Category Archives: Directors

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

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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

Governance matters at the #EducationFest


One of the biggest events on the edu conference calendar is back. The Telegraph Festival of Education is being held on the 22nd and 23rd of June at Wellington College. This will be third year I will be attending the Festival and to say I’m very excited would be an understatement!

The two day programme is jam-packed with educational goodies. There’s something for everyone. For the first time this year there is a dedicated SEN strand curated by Jarlath O’Brien, Headteacher, Carwarden Community School. There will be a wonderful researchED all day event. Dr David James and Ian Warwick have curated a full day session on World Class: Tackling the ten most important challenges facing schools today” which promises to be amazing. WomenEd and BAMEed are also well represented. There will be a chance to hear from the likes of Sir Roger Scruton, Dr Becky Allen, Sean Harford, Prof Rob Coe, Christine Counsell, Tom Bennett, Martin Robinson, Katharine Birbalsingh, Sir David  Carter, Daisy Christodoulou, Tarjunder Gill, Vic Goddard, Stuart Lock, Tom Sherrington, Loic Menzies, Carl Hendrick and many, many more. However, the thing I’m most excited about is, obviously, the governance strand.

I’m grateful to the organisers that they have, again, given a platform to governors. I am very lucky that I will be taking part in one of these sessions. This is a panel discussion on “Governance in the 21st Century“. With more and more schools joining multi academy trusts governance looks very different than it did twenty or even ten years ago. Schools are expected to be outward facing and boards and schools are expected to collaborate. Boards are expected to be increasingly skilled based.  This session hopes to explore how governors continue to hold schools to account as well as provide support while facing these challenges themselves. To discuss these issues, I will be joined by the following people who bring a wealth of governance experience.

Pat Petch OBE has been a school governor for over 30 years – but not all that time was spent at the same school! Pat has extensive experience of school governance.  She has been a governor at a nursery school and an adult college and most descriptions of school in between. More recently Pat has chaired three Interim Executive Boards resulting in schools moving out of special measures and now flourishing. This experience proved to be both extremely challenging and very rewarding. Pat was a member of the steering group that set up the National Governors’ Council (now the NGA) and chaired it for four years. She was awarded an OBE in 1999 for services to education. She is now an independent education consultant and delivers support for schools and governor training courses in various London Boroughs.

Jo Penn has many years of experience as a school governor. She is currently Chair of a Local Authority Primary School Governing Body and on the Board of a Secondary Academy. She has also been a member of a Special School Interim Executive Board and Chair of a Foundation School/converter Academy for four years. Jo is an experienced National Leader of Governance offering support to other chairs and governing bodies. In 2013 Jo co-founded @UkGovchat on Twitter, bringing governors from around the country together in weekly chat sessions for mutual challenge, support and development. She is an occasional blogger at Challenge, Support and All That Jazz

Steve Penny has been a governor for some six years, and Chair for the last two, at a single convertor academy girls’ school, that admits boys into the Sixth Form.  Steve is an Engineering Ambassador and a STEM UCAS tutor for the Social Mobility Foundation having completed a further degree with the OU which included experience of teaching in secondary schools

Su Turner is an experienced parent and LA governor in both primary and secondary schools, and is currently chair of a secondary academy.  Su’s recent national work has allowed her to work with the National Schools Commissioner and other senior education leaders to debate topical issues such as local accountability for education, and the changing role of councils. Su is Founder and Director of Insight to Impact Consulting Ltd – a governance improvement consultancy. So, do come and join us and take part in the discussion.

The other governance sessions are:

Does size matter? The growth of multi academy trusts”. This panel discussion will look at the need for good governance in MATs of all sizes and different ways that this can be achieved. It will also consider how governance structures and processes need to be adapted depending on the size and needs of the MAT. The panel consists of Jon Coles, Chief Executive of United Learning, Emma Knights, CEO of NGA, Roger Inman, Head of Education Department at Stone King, and Liz Holmes, Vice Chair of the Board of Faringdon Academy of Schools (a community MAT in Oxfordshire). The panel will be chaired by Katie Paxton-Dogget who is a governance specialist and author of “How to run an Academy School”. 

Challanges of school governance in 2017 pesented by Emma Knights, CEO of National Governance Association. 

The programme for both the days can be viewed here. If this has whet your appetite then tickets are still available and can be booked using this link (there’s even a special rate for governors!).

Guest Post: How to Motivate High Performance Employees?

Below is an article published by Dr Fida Chishti. When I read it I thought that this is something heads, SLT and governors could benefit from too. Not only are the tips useful, it can also be a useful question to ask at interviews of prospective candidates. The article is reproduced below with Dr Chishti’s permission. The original article can be accessed via this link.

How to motivate high performance employees?

Just the other day I was interviewing for a hybrid CTO / COO role and one of the questions posed to me was…How would you motivate high performance employees in your team?

I thought to myself, what an excellent question, as it addressed the other end of the spectrum of what you commonly might get asked instead…i.e., how do you deal with underachievers? And at the same time also focused on, arguably more importantly, those within your team who are often responsible for helping you deliver success.

As I quickly formulated my response I thought of the many high performance employees I’ve had the good fortune to hire and lead and what it was that really lit up their eyes when engaging them to work to their full potential. At the same time I also thought of what would motivate me (as the question might have been meant to explore this too ;-)).

Here’s my response paraphrased below….

You must inspire them, through sharing your vision, i.e., the big picture and where they fit in to it and how they perform a key role within it. They need to feel part of that vision, part of the team and that they are responsible for making it happen.

High performers need to be empowered, you need to expect high standards from them and set them stretch goals. You’ll also need to engage with them more and regularly complement good work and reward achievements when key milestones are achieved. It’s important to provide recognition especially amongst their peers,
this does not need to be monetary in nature as often non-monetary recognition (e.g., an expenses paid meal for two, tickets to the theatre) is all it takes to show that they are valued and their work is appreciated.

Though I didn’t have time to go into it at the time I also thought of a couple of frameworks I’d learnt about on my executive MBA, namely Kotter’s 8 Change Accelerators [1], [2] and Lencioni’s ‘Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ [3] – though not exclusively targeting inspiration and motivation of high performers – they are excellent frameworks around which to develop high performing teams and deliver any transformation project.

In summary

In order to motivate high performers:

  1. Inspire them
  2. Share your vision, the big picture, and where they fit into it
  3. Let them know they are integral to its success; they perform a key role; they are part of the team
  4. Empower them
  5. Set stretch goals and high standards
  6. Reward achievements and complement good work.
  7. Publicly recognise their efforts and show that you value and appreciate their work

Please feel free to comment or add your own thoughts on what else you’ve found to work.

Further reading

[1] Kotter J. P. (2012). Accelerate! Boston, Harvard Business Review, HBR.org.

[2] Kotter J. P. (2006). Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail, Boston, Harvard Business Review, HBR.org.

[3] Lencioni P. (2002). ‘The five dysfunctions of a team: a leadership fable’. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

Elected governors and removal from office matters

Earlier this year the Department for Education (DfE) launched a consultation into the proposal, “Enabling maintained school boards to remove elected governors”. The consultation posed three questions:

  • Do you agree that governing bodies should be able to remove an elected governor for such serious conduct that, for example, is contrary to fundamental British values, repeatedly brings the board into disrepute or in circumstances where a governor has already been suspended on multiple occasions?
  • Should being removed from office make the individual ineligible from being re-elected or appointed as a governor at the same school or other schools?
  • Do you think it is sufficient for specific examples/ expectations on the use of this power to be set out in statutory guidance rather than have the specific circumstances in which the power can be used fixed in regulations?

Following the consultation DfE published an amendment to the School Governance (Constitution and Federations) (England) Regulations 2012. This amendment applies to the constitutional arrangements of maintained school governing bodies, including federated governing bodies. According to these amendments

  • From 1st Sept 2017 governing bodies will be able to remove elected parent and staff governors in the same way as they can other governors (by a majority of governors voting in favour of the removal)
  • From 1st May 2017 any person who was an elected parent or staff governor and was removed during their term of office will be disqualified from becoming or continuing to serve as a governor for five years from the date of their removal.

The procedure for removal is as follows (Regulation 25)

  • The matter of removal of the governor must be specified as an item on the agenda
  • The governor(s) proposing the resolution to remove the governor must give reasons for removal at the meeting
  • The governing body must consider the reasons for removal and the governor whom it is proposed to remove must be given an opportunity to make a statement in response
  • A second meeting has to be held not less than fourteen days after the first meeting where the removal is confirmed by passing the resolution. Again, the removal has to be specified as an item on the agenda of this second meeting

This amendment removes two anomalies which existed as far as elected governors were concerned. Firstly, elected governors in maintained schools, unlike other categories of governors, could not be removed even if doing so was in the interest of the governing body and school. The only sanction available was suspension. Secondly, as academy governors (governors sitting on the trust board, not the local governing bodies) are company directors, they could be removed by Members under Company Law.

Things to consider:

  • Removal of any governor is a serious matter and should not be treated lightly. It must be the last resort and only done if it is in the best interest of the governing body
  • Removal of a governor may cause negative publicity or may bring the governing body into disrepute. Ideally, governors should be aware that there may be a potential problem and try and resolve it before the situation gets to a point where removal is necessary. The Chair needs to understand that he/she has a crucial role to play in this
  • Governing bodies should adopt a code of practice which should clearly lay out expectations of behaviour and conduct
  • The code of practice should not be a paper or box ticking exercise. Governors should review the code annually and re-affirm their commitment to upholding the code and the Nolan principles of public life
  • The code should also lay out the procedure which the governing body will use if the removal of a governor becomes necessary
  • When a vacancy arises then the governing body should ensure that the information which is sent out inviting people to stand for elections includes the fact that removal as a governor disqualifies a person from becoming a governor for five years after the date of his/her removal

SEND Governor matters

I was invited to the launch of the Driver Youth Trust report, Through the Looking Glass. There were interesting presentations followed by a panel discussion. During the panel discussion StarlightMcKinzie asked a very important question, “Shouldn’t all governors be governors of SEND?” The short answer is yes. All governors should be clear that their role is looking after the interests of ALL the children and hence they are all governors of SEND too. However, many governing bodies do have a designated SEND governor. The Department for Education’s SEND Code of Practice states

6.3 There should be a member of the governing body or a sub-committee with specific oversight of the school’s arrangements for SEN and disability. School leaders should regularly review how expertise and resources used to address SEN can be used to build the quality of whole-school provision as part of their approach to school improvement.

Legally there is no requirement for a particular governor to take on the role of SEND governor. What must happen is oversight, review and monitoring of the SEND provision. The governing body (GB) decides how best to do this. Many GBs decide to appoint a SEND governor who then reports back to the GB. This, in my view, is a good way to function. The advantages of having a named SEND governor are

  • One named person takes the lead and ownership and then reports back to the whole GB
  • There are many areas which the GB needs to monitor and for all of these areas school visits will form an integral part of the monitoring. Having named governors for these areas means that the
    • Work load is divided and few governors do not end up doing all the tasks. As governors are volunteers this is essential so that their time is utilised effectively
    • Having one governor “look after” SEND means that one governor is then “accountable” for monitoring. This ensures that SEND doesn’t get neglected because everyone assumed someone else would do it
  • The SEND governor would, as part of the monitoring visits, meet with the SENDCo. One named governor performing the role of SEND governor means that the SENDCo can develop a professional relationship with that person. This would be difficult if different governors came into school to have conversations with the SENDCo
  • Because these monitoring visits would be arranged between two people, the SEND governor and the SENDCo, it would be easier for them to schedule regular visits as only two diaries need to be consulted. Different people coming in to meet the SENDCo would be more difficult to arrange than just one governor visiting. Having more than one person coming in may also increase the workload of the SENDCo as different people may want to focus on different things and also lead to duplication
  • Governors should attend training which would help them to function effectively. Having one named governor taking on the role of SEND governor means that there are more chances of this governor attending relevant training/briefing.
  • Different governors bring different skills to the boardroom. The GB may be lucky enough to have someone with a good understanding of SEND issues or someone who is interested enough to attend training/briefings/read research so as to become well informed of SEND issues. Giving this governor the role of SEND governor means that the GB is utilising the skills available to it effectively

Though having one named governor is, in my opinion, a good way to monitor and evaluate the SEND provision, the GB must ensure that ALL governors are aware of the issues and take responsibility for the SEND children. This is done by ensuring there is regular reporting by the governor and SENDCo and that SEND is a regular item on the agenda. At the end of the day although having one named governor is an efficient way of performing the role, the GB is a corporate body and the responsibility is a corporate responsibility.

Some other points to consider:

  • It may be better not to take on this role in the school your child attends if you are the parent of a SEND child
  • The SEND governor should have frequent meetings with the SENDCo (perhaps termly so that the GB has reports to consider at every meeting).
  • It would also help if the SEND governor could also meet with the pastoral team in order to get acquainted with the complete picture of the support available to SEND children

Are there any other points which should be added to the above?

Principles and personal attributes which individuals bring to the board matter

Governance is coming under increasing scrutiny and rightly so. Every school deserves to have a good governing body and a governing body can only be as effective as the people serving on it. Below are some of the attributes that people serving on trust boards and local governing bodies (LGBs) should have.

Seven principles of public life; Nolan Principles

It is essential that school leaders (be they trustees, heads, SLT, people serving on LGBs) live by the seven Nolan Principles of Public Life.

  • Selflessness

    People serving on public bodies should act only in the interest of the public. In the case of people involved in governance they should ensure that they serve the interest of the school, students and the school community.

  • Integrity

    They must not place themselves under obligation to anyone who may influence them. They must act in the interest of the school and not take decisions in order to gain personal benefit.

  • Objectivity

    They must act fairly, without bias, not discriminate, and must base decisions on evidence.

  • Accountable

    They must understand that they are accountable for the decisions they take. Trustees and people serving on LGBs in MATs should understand that the trust board is the accountable body.

  • Openness

    They should act in an open and transparent manner. They should not withhold information from the public unless there are sound and lawful reasons to do so.

  • Honesty

    Honesty and truthfulness are essential characteristics for anyone involved in governance.

  • Leadership

    They should lead by example and challenge poor behaviour.

Seven “C”s from the Competency Framework for Governance

The recently published Competency Framework for Governance lists the following attributes which those involved in governance should have.

  • Committed

    They should be committed to doing the best that they can. They need to be committed to their development. The need to commit time and energy to the role. This will involve attending meetings well prepared and carrying out that they’ve been asked to do.

  • Confident

    They need to be confident enough to act independently, have courageous conversations and take part in discussions by expressing their opinions.

  • Curious

    They should be able to ask questions and be analytical.

  • Challenging

    They should not accept data at face value. They should be able to ask challenging questions in order to bring about school improvement.

  • Collaborative

    They should be able to work in a collaborative manner with the rest of the members of the governance team, head, senior teachers, parents, students and community.

  • Critical

    They should understand their role of a critical friend. They should be endeavour to improve their own performance as well as the performance of the whole team

  • Creative

    They should be able to be creative while solving problems, try new approaches and be innovative thinkers.

Other attributes

  • Provide challenge and support

    They should understand what is meant by support as well as challenge and be prepared to provide both. Many people find the challenge bit of the job hard, but that is the most important bit! Many people think that the word challenge means you have to be confrontational. That is not the case. Challenge just means asking the right questions to get all the information you need to perform your job.

  • Pull their own weight

    Governance is a huge and complex undertaking. Every member of the board should do his/her fair share of the work. The right governor will volunteer to do some of the tasks that have to be done. This may be monitoring visits, learning walks, attending school events and taking up a specific role (such as the SEN Governor).

  • Understand difference between strategic and operational

    They should understand the difference between being strategic and operational. The right governor is one who can be described as “eyes on, hands off” or “strategically engaged, operationally disengaged”.

  • Team player
    The governing body is a corporate body and each and every member needs to understand this. Governors should understand that

    (a) They cannot do anything they have not be delegated to do
    (b) Once a decision has been made, then that is the corporate decision and governors need to abide by it. They are allowed to express their opinion (and should!) during the discussion stage. Once a decision is reached, even if that wasn’t their preferred option, they have to abide by it and carry it through.

  • Not afraid to speak up

    They should be able to speak their mind. They should be able to bring up a difficult topic during a meeting and only during a meeting! This goes hand in hand with the point (b) I made above. If they feel strongly about something they should be able to speak up at the meeting. If the other members don’t agree then they should accept it and not carry on the conversation outside the boardroom.

  • Manage conflicts of interest

    They should be able to recognise and manage conflict of interests. There will be times when there will be conflicts of interests. The right governor is one who can recognise when these situations arise and knows what to do when this happens.

  • Understand duties

    They should understand and fulfil their statutory duties. They should understand their responsibilities under equality legislation. Academy Trustees should understand that they have duties under the Company Law and Charity Law.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure you can add more to the list so please do because for good governance getting the right people around the table matters. It is also important to remember that it’s not necessary that everyone will have these skills when they join. As long as you are willing to learn and develop these skills, you will be an effective governor.

I’ve made a Powerpoint presentation based on the above.