Author Archives: governingmatters

NGA London Regional Meeting matters

I attended the NGA London Regional meeting on 10th October 2017. I won’t write in detail about everything but will try and capture the important points made by governors. The first part of the meeting discussed Ofsted inspections and the consultation on proposals for changes to short inspections.

What do you think of the “Outstanding” grade?

  • Some governors wanted to retain it thinking that it may serve as an incentive to schools to stay outstanding
  • Some governors were not happy that outstanding schools are not routinely re-inspected. They said schools can slide and this slide may not be evident in the headline figures
  • Some governors thought that if an outstanding school does not help another school to improve then it should lose the outstanding grade
  • There were governors who would be happy if there was no outstanding grade
Should outstanding schools be exempt from re-inspection?
  • The feeling was that these schools should not be exempt. Governors would like the assurance that these schools were continuing to improve and there wasn’t a slow decline of standards

What do you think of the proposal to delay inspections with Ofsted issuing a letter to the school?

  • Some governors felt that the letter which would be sent out may be useful to the school and governors in moving the school forward. It feels less like a “blunt system”
  • Other governors said they struggled to see what the advantage would be over the present system? Was one day sufficient to be able to point out all that the school needed to do?
  • Others asked what the possible benefits would be in saying “you’re not RI but need to improve in these areas”?
  • Would this system be more open to legal challenges?
  • Is this a resource issue?
  • Some governors thought that we shouldn’t think of this is monetary terms but come to a conclusion whether we like it or not, irrespective of that
  • Some governors thought that if this proves to be a tool for improvement then that would be a good thing but this will only become clear once the system is up and running
Exclusions
  • If you are a MAT have you delegated exclusions properly?
  • Governors in secondary schools should be checking how many students were enrolled in Year 12 and how many of these stayed on for Year 13. Are there any “missing” ones? If yes, do you know why?
  • Do you know if there are 6th Form students who haven’t performed as expected? If yes, why not?
Staff wellbeing and things we should be thinking about
  • How do people feel in your schools?
  • How do you know the above?
  • What are you doing about staff welfare?
  • Monitoring staff attendance: How does this fit in with your sickness policy?
  • Does school hold exit interviews to understand why people move? Does this information come to the GB?
  • Who conducts exit interviews; head/SBM/governors? You may get different answers depending upon who is conducting the interview.
  • The GB is responsible for looking after the head’s welfare. If a head does not look after their own welfare then that filters through to the rest of the staff.
  • What do you know about your marking/feedback policies? Are they generating workload.
ASP
  • At least some governors should have access to ASP
Effective Practice
  • What do we do to find out what staff/parents/students want and think?
  • Do we have a code of practice in place?
  • When reviewing the code, do we have a discussion about Nolan Principles?
Chair’s Pilot
  • Simon Richards from Inspiring Governors told us about the Chair’s pilot being run by them. Inspiring Governors are working, mostly in opportunity areas, with people who are future chairs People are appointed to GBs with the understanding that they will take up the chair’s position once ready. They are assigned an NLG mentor and have a place on the leadership programme.

I am interested in your views on the above so please do comment.

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@ICSA_News Conference: Academy governance matters

On 6th October I attended “Academy Governance: delivering continuous improvement” conference organised by ICSA. This was a well organised conference which gave the attendees a chance to listen to really good and varied presentations. I will write a bit about each of the presentations I attended but will concentrate on the questions which governors should be asking themselves and their schools to bring about school improvement.

The day started with Sir David Carter delivering the keynote address. Sir David’s presentation, as always, was very interesting and useful. He made the point that sustainable school improvement takes time, takes place in stages and needs high quality leadership. It takes around three to five years to turn around a special measures school so we need to stop focusing on quick fixes. Sir David then showed us the graph below.

School A is the real outstanding and H is the weakest school. Getting A to sponsor H cannot be the only answer to the school improvement challenge. D and E are the schools which worry Sir Carter. These schools are sliding but the Regional School Commissioners have no real lever to pick up the phone to them. We need to be able to pick them up and help them before they fall.

Question for governors to ask themselves:

Looking at the above graph, can you plot the position of your school?

Sir Carter then went on to talk about the four stages of improving a school and the key questions for governors in each of these phases.

The four stages of improving a school:

  • The Stabilise Phase
  • The Repair Phase
  • The Improve Phase
  • The Sustain Phase

Key questions for governors in the Stabilise Phase:

  • How close are we to understanding the precise nature of what needs to be done?
  • Are we effective at prioritising the strategies we need to implement?
  • Who should we commission to provide the external; support and challenge we need?
  • Do we have the right skills and experience on our board to critique the effectiveness of the strategies?
  • What data is going to help us provide the challenge that our leaders need?
  • How do you understand the short term progress that the school is making without having to wait for the next meeting?
  • How are [we] monitoring the cost of improving the school?
  • What should we ask the leaders to do less of create capacity in other areas?
  • Where are the pockets of stronger practice that we can develop and share?

Key questions for governors in the Repair Phase (these are in addition to the above ones which still apply):

  • Is the external support we have commissioned delivering what we need it to?
  • Have we got the balance right between supporting and challenging our leaders and staff?
  • Are the leaders in the school coping?
  • How reliable is the data that the school is sharing with us to demonstrate progress? How do we moderate it?
  • Now that the school is improving how are we working with parents and students to learn from their experience?
  • Should we commission some external reviews to reassure us that progress is as secure as we are being told it is?

Key questions for governors in the Improve Phase (some of the above will still apply, some won’t be needed):

  • Have we articulated the lessons learned so far and are we sharing them more widely?
  • Are we getting the balance right between quality assurance and operational improvement?
  • How do we make sure we are not institutionally blind to the challenges we still face?
  • What are the areas that still need repair?
  • As a board of governors do we need to refresh our professional expertise and capacity?
  • What is our strategic plan to train and develop our team of governors as we move towards becoming a very good school?

Key questions for governors in the Sustain Phase:

  • What are the risks to us reaching a performance plateau and how do we avoid that?
  • What capacity do we have to support another school?
  • Can we be confident that the areas of expertise we believe we have really are that good?
  • Are the strategies we have implemented scalable and replicable?
  • Have we allocated key areas for sustainable performance to members of the board (disadvantaged students, able students, collaborative practice)?

Sir Carter then went onto talk about ten things which the best MATs seem to get most of the time. Based on these ten things, below are some questions I think trustees of MATs can ask themselves.

  • Are we able to use our workforce as a resource that can be deployed across the MAT to benefit all children?
  • How many of the education delivery systems are standardised across the MAT?
  • Do we have a trust wide improvement plan which takes into account where each school is on the improvement journey?
  • Do we collaborate with other institutions?
  • How does the performance management of each school head contribute to the development of the MAT?
  • Are we satisfied that our growth strategy for the MAT is not compromising the standard of education children already in our MAT receive?

Sir Carter also pointed out another benefit of being in a MAT. MATs can arrange and deliver greater range of extra-curricular activities for their students. I would like to ask trustees if they are sure that, firstly, the MAT is doing this and secondly, the students are aware of the opportunities available to them and are they utilizing them and benefiting from them?

The next presentation was from Graeme Hornsby who talked about conflicts of interest. The questions which this presentation made me think about are

  • Are we aware of our obligations under Charity Law and company Law?
  • Are we clear about what constitute conflicts of interest?
  • Do we have processes in place for declaring, recording and managing conflicts of interests?
  • Do we understand conflict of interest with trustee benefit?
  • Do we ensure that if there is a conflict of interest with trustee benefit, then Charity Commission expectation that withdrawing includes withdrawing from initial and subsequent discussions and decisions of the matter is followed? 
  • Do we understand conflict of loyalty which can be a grey area?
  • Do we take advice when necessary (from our auditors, ESFA, HR)?
  • Do we plan ahead when people should withdraw (when preparing the agenda, for example) or do we deal with conflicts during the meeting?
  • Is our Register of Interests a live document or is it just updated once a year?
  • Do we have a standing item on our agendas when declaration of interests (additions, changes, relevant to that meeting) can be made?
  • How do we define senior staff?
  • Do we understand what “at cost means and do we have processes in place to deal with this? (Graeme advised us not to be afraid of doing at cost transactions if they will benefit our students but always be sure to do them correctly). 
  • Do the gatekeepers (trustees, accounting officer, CFO, clerk) understand and carry out their responsibilities?
  • Are budget holders and other key staff aware of their responsibilities?
  • Do you have induction programmes in place for new members?
  • How robust are your internal auditing systems?
  • Who keeps up to date with all the legal requirements?
  • Who updates policies, procedures and internal controls?
  • Is there consistency across the MAT?
  • Is there clarity and consistency in local governance systems?

Stephen Morales, Chief Executive NASBM spoke next and talked about school funding. The questions he posed were

  • Are you able to quote, on demand, your contact ratios and in particular those of your leadership team?
  • Do you know the cost of your leadership team as a % of your overall budget?
  • Do you know your back office costs as a % of your overall budget?
  • Is internal communication fully automated?
  • Have all your major contracts been reviewed and retendered in the last 3 years?
  • Do you have in place a 3-year sustainable budget plan?
  • Do you have firm strategic plans for your reserves?
  • What formal collaborations have you put in place to achieve economies of scale?
  • Journey to CEO is massive. It’s not a one week residential! Same true for trustees too. What training is available to them?
  • How well do you know your organisation? Stephen showed us this capacity audit tool which can be RAG rated to produce a heat map to identify weak/strong area

Next up was Dr Kate Chatwal who spoke about maximising the impact of the Board. She explained the journey her trust, STEP Academy Trust, has been on. Based on her presentation these are the questions we could be asking ourselves.

  • Which of the six features of impactful boards given below can we say we share?
    • Do we focus on the things that really matter?
    • Do we know what success looks like?
    • Do we have access to reliable data?
    • Do we triangulate?
    • Do we stay strategic but dig deep when needed?
    • Are we accountable for our own performance?
  • Are we sure that joining a MAT has resulted/will result in more than the sum of the parts?
  • Do you have the same assessment systems across the MAT as trustees will not be able to compare schools to work out where the need is the greatest?
  • Are your local governors acting as the board’s eyes and ears?
  • D your local governors know your trustees? Are there lines of communication between the two?
  • Do trustees understand that governance at the MAT trust board level is very different to governing a single school?
  • What are your governance KPIs?
  • Governance is about asking/answering key questions about resources, vision, strategy, data & feedback. How would you answer these questions?

 

Some questions which came to my mind listening to the panel (David Gracie, Director at KPMG; Brian Lightman, Gen. Sec. of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) from 2010-2016 Michelle Doyle Wildman) debate on stakeholder engagement which was the next session.

  • How do you ensure your communicate with your stakeholders in a timely manner?
  • How do you engage with students and staff to find out what’s happening on the ground?
  • Do you consider the impact your decisions will have on your stakeholders?
  • Is your culture one of proactive engagement?
  • Are you outward looking?
  • Are you aware that the school is a massive resource for the community?
  • Do you develop and invest in relationships with stakeholders so they can be your allies?

We were also treated to a presentation from Michael Sherridan, Ofsted’s Regional Director for London who started off with some myth busting (such as it’s not true that only the Chair meets with the inspectors, it’s also a myth that only governors who me t the inspectors are told about the judgement. All should be told (with the caveat that it is confidential until is it officially released). He told us that governance has changed a great deal since the days when he was a head and challenges are now quite different. Michael then listed some challenges which I have changed into questions you can ask your fellow governors.

  • Do you know HOW to hold your leaders to account?
  • Do you understand your strategic role?
  • Do you know how governors and teachers can work together?
  • Being a volunteer, how do you manage your workload?
  • Do you keep up to date with educational changes, legal responsibilities and inspection frameworks?
  • How do you ensure that your board has the right skills and knowledge?
  • How do you recruit governors with the required skills?
  • Do you know how and where to access good and support when you need it?

Other questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have a good induction programme in place for new governors?
  • Do governors have access to regular refresher training?

A few words about clerking:

As we know a good clerk is essential for good governance. It was good to see clerking was highlighted during the day.

Sir David Carter said that Chair, Vice Chair and Clerk are the holy trinity as far as improving governance is concerned.

Graeme Hornsby said there is a great potential to develop clerking at the local level. The going rate for clerks is not very good. This needs to be a professional post with matching remuneration.

Mike Sheridan talked about how a good, professional clerk can support governors to

  • Be well organised and remain strategic
  • Review policies
  • Access accurate minutes and receive papers in time
  • Be aware of planned governance activities
  • Attend training
  • Report back to committees /full board

Mike said that governors should look after their clerk because a good, professional clerk is

  • Outward facing
  • Well-informed
  • Access training
  • Are members of professional organizations
  • Use information services
  • Is worth their weight in gold!

My governance duties meant that I missed the remaining sessions as I had to leave to attend a meeting. I am grateful to ICSA for putting on such a good conference. I look forward to attending similar ones in the future.

My Storify of the tweets from the conference can be read here.

Vision statement matters

One of the core functions of governors is to ensure clarity of vision. Myatt (2016: 79) has made the point that

The strongest governing bodies express hope for their school.

This statement is the basis of the core question governors should ask themselves when they start thinking of their vision for their school.

Tarnow (2001) suggests that an organisation’s vision statement can serve the same purpose as that of a team jersey; it can serve to unite people to work towards a shared goal. Every organisation, irrespective of its size or its purpose, needs to be able to define its vision; its hopes for the future. Smith (2016) has discussed why a clearly defined vision is important. Although he has focused on corporate companies, what he says is equally applicable to schools. According to him, amongst other things, vision helps companies create effective strategies. As governing bodies are responsible for setting the strategic direction of their schools, it follows that they should create, develop and monitor the vision for their school. Indeed, whilst ensuring the clarity of vision is one of the core responsibilities of governing body, effective leadership for school improvement itself requires clear goals (Goldenberg, 2004, 15). Governors can make schools better by shaping and guarding the values and vision of the school through its key roles of strategic planning and monitoring and evaluation (Brighouse and Woods, 2013:60).

A vision statement is a company’s or organisation’s high level road map, indicating both what the company wants to become and guiding transformational initiatives by setting a defined direction for the company’s future and development (Quigley, 1994). In essence, the vision statement is an aspirational, but realisable description of what an organisation would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action and thus determining short or near term operational goals.

The question, “Why are we working in schools?” can be broadly answered by saying, “To provide education to our pupils”. The follow up question, “Why are we working in our particular school?” is the reason why governing bodies invest time in developing the vision for their school. However, a vision statement is not solely for internal consumption. Governors, staff, pupils, parents and carers, and the community, all of whom are our stakeholders, need to understand where we want to be in the future. Indeed, a school should be readily identifiable from its vision statement.

According to a parent governor of a school in South Africa, provision of first rate education is facilitated when vision forms part of the school’s comprehensive strategic plan (Modiba, 2001). Buck (2016: 61) says that the heads of schools judged to be outstanding all talked about the importance of a clear vision of a school’s strategic plan and a shared purpose. Governors, therefore, need to ensure that the vision has clear goals for the future which the SLT can lead the school towards.

Jones (2007) argues that developing a vision is a critical part of school improvement. She also makes the point that developing the vision for a school is an evolutionary process. Once the vision has been developed and agreed by all the stakeholders, it then needs to be reflected in classroom practice. This is the operational side of managing schools and it is the responsibility of Headteachers and their teams to develop and implement the resultant School Development Plan. Governing bodies are then required to the hold the Leadership team to account for the delivery of the agreed vision. Gabriel and Farmer (2009:45) state that “Stopping to confirm common goals among the stakeholders will help the team meet its objectives”.

Below I explain how the governing body can go about developing a vision statement for their school.

The first step could be to organise a series of workshops in which the governors and the senior leadership team (SLT) can come together and contribute equally to the development of the vision. According to Gabriel and Farmer (2009:46), it is important for all staff members to have a “common, agreed-on destination” to avoid wasting energy in un-focused efforts. It is also important for the governing body to involve the staff so that the vision becomes a shared vision. Buck (2016: 62) asserts that for a school to be successful there needs to be a sense of a shared direction of travel. The vision will only be deliverable if everyone has a hand in creating it and takes ownership of it. According to Covey (1992: 142):

As important as the end product is-a piece of paper that captures the family mission-even more important is what happens in the process of creating it.

If you ask people to work in groups during the workshops then ensure that governors and staff are equally represented in each group. The SLT attending the workshops should have meetings with the rest of the staff before the workshops so that the view presented by them during the workshops reflects the views of the rest of the staff too. In a similar way they can gather the views of the students too which can be discussed in the workshops. Gurley et al. (2015) have reported that when they surveyed students, 62% of the respondents indicated that their school had a vision statement but only 20% were able to recall any part of it. By gathering student views, not only would you get an insight to what they want their school to be like; they would have ownership of the vision.

In a similar fashion, parents could be asked to express what type of school they envision for their children.

When drawing up a shared vision, people participating in the exercise should be able to “describe a desirable future” and identify the leadership which will deliver the vision (Harvard Business School, 2003: 26). The specific questions which can be discussed in these workshops are:

  • Challenges being faced by the school and various opportunities available to us
  • Think of a student who joined Year X in September. What is your ambition for that student when he/she leaves school?
  • What opportunities do you think the school is able to offer its students and staff?
  • What do you think the school will look like in 5 years from now?
  • What are the characteristics of effective leadership which would help make the vision a reality?
  • How do we unlock potential of every student?
  • How do we nurture each student?
  • How do we develop “the whole person?”
  • Who is our community and what can we offer to various members of this community?
  • What are the hallmarks of our school leaders?
  • What type of environment do we want to create in our school?
  • What will a student leaving our school “look like” at the end of their time with us?
  • What will our school be like in three to five years? How might people describe it?
  • What are the challenges facing our students?
  • What could the challenges be in the future?
  • How can the school prepare them for life after school?
  • What are the key aspects which should be developed in schools and in our school?

Notes should be taken during each session and distributed before the next session. Themes which emerge during one workshop can be explored further in subsequent workshops.

Once all the issues have been explored and key themes identified a working party can be tasked with drawing up the vision statement which is then shared with governors and SLT. Try and keep the statement short and to the point. It should be specific to your school. The agreed draft can then be passed onto students, rest of the staff and parents for comments. The final vision statement is then written after comments have been taken into consideration, and published.

References

Brighouse, T., and Woods, D., 2013. The A-Z of School Improvement. Bloomsbury

Buck, A., 2016. ‘Leadership Matters’ John Catt Educational Limited

Covey, S.R., 1994. Principle-centered leadership. Fireside Press

Gabriel, J.G. and Farmer, P.C., 2009. How to Help Your School Thrive Without Breaking the Bank. Virginia. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Goldenberg, C.N. ,2004 Successful School Change: Creating Settings to Improve Teaching and Learning New York, NY: Teachers College Press Pg 15

Gurley, D.K., Peters, G.B., Collins, L. and Fifolt, M., 2015. Mission, vision, values, and goals: An exploration of key organizational statements and daily practice in schools. J Educ Change 16:217–242

Harvard Business School, 2003. Managing Change And Transition. EBook Edition, Boston, Mass. Harvard Business Review Press. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [Accessed 5 May 2017].

Jones, L., 2007. The Importance of Visions for Schools and School Improvement [Online]. Available from: http://cnx.org/contents/YQkJG7Yj@1/The-Importance-of-Visions-for- [Accessed 3 October 2017]

Modiba, S. N., 2001. The importance of vision and mission statements in promoting school effectiveness in Northern Province schools. Thesis (PhD) Rand Afrikaans University

Myatt, M., 2016. Hopeful Schools. Mary Myatt Learning Limited

Quigley, J.V., 1994. Vision: How leaders develop it, share it, and sustain it Business Horizons. 37 (5), pp. 37-41

Smith, G., 2016. 7 Reasons Your Company Needs a Clear, Written Mission Statement [Online]. Available from: http://www.glennsmithcoaching.com/7-reasons-your-company-needs-clear-written-mission-statement/ [Accessed 3 October 2017]

Tarnow, E., 2011. A Recipe for Mission and Vision Statements IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, Vol. 44, NO. 2, 138-141

Statutory guidance matters; removal of elected govenors

The Department for Education has today issued the updated statutory guidance setting out the arrangements for the constitution of governing bodies of all local-authority-maintained schools. It has been updated with guidance on new powers to remove elected governors. The passages relating to the removal of elected governors are as below. I have highlighted (in red) passages which, I think, governors should pay extra attention to.

C.5. Removal of governors (regulations 20-24A)

The governing body may also remove an appointed or an elected, parent or staff governor.

It is advised that every effort be made to avoid potential difficulties later by informing prospective election candidates, or appointees, of the nature of the role. It is advised that their agreement is secured to a clear set of expectations for behaviour and conduct – as set out in a code of conduct. A code of conduct is expected to detail (within the parameters of relevant regulations and this guidance) the circumstances in which the governing body may suspend or remove a governor. Good training, a thorough induction and effective chairing are also vital in helping to prevent situations occurring in the first place. It is advised that induction includes a clear setting out of the expectations of the governor role.

Governing bodies are expected only to exercise the power to remove an elected governor in exceptional circumstances where the actions or behaviour of the elected governor warrants removal rather than suspension. The power should not be used simply to remove dissenting or challenging voices. Good governance involves asking courageous questions and offering appropriate professional challenge. A diverse range of viewpoints contributes to healthy debate and good decision making; and avoids governing boards becoming inappropriately dominated by a single narrow perspective.

The five year disqualification term for removal reflects the expectation that the power to remove an elected governor will only be used in exceptional and serious circumstances (and such seriousness will depend on the facts of the case). Examples which could give rise to removal are where:

(a) there have been repeated grounds for suspension;

(b) there has been serious misconduct. Governing bodies should decide what constitutes serious misconduct based on the facts of the case. However, it is expected that any actions that compromise the Nolan principles, if sufficiently serious, would be considered in scope of this reason for removal.

(c) a governor displays repeated and serious incompetence; for example where an elected governor is unwilling or unable, despite all appropriate support, to develop the skills to contribute to effective governance; or where attendance is so irregular that the governor is unable to make any meaningful contribution to the work of the board.

(d) the governor has engaged in conduct aimed at undermining fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs; and/or;

(e) the actions of the governor are significantly detrimental to the effective operation of the governing body, distracting it from its core strategic functions; and/or the actions of a governor interferes with the operational efficiency of the school thereby wasting a significant amount of headteacher and /or senior leadership time.

C.6 Procedure for removal of governors by the governing body (regulation 25)

Removal by a governing body of a co-opted governor, partnership governor, ex-officio foundation governor, appointed parent governor or elected parent or staff governor is effected by resolution of the governing body but only if:

  • the removal is confirmed by a resolution passed at a second meeting of the governing body not less than 14 days after the first meeting;
  • the removal of the governor has been specified as an item on the agenda of both meetings; and
  • the following additional conditions are satisfied.

Where the governor concerned is an ex-officio foundation governor, or is a partnership governor whose removal has been requested by the nominating body, the additional condition is that the governing body considers the reasons for removal and gives the governor concerned the chance to make a statement in response.

Where the governor concerned is a co-opted governor, a partnership governor, elected parent or staff governor, or an appointed parent governor, the governor proposing the removal must at the meeting give reasons for the proposal and the governor concerned must have the chance to make a statement in response.

Governing bodies are expected to provide an appeals procedure to enable any removed governor to test the reasonableness of the governing body’s decision to remove them. It is advised that an independent panel conducts the appeal, which could include a governor from another school, and/or a suitable official from the local authority, or a suitable diocesan representative.

It is advised that any governor subject to removal is provided with written details of the case against them ahead of any meeting, and it is advised this includes details of how their case is being handled, and the timeframes involved. They must then be given sufficient time and support to respond.

Interview matters; mistakes to avoid

On Saturday 1st July 2017 Katie Paxton-Dogget and I made our way to Aureus School in Didcot for the #WomenEd Regional event. We are grateful to Hannah Wilson who gave us the opportunity to present on governance.

The topic we chose was “interviews; how not to get them wrong.” Here are the slides from our session. I’ll write a sentence or two about each slide so they make sense when you see them.

Slide 3: Not going on a school tour is a mistake. Candidates should visit school to get a “feel” for the place and the area which you won’t get from looking at websites. Do you want to work in that school, in that area? Do you want to live in that area? Can you commute? What about your spouse’s job and you kids’ school?

Slide 7: Send off for the application form. Many places now ask you not to send your CV. If that’s the case then don’t. You’ll be wasting your time.

Slide 8:Read the application form carefully. What is the job spec and can you do it? Do you want to do it?

Slide 9: What is the person spec and do you match it? Here A is Application, I is interview. E is essential and D is desirable.

Slide 10: The essentials are essential. You may not be shortlisted if you don’t have the essentials.

Slide 11: Take great care filling out the form. Don’t leave it till the last minute.

Slide 12: Take your time over it. This is your chance to sell yourself to the panel. Don’t rush when filling it.

Slide 13: Another mistake candidates soetines make is not answering what was asked. For example if a CV is not required then don’t send in one.

Slide 14: Not proofreading is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Proof read it more than once. Leave it for a week or so and proofread it again. Then ask someone else to read it for you. They may pick up some mistakes which you didn’t. If you can get someone not in education to read your application, then they might pick up something you think is clear but is actually not.

Slide 15: Governors especially don’t like spelling mistakes! Don’t rely on spell check.

Slide 16: Some applicants fill out as many application forms as they can. They change the name of the school and that’s it. They copy and paste the rest. The panel can usually tell  if you’ve done that. It’ll be very clear that you aren’t applying to their school. Tailor your application to the school.

Slide 17: Don’t think you’ve been shortlisted to make up the numbers. We don’t want to waste our time or yours. Another mistake people make is thinking if there is an internal candidate then the panel has already decided to appoint the internal candidate. This is wrong. We want the best person for the job. If you think the interview is a formality and the internal candidate will be appointed then you will be selling yourself short. And this will also affect your performance.

Slide 19: Don’t wing it! Be well prepar3ed for the interview. Research the school as much as you can.

Slide 20: Appearing uninterested or unprepared will not endear you to the panel!

Slide 21: Another mistake is not asking any questions of the panel. The interview is a two way street. Ask questions to work out if you’ll be happy working there.

Slide 22: Being prepared is good but don’t give answers which appeared to be rehearsed. For example if asked what’s your biggest weakness don’t say things which sound trite or show a lack of insight.

Slide 23: Don’t badmouth current/previous employers. Don’t appear to be angry. Panel has only your side of the story so they won’t be able to make a judgement if what you are saying is correct.

Slide 24: Trying to fudge answers never goes down well. Give honest answers. For example gaps in employment. Remember the Apprentice interviews!

I saw an article on how to ace presentations  during interviews so I thought I’d add the link, in case it’s useful for people reading this post.  

 

 

Major incidents matter; some questions for governors to consider/ask

A few months ago I attended a workshop on helping protect against and preparing for a terrorist attack. After the events in Manchester and London I thought it may help other governors if I shared the notes I had made at the workshop. These are my notes and should be read as just that. Do contact your local police for any specific advice you may need. During the workshop we discussed scenarios and came up with various questions we should be asking ourselves in order to prepare for any eventuality. These questions are an aid to start thinking of how prepared we are and what else we may need to do. There are no right or wrong answers as the answers to these questions will depend on your setting.

Classification of Levels of threat:

  • Critical: Attack expected immediately (issued for a short period of time as it’s difficult to maintain over a long period)
  • Severe: Attack is highly likely
  • Substantial: Strong possibility of an attack
  • Moderate: Attack possible but not likely
  • Low: Attack unlikely

Threats we face:

  • Mass casualty attacks.
  • There will probably be no warnings
  • Crowded places are more likely to be targeted
  • Attack may be through person or vehicle borne devises
  • Methods are constantly evolving

Places attractive to terrorists:

These are places where they can blend in, places where they can predict procedures, public places. Schools are all of the above. We need to assess where we are most vulnerable. We need to be able to prevent people coming in, protect the items we work with being used (like chemicals in our labs) and prevent our reputation being our greatest risk.

Scenario: There’s been an attack in the town centre. What will you do?

  • How will you know there has been an attack in your town centre? Can you share information quickly with other local schools? Is there a television in the school which is on all the time and tuned to a news channel? Police will have other priorities and informing schools will not be at the top of their list.
  • What is our responsibility to students/staff who may be out of school? Can we check if they are ok? Do we have the capability to do this?
  • What will we tell parents who may call the school having heard of the incident?
    Have a holding statement ready, something along the lines of: “Yes, we are aware that an incident has taken place. We are in the process of assessing the situation and will put updates on the website”.
  • Put information on the website.
  • Put a pre-recorded message on the phone, something along the lines of: “Yes we know about the incident. We are taking steps to ensure that our students and staff are safe. Please look at the website for further updates.”
  • Consider lockdown. Are we able to lockdown our establishment? Primary schools may be able to do this more easily than secondary ones. If we do have a lockdown then will students who are off site be able to return?
  • How will you inform staff who are in different classes/places?
    One attendee told us about a new system in her school. There are speakers in every room. There is a central button which is pressed and the announcement is made through the speakers. The message is a pre-recorded one. In her school the message is, “Will all staff please respond to a Code Blue”. The staff have practised this and know how to respond. Another option is to use a klaxon. Newer fire alarm systems have different broadcasts which can be used
  • Whose responsibility is to put out the message? Is it head alone? What training have the staff received?
  • How will staff communicate the message to the students in the class?
  • Do you have a media person whose responsibility it would be to respond to the media?
  • Consider having a “Decision Log” which would record all the steps taken. This may be of great importance, especially if decisions are challenged at a later date.
  • Remember mobile phones may go down. Landlines usually hold
  • Responsibilities which used to fall to the LA now fall to the Board of Trustees, so make arrangements to inform them. They may even deal with the media for you.

Scenario: After the incident in the town centre a car drives into school, hits a wall and explodes. What will you do in this situation?

  • COSH: Are your chemicals in danger of exploding?
  • Are there casualties? If these are taken to the hospital then will a staff member go with them?
  • Make 999 call. There should be one person whose responsibility it is to make the call. He/she then comes back and reports that the call has been made. Tell them which services you need. Make sure you give as much information as you can. For example: A car has driven into school and exploded. There is a burst water mains and electric cables are down. Building is probably unstable. The main access in blocked but you can come in through the alternate route which is xxx. There is a fire in the science block which is located xxx (they won’t know where your science block was).
  • Don’t put your safety at risk. It’s human nature to go to help. Don’t become a victim and help others only if it’s safe for you to do so. Assess the scene. Remember SAD CHALETS:
    Survey, Assess, Disseminate-Casualties, Hazards, Access, Location, Emergency Services (required), Type of incident, Safety
  • It may take 10-15 minutes for the police to arrive as they will be dealing with the incident in the town centre. Ambulance will take longer to arrive
  • If possible give a map of the site to the emergency services when they arrive
  • This is a major incident. Are your first aid boxes enough to deal with this situation? Consider having few “Major Incident First Aid Kits” on the site.
  • If you are the person who is surveying the site then deputise someone else to ring 999 and ask him/her to come back and tell you that the call has been made
  • What if your chain of command has been taken out/is unable to respond? Who takes over?
  • 90-95% of injuries in a blast are due to flying glass.
  • Effects of blast
    • Blast wave
    • Fire wall
    • Brisance (shattering)
    • Primary fragments
    • Secondary fragments
    • Ground shock
  • Look at what type of glass there is in your building. Laminated glass holds and reduces casualties
  • If you are planning an invacuation area (where you would go in a lockdown), then it may be an idea to get a blast engineer to evaluate the area and asses suitability

Scenario: Automatic weapons

  • Intel says an attack with automatic weapons in unlikely in the UK.
  • More likely is an attack with a bladed weapon or a single shot weapon
  • Things to consider:
    • What cover is available to you (a) from view (b) from fire? Steel work is obviously better as cover from fire but you will have to do what you can with what you have (“when you’ve got no choice, then that’s your choice”).
    • Government advice is to Run, Hide, Tell
    • Assess your school
      • Can you run with 30 students?
      • Is there a good place to hide?
      • Can your access controls keep people out?
      • When police arrive, follow their orders/instructions immediately. Don’t give them reason to suspect that you are one of the “bad guys”

Other points to consider:

  • Do you have an emergency plan which deals with the above?
  • Are all staff aware of the plan? Have they had training/drill?
  • Do you have a prepared holding statement?
  • Do you have a designated person to contact the emergency services?
  • Do you have a designated person who will deal with the media?
  • Have you thought about how to deal with staff/students who may be off site if you have a lockdown?
  • Do you have means of contacting every classroom and every place on your site where you may have staff and students?
  • How/what will you tell the students?
  • If you have casualties who have to be taken to the hospital then will a staff member go with them?
  • Are your first aid boxes enough to deal with this situation?
  • What if your chain of command has been taken out/is unable to respond? Who takes over?
  • What cover is available to you (a) from view (b) from fire?
  • Do you have a major incidents kit, Hi vis jackets for chain of command?
  • Is there a map of the school for emergency services that includes where equipment is contained?

Further reading:

Two guides produced by the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) and London First are worth reading. These are ‘Secure in the knowledge’ and ‘Expecting the unexpected’. Both are downloadable free of charge

Expecting the unexpected:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/61089/expecting-the-unexpected.pdf

Secure i the knowledge:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/62327/secure-in-the-knowledge.pdf

Governors and @researchED1 matters

researchED is a grass-roots movement which aims to improve research literacy and allows educators to access best research. As governors we need to be interested in education and this interest should go beyond governance in our own school. As governors we may, at times, feel slightly detached from what happens in classrooms, what do teachers think and the direction education and educational research is moving in. Attending events such as these gives governors a chance to meet and exchange ideas and views with teachers. It may help you to better understand what is happening in your school, especially if your teachers are engaged in research. Understanding what educational research is all about and what good educational research looks like may help you to question and understand the impact of what teachers in your school may be doing. It may be that some of the teachers from your school are also interested in attending the event. This provides an ideal opportunity to go together and discuss educational matters with your teachers outside of a board meeting. Such interaction between staff and governors is invaluable.

These events usually have a presentation from Ofsted. I have had the opportunity to listen to Mike Cladingbowl, Sean Harford and Amanda Spielman at these events. The presentations are usually followed by a question/answer session and I have always used the opportunity to ask a governance related question.

The other good thing about attending such events is the networking opportunities they provide. Some of the contacts you make may be helpful to teachers in your school too. Best of all, unlike many other events, researchED is very reasonably priced. This is important to me as I do not ask the school to purchase my ticket for me. The ticket includes access to all sessions and includes lunch too.

I have attended researchED conferences in the past and have blogged about them. If you are interested in reading these blogs then the links to them are as below.

Ed 2014 Matters

Governors Go To researchEd Cambridge!

Governors go to #rED15 because research matters Part 1

Governors go to #rED15 because research matters Part 2

If this has whet your appetite then there are two researchED events coming up. The first on 1st July 2017 in Rugby and tickets can be bought using this link. The second is the 2017 National Conference on Sept 9th 2017. More information about this (including how to buy tickets) is here.

If you do go to either or both of these then please do tweet/blog. And if you do go to the National Conference, then hopefully I’ll see you there!