Author Archives: governingmatters

Governors’ support for women leaders matters

I was delighted that my article (How Can Governors Support Women Leaders in Education) was accepted for publication in the WomenEd edition of Innovate Journal. You can read other articles in the journal using this link.


Good leaders encourage and develop others who aspire to leadership positions. Trustees and governors are strategic leaders of the organisations they govern (Department for Education, 2020). However, they still can, and should, play an important part in career development of staff. In this article I discuss how I, as a trustee/governor have done this.

Governing Boards of maintained schools and academy trusts are required to elect a Chair and a Vice Chair (Department for Education, 2017; The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations, 2013).

According to the latest National Governance Association’s governor survey (2020), 61% of female respondents (compared with 49% of males) said they would not become Chair; this is unfortunate as female chairs can serve as role models for other governors.

I have experience of chairing a trust board and Local Governing Boards. My chairing career started when I was encouraged to chair a committee by the then Chair of the board (a female). I now try and pass that baton on by encouraging others to consider chairing. The Vice Chair at one of my boards is considering stepping into my role and I am helping her prepare for that move.

One of the most important roles for boards is appointment of heads and senior leaders. Vivienne Porritt stated in an article (Tickle, 2018) that she believes there is evidence of “gendered” language in many of the recruitment advertisements which deters women from applying. While serving on appointment panels for heads and senior leaders, I can ensure that this is not the case as well as making sure that the interview process itself is fair and equitable (for example, candidates looking for flexible hours or job-shares are not disadvantaged).

Tockey and Ignatova (2019) found that women are less likely to apply for positions senior to those they currently hold. Mohr (2014) reports that 21.6% of women (compared to 12.7% of men) said one of the reasons for not applying was that they thought they would not be hired if they did not meet the qualifications and they did not want to put themselves out there if they were going to fail.

Women applying for their first headship may not know much about the process. This is especially true if they have not served as a governor themselves. I speak at events and also have one-to-one conversations with prospective candidates during which I tell them that it is still worth applying even if they do not have all the “desirable” qualifications. I explain that governors would be looking for evidence that the candidate’s vision is in line with those of the board’s. I also ensure that they realise that the questions they will be asked are designed to test how strong the candidates are in setting and delivering strategic goals.

For first time applicants, I offer to help them understand the different types of tasks they may be required to do during the interview process. As I have been in governance for some time now, my network includes many serving heads. If candidates would find it useful to talk with heads of similar schools, I help arrange meetings between them.

I offer to talk with candidates after their interview. If they have been successful, I offer to help them with any governance related issues or questions they may have in their new role. If they have not been successful, then it is important for me to assure them that not being successful means that that school was not a good fit and not that they lacked the ability to be a head or a senior leader. In these cases, I advise them to get detailed feedback which would help them in the future.

It is important to ensure that there is diversity in the school leadership that women who want to take up leadership positions are supported and recruitment and retention practises are equitable. Above are some examples of how governors can accomplish this.


“When you look at successful women, they have other women who have supported them, and they’ve gotten to where they are because of those women.

Sheryl Sandberg



Department for Education (2017) Model articles of association for academy trusts [Accessed 18 Feb 2021]

Department of Education (2020) The Governance handbook [Accessed 18 Feb 2021]

Mohr,T.S. (2014) Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified Harvard Business Review [Accessed 18 Feb 2021]

National Governance Association (2020) School Governance Report 2020 [Accessed 18 Feb 2021]

The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 UK Statutory (Instruments 2013 No. 1624 PART 3 Regulation 7) [Accessed 18 Feb 2021]

Tickel, L. (2018) ‘Language in school job ads puts women off headteacher roles.’ The Guardian [Accessed 18 Feb 2021]

Tockey, D. and Ignatova, M. (2019) Gender Insights Report How women find jobs differently. Available at [Accessed 18 Feb 2021].

Recruitment Matters, with thanks to Sam Freedman

Sam Freedman recently published an excellent thread on Twitter in which he discussed how organizations could improve their recruitment processes to make then fairer. Boards would benefit from reading Sam’s thoughts. They could evaluate their own school/MAT’s recruitment processes using this thread. It would also give them useful tips when they are on interview panels for heads. I am copying and pasting the points Sam has made. You can read the thread (and the resulting discussion) using this link.

  1. Short job descriptions that are absolutely clear what the job is and what the requirements are. In clear English. No “you will need to strategically integrate synergies across networks”. If you can’t do this you don’t know what the job is.
  2. If you know you are going to appoint an internal candidate, do not go external. It is deeply unfair on all the people who will spend time and effort on an application and possibly interview so you can show a Potemkin process.
  3. If you can do a blind recruitment process then do. Get an administrator to remove names, email addresses and photos from CVs/covering letters so as to avoid unconscious biases.
  4. When inviting people to interview give them the full information about the whole process. How many interviews? Dates? What will they have to prepare for each of them? Let them know the whole potential time cost upfront rather than stringing them along.
  5. If you can do your best to avoid formulaic interviews with standard questions with each one asked by a different person. A few competancy based Qs are fine but don’t make them your whole interview. They’re often not very revealing.
  6. As much as it’s true for the candidate that it’s a good idea to make it more of a conversation, it’s also a good idea for you. Have a structure but leave space for follow-ups; tangents etc… (you have to think more in this type of interview – that’s good).
  7. If you ask for a presentation or piece of work then be thoughtful about the amount of time you give for it. Remember that not everyone can drop everything over 24 hours and write something. It will disadvantage parents/carers etc…
  8. When the interviews are over and you’ve made a decision tell everyone as soon as possible. Making people wait days because you’re a bit busy is cruel. This is a huge deal for them. If there’s a delay tell them and tell them why / how long.
  9. When you’ve hired someone, send them stuff/talk to them before they start. Give them an induction timetable; tell them about initial projects. Much easier for people to start well when they can start to picture their first few weeks. THREAD ENDS

    CODA: lots of people saying – put the salary on the job advert – which I completely agree with. Not doing so increases pay inequality and just means you’ll get to the end of the process and some of your best options may not actually do it for what you can pay.

Effective relationships between boards and executive leaders matter

On 1st July 2021 I spoke at the TSWW Summer Conference. This year, due to COVID, the event was a live online event. Below are my slides and notes to accompany them.

Slide 1:

Boards are responsible for governing the organisation and school leaders are responsible for the operational day to day running of the organisation. For the organisation to be able to deliver a good education to its pupils, the relationship between the board and the school leaders must be based on trust, integrity and, very importantly, on understanding of each other’s roles. During this session I will be talking about how boards and schools leaders can work effectively together and what expectations they have of each other.

Slide 2:

So, let’s start with governors and their role. There are about 250,000 governors in England. Legally people can’t be paid to be governors and hence we are all volunteers and this makes us one of the largest volunteer forces in the country.

Slide 3:

Before we talk about the role and functions of these 250, 000 volunteers, a word about school governance structures first. Maintained schools are governed by board of governors. Academies are governed by board of trustees. Multi-academy trusts have a trust board which is responsible for all the schools in the trust. Each individual school can also have a local governing body. The role and responsibilities of the local governing bodies is decided by the main trust board. The local governing bodies have no powers in themselves. Any responsibility they have is determined by the trust board. These delegated responsibilities are laid out in the scheme of delegation which is determined by the trust board.

Slide 4:

Coming to our role now: The purpose of governance is to provide confident strategic leadership. One of our core functions is to ensure the clarity of vision and ethos. Your vision tells people where you hope your school will be next year, in the next 3 years, in the next 5 years and so on and what sort of people will your students be when they leave you. The vision is set by the board with input from the executive leaders. The board also clarifies the ethos and the character of the school. The board should ensure there is a clear strategy or road map in place in order to achieve the vision. .

Slide 5:

Our second core function is to hold the executive leaders of the school to account for the performance of the pupils and the school and the performance management of staff.

Slide 6:

State schools are funded by public money. We are custodians of this public money. Our third core function relates to this. We have to look after the financial performance of the school and ensure that money is well spent.

Slide 7:

So, irrespective of what type of school, we are governing, whether a maintained school or an academy, we have three core functions:

  • Ensuring there is clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
  • Holding the school leaders to account for the performance of the school, performance of the pupils and the performance management of staff
  • Ensuring the money is well spent

Slide 8:

It’s very important for both governors and school leaders to understand their respective roles. The governors’ role is one of scrutiny and can be described as eyes on, hands off. The school leaders, on the other hand, are responsible for the day to day running of the school so their role is very much a hands-on role.

Slide 9:

The board leadership is the accountable leadership of the organisation. The current educational system is one of high stakes accountability. The board leadership faces accountability pressures itself from central government, from local authorities, from parents, from communities etc.

Slide 10:

Effective boards ensure that they hold the executive leadership to account in a way which doesn’t lead to fear in the organisation but instead is a way of determining what isn’t working and putting it right. Talking about accountability; a word about Ofsted. Ofsted findings shouldn’t come as a surprise to governors. They should know how their school, pupils and staff are performing. If findings do come as a surprise then they haven’t been performing their role well. They should also be able to explain to Ofsted what the school is doing to support pupils if results aren’t what were expected. During an inspection the board and the school should be seen to working together and this will only happen if they have been doing so before the inspectors walked in through the door.

Slide 11:

The work of governors is one of supporting and challenging school leaders. Governance is most effective when there is balance between the challenge and support we offer the school leaders.

Slide 12:

Moving on to the relationship between heads and boards.

Slide 13:

It is the board which appoints the head and this is perhaps one of the most important things that governors will do during their governance career.

Slide 14:

Heads are not, to borrow a popular phrase, just for Christmas. Therefore, boards take great care while appointing heads. They appoint someone who they is right for the school, who shares the same vision and values and who will be able to make the board’s vision a reality.

Slide 15:

The interview process is a chance for the board to find the best candidate for their school and for the candidate to gauge if the school is one where they can see themselves working. It is also a chance for both the board and the candidates to determine whether they have the same vision for the school and education of pupils.

Slide 16:

A word about when someone isn’t successful at interview. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have what’s needed to be a head, it’s just that the school and they aren’t a good match. I like to explain it using the example of gloves and hands. This hand is perfect as is the pair of gloves but they aren’t a good match for each other. Governors should ensure that they give comprehensive feedback to the unsuccessful candidates. We have a responsibility to all candidates and not just to the candidate we appoint. Good feedback to unsuccessful candidates helps them develop and that is good for the sector.

Slide 17:

Once the head is appointed, the board should ensure they have a smooth start and that support is available to them. This is especially important if this is their first headship. The chair should set up meeting so that they can talk through what the head needs. This will also give them a chance to talk through the schedule of board meetings and ensure that the dates are convenient for the new head. The board and the chair should ensure that the head has all the documents they need or at least knows where to find them. The head would probably only have met the appointing panel It is a good idea to arrange an informal meeting with the rest of the board. The chair should discuss the format of the head’s report and what information the board requires the head to provide. The chair and the board should also ask if the head would like to have a coach or a mentor and if they would then the board should facilitate this. All of these steps will help ensure a good and effective relationship between the new head and the board.

Slide 18:

Coming now to the Chair and Head Relationship.

This is a really important relationship. John Tomsett says, “No-one explained to me the importance of the head teacher’s relationship with the chair of governors. It is the most important relationship for a head teacher because, if for no other reason, your chair of governors is your boss!” This point is sometimes not understood by some heads as well as some chairs which leads to a confusion over their roles and who does what.

Side 19:

Headship is a lonely place. Chairs should be supporting the head. Heads should feel they can use their chairs as a sounding board. It is the board’s responsibility to look after the well-being of the head and chairs play a crucial role in this.

In order for the head and chair to work effectively together, they should be meeting regularly. These needn’t be very long meetings but it is good to have them in the diary for the coming term or even the year. The head should also be able to contact the chair when they feel they need to outside of these meetings.

Slide 20:

Heads should tell chair anything of importance so there are no surprises for the chair or the board. The relationship needs to be a professional one and not a cosy one.

Slide 21:

In order to work effectively, there are certain things boards expect from heads.

  • Heads should be sharing the SDP with the board so that the board can have an input into setting the strategic priorities as well as knowing about KPIs and the people responsible for delivering them. This also helps in schools visits as governors monitoring a certain area will know who to go and talk to.
  • Governors should be involved in the school’s self evaluation also.
  • The head should ensure that the information requested by the board is sent out in a timely manner. Heads should discuss with the chair and the board about what they need reported in the head’s report. Sometimes, schools give so much data to governors that they can’t see the wood for the trees. At other times there is paucity of data given to the board. Both of these are wrong and a barrier to effective governance. The correct info, in the right format and amount should be sent out on time. Governors are volunteers but many have day jobs too so they need to receive reports in time for them to be able to read and digest them before the meeting.
  • Heads and the school should facilitate school visits by governors as that provides them with valuable information to carry out their job

Slide 22:

  • When new governors join a board they should have an induction session which should include a tour of the school and a meeting with the head. This will ensure that they are clear about their role and that they start to understand their school and its context.
  • Schools should fund training and CPD for governors as that’s really important for them to be effective. Governors sometimes ask me if they can afford to spend money on their own CPD and my reply to them is can they afford not to?!
  • The school should pay for a professional clerk for the governing body and heads should be clear that the clerk works for the chair and board and not the head or the school. It is best practice not to employ a staff member as a clerk because the clerk should be able to tell the head what is expected of them and that is difficult to do if the head is your boss too.
  • The school budget should include governor expenses. Governors can’t be paid to govern schools but they are legally allowed to claim out of pocket expenses such as child care costs incurred when they attend meetings. The board should have a governor expense policy in place and the budget should have an allowance for this built in.

Slide 23:

Coming now to what heads should be getting from boards if the two are to work effectively together.

  • We talked about leaving operational matters to head earlier. For the executive and the non-executive to work effectively together, they should avoid stepping on each others’ toes. The day to day running of the school and other operational matters should be left to the head and their teams. Governors appoint heads. They spend a large portion of the budget on staff salaries. So, let the professionals you’ve appointed do the jobs you pay them to do.
  • Confidentiality is very important. Things will be discussed in the boardroom by the head which are confidential in nature. Similarly, things discussed by the head with the chair may be confidential too. Heads should be able to trust chair the board not to breach confidentiality.
  • Good heads relish and welcome challenge. They aren’t threatened by it. It in fact provides them with an opportunity to show what is working well in school or what plans have been put in place to remedy what isn’t working well.
  • At the same time, the head and staff should be able to rely on support from the board.
  • Boards asking for data, information, reports etc should always bear in mind the workload pressures heads and their teams work under. Don’t add to it
  • The well being of the head and staff as well as pupils should be something the board actively looks after and promotes. Heads and staff who feel supported and who feel their wellbeing is important will perform better. The board should ensure that well-being isn’t a tick box exercise or an empty gesture or something like a yoga session which may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
  • We talked about why it’s important for governors to visit schools. Governors also need to remember that schools are working environments and it may not always be convenient to have visitors. Governors should have a visit protocol they follow and they should always arrange these visits beforehand. Governors who do a monitoring visit should report back to the board. It is a good idea to send the draft report to the staff member they met during the visit so that the staff member can correct any factual mistakes in the report before the report is circulated to the full board.

Slide 24:

We’ve talked about heads and the board. But what about other staff? Boards should invite SLT to attend board meetings. It’s important that the SBM attends meetings too, especially those dealing with finance. School visits and attending school events will mean governors get to meet other staff too. The board should also know what staff think of various issues and staff surveys are a good tool to determine what staff think and feel. The board should also ensure that the culture in the school is one which makes all staff feel valued and that their voices are heard.

Slide 25:

A word about appraisal now. The second core role of governors includes holding the executive leaders to account for performance management of staff. Governors should not be apprising individual teachers. That’s for their line managers to do. What governors should do is ensure that the appraisal system

  • Is a fair and transparent one
  • That any targets which are set are ambitious but achievable and are linked to the school’s strategic priorities
  • The same is true for the appraisal of the head too. That should be a fair and transparent process too. The head’s targets should also be ambitious, achievable and linked to the school’s strategic priorities. Many boards like to include a personal target too. This can be something about the head’s career development or well-being etc. Boards benefit from having an external advisor present during the head’s appraisal. Vast majority of board use external advisors but this isn’t a requirement for academies.

Slide 26:

This was a quick run through of the things executive leaders and boards can do to develop an effective working relationship. If the board, head, SLT and all other staff members work effectively together then it’s the children who benefit. After all, ensuring our children are happy and are getting a good education in a safe environment is why we are in education in the first place.

Governance matters at Festival of Education

The 2021 Festival of Education took place online over two weeks. This year, like always, there was great diversity of topics and speakers. I’m very grateful to the organisers for featuring governance too. Katie Paxton and I had a “fireside” chat about “Governance during and after the pandemic”. You can watch our session using this link.

Top blogs of the week: Schools Week (26 April 2021)

Schools Week published my top blogs of the week.

This week’s top blogs cover leadership lessons from the ‘death of football’ (@daisychristo), making the most of the final weeks of term (@missdcox ), safeguarding (@HelenStevenson4) and attitudes to disabilities (@bennewmark) .

Gary Lineker is not dead and neither is football – yet @daisychristo

If you follow Daisy Christodoulou on Twitter you’ll know that she is very knowledgeable about assessment. You may also be aware that she is a keen follower of both cricket and football; the latter being the subject of this blog, which contains plenty of lessons for school leaders.

Continued in Naureen Khalid’s blogs of the week, 26 April 2021

Proactive Pastoral Care and Governance Matters

On 15th April 2021, I attended the launch of Maria O’Neil’s book Proactive Pastoral Care. I was delighted that Maria asked me to be on the panel. I had read the book with my governor hat on and had made some notes in preparation. I thought it would be good to share these, so here goes.

  • The first thing which I liked about the book is that it makes you think what you can do about pastoral care proactively rather than waiting till something needs a reaction from you. As governors, we hold school leaders to account and we should check if systems and processes are there to stop something happening as well as how school leaders deal with things after they happen ie holding them to account for the proactive as well as the reactive.
  • Maria’s book is useful for governors as it gives us indications of what to hold the school leaders to account for as far as pastoral care is concerned. For example, right at the beginning of the book Maria talks about what she considers to be the core elements of proactive pastoral care: character education, parental engagement and PSHE curriculum. So, right at the start of the book this gives governors three lines of enquiry. She also talks about school culture. The first core role of governors is to ensure there is clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction. Ethos is a Greek word meaning character. Much of what Maria discusses in the book, such as well being, school culture, eliminating bullying, character education etc all contribute to the ethos or character of the organisations we govern and therefore reading this book can help governors fulfil part of their first core role.
  • I loved the fact that Maria makes the point that character education isn’t about fixing people and that it isn’t only about what happens in PSHE lessons. Again, this helps governors judge whether or not character education is the golden thread which runs through the whole school curriculum.
  • Governing boards should ensure that they engage with stakeholders. In fact, NGA has proposed that this be the fourth core role of governors. Maria has a whole chapter on community pastoral engagement which governors would find useful.
  • I’m very glad that Maria has included a chapter on e-safety. Again, this will give governors valuable insights into this topic and help them plan how to ask the right questions of their school leaders.
  • Finally, I love the questions for Reflections at the end of each chapter and the space to write down your thoughts. These include questions the board can ask itself such as
    • How would you describe your school culture? Does it provide the most ideal growing situation?
    • What are your school values?
  • And questions to ask of school leaders such as
    • How often do staff receive pastoral training?
    • What opportunities do your curriculum and teaching provide for character development?

Maria’s book is very easy to read and you can dip in and out of it. I have really enjoyed reading Maria’s book and I know I will be using it in the future.

Eight anniversary matters

Last year when I published a blog celebrating seven years of blogging, I did it as the nation went into lockdown. At that time I didn’t think that we would still be living with restrictions a year later. But we are and, like last year, I am going to celebrate eight years of blogging because it’s an important milestone for me and because I think maintaining routines are even more important during stressful times.

Because of the strange year we’ve lived through, I didn’t blog as much as I normally do. When I started blogging, I wasn’t sure how long I would keep going or if people would want to read my posts. Eight years later I have build up a following for which I am very grateful. A look at the past year.

The top ten most viewed posts were

10. Accountability matters during the COVID-19 crisis; BELMAS RIG presentation

9. Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework and governance matters

8. Staff wellbeing surveys matter: Guest Post

7. Self evaluation matters

6. Vision statement matters

5. Online complaint panel matters

4. Igniting passion for governance matters

3. Virtual meetings matter: Lessons from the pandemic

2. Ofsted Questions for Governors

And the most viewed post was

Good practice matters for governing bodies

The top ten search term which brought people to my site were

  • ofsted questions for governors
  • questions ofsted ask governors
  • ofsted questions for governors
  • section 6 school governors handbook
  • avoiding influenced company status definition
  • are school governors meetings minutes public
  • local authority influenced cannot exceed 19.9%
  • avoiding influenced company status
  • ofsted handbook word version
  • governing matters

I’m glad people are thinking about influenced company status. It’s important that people who govern academies know and understand this. The blog in which I discuss this arose out of a twitter discussion which is one of the reasons why I am on twitter.

Blogging has given me the confidence to write some other pieces too. During the past year I have been fortunate enough to be asked to contribute an article for the digital journal published by the Confederation of School Trusts. I decided to focus on chairing a local governing body in a big multi-academy trust. I have also started doing blog reviews for Schools Week; the latest can be read here. If you blog on governance or know someone who does, please let me know. I would love to feature more voices from the governance world. If there are blogs which you think governors would be interested in even if they are not directly related to governance, then please send those my way too. Schools Week also published my Lockdown Diary: A week in the life of a school governor.

Visible governance is very important to me and I am happy to do my bit to raise the profile of governance and governors in any way I can. For this reason I was honoured to have been given an opportunity to speak by the Chiltern Teaching School Alliance, at IGNITE which was one of the events marking 50th anniversary of BELMAS and during the #GLTNationalInsetDay and the #BBReignite events.

I have enjoyed blogging and sharing my thoughts with you during these eight years. Thank you to all who read/comment/share my blogs. Hopefully, I’ll see you at my 9th anniversary party! Till then, stay well and keep governing.

Igniting passion for governance matters

Flora Cooper, Headteacher, put on a fabulous event on Saturday 13th March. The event was titled Reignite: Burn Bright. Flora’s idea behind this was that we have had a crazy year and now is the time to remind everyone why we do what we do. She asked presenters to prepare talks which would be ten minutes long and would aim to fire up the audience. She wanted this event to be a “chance to remind everyone in education the impact they have on those they work with and the difference they are making to the world. It’s also a chance to encourage them to #BurnBrighter so that together we can make the system look the way we want it for our children”. It was a fabulous event with some really inspiring speakers and me! You can read the tweets from the session using this link.

I was honoured to have had the opportunity to present. My slides and accompanying notes are below.

Slide 2:

I’m going to be talking about governance today and I hope I can ignite an interest in governance in you.

There are about 250,000 governors in England. Legally people can’t be paid to be governors so we are all volunteers. This makes us one of the largest volunteer forces in the country.

Side 3:

Coming to our role now: The purpose of governance is to provide confident leadership. Board members are strategic, non-executive leaders of the organisation. Irrespective of the type of organisation we lead, we have three core functions. Our first core role is to ensure there is clarity of vision (so everyone knows where we want to be in the next year, 3 years, 5 years and so on), that there is clarity of ethos (so that everyone is clear about our values) and that there is clarity of strategic direction (so everyone understands how we will get to our destination and make the vision a reality).

Slide 4:

Our second core function is to hold the executive leaders of the school to account for the performance of the pupils, performance of the school and the performance management of staff.

Slide 5:

State schools are funded by public money. We are custodians of this public money. Our third core function relates to this. We have to look after the financial performance of the school and ensure that money is well spent.

As strategic leaders board members bring about school improvement indirectly. Being custodians of the vision and finances, we ensure that the resources are allocated to best achieve the strategic goals. Through our monitoring and by in-depth questioning of data we help drive school improvement. And finally, we provide support to the executive leaders, the heads.

Slide 6:

It is important to remember that a school governor is a governor for all children and it is our responsibility to ensure that each child is given a chance to burn bright and shine.

Slide 7:

You undoubtedly realise that how important these three core roles are. Because our work involves these important roles, governance must be effective if we are to provide the best possible education to every child. For governance to be effective, the Governance handbook says we need leadership which is strategic and which understands accountability. We need people with the correct skills and the right structures in place and the board needs to understand compliance and evaluation.

Slide 8:

The National Governance Association lists eight elements of effective governance which are:

  • Ensuring that the right people are around the table
  • Understanding roles & responsibilities
  • Good chairing
  • Professional clerking
  • Good relationships based on trust
  • Knowing the school
  • Commitment to asking challenging questions
  • Confidence to have courageous conversations

Slide 9:

The board leadership is the accountable leadership of the organisation. The current educational system is one of high stakes accountability. The board leadership faces accountability pressures itself from central government, from local authorities, from communities etc. Effective boards ensure that they hold the executive leadership to account in a way which doesn’t lead to fear in the organisation but instead is a way of determining what isn’t working and putting it right. The work of governors is one of supporting and challenging school leaders. Governance is most effective when there is balance between the challenge and support we offer the school leaders.

Slide 10:

During the present COVID crisis, we have to adjust that a little bit so that we are offering more support to our school leaders. They are working under extremely trying circumstances so it’s up to us to ensure that instead of burning out, they continue to burn bright.

Slide 11:

You may be wondering why I think it is important that teachers know about governance and governors.

Slide 12:

Well, firstly if you work in an organisation then you should know how it is governed and who governs it. Schools are no different so you should have some idea of who your governors are and what they do.

Slide 13:

If you understand governance and what your governors are trying to achieve then we can all move forward in the same direction to bring about school improvement and burn brighter together and this means that there is less chance of a “us and them” feeling or culture developing which, if it does, can be very toxic.

Slide 14:

The other reason I wanted to talk about governance today is that we would love it if more teachers joined governing boards and I hope that my talk will make you want to find out more and eventually join a board. I’ve talked a little bit about the core role of governors so you know what you’ll have to do if you join a board. Obviously, before you join a board, you would also want to know about the benefits of joining a board.

Slide 15:

Firstly, it’s very valuable CPD. You gain experience in thinking strategically, looking at problems using a strategic lens and thinking of long term solutions.

Slide 16:

If you join the board of a different school, then you gain understanding of how others do things differently to you. Your school may be facing similar problems and the board you’re on may have different solutions to the same problem. You bring that knowledge back to your school. The board you’re serving on benefits from your experience and different perspective too.

Slide 17:

Serving on the board of a different school and being exposed to different practises helps you reflect on your own practice which is always a good thing.

Slide 18:

Working as a governor means you gain experience of looking at budgets, at finance, at HR etc. This experience will be especially useful if you want to go for senior leader or headship positions in the future.

Slide 19:

Joining a board is a very good way of building your network beyond your own school or trust.

Slide 20:

Another great advantage of serving on the board of a different school is that you may get a chance to be involved with appointing a senior leader or even a head. You will get to see how boards go about what is perhaps one of the most important jobs they have to do. Again, this experience will be invaluable if you decide to go for these positions yourself one day.

Slide 21:

As a member of a governing board, you will obviously learn about governance and this knowledge will help you work better with your own board.

Slide 22:

You would have developed specialist knowledge and skills as part of your job. You will know a lot about assessment, curriculum development, safeguarding, SEND etc. This knowledge will be invaluable to the board you join.

Slide 23:

As a staff member, you are already helping pupils in your school. By joining a different board you will help pupils of that school burn brighter too.

Slide 24:

I hope this has given you a flavour of what governance is all about and I hope you will think about volunteering yourself as a board member. I also hope you all have been ignited by the different talks today. I know I have and will be. Thank you Flora and Tom for putting on a fabulous programme.

Slide 25:

I would like to end by thanking each and every one of you. Nothing in your training would have prepared you for working in a pandemic. Yet you have managed to keep schools open for those who needed to be in and provided education to those who were at home. You and your colleagues have worked under very trying circumstances. The impact you have had and continue to have is immense. Let’s all continue to Burn Brighter together and continue to shine on for our children.

The video recording can be seen here

Governance leadership matters; @BELMASOffice IGNITE event

Governance is hugely important but, for the most part, it is usually hidden till things go wrong. Raising profile of school governance is important. If we shout about what good governance is, we can contribute to sharing of good practice. By making governance more visible we can also encourage more people to join boards thereby increasing the diverse pool of expertise available to boards. All this will help ensure school provide a good education to all our children which is why the vast, vast majority of get involved with governance in the first place.

One of the ways I have been doing this is by putting my name forward to speak at various events, especially events where the audience will have a mixed audience. The latest such event was the IGNITE event organized by BELMAS (British Educational Leadership and Administration Society).This was one of a series of events being organized to celebrate the 50th birthday of BELMAS. The event was held online and had a very interesting format. Presenters were allowed three minutes to speak on various aspects of leadership. I submitted a proposal to speak on governance and was accepted (thank you, BELMAS). The event was chaired by Prof Megan Crawford.

As I had three minutes and in the audience would be people who may not know much about governance, I decided to keep to the basics. My presentation is as below (this is not a transcript so differ slightly from what I said during the event).

I will be speaking on governance leadership.

Effective governance is key to ensuring success of schools. The purpose of governance is to provide confident leadership. Board members are strategic, non-executive leaders of the organisation. Irrespective of the type of organisation they lead, they have three core functions; ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction; holding school leaders to account and ensuring the financial health of the organisation.

As strategic leaders board members bring about school improvement indirectly. Being custodians of the vision and finances, they ensure that the resources are allocated to best achieve the strategic goals. Through their monitoring and by in-depth questioning of data they help drive school improvement. And finally, they provide support to the executive leaders, the heads.

Board members understand that members of the school management are operational leaders. Effective governance ensures that creating the vision and strategy is a collaborative effort between the strategic leaders on the board and the operational leaders of the organisation who then create the operational plan. A good relationship between the non-executive and executive leaders is essential. The board is often described as a critical friend and the relationship as one of challenge and support. Prof Chris James and colleagues argue that these terms are unhelpful as they appear to give the impression of the board being critical and confrontational. They suggest that the work of the board is best described as one of scrutiny.

Board members have a crucial role to play in community engagement. The arrival of MATs on the educational scene has brought governance challenges. Some communities feel a sense of disconnect with the trust board and there is perceived lack legitimacy of this governance model. In my view leadership at the local school level should be maintained. Every school or a small local cluster of schools should have a local governing body with its membership consisting of people who have strong links with the local community and an interest in their school.

The board leadership is the accountable leadership of the organisation. The current educational system is one of high stakes accountability. The board leadership faces accountability pressures itself from central government, from local authorities, from communities etc. Effective boards ensure that they hold the executive leadership to account in a way which doesn’t lead to fear in the organisation but instead is a way of determining what isn’t working and putting it right.

Finally, governors also play an important role in system leadership by serving as National Leaders of Governance.

During the discussion someone asked about research into governance. I replied that, i my opinion,  there isn’t as much research as there should be. Governance is an important area and should be researched robustly. So, if you were thinking of researching some aspect of governance, go for it!

Top Blogs of the Week: Schools Week (25 Jan 2021)

Schools Week have published my Top Blogs of the Week.

Separation of powers, accountability, responsibility and humanity are Naureen Khalid’s top picks of the topics from this week’s education blogs

Should the chief executive be appointed as a trustee?


While governors and trustees take a strategic view, a school’s executive team has responsibility for its operational leadership. The role of the board is to hold the executive to account. That’s why in the charity sector CEOs are generally not appointed to the board. Yet whether this should be the case in schools and academies (which are exempt charities) has been a cause for debate.

Continued in Naureen Khalid’s blogs of the week, 25 January 2021.