Category Archives: Monitoring

Understanding what is meant by critical friend matters

Critical friend is a term which you may often see being used to describe governors. If you are new to governance you may wonder what the term actually means. I’ve been asked questions about being a critical friend and have tried to explain this many times but I’m never sure if I’ve managed to get my point across and explain the term well. The other day I read a blog by Michael Salter which I thought was helpful. Michael is an Australian teacher whose blog Pocket Quintilian I absolutely adore! Michael’s interests are in the field of linguistics and classics and in many of his blogs he examines the etymology of words which makes his blog unique. In his latest post he looked at the etymology of “critic, critical and criticism”. Michael writes,

Critic, critical and criticism (as well as crisis) come from the Greek krínein, to judge. This in turn comes from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning sieve – an instrument for sifting, or separating, different things. This same archaic root was the origin of the Latin crimen, which gives us discriminate…a word which, sadly, is hardly ever used now in its positive sense. And this is not unconnected with what I have to say next.

Art, music and literary critics are tasked with making judgements based on their knowledge of the art form in question. And why are they entrusted with this task? Presumably, one would hope, because they possess a rich store of knowledge in their chosen turf.

When I read the above passage, I paused and thought that I should use what Micheal has written to explain the concept of being a critical friend. The “friend” bit of the phrase is easy but some people may misinterpret “critical” bit of the phrase and think that our role is to be one who is “inclined to find fault”. Our role is not to find fault; our role is to sieve information, separate different things which are provided to us and then make a judgement on how well the school is fulfilling its duty to our pupils. To do this well we need to arm ourselves with knowledge first. This is where CPD comes in. We need to equip ourselves with knowledge relating to the curriculum, assessment systems, progress data, finances, cohort characteristics, how various groups of pupils are performing etc. Once the board, as a whole, has this body of knowledge we can ask informed question and make judgements. In other words be the critical friend it is our job to be.

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Governors and curriculum matters

On 11th June 2019 governors (Jo Penn, Jane Owens,  Fee Stagg and I) attended “Curriculum Thinking: Three Masterclasses which had presentations from Mary Myatt, Tom Sherrington and John Tomsett. I would like to thank Mary, Tom and John for inviting us. As we self-fund most of our CPD, this generous invitation was greatly appreciated. I am going to write about those parts of the day which I think will be of interest to governors.

The first presentation was by the wonderful Mary. She started by saying that wrong priorities and focusing on SATs had resulted in a narrow curriculum. I would urge governors to ask questions around the curriculum offer. Are you sure your school is offering broad and balanced curriculum? All children deserve to be taught a rich, broad and balanced curriculum and governors can ensure this by asking questions of our school leaders. As governors are you certain that the school has high expectations for all the students? How do you know this?

Mary went on to talk about high challenge and low threat. She said that we don’t mind being challenged or put under pressure as long as there are no threats and we aren’t made to look stupid. We are a challenge seeking species. She also stressed the need to separate the person from their work and making a judgement on the work and not on the person. This was in relation to students and their teachers but I think this relates to our work too. Our role as governors is to hold the school leaders to account. Do ask challenging questions but frame them in such a way that the senior leaders don’t feel threatened. If they do feel threatened then the chances are you may not get the information you want and need as they may be scared to give it to you. Don’t forget that we are supposed to challenge and support and act as critical friends where being a friend is very important too. Mary also talked about data collection and the uselessness of populating endless spreadsheets. As governors, we need to be very aware of this too. Are we asking for too much data and hence adding to teacher workload? Is the data we’ve asked for/are getting actually useful?

Mary was followed by Tom Sherrington. He started by saying that the curriculum defines your school. This is very important from governance point of view. Our first core function is to ensure clarity of vision and ethos. Do we know if our curriculum matches the vision we have of our school? Does our curriculum ties in with the ethos of our school? Some of the other questions Tom wants school leaders to ask while looking at the curriculum are the questions we should be asking in our governing body meetings too. Questions such as:

  • Do we understand the context of our school?
  • Is the curriculum a good fit for our context? Tom gave examples of teaching about Islam in Spain, Benjamin Zephaniah which would show that thought has been put into what to teach and why
  • What do we want our school to do that we can be proud of?
  • This is especially for primary school governors. How do our school leaders/we support our teachers who may not be subject specialists to get the support they need to design and develop the curriculum?
  • Does the curriculum allow excellence to develop?
  • What does a broad and balanced curriculum mean in practice?
  • Do you as governors understand why the number of options a student is allowed take is what it is? (More options mean there is greater breadth, fewer means there is greater depth)
  • Are the Ebaac and Progress 8 choices for the benefit of the school or the student?

The last speaker of the day was John Tomsett. He too made the point that our core purpose, our vision and our values should shape our curriculum. John quoted Christine Counsell.

As governors are we sure our curriculum helps our disadvantaged pupils to “gain the powers of the powerful”? Some more questions posed by John which governors can adapt.

John then showed us an extract from his school’s Ofsted report.

The curriculum reflects leaders’ integrity, because it is designed to match pupils’ needs and aspirations regardless of performance table measures

Do we as governors, have the confidence that this is true of our school also? This links back to what Tom had said about asking ourselves if the Ebaac/Progress 8 choices for the school or the pupils.

The day ended with a panel session with Mary, Tom and John taking questions from the audience. Someone wanted to know how to manage the curriculum in a school where there is a high degree of pupil movement. Mary mentioned MOD schools and that it may be an idea to have links with them. This is a question governors (who should know if their school falls into this category) can ask of their leaders. Jo asked who owns the curriculum and what is the role of governors in this? Tom said that it should belong to the stakeholders. John talked about the importance of governors hearing directly from subject leads and being prepared to ask critical questions. Governors absolutely have a role to play here. This is why I am grateful to Mary, Tom and John for inviting us. It was a great opportunity to hear from three people who have done so much work on curriculum design and development and hopefully this blog would have given you a flavor of the day and given you some questions to ponder on and to ask of your school leaders.

Tweets from the day have been collated here.

Staff wellbeing surveys matter: Guest Post

Bruce Greig is an entrepreneur and school governor. He served as Chair of Governors through two Ofsted inspections and worked with four headteachers. He set up School Staff Surveys after discovering how enlightening an anonymous staff survey can be and decided to make it easy for every school to run them. Below is a guest post written by Bruce on the topic of staff surveys.

I’ve been a school governor since 2011. A long while ago we asked our headteacher to run a staff wellbeing survey. We had heard mutterings of discontent from some staff, but others seemed very happy. Sometimes governors’ work is like the blind men appraising an elephant: you only see little glimpses of what’s really going on.

That survey we ran turned out to be transformational. It started a gradual, but dramatic, improvement in our the school staff culture.

Culture is very hard for governors to assess. Staff are often on their “best behaviour” during a learning walk or other governor visit. You don’t necessarily get a sense of how staff interact, and how they feel, when governors are not around.

We now do the same survey every year, and I think that every school should do this. In fact, I became so taken with the idea I set up a little side business just doing staff wellbeing surveys for schools: School Staff Surveys.

Here are some of my favourite questions (there are 69 questions in all, adapted from the world-renowed UK Civil Service People Survey).

Simple questions, but telling. And you can’t really ask a staff member this face-to-face (or, if you did, you can’t be sure of getting an honest answer). Of course, this survey question won’t tell you for sure whether or not your head is doing a good job, but it will help inform you. Staff might answer “Agree” because they just love the fact that the head lets them hide away in their classroom untroubled by observation or feedback. Or they might “Disagree” because they dislike a head who is actually doing a great job.

So the survey digs a little deeper into this, with questions like:

You can see that these more probing questions would help governors understand in more detail how the school is being led and managed.

Developing staff

As governors, we are well aware that recruiting staff is difficult: distracting, time-consuming and hard work. So it is much better if schools can do everything they can to develop and grow their existing staff. How’s that going? This question gives you an steer:

Staff might agree to this because they think to themselves “yes, I could go on those courses if I got round to asking”. Does your school actually have the processes in place to ensure that that development actually happens, and is it worthwhile? This more specific question gets to the crux of that:

And if you are able to develop and grow your staff, you should then get a resounding Strongly Agree to this question:

Feedback and appraisal

Since the introduction of performance related pay for teachers in 2014, it has been absolutely crucial that schools get their appraisal process right. Back in 2013, the last TALIS survey showed that around half of all teachers in England felt that feedback and appraisal was just a box-ticking exercise. If that shows up in the next TALIS survey, a lot of schools will be sitting on a tinderbox of potential grievances.

You are unlikely to hear from a teacher face-to-face that they think their appraisal is a waste of time. But if they do quietly think that, you could have a big problem on your hands – if their pay has been determined each year by a process they think is inadequate.

A regular wellbeing survey can look at this issue with questions like:

It isn’t just about how teachers view their own appraisal. It is just as important that staff feel others are managed well too, especially if they think other staff are not doing a good job. A question like this addresses that:

Teamwork

There are few things more toxic for a school staff culture than a staff member who doesn’t muck in. Won’t share resources, makes no effort to help out colleagues. I have heard of a school where a teacher appeared super professional and dedicated in her interactions with governors, but completely wrecked the school’s team culture in her interactions with staff. Literally leaving other teachers in tears. Had it not been for other staff speaking up, governors would have had no idea of the effect this teacher was having on the rest of the small team.

Being fair and respectful

Now we are getting into more sensitive territory. You’d hope that, if staff were not being treated fairly, or were suffering harassment, they would speak up. But I’ve learned that teachers are very reluctant to speak out about anything which might rock the boat (compared to my experience of other modern workplaces). If they keep their heads down, they have a very secure job. If they rock the boat, they fear that they might attract the dreaded career-ending “capability procedure”.

Your survey should include a couple of basic questions on this, like:

But also explicitly ask about discrimination:

And harassment:

Now then if you get a “yes” to either of these questions, the school can’t necessarily take any action. The survey is anonymous. The respondent might wish to remain anonymous. But your head, or CoG, could at least say to staff that the survey has shown that someone feels they have not been treated right and make sure everyone knows how to address their grievance safely if they want to.

There are another 40 questions in the survey that I run. There are plenty of ways that schools can run a survey like this. The UK Civil Service People Survey questions are in the public domain – you can put them into a Google Form or into Survey Monkey for free. One step up from that is a simple paid-for version like mine (School Staff Surveys), which takes the time and effort out of doing it all yourself. Or there are other providers like the Education Support Partnership who will administer a survey for you and follow it up with consulting and advice to help you address the issues it raises.

 

Teacher workload matters; what does the Report say about the role of governors

The Report of the Teacher Workload Advisory Group, chaired by Professor Becky Allen has been published recently. This is a hugely important piece of work. Below, I have extracted those parts of the report which apply to governors. I would encourage you to read the whole report too.

Overarching recommendations (Page 6)

  • School and trust leaders and governors should review their data processes according to these principles. (Page 6)

Reporting on different groups of pupils and spending

Supporting disadvantaged pupils to succeed at school is quite rightly a focus, and schools should be expected to make good use of public money – governing boards have a role in agreeing this spending and monitoring its impact. However, the current DfE requirements to report on the effectiveness of pupil premium spend to Ofsted at the point of inspection, and via reports on the school website, can create unnecessary burdens for teachers, school and trust leaders and governors. There is insufficient evidence to show that the current approach to reporting has a positive impact that justifies the burden. (Page 16)

Reporting to governing boards (Page 19)

Governing boards are responsible for setting strategic direction for their schools, holding senior leaders to account for performance and overseeing financial performance. They need access to high quality data in order to carry out these functions effectively. However, they need to be clear that theirs is a strategic oversight role rather than an operational management role, and the data they need should be commensurate with this role.

Governors should normally be prepared to receive information in whatever form it is currently being used in the school. They should agree with school and trust leaders what high-quality data they need, and when, in order to fulfil their role effectively and to avoid making unreasonable, ad hoc data requests during the course of the school year. This includes consideration of any in-year data they receive, how meaningful this is and whether this can be reduced.

Governors should also consider whether data is proportionate, how school and trust leaders are collecting it, and the frequency and time costs of data collection. For example, they should not routinely see data on individual pupils, ‘flight paths’ or other teacher judgement tracking data. They should understand the limitations of attainment, progress and target setting data, and be able to access training on the effective use of data on pupil performance.

Recommendations

  • The DfE should revise the governance handbook, competency framework and other guidance to reflect the principles of this report, and speak to governors to test what guidance and training they need.
  • The DfE should incorporate myth busting for governors into the teacher workload toolkit or other guidance, to address misconceptions of what is required by the DfE or Ofsted and where policy has changed.
  • The DfE should also continue to improve the content and usability of Analyse School Performance based on feedback from schools and governors, and place emphasis on supporting governor needs. The DfE should ensure schools are able to access comparative performance information as soon as possible.

ANNEX A: Summary of recommendations

Recommendations to the Department for Education:

 Revise the governance handbook, competency framework and other guidance to reflect the principles of this report, and speak to governors to test what guidance and training they need.

  • Incorporate myth busting for governors into the workload reduction toolkit or other guidance, to address misconceptions of what is required by the DfE or Ofsted and where policy has changed.
  • Continue to improve the content and usability of Analyse School Performance based on feedback from schools and governors, and place emphasis on supporting governor needs. The DfE should ensure schools are able to access comparative performance information as soon as possible. (Page 23)

Recommendations to Ofsted and other organisations:

  • School and trust leaders, and governors should review their data processes according to these principles.
  • Local authorities and multi-academy trusts should not request data on targets and predictions to hold schools to account. Where this is required to enable, for example, providing additional support to schools, this should not be in a different format to the format the school uses, and should not add to the number of data collections. (Page 24)

ANNEX B: Summary of advice to schools

 Governors should:

  •  normally be prepared to receive information in whatever form it is currently being used in the school. They should agree with school and trust leaders what data they need and when. This includes consideration of any in-year data they receive, how meaningful this is and whether this can be reduced. (Page 25)

Further reading:

Government Response

Important points of the report: Twitter thread by David Weston 

Some important quotes from the report: Twitter thread by Benjamin D White

 

 

 

Staff wellbeing matters. Part 1. With thanks to @kvnmcl

Today I read a blog by Kevin McLaughlin titled The depressed teacher. This blog is about a topic I think governors need to think about. With Kevin’s kind permission I’ve copied the blog below in order to raise awareness of this issue amongst governors. I will follow this blog with another one where I will pose some questions we should be asking ourselves about staff wellbeing.

For many years I have been recognised, in the main, as an ‘outstanding teacher’ by my peers, the LA and Ofsted. I learned from my errors, I listened to advice from those more experienced and I strove to improve my pedagogy through CPD and reading literature. In September 2012 I was recognised as an ‘outstanding’ teacher, one of only two in the school, by Ofsted yet only one month later I was deemed ‘requires improvement’ by the newly appointed headteacher. Why? What happened to my teaching? Where did I go wrong? How could I have let this happen? I questioned it yet found the reply insane- I didn’t meet the new observation checklist. A descent into ill health and depression followed with two emergency visits to A&E with suspected heart attacks.

It’s been a long time coming but I feel ready to tell this side of my teaching career so that others may recognise the signs and do something about it. My first visit to A&E happened during 2014. The atmosphere at school had taken a nose dive and staff, including myself, were teaching in fear; fear that we were not teaching well, fear that we wouldn’t meet our PM targets, fear that we had missed out the non-negotiables, fear that our displays wouldn’t meet the new standards. The warning signs were there. I woke up one night with what felt like a huge weight on my chest. I slid off the bed and crawled out to the bathroom but ended up sliding down the stairs calling for help. My partner rang the emergency services as I lay there on the stairs worrying about everyone I loved. Thankfully, after the various tests it was found I hadn’t had a heart attack and it was more than likely my condition was brought about by acute stress. I returned to work a few days later and everyone said I had to take it easy. That was it. Nothing else. No gradual easing back into teaching, not much support from management. The warning signs were there. I never read them. One term later I had another observation (part of my performance management) which resulted in requires improvement. I contested the outcome and got it changed to good. I knew I had to leave so started looking for a new job.

Job hunting was proving fruitless as nothing interested me. Another warning sign, I should have left no matter what but financial security tied me to this unhealthy post. The year ahead was spent meeting targets, doing what management expected to see rather than what I knew my class required. I was told to ‘keep my head down and just play the game’. But I couldn’t. I would not accept this. I should have read the signs. It was 2015 when I had another suspected heart attack, this time at school. I experienced the same symptoms again, a very heavy chest, pains in my side, rapid breathing. The office rang the ambulance and I was taken to hospital from school. A multitude of tests later and I was given the all clear. The relief brought me and my partner to tears. She demanded I leave the school. Once again it was stress related. I never sought my doctor’s advice, I never signed off sick, I never took time off. I felt ‘obliged’ to my job. Management expressed their feelings yet a couple of weeks later it was as if nothing had happened to me. I had gotten over it. I was back at work. I was expected to be outstanding all the time, nothing less.

I resigned from the school in 2016.

My health has improved considerably since then. Apart from a blip during my disastrous venture into Deputy Headship where I was shouted at by the headteacher (another story) I have been on the road to complete recovery and mental stability.

Now I point the finger of blame at myself. I should have recognised the warning signs. I should have acted sooner and shouted more loudly. I didn’t. The education system in England has become poisoned with data, ill conceived marking policies, fixations on passing tests at the expense of a wider and richer curriculum. Thankfully Ofsted have recognised this and have published their myth busting documents, changes to school inspections and recent speeches. But more needs to be done as the message is not sinking in. Too many schools are ignoring the advice and are continuing with a rule of fear. Too many schools are putting too much pressure on their staff. Too many schools are ignoring common sense.

Recognise the signs and act upon them. Your good health is more important than turning up for work as a quivering wreck. Your school needs to understand this. If your school doesn’t, resign. No school is worth ill health.

 

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

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?