Competency Framework matters; knowledge and skills needed by all

 The Competency Framework was published last week alongside the revised Governance handbook.  DfE have identified six features of effective governance in the handbook. The framework lists 16 competencies for these six features. It has tried to “define more clearly the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for governance to play its full part in this [enough good school places for every child] vision.” The framework has been organised so that it first details the knowledge and skills needed by everyone and then explains what’s needed by chairs and finally the skills and knowledge which at least someone on the board must have. The framework lists some of the ways boards can make use of it (how to carry out a skills audit (NGA are revising their skills audit in light of this framework), define training needs, self evaluation etc). Sir David Carter pointed out on Twitter that the framework should not be used a checklist but as a tool. Also remember that, depending upon your context, parts of this may not apply to you.

There have been some comments that the framework is over burdensome. I had a read and decided to split it into three sections; applicable to all, applicable to chairs and finally competencies which at least someone should have. When you split it this way and then read it, I don’t think anyone can argue that this is what we should be aiming for. In fact I would argue that all “good” boards are already doing this and it would help others on their  journey to becoming the type of board each and every school deserves. Again, this is not a checklist. Use it to inform your training needs, for example, or to drive your recruitment.

This blog lists the knowledge and skills which everyone should have or develop with training. The next blog will deal with knowledge and skills needed by chairs and the third those needed by at least one  person on the board.


1. Strategic Leadership

  • Setting direction
    • Has knowledge of key themes of national education policy and the local education context
    • Knows about key features of effective governance
    • Knows about the strategic priorities (and where appropriate, charitable objects) for their organisation
    • Has tools and techniques for strategic planning
    • Knows about principles of effective change management
    • Knows about the difference between strategic and operational decisions
    • Thinks strategically and contributes to the development of the organisation’s strategy
    • Can articulate the organisation’s strategic priorities (and where appropriate, charitable objects) and explain how these inform goals
    • Can put in place plans for monitoring progress towards strategic goals
    • Supports strategic change having challenged as appropriate so that change is in the best interests of children, young people and the organisation (and aligned with charitable objects, where appropriate)
    • Is able to champion the reasons for, and benefits of, change to all
  • Culture, values and ethos
    • Knows about the values of the organisation and how these are reflected in strategy and improvement plans
    • Knows about the ethos of the organisation and, where appropriate, that of the foundation trust including in relation to any religious character
    • Knows about the code of conduct for the board and how this embodies the culture, values and ethos of the organisation
    • Can set and agree the distinctive characteristics and culture of the organisation or, in schools with a religious designation, preserve and develop the distinctive character set out in the organisation’s trust deed
    • Acts in a way that exemplifies and reinforces the organisation’s culture, values and ethos
    • Ensures that policy and practice align with the organisation’s culture, values and ethos
  • Decision-making
    • Identifies viable options and those most likely to achieve the organisation’s goals and objectives
    • Puts aside vested or personal interests to make decisions that are in the best interests of all pupils/students
    • Acts with honesty, frankness and objectivity taking decisions impartially, fairly and on merit using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias
    • Brings integrity, and considers a range of perspectives and diverse ways of thinking to challenge the status quo, reject assumptions and take nothing for granted
    • Identifies when to seek the advice of an independent clerk/governance professional for guidance on statutory and legal responsibilities and ethical aspects of the board’s decision-making
    • Abides by the principle of collective-decision making and stands by the decisions of the board, even where their own view differ
    • Encourages transparency in decision making and is willingly answerable to, and open to challenge from, those with an interest in decisions made
  • Collaborative working with stakeholders and partners
    • Knows about key stakeholders and their relationship with the organisation
    • Knows about principles of effective stakeholder management
    • Knows about ools and techniques for stakeholder engagement, particularly with regard to engaging parents and carers
    • Is proactive in consulting, and responding to, the views of a wide group of stakeholders when planning and making decisions
    • Anticipates, prepare for and welcome stakeholder questions and ensures that these are answered in a relevant, appropriate and timely manne
    • Works in partnership with outside bodies where this will contribute to achieving the goals of the organisation
    • Uses clear language and messaging to communicate to parents and carers, pupils/students, staff and the local community
    • Is credible, open, honest and appropriate when communicating with stakeholders and partners including clear and timely feedback on how their views have been taken into account
    • Considers the impact of the board’s decisions and the effect they will have on the key stakeholder groups and especially parents and carers and the local community
    • Acts as an ambassador for the organisation
    • Supports and challenges leaders to raise aspiration and community cohesion both within the wider community and with local employers
  • Risk management
    • Knows about the principles of risk management and how these apply to education and the organisation
    • Knows about the process for risk management in the organisation and especially how and when risks are escalated through the organisation for action
    • Knows about the risks or issues that can arise from conflicts of interest or a breach of confidentiality
    • Is able to identify and prioritise the organisational and key risks, their impact and appropriate countermeasures, contingencies and risk owners
    • Ensures risk management and internal control systems are robust enough to enable the organisation to deliver its strategy in the short- and long-term
    • Advises on how risks should be managed or mitigated to reduce the likelihood or impact of the risk and on how to achieve the right balance of risk
    • Ensures the risk management and internal control systems are monitored and reviewed and appropriate actions are taken
    • Actively avoids conflicts of interest or otherwise declares and manages them

2. Accountability for educational standards and financial performance

  • Educational improvement
    • Knows about the importance and impact of high-quality teaching to improving outcomes and the systems, techniques and strategies used to measure teaching quality, pupil progress and attainment
    • Knows about the importance of a broad and balanced of the curriculum
    • Knows about the rationale for the chosen curriculum and how this both promotes the ethos of the organisation and meets the needs of the pupils/students
    • Knows about the relevant national standards for the phase and type of education and how these are used for accountability and benchmarking
    • Knows about the relevant statutory testing and assessment regime
    • Knows about the purposes and principles of assessment outlined in the final report of the Commission on Assessment Without Levels.
    • Knows about the rationale behind the assessment system being used to monitor and measure pupil progress in the organisation
    • Knows about the key principles, drivers and cycle of school improvement
    • Knows about the relevant indicators for monitoring behaviour and safety including information about admissions, exclusions, behaviour incidents, bullying and complaints
    • Knows about the role of behaviour in maintaining a safe environment and promoting learning
    • Establishes clear expectations for executive leaders in relation to the process of educational improvement and intended outcomes
    • Define the range and format of information and data they need in order to hold executive leaders to account
    • Seeks evidence from executive leaders to demonstrate the appropriateness and potential impact of proposed improvement initiatives
    • Questions leaders on how the in-school assessment system in use effectively supports the attainment and progress of all pupils, including those with a Special Educational Need or Disability (SEND)
  • Rigorous analysis of data
    • Knows about the DfE performance tables and school comparison tool
    • Knows about RAISEOnline for school and pupil data
    • Knows about the evidence base that data is derived from e.g. pupil attainment and progress data and how it is collected, quality assured and monitored across the organisation
    • Knows about the context of the school and in relation to other schools
    • Knows about information about attendance and exclusions in the school, local area and nationally
    • Knows about the importance of triangulating information about pupil progress and attainment with other evidence including information from, executive leaders (e.g. lesson observations, work scrutiny and learning walks), stakeholders including parents, pupils, staff) and external information (benchmarks, peer reviews, external experts)
    • Analyses and interprets data in order to evaluate performance of groups of pupils/students
    • Analyses and interprets progression and destination data to understand where young people are moving on to after leaving the organisation
    • Uses published data to understand better which areas of school performance need improvement and is able to identify any further data that is required
    • Questions leaders on whether they are collecting the right data to inform their assessment and challenges appropriately when data collection is not adding value.
    • Challenges senior leaders to ensure that the collection of assessment data is purposeful, efficient and valid.
  • Financial frameworks and accountability
    • Knows about the financial policies and procedures of the organisation, including its funding arrangements, funding streams and its mechanisms for ensuring financial accountability
    • Knows about the organisation’s internal control processes and how these are used to monitor spend and ensure propriety to secure value for public money
    • Knows about tthe financial health and efficiency of the organisation and how this compares with similar organisations locally and nationally
    • Has a basic understanding of financial management in order to ensure the integrity of financial information received by the board and to establish robust financial controls
    • Has confidence in the arrangements for the provision of accurate and timely financial information, and the financial systems used to generate such information
    • Interprets budget monitoring information and communicate this clearly to others
    • Participates in the organisation’s self-evaluation of activities relating to financial performance, efficiency and control
    • Is rigorous in their questioning to understand whether enough being done to drive financial efficiency and align budgets to priorities
  • Financial management and monitoring
    • Knows about the organisation’s process for resource allocation and the importance of focussing allocations on impact and outcomes
    • Knows about the importance of setting and agreeing a viable financial strategy and plan which ensure sustainability and solvency
    • Knows about how the organisation receives funding through the pupil premium and other grants e.g. primary sport funding, how these are spent and how spending has an impact on pupil outcomes
    • Knows about the budget setting, audit requirements and timescales for the organisation and checks that they are followed
    • Knows about the principles of budget management and how these are used in the organisation
    • Assimilates the financial implications of organisational priorities and use this knowledge to make decisions about allocating current and future funding
    • Interprets financial data and asks informed questions about income, expenditure and resource allocation and alignment with the strategic plan priorities
  • Staffing and performance management
    • Knows about the organisation’s annual expenditure on staff and resource and any data against which this can be benchmarked against
    • Knows about how staff are recruited to the organisation and how this compares to good recruitment and retention practice
    • Knows about how staff performance management is used throughout the organisation in line with strategic goals and priorities and how this links to the criteria for staff pay progression, objective setting and development planning
    • Knows about the remuneration system for staff across the organisation
    • Ensures that the staffing and leadership structures are fit for purpose
    • Takes full responsibility for maintaining, updating and implementing a robust and considered pay policy
    • Feels confident in approving and applying the system for performance management of executive leaders
    • Identifies and considers the budgetary implication of pay decisions and considers these in the context of the spending plan
    • Pays due regard to ensuring that leaders and teachers are able to have a satisfactory work life balance
  • External accountability
    • Knows about the purpose, nature and processes of formal accountability and scrutiny (e.g. DfE, Ofsted, EFA etc.) and what is required by way of evidence
    • Knows about the national performance measures used to monitor and report performance –including the minimum standards that trigger eligibility for intervention
    • Ensures appropriate structures, processes and professional development are in place to support the demands of internal and external scrutiny
    • Values the ownership that parents and carers and other stakeholders feel about ‘their school’ and ensures that the board makes itself accessible and answerable to them
    • Uses an understanding of relevant data and information to present verbal and written responses to external scrutiny (e.g. inspectors/RSCs/EFA)

3. People

  • Building an effective team
    • Demonstrates commitment to their role and to active participation in governance
    • Ability to acquire the basic knowledge that they need to be effective in their role
    • Uses active listening effectively to build rapport and strong collaborative relationships
    • Welcomes constructive challenge and is respectful when challenging others
    • Provides timely feedback and is positive about receiving feedback in return
    • Seeks to resolve misunderstanding at the earliest stage in order to prevent conflict
    • Raises doubts and encourages the expression of differences of opinion
    • Is honest, reflective and self-critical about mistakes made and lessons learned
    • Influences others and builds consensus using persuasion and clear presentation of their views
    • Demonstrates professional ethics, values and sound judgement
    • Recognises the importance of, and values the advice provided by, the clerk/governance professional role in supporting the board.

4. Structures

  • Roles and responsibilities
    • Knows about the role, responsibilities and accountabilities of the board, and its three core functions
    • Knows about the strategic nature of the board’s role and how this differs from the role of executive leaders and what is expected of each other
    • In academy trusts, knows about the role and powers of Members and how these relate to those of the board
    • Knows about the governance structure of the organisation and particularly how governance functions are organised and delegated, including where decisions are made
    • Knows how the board and any committees (including local governing bodies in a MAT)are constituted
    • Is able to contribute to the design of governance and committee structures that are fit for purpose and appropriate to the scale and complexity of the organisation
    • Is able to adapt existing committee structures as necessary in light of learning/experience including evaluation of impact

5. Compliance

  • Statutory and contractual requirements
    • Knows about the legal, regulatory and financial requirements on the board
    • Knows about the need to have regard to any statutory guidance and government advice including the Governance Handbook
    • Knows about the duties placed upon them under education and employment legislation, and, for academy trusts, the Academies Financial Handbook and their funding agreement(s)
    • Knows about the articles of association or instrument of government and where applicable, the Trust Deeds
    • Knows about the Ofsted inspection/regulatory framework
    • Where applicable, knows about the denominational inspection carried in accordance with s. 48 of the Education Act 2005
    • Knows about the board’s responsibilities in regard to Equalities and Health and Safety legislation
    • Knows about duties relating to safeguarding, including the Prevent Duty; duties related to special education needs and disabilities (SEND); and duties related to information, including in the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000
    • Knows about the school’s whistleblowing policy and procedures and any responsibilities of the board within it
    • Knows about the importance of adhering to organisation policies e.g. on parental complaints or staff discipline issues
    • Is able to speak up when concerned about non-compliance where it has not been picked-up by the board or where they feel it is not being taken seriously
    • Is able to explain the board’s legal responsibilities and accountabilities
    • Is able to identify when specialist advice may be required

6. Evaluation

  • Managing self-review and development
    • Recognises their own strengths and areas for development and seeks support and training to improve knowledge and skills where necessary
    • Is outward facing and focused on learning from others to improve practice
    • Maintains a personal development plan to improve his/her effectiveness and links this to the strategic aims of the organisation
    • Is open to taking-up opportunities, when appropriate, to attend training and any other opportunities to develop knowledge, skills and behaviours
    • Obtains feedback from a diverse range of colleagues and stakeholders to inform their own development
    • Undertakes self-review, reflecting on their personal contributions to the board, demonstrating and developing their commitment to improvement, identifying areas for development and building on existing knowledge and skills
  • Managing and developing the board’s effectiveness
    • Evaluates the impact of the board’s decisions on pupil/student outcomes
    • Utilises inspection feedback fully to inform decisions about board development
    • Contributes to self-evaluation processes to identify strengths and areas for board development

4 thoughts on “Competency Framework matters; knowledge and skills needed by all

  1. Pingback: Competency Framework Matters- The Slides! | Governing Matters

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