many pupils in E-ACT academies is not good enough”.
School Governance Constitution Regulations 2012 were amended requiring all serving governors in maintained schools to have DBS checks by 1 September 2016. The government also amended the School Governance Federation Regulations 2012 which means federations will no longer be required to have one elected parent governor from each school, instead the federated governing body must include a total of two elected parent governors drawn from all the schools in the federation.
Educational Excellence Everywhere White paper was published. Among other things, it proposed to remove the requirement for elected parent governors.
The DfE confirmed that a new governor database would be hosted on the Edubase website. For every governor (including members, trustees and those on the local governing body in academies) this will record name, date of appointment, date that term ends, the appointing authority, and whether s/he is the chair. The DfE will also gather additional information for its own due diligence, including governors’ addresses and nationalities, but this information will not be publicly available.
Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw wrote to the Secretary of State, outlining the findings from eight focused inspections of academies in multi academy trusts (MATs) over the past year. The findings were described as “worrying several of these related to failures of governance.
The Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan recommended Sally Collier as her preferred candidate for the post of Ofqual Chief Regulator.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan spoke about “unconscious bias” affecting governors’ decisions when recruiting headteachers. She labelled the lack of female heads as a ‘crippling waste of talent’.
The Department for Education (DfE) issued updated guidance on making significant changes to an open academy. The main change to the guidance is that the Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) will take over many of the duties that were previously reserved for the Secretary of State for Education.
Education and Adoption Act 2016 received Royal Assent. Among the Act’s provisions are:
- that all ‘inadequate’ schools will be converted to sponsored academies
- removal of the requirement for consultation from the academy conversion process in many circumstances
- introduction of a new category of ‘coasting’ schools which will be ‘eligible for intervention’ from Regional Schools Commissioners
DfE issued a consultation into National Funding Formula.
The Education Select Committee launched an inquiry into multi academy trusts (MATs).
DfE published a myths and facts document on academies.
NGA published its model schemes of delegation for MATs.
NGA wrote to Nicky Morgan to express dismay at the compulsory academisation plan and the removal of the requirement for elected parent governors on the boards of academies.
DfE published their memoranda of understanding between it and the Church of England and Catholic Church underlining the commitment of the DfE to ensure that the religious character and ethos of faith schools are secured in relation to intervention, academy conversion and sponsorship.
DfE published information about the role of Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) including an “RSC decision making framework” which describes the role of RSCs, terms of reference for the Headteacher Boards which advise and challenge RSCs, and regional vision statements.
NGA celebrated its 10th anniversary and celebrations included the launch of Growing Governance, a national campaign challenging school governors and trustees in England to step up and set the educational agenda in 2016 and beyond.
In collaboration with the NGA, Music Mark and the Arts Council produced A Guide for Governors-Music Education.
Nicky Morgan announced that compulsory academisation, as proposed in the white paper, would not go ahead.
DfE abolished the post of Mental Health Champion.
Analysis by PWC this week revealed the gulf in standards of academy chains. This showed that only three of the sixteen biggest secondary academy chains had a positive impact on pupil progress and only one of the 26 biggest primary sponsors – the Harris Federation – produced results above the national average.
The Queen’s speech announced the Education for All bill.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nursery Schools and Nursery Classes called for local authority (LA) maintained nursery schools to be allowed to convert to academy status.
Nicky Morgan responded to Emma Knights’ open letter in which she had outlined concerns about the White Paper.
Nicky Morgan, recommended Amanda Spielman for the post of HMCI of Ofsted.
Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw and National Schools Commissioner Sir David Carter appeared before the House of Commons Education Select Committee as part of MPs’ inquiry into multi-academy trusts (MATs).
Eight governors (Jane Owens, Ariana Yakas, Andrew Child, Matthew Miller, Robert Palmer, Maria Heywood, John Wallace and Paul Yeates) received Honours in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List.
NGA published new guides on parental engagement.
NGA, in collaboration with the National Foundation for Educational Research (NfER) and the Future Leaders Trust (TFLT) published research into the role and responsibilities of executive headteachers.
The Education Funding Agency (EFA) published the 2016 Academies Financial Handbook (AFH).
The EPI published a report comparing LAs with MATs, using the Department for Education’s own methodology. The Sutton Trust published a report looking at the performance of disadvantaged pupils in sponsored academies that are part of an academy chain.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, wrote to the education secretary Nicky Morgan to update her on the situation in Birmingham, two years since the so-called Trojan horse case. He reported that two of the schools had been upgraded from inadequate to good and the schools placed in special measures had undergone changes of leadership and governance and were now “generally improving”. However Sir Michael also emphasised that the situation remained fragile with headteachers in East Birmingham reporting that it had “gone underground”.
Justine Greening was announced as new Secretary of State for Education.
Emma Knights gave evidence to the Education Select Committee during their inquiry into MATs and explained why the NGA was against the proposal to remove the requirement to have elected parent governors.
Nicky Morgan launched a review into the role of local authorities (LAs) and also clarified that DfE had no intention to permit LAs to set up MATs in future.
Ofsted published a new report on the effectiveness of LAs and early years providers in tackling the issues facing disadvantaged families and young children. It recommended schools ensure key information was shared promptly when children move between settings and use of the early years pupil premium was reviews to ensure maximum impact.
School funding reforms delayed toil 2018
Education DataLab, the research arm of the Fischer Family Trust, suggested that the introduction of the EBacc had largely benefitted pupils.
Notwithstanding criticism from the Education Select Committee, who said they were concerned that she did not have the sufficient passion and understanding for the role, Amanda Spielman was approved as the next HMCI of Ofsted by the Privy Council.
Ofsted issued updated inspection handbooks for Section 5 and Section 8 inspections. Some of the updated sections related to governance for example para 85 while discussing MATs states, “directly responsible for exercising governance of the school and for overseeing its performance”. It also states that inspectors will consider governors commitment to their own professional development.
Government announced proposals to increase the number of grammar schools.
DfE published a list of resources for academies looking to expand their MATs.
Ofqual confirmed how it will set the grade standards for new GCSEs in England.
NGA published its updated model code of conduct.
Justine Greening announced that she did not intend to remove the requirement for elected parent governors.
Government launched the “Schools that work for everyone” consultation.
Ofqual published guidance for the Progress 8 measure in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Think-tank Reform released a report recommending that DfE allows remuneration for both maintained school and academy “local governors” and NGA published its response.
Findings from a 2016 survey of 5,000 school governors and trustees carried out by NGA and TES were published. More than half of respondents were ‘very negative’ about the direction of government policy, increasing from 31% in 2015 and only 4% of respondents disagreed that induction training should be mandatory for new governors.
School Standards Minister Nick Gibb spoke at the Academy Ambassadors Board Development Day and acknowledged that governing boards have a crucial role to play in the success of a school.
DfE published its updated statutory guidance on the constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools. The key updates:
- Disclosure and Barring Service checks
- Supplying information to the secretary of state about those involved in governance
- Clarified information on governors’ access to training
- Clarified information on parent governors
National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, told schools that the programme of multi academy trust (MAT) “growth readiness audits” will continue to be piloted.
The Education Funding Agency (EFA) wrote to all academy accounting officers setting out their key responsibilities and said that EFA intervention often was the result of misunderstood personal responsibilities.
Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, using focused inspections of seven “stronger performers, wrote about the characteristics of high performing MATs.
Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, wrote to all Chairs of academy trust boards drawing attention to the importance of good governance to robust financial oversight and management.
DfE released information on how progress 8 and attainment 8 measures are calculated.
The government confirmed that it would not publish the Education for All Bill, which could have seen good schools forced to convert to academy status.
DfE published more information regarding the definition of “coasting” schools for primary and secondary schools.
Neil Carmichael MP, chair of the committee wrote to Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education (DfE), providing a response on the DfE’s ‘dry run‘ of the Sector Annual Report and Accounts.
DfE released provisional figures on the number of schools (479 primary schools [3.5% of the total] and 327 secondary schools [10.7% of the total]) whose performance fell within the “coasting” definition.
NGA published its Welcome to a Multi Academy Trust Guide.
NGA wrote to Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, expressing concern over delays to fairer funding reform in schools.
The State of the Nation report on social mobility in Great Britain was published by the Social Mobility Commission.
Education Select Committee heard from Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash and Education Funding Agency chief executive, Peter Lauener. This formed part of the committee’s ongoing inquiry into multi academy trusts (MATs).
Ofsted’ Annual Report 2015-16 was published. This was Sir Michael Wilshaw’s fifth and final report as HMCI. It made the point that weak governance is often found to be at the root of school failure.
National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) released new research into the “evolving schools’ landscape” since the introduction of Regional School’s Commissioners (RSCs).
DfE) published guidance on establishing and developing multi-academy trusts. The non-statutory guidance entitled Multi-academy trusts – Good practice guidance and expectations for growth, builds on the commitment made in the DfE white paper Educational Excellence Everywhere to publish ‘design principles’ setting out what the DfE knows about successful MATs.
The government announced the second stage of consultation into a new national funding formula for schools.
National Audit Office published its report on financial sustainability of schools.
Ofsted published a new report on the state of school governance, called Improving governance: Governance arrangements in complex and challenging circumstances. Emma Knights called it a missed opportunity.
Schools Week published my review of 2016 which can be read here.