Category Archives: Review

Fourth Anniversary Matters

I started blogging four years ago this March. At that time I didn’t know how long I would keep on writing so I’m quite pleased to be still here four years later. As in previous years, I’ve decided to look back at the year that was.

I’m pleased that my viewership is gradually increasing as is the number of people who follow my blog.

The top ten posts of this year were:

10. Good practice matters for governing bodies

9. Educational events matter; what I took away from #Michaela

8. “Types” of heads and sustained school improvement matters

7. Competency Framework matters; knowledge and skills needed by all

6. Parent governor matters

5. Competency Framework Matters- The Slides!

4. Ofsted Inspection Handbook and governance matters

3. Ofsted questions for governors

2. Ofsted Grade Descriptors, Sept 2015. Guest post by Shena Lewington

And holding on to the first position from last year was the post

1. Questions you may be asked and other Ofsted Inspection matters

Ofsted also featured in the top five search terms which led readers to the blog.

  • Ofsted questions for governors
  • Ofsted annual report 2016
  • Ofsted grade descriptors 2015
  • Ofsted grade descriptors

My blog, surprisingly, was viewed in 79 countries. Many obviously would have ended up here by mistake as I don’t know why anyone living in Brunei or Madagascar for example would be interested in school governance in England!

I enjoy blogging as it gives me a chance to put down my thoughts, tell people where I stand on various issues and enter into debate on governance related topics. I also use it as an archive for various links, reports etc (for example see my end of the year review post. And its because of blogging that I was asked to review 2016 for Schools Week.

This blog was also the reason I started my other blog A Roller In The Ocean I found that once I started blogging there were many other issues I wanted to write on but they had nothing to do with governance which is why I started the othe blog. 

Thank you to everyone who reads and comments on my blogs. Hopefully, I’ll see you at the 5th anniversary party too!

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Multi Academy Trusts matters; Education Select Committee Report 

At midnight tonight (28th Feb 2017) the Education Select Committee published its report into the inquiry examining a range of issues relating to multi-academy trust accountability and governance structures. The report also looks at characteristics of successful trusts and the Government’s plans for future expansion.

The Report can be read here.

Evidence given by Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System, Department for Education, and Peter Lauener, Chief Executive, Education Funding Agency. Oral Evidence Watch the session.

Evidence given by Jennifer Bexon-Smith, Regional Schools Commissioner, East Midlands and the Humber, Rebecca Clark, Regional Schools Commissioner, South West England, and Janet Renou, Regional Schools Commissioner, North of England. Oral Evidence   Watch the session

Evidence given by Dr Melanie Ehren, Reader in Educational Accountability and Improvement, UCL Institute of Education, Professor Merryn Hutchings, Emeritus Professor, Institute for Policy Studies in Education, London Metropolitan University, Natalie Perera, Executive Director, and Karen Wespieser, Senior Research Manager, National Foundation for Educational Research; Paul Barber, Director, Catholic Education Service, Reverend Steve Chalke, Founder, Oasis Community Learning, Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association, Reverend Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer, Church of England Education Office, and David Wilson, Director, Freedom and Autonomy for Schools, National Association Oral Evidence   Watch the session.

Department for Education-Written Evidence

Jamie Reed MP Written Evidence

Philip Kerridge Written Evidence

Good practice matters for governing bodies

Recently I was asked to write a governing body good practice guide. This is what I’ve come up with as a starter for ten. What would you add/remove/change?

If you are a member of a local governing body/council, ten please have a look at your scheme of delegation as some of the things covered below may not apply to you.

BEST PRACTICE

GOVERNING BODY PROCEDURES:

Election of Chair and Vice Chair:

Governing Bodies (and committees) elect must elect chair and vice chairs. Governing bodies usually decide the process for election. It is good practice for the nominated persons (even if there is only one candidate) to withdraw from the meeting so that free and frank discussions can be had.

Chairing:

The Chair should ensure that the meeting runs smoothly, the work of the GB/committee is not hampered in any way. The Chair should remember that the board is a corporate body, all governors are “equal” and that everyone must be treated with professionalism and respect.

Clerking:

The board should endeavour to appoint a professional and independent clerk, one who is more than just a minute taker. The clerk must be able to advise on matters of governance and should try and keep up to date and try to keep governors up to date as well.

Agendas and minutes:

Agendas and minutes are public documents and are a permanent record of the way the governors conduct their business.

Agendas:

An agenda is a “To do” list. The Agenda should be drawn up by the Chair with inout from the clerk and the head. The Agenda can mention how many governors need to be present for the meeting to be quorate. The purpose of each item should be clear. Place important items at the top of the agenda. Governors should be aware that AOB should be Any Other URGENT Business. Consider a timed agenda. If there are any papers which need to be circulated with the agenda then, these should state the purpose clearly. It should be evident if the paper is for information only or for discussion. The agenda and the papers should be circulated in advance.

Minutes:

Minutes are permanent record of business. Attendance, apologies and business/pecuniary interests must be recorded. They should be written in such a manner that they make sense to people who were not present at the meeting. The minutes are not a verbatim record of everything which is discussed at the meeting. Instead they should record salient points of the discussion. Action points should be noted. Minutes should record evidence of governors fulfilling their functions. Any challenge by governors should be clearly recorded. Draft Minutes should be sent to the Chair and Head and then circulated to all governors. Minutes should be approved at the next meeting. Approved minutes are public documents. Governors should consider publishing approved minutes on the school website. This will aid transparency and community engagement.

Appointment and election of governors:

The number and categories of governors will be specified in the Articles of Association. Governors should be appointed on the basis of skills. Before appointment the Chair/Vice Chair and the Head should try and meet the proposed candidate. This will allow governors and the head to inform the prospective governor about the expectations of the role. The Articles will also specify the number of elected governors (parents and staff). Again, it would be useful to invite prospective candidates to meet the Chair, Vice Chair and Head so that they are clear about the role and responsibilities. However, this cannot be a compulsory part of the process.

Understanding the role:

Governors should develop a clear undestanding of theor role. They should know what are strategic matters (which they should be involved with) and what are operational matters (which should be left to the school staff). Elected governors should undertand that they do not represent an electorate but are supposed to govern i the best interests of ALL the children.

Induction:

Governing bodies should have procedures for induction for new governors. These should include meeting with the Chair, Vice Chair, Head and clerk. Thought should be given to putting together an induction pack which can be given to new governors. This pack should contain

  • Committees and their terms of reference
  • Committee membership
  • Contac details of the clerk, Chair and other governors
  • Minutes of previous few meetings
  • Acronyms
  • Meeting dates
  • Useful websites etc
  • Details of how to access LA traianing courses (if the GB subscribes to it)
  • Details of how to gain access to the members’ are on the NGA website (if the GB is a member)

Schemes of delegation:

The MAT trustess should ensure that there is a clear scheme of delegation (SoD) in place. Members of the local governing body should ensure they are fmiliar with and understand what has been delegated to them. If there are committees then each committee should have Terms of Reference which the committee members will use to understand their roles and responsibilities.

Skill Audits:

Skill audits are a very good way to ascertain the skills which the governing body has available to it. NGA has published a good audit for this purpose. Skill audits will help the governing body to

  • Help inform the training needs of governors
  • Help recruit governors so that skills which are lacking can be recruited for
  • Help appointment of governors to committees which can best use their skills

Self evaluation:

Self evaluation is important for the whole governing body so that governors can evaluate how effective they have been. There are various tools available for this such as the 20 Key Questions and 21 Key Questions for MAT boards.

Evaluation of governor effectiveness:

It is a good idea to evaluate governor performance. One way to do this is for the Chair to meet governors individually and have a discussion on what contribution the governor feels he/she has made during the year. This will be especially useful if the governor’s term of office is coming to an end. This will let both the individual governor and the governing body to decide if the governor should be re-appointed.

Chair’s 360o review:

Like individual governor evaluation, it is also a good idea for the chair to arrange for a 360o review of his/her own performance. Ideally this should be done by an online, anonymous survey which the head, vice chair, other governors and clerk are requested to fill out.

Clerk Appraisal:

The Chair should arrange an annual appraisal of the clerk. The chair and the clerk should meet and discuss the clerk’s performance during the past year.

Continued Professional Development:

It is essential that governors keep their CPD up to date. They should ensure that they know of the latest developments etc. This can be done by attending courses offered by Governor Services, attending conferences, networking, engaging with governors via social media (for example @UKGovChat on Twitter, School Governors  UK on Facebook), reading blogs (for example Governing Matters)etc. The governing body should invest in governor CPD by buying into the LA training package, taking out NGA membership, etc. Governors who attend these sessions should try and feedback to the rest of the governing body. Training is especially important so that governors are aware of

  • Safeguarding responsibilities (including Prevent)
  • Head’s appraisal
  • Governors’ responsibilities when dealing with Exclusion
  • Governors’ responsibilities when dealing with Complaints
  • Performance management
  • Data
  • Finance, budgeting, benchmarking

Clerking:

Governors should ensure that they have access to services of a good, professional clerk. Clerking is now much more than mere minute taking. Clerks should be able to advise governors on matters of law and governance.

Code of Practice:

It is best practice for governors to have a code of practice in place. The code will spell out the expectations and describe appropriate relationships between individual governors and between governors and the school leadership. NGA has published a code of practice which is available to non-members too.

Governors’ monitoring visits:

Monitoring visits are an essential part of triangulating evidence. Governors should not go into school without the knowledge of the head. Best practice is for the governing body to agree a procedure which will detail how these visits are carried out and reported back.

Exit interviews:

Governing bodies may find it helpful to conduct exit interviews when staff leave. This gives them a chance to thank the staff and will also allow the staff member to bring any concerns to the attention of governors.

Parental engagement:

Governors may want to investigate how they can best engage with parents and the community. This can be done by

  • A termly newsletter
  • Governors’ blog on the website
  • Attendance at parents’ evenings
  • Parental questionnaires

Succession planning:

Governing bodies should pay particular attention to succession planning for school leaders as well as for governing body chairs. The body responsible for headteacher appointment will be detailed in the Articles and Scheme of Delegation.

Succession planning for chairs is equally important. The Governing Body should try and nurture Vice Chairs so that they are able to step into the role of the chair when needed. The Chair Development Course offere3d by NCTL is very good not only for chairs but also for vice chairs and other aspiring chairs.

Complaints procedure:

All academies are required to have a Complaints Procedure. The Complaints procedure must meet the standards set out in the Education (Independent School Standards (England) Regulations 2014 Schedule 1, Part 7.

The following tips and suggestions (from EFA) are intended to ensure their complaints procedures are robust and effective.

  • Publish the complaints procedure online.
  • Make clear how the academy will deal with complaints from people who are not parents of attending pupils. You may wish to use the same procedure you use for complaints from parents, or you may wish to develop a different one.
  • If the complaint does proceed to a panel stage, ensure parents are given reasonable notice of the panel hearing date.
  • Be clear what behaviour will be considered as unacceptable from complainants and the action you will take if a complainant behaves unacceptably.
  • Consider if staff likely to be involved in handling a complaint are suitably equipped to do so.
  • Provide complainants with written responses where appropriate and if requested. This is particularly worth doing for correspondence with MPs as they often use the correspondence they have received to brief or inform their constituents.
  • Clearly signpost parents that are not satisfied about the handling of their complaint to the EFA via the schools complaints form.

Prevent

Protecting students from the risk of radicalisation should be seen as part of the school’s wider safeguarding responsibilities.  See Appendix 2.

Useful website:

Reviewing 2016 and governance matters. With links.

Another busy year for governors. The year started with local governing bodies featuring in the news and ended with Ofsted’s report into governance. The notable events of the year as they happened.

January

The academy chain E-Act replaced its local governing bodies (LGBs) with academy advisory groups.

The House of Commons Education Select Committee’s first report of this parliament, into the role of regional schools commissioners (RSCs) was published.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, launched a new website, Educate Against Hate, which provides practical advice for parents, teachers and school leaders that will help to protect children from a “spell of twisted ideologies”.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw spoke at the education think tank CentreForum, setting out his ambitions for the future of English education. He stated that good leadership was the most important force in driving up standards, but that we currently do not have enough good leaders or governors. He said not a lot had been done in the past three years to improve the professionalism of governing bodies. He reiterated that governors should always been chosen for their skills. He also opined that paying governors should be considered.

Future Leaders Trust published a report (Heads up: Meeting the challenges of headteacher recruitment) into headteacher recruitment.

February

Sir David Carter was appointed as the new National Schools Commissioner (NSC) from 1 February 2016 taking over Frank Green.

The Education and Adoption Bill 2015 completed its passage through Parliament, requiring every school judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted to be turned into a sponsored academy. It would also allow the SoS to issue directions, with time limits, to school governing bodies and local authorities, to speed up academy conversions.

Ofsted published the outcome letter from its inspection of E-Act. The inspections found that, although progress had been made in the two years since the last focused inspections, “the quality of provision for too many pupils in E-ACT academies is not good enough”.

March

School Governance Constitution Regulations 2012 were amended requiring all serving governors in maintained schools to have  DBS checks by 1 September 2016. The government also amended the School Governance Federation Regulations 2012 which means federations will no longer be required to have one elected parent governor from each school, instead the federated governing body must include a total of two elected parent governors drawn from all the schools in the federation.

Educational Excellence Everywhere White paper was published. Among other things, it proposed to remove the requirement for elected parent governors.

The DfE confirmed that a new governor database would be hosted on the Edubase website. For every governor (including members, trustees and those on the local governing body in academies) this will record name, date of appointment, date that term ends, the appointing authority, and whether s/he is the chair. The DfE will also gather additional information for its own due diligence, including governors’ addresses and nationalities, but this information will not be publicly available.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw wrote to the Secretary of State, outlining the findings from eight focused inspections of academies in multi academy trusts (MATs) over the past year. The findings were described as “worrying several of these related to failures of governance.

The Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan recommended Sally Collier as her preferred candidate for the post of Ofqual Chief Regulator.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan spoke about “unconscious bias” affecting governors’ decisions when recruiting headteachers. She labelled the lack of female heads as a ‘crippling waste of talent’.

The Department for Education (DfE) issued updated guidance on making significant changes to an open academy. The main change to the guidance is that the Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) will take over many of the duties that were previously reserved for the Secretary of State for Education.

Education and Adoption Act 2016 received Royal Assent. Among the Act’s provisions are:

  • that all ‘inadequate’ schools will be converted to sponsored academies
  • removal of the requirement for consultation from the academy conversion process in many circumstances
  • introduction of a new category of ‘coasting’ schools which will be ‘eligible for intervention’ from Regional Schools Commissioners

DfE issued a consultation into National Funding Formula.

The Education Select Committee launched an inquiry into multi academy trusts (MATs).

April

DfE published a myths and facts document on academies.

NGA published its model schemes of delegation for MATs.

NGA wrote to Nicky Morgan to express dismay at the compulsory academisation plan and the removal of the requirement for elected parent governors on the boards of academies.

DfE published their memoranda of understanding between it and the Church of England and Catholic Church underlining the commitment of the DfE to ensure that the religious character and ethos of faith schools are secured in relation to intervention, academy conversion and sponsorship.

DfE published information about the role of Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) including an “RSC decision making framework” which describes the role of RSCs, terms of reference for the Headteacher Boards which advise and challenge RSCs, and regional vision statements.

NGA celebrated its 10th anniversary and celebrations included the launch of Growing Governance, a national campaign challenging school governors and trustees in England to step up and set the educational agenda in 2016 and beyond.

In collaboration with the NGA, Music Mark and the Arts Council produced A Guide for Governors-Music Education.

May

Nicky Morgan announced that compulsory academisation, as proposed in the white paper, would not go ahead.

DfE abolished the post of Mental Health Champion.

Analysis by  PWC this week revealed the gulf in standards of academy chains. This showed that only three of the sixteen biggest secondary academy chains had a positive impact on pupil progress and  only one of the 26 biggest primary sponsors – the Harris Federation – produced results above the national average.

The Queen’s speech announced the Education for All bill.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nursery Schools and Nursery Classes called for local authority (LA) maintained nursery schools to be allowed to convert to academy status.

June

Nicky Morgan responded to Emma Knights’ open letter in which she had outlined concerns about the White Paper.

Nicky Morgan, recommended Amanda Spielman for the post of HMCI of Ofsted.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw and National Schools Commissioner Sir David Carter appeared before the House of Commons Education Select Committee as part of MPs’ inquiry into multi-academy trusts (MATs).

Eight governors (Jane Owens, Ariana Yakas, Andrew Child, Matthew Miller, Robert Palmer, Maria Heywood,  John Wallace and Paul Yeates) received Honours in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List.

July

NGA published new guides on parental engagement.

NGA, in collaboration with the National Foundation for Educational Research (NfER) and the Future Leaders Trust (TFLT) published research into the role and responsibilities of executive headteachers.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) published the 2016 Academies Financial Handbook (AFH).

The EPI published a report comparing LAs with MATs, using the Department for Education’s own methodology. The Sutton Trust published a report looking at the performance of disadvantaged pupils in sponsored academies that are part of an academy chain.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, wrote to the education secretary Nicky Morgan to update her on the situation in Birmingham, two years since the so-called Trojan horse case. He reported that two of the schools had been upgraded from inadequate to good and the schools placed in special measures had undergone changes of leadership and governance and were now “generally improving”. However Sir Michael also emphasised that the situation remained fragile with headteachers in East Birmingham reporting that it had “gone underground”.

Justine Greening was announced as new Secretary of State for Education.

Emma Knights gave evidence to the Education Select Committee during their inquiry into MATs and explained why the NGA was against the proposal to remove the requirement to have elected parent governors.

Nicky Morgan launched a review into the role of local authorities (LAs) and also clarified that DfE had no intention to permit LAs to set up MATs in future.

Ofsted published a new report on the effectiveness of LAs and early years providers in tackling the issues facing disadvantaged families and young children. It recommended schools ensure key information was shared promptly when children move between settings and use of the early years pupil premium was reviews to ensure maximum impact.

School funding reforms delayed toil 2018

Education DataLab, the research arm of the Fischer Family Trust, suggested that the introduction of the EBacc had largely benefitted pupils.

Notwithstanding criticism from the Education Select Committee, who said they were concerned that she did not have the sufficient passion and understanding for the role, Amanda Spielman was approved as the next HMCI of Ofsted by the Privy Council.

Ofsted issued updated inspection handbooks for Section 5 and Section 8 inspections. Some of the updated sections related to governance for example para 85 while discussing MATs states, “directly responsible for exercising governance of the school and for overseeing its performance”. It also states that inspectors will consider governors commitment to their own professional development.

Government announced proposals to increase the number of grammar schools.

DfE published a list of resources for academies looking to expand their MATs.

Ofqual confirmed how it will set the grade standards for new GCSEs in England.

NGA published its updated model code of conduct.

Justine Greening announced that she did not intend to remove the requirement for elected parent governors.

Government launched the “Schools that work for everyone” consultation.

Ofqual published guidance for the Progress 8 measure in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Think-tank Reform released a report recommending that DfE allows remuneration for both maintained school and academy “local governors” and NGA published its response.

Findings from a 2016 survey of 5,000 school governors and trustees carried out by NGA and TES were published. More than half of respondents were ‘very negative about the direction of government policy, increasing from 31% in 2015 and only 4% of respondents disagreed that induction training should be mandatory for new governors.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb spoke at the Academy Ambassadors Board Development Day and acknowledged that governing boards have a crucial role to play in the success of a school.

A helpline and email support opened for newly appointed governors and trustees’ recruited through the new Inspiring Governance programme.

October

DfE published its updated statutory guidance on the constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools. The key updates:

  • Disclosure and Barring Service checks
  • Supplying information to the secretary of state about those involved in governance
  • Clarified information on governors’ access to training
  • Clarified information on parent governors

National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, told schools that the programme of multi academy trust (MAT) “growth readiness audits” will continue to be piloted.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) wrote  to all academy accounting officers setting out their key responsibilities and said that EFA intervention often was the result of misunderstood personal responsibilities.

Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, using focused inspections of seven “stronger performers, wrote about the characteristics of high performing MATs.

Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, wrote to all Chairs of academy trust boards drawing attention to the importance of good governance to robust financial oversight and management.

DfE released information on how progress 8 and attainment 8 measures are calculated.

November

The government confirmed that it would not publish the Education for All Bill, which could have seen good schools forced to convert to academy status.

DfE published more information regarding the definition of “coasting” schools for primary and secondary schools.

Neil Carmichael MP, chair of the committee wrote to Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education (DfE), providing a response on the DfE’s dry run of the Sector Annual Report and Accounts.

DfE released provisional figures on the number of schools (479 primary schools [3.5% of the total] and 327 secondary schools [10.7% of the total]) whose performance fell within the “coasting” definition.

NGA published its Welcome to a Multi Academy Trust Guide.

NGA wrote to Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, expressing concern over delays to fairer funding reform in schools.

The State of the Nation report on social mobility in Great Britain was published by the Social Mobility Commission.

NGA published revised model schemes of delegation. It also published (jointly with ASCL and Browne Jacobson) the updated guidance: Staying in Control of your School’s Destiny.

December

Education Select Committee heard from Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash and Education Funding Agency chief executive, Peter Lauener. This formed part of the committee’s ongoing inquiry into multi academy trusts (MATs).

Ofsted’ Annual Report 2015-16 was published. This was Sir Michael Wilshaw’s fifth and final report as HMCI. It made the point that weak governance is often found to be at the root of school failure.

National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) released new research into the “evolving schools’ landscape” since the introduction of Regional School’s Commissioners (RSCs).

DfE) published guidance on establishing and developing multi-academy trusts. The non-statutory guidance entitled Multi-academy trusts – Good practice guidance and expectations for growth, builds on the commitment made in the DfE white paper Educational Excellence Everywhere to publish ‘design principles’ setting out what the DfE knows about successful MATs.

The government announced the second stage of consultation into a new national funding formula for schools.

National Audit Office published its report on financial sustainability of schools.

Ofsted published a new report on the state of school governance, called Improving governance: Governance arrangements in complex and challenging circumstances. Emma Knights called it a missed opportunity.

Schools Week published my review of 2016 which can be read here.

 

Third anniversary matters


Three years ago, in March, I set up this blog. As blogs go, three years is not very long, but I am happy that I have managed to keep blogging. I may be the only one who looks at blog stats but the fact that three years ago the blog was viewed just over 2,000 times and now the number of views is much, much higher makes me very happy. In the last few days my post on the White Paper has been viewed so many times that WordPress told me my stats were booming!

The two posts I enjoyed writing and feel were the most useful ones were Understanding academy governance terms matters and Busting the myth about Ofsted draft report matters. The first post will, I feel, get many more views now because of the White Paper. The second post continues to be important as there are still people out there who think that the draft inspection report cannot be shared with all governors.

The post which received the most views was Questions you may be asked and other Ofsted Inspection matters. Ofsted, in fact featured in the top five most viewed posts; Ofsted Questions for Governors (second most viewed) and Short Ofsted inspection matters; a Chair’s story (fourth most viewed). The other two posts in the top five were Heads’ reports to GBs; good relationships matter (third) and The Governance handbook Contents: Working out what’s new matters. Part 1 (fifth).

Ofsted also featured in the top five search terms which led readers to the blog.

  • Ofsted questions for governors
  • Ofsted grade descriptors 2015
  • Governing matters
  • Questions Ofsted ask governors
  • Governors Ofsted questions

Just over a year ago (on 12th February 2015) I published Does it matter if there is no central record of governors? in which I argued against a central register of governors. The White Paper has made it clear that DfE will go ahead with this. Edubase will be extended to record this information with schools and governing bodies required to submit details of governors from September 2016.

I was surprised to see the stats for the “About” page. Andrew Old, the blogging guru, advises bloggers to keep this page updated. I do check out the About page when I come across a new blog. Seeing the number of times my About page has been visited means others do too.

Many of you know I have another blog too which I set up in order to write about non-governance matters. I don’t think I would have set that up if I hadn’t had such positive feedback on this one. One of my posts from that blog (Why I am not a woman of colour) even made it on to Andrew’s list of  top blogs of the week which made me very happy, as you can imagine.

I enjoy blogging as it gives me a chance to put down my thoughts, tell people where I stand on various issues and enter into debate on governance related topics. I also use it as an archive for various links, reports etc (see for example my end of year review). Blogging also gave me a chance to thank Shena, who’s blog, Clerk to Governors, was the first blog I followed. Shena is a font of all governance knowledge. She will be missed when she puts her pen away. The very best of luck for whatever you do next, Shena.

Though I blog for myself, I’d like to thank all of you who read, comment and share my posts. I hope I’ll see you all at the 4th birthday party too! Governance is undergoing change at a very fast pace. It would be interesting to see what the future holds for governors and governance.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reviewing 2015 and governance matters. With links!

Another busy governance year! There was an increased focus on “skilled governors” and the drive to convert schools into academies continued. MATs seem to be DfE’s preferred route. The notable events of the year as they happened:

January

NGA and Wellcome Trust launched Framework for Governance.

Updated version of 20 Key Questions for the Governing Board to ask itself were released.

Ofsted announced plans for piloting double inspections.

DfE published a revised version of the Governors’ Handbook.

DfE published updated statutory guidance aimed at LA’s on how to deal with “schools that are causing concern” and consequently are “eligible for intervention”.

New Standards for excellence for headteachers published.

David Laws rejected recommendations to develop new sets of professional standards for governors and mentions NGA’s Code and role descriptors.

Lord Nash responded to a Guardian report on cash reserves held by academies.

Nicky Morgan wrote to Sir Michael Wilshaw about inspection of MAT’s.

February

Ofsted announced “radical reforms” to school inspections. The changes (from September 2015) included a common inspection framework, shorter inspections for “good” schools (outstanding schools  not affectedd as their exemption is set out in primary legislation).

Lord Nash wrote to academy chains to clarify the role of local authorities (LAs) in relation to academies and to encourage chains to use the full flexibility available in their governance structures.

Education Select Committee published its report into PSHE and SRE inquiry and recommends that PSHE and SRE should be made statutory in all schools.

ASCL published its blueprint for a self-improving system.

David laws announced plans to invite one hundred exceptional middle leaders to spend a year in under performing schools.

DfE published research into affect of absence on attainment.

March

Ofsted reported that many schools were not doing enough to ensure that the most able students fulfilled their potential and acknowledged that the inspectorate needed to sharpen its practice in this area.

Seminar report on the joint conference into Ofsted’s local authority school improvement (LASI) inspections was published. Speakers at ther Conference included Lord Nash, representatives from DfE, Ofsted, the Local Government Association, the National Coordinators of Governor Services and the NGA. Interesting points included

  • the fact tthe governors have a role to play in the deciding the fate of the local authority in the LASI inspection
  • consensus that the local authority still had a role to oversee and monitor academy governance
  • local authorities retain an important role in challenging and monitor schools, including using more ‘robust’ measures to challenge underperformance in maintained schools
  • Lord Nash stressed the need for more academy sponsors. He outlined that he ‘did not encourage’ small single schools to become stand-alone academies because small schools can benefit more from joining a local MAT, particularly in terms of economies of scale and local support and challenge.

New guidance was released for senior leaders, governors and trustees who are considering growing their stand-alone academy trust or establishing a multi-academy trust (MAT) or federation. The guidance, published by ASCL, NGA and legal education specialists, Browne Jacobson, covers reasons to consider a formal partnership, governance basics such as roles and responsibilities, governance models in MATs and federations, leadership models, key decisions and what to do and how to do it.

All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) launched 21 Questions for MAT boards.

Education Select Committee published its report into Extremism in schools: the Trojan Horse affair.

DfE published Ammendments to School Governance Regulations 2015. Of particular interest was the fact that the ammedments allow governing bodies to use associate members on panels set up to deal with staffing matters (e.g. grievance or disciplinary hearings).

April

Emma Knights, (Chief Executive, NGA) wrote to The Guardian about a fairer funding policy.

NGA, NAHT, ASCL and, for the first time, the Local Government Association (LGA) published the revised third edition of What Governing Boards Should Expect From School Leaders And What School Leaders Should Expect From Governing Boards

May

Conservatives won the general election with a majority.

The NAHT Annual Conference passed the following governance related motions.

  • NAHT’s National Executive to work with NGA and other relevant stakeholders to improve school governance.
  • Call for more clearly defined margins between governance and management, to remove the ‘tendency to meddle’, professional clerking services and more retired heads to become governors.
  • The National Executive to lobby DfE, NGA and all stakeholders to introduce better governor training which is compulsory for chairs of governors and, where necessary, timelier interventions to ensure fit for purpose school governance. The National Executive to campaign for a national database of removed or barred governors so that schools or local authorities can check the suitability of all new or existing school governors.

Ministreal appointments for DfE were announced; Nicky Morgan  Secretary of State, Edward Timpson MP, Minister of State for Children and Families, with the other ministers being: Nick Gibb, Nick Boles, Sam Gyimah and Lord Nash.

June

The Government published the Education and Adoption Bill 2015. The proposed bill gives much greater powers of intervention to the Secretary of State for Education in maintained schools, introduces ‘coasting schools’ as a category for intervention and gives the Secretary of State the ability to appoint the members of an Interim Executive Board.

The government’s response to the Education Select Committee’s report on the Trojan Horse was published.

The Sutton Trust (in collaboration with the FFT Education Datalab), reported on disadvantaged pupils (Missing Talent) who are high achieving in primary schools but end up with comparatively poor GCSE results. This affects 7,000 pupils a year, with 15% of them deemed ‘highly able’.

NGA, ASCL and NAHT announced  plans for a new, independent organisation, called the Foundation for Leadership in Education.

Ofsted launched its new inspection and framework effective from 1st Sept 2015. The main chaamges are

  • Common framework for early years settings, maintained schools and academies, non-association independent schools and further education and skills providers
  • Short inspections for “good” schools
  • Training and quality assurance of inspectors brought inhouse
  • The headings under which Ofsted will report will be
    • overall effectiveness
    • effectiveness of leadership and management
    • quality of teaching, learning and assessment
    • personal development, behaviour and welfare
    • outcomes for pupils

DfE appointed Tom Bennett as a behaviour expert to tackle low level disruption.

July

Nicky Morgan addressed the NGA Summer conference, the first Secretary of State to do so. In her speech she talked about the important role played by school governors.

DfE released a paper to the members of Advisory group on governance (AGOG) regarding possible changes to governing board constitution arrangements.  The paper followed Nicky Morgan’s address at the NGA conference where she stated that she would “look at how to move away from a stakeholder model of governance” and that it was the “skills, expertise and wisdom” that governors brought to the running of their schools that makes their “contribution so important”.

Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 came into force which puts an emphasis on the proprietors of schools (i.e. the governing board) to ‘have due regard, in the exercise of their functions, to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. DfE issued guidance on preventing children and young people from being drawn into terrorism. Guidance regardng the use of social media was also issued.

DfE announced that it will create a ‘national database of school governors.

Research (Analysis of Academy School Performance in GCSEs 2014)  by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) found that, on average, pupils attending maintained schools performed as well in GCSEs in 2014 as those attending academies.

NGA released an updated version of their skills audit to include skills commonly found in the creative industries.

The Charity Commission published a new version of The Essential Trustee, key guidance for all charity trustees in England and Wales.

August

August saw the closure of Kids Company. The role of trustees came under scrutiny and as academy governors are trustees too, commentators pointed out lessons which should be learnt by them. The links to these discussions can be found here.

Revised statutory guidance to Constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools was issued. Amongst other things it said that appointment of new governors should be informed by holding interviews and asking for references. Information which must be published on websites was also updated.

Ofsted published the final version of the Common Inspection Framework

The September 2015 version of the Academies Financial Handbook was published. Important amendments which those involved in academy governance need to be aware of

  • A financial notice to improve (FNtI) may be issued due to governance concerns as well as financial concerns regarding the academy trust.
  • Further clarification about the information that members and trustees need to record on the register of interests. Information on governing at local academy level also needs to be included.
  • Academy trusts must publish on their websites the structure and remit of the members, board of trustees, its committees and local governing bodies, and the full names of the chair of each (where applicable).

The Prime Minister outlined his vision for every school to be an academy.

September

At a House of Lords reception Nicky Morgan has challenged England’s top business leaders to “play their part” in helping to improve schools.

The National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) ublished a new research report, A Guide to Regional Schools Commissioners.

Ofsted has published a report following a survey of key stage 3 (KS3) provision. Key Stage 3: the wasted years?

Tahir Alam, the former chair of the Park View Education Trust which was linked to the alleged Trojan Horse inquiry was issued with a prohibition order for undermining fundamental British values. This order means Mr Alam is barred from being involved in the management of any independent school (including an academy or free school) and disqualified from being a governor at a maintained school.

MPs debated the remaining stages of the Education and Adoption Bill in the House of Commons. No amendments were made to the bill and it passed its third reading by 300 Ayes to 200 Nayes.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Education Governance and Leadership celebrated the launch of a new document produced by NGA, ASCL and Browne Jacobson, Forming or joining a group of schools: Staying in control of your school’s destiny.

Wellcome Trust launched a free online resource, Questions for Governors, which has a set of questions focused on science and maths for primary school governors.

Sir Michael Wilshaw and Chief Operating Officer Matthew Coffey gave evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee.

Lucy Powell MP was appointed as Shadow Education Secretaryn. Durng her first appearance in parliament n this role, she criticised the new Education Bill during its third reading .

October

Sean Harford HMI and Ofsted’s National  Director Education blogged about governors and Ofsted inspections. Sean wrote about short inspections, stability for the sector and questions governors could ask. He lay to bed a few myths too (governors are allowed to be present at the feedback and see the draft report).

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) wrote an open letter to governing boards, headteachers and school uniform suppliers, urging them to make school uniforms more affordable. According to CMA  uniforms should be available from multiple suppliers. If a single supplier is used boards should ensure that a proper tender process has been conducted.

Emma Knights, amongst others, gave evidence before the Education Select Committee on the role of the Regional  School Commissioners. Hansard of this session can be found here. NGA’s written evidence is hereLinks for other written evidence are as under.

National Association of Headteachers, click here

Association of School and College Leaders, click here

United Learning, click here

Church of England Education Office, click here

Association of Directors of Children’s Services, click here

Local Government Association, click here

November

NGA’s CEO Emma Knights, and chair, Ian Courtney MBE, met with the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan and discussed good governance at all levels of the school system, clerking, MAT governance and IEBs.

second evidence session of their inquiry into the role of Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs). The Committe heard from Pank Patel (RSC, West Midlands), Lorna Fitzjohn (Ofsted’s Regional Director ,West Midlands), Ian Comfort (CEO, Academies Enterprise Trust) and Kirston Nelson (Director of Education, Libraries, and Adult Learning, Coventry City Council). Links for written evidence from witnesses as under:

Department of Education, click here.

Ofsted, click here.

Academies Enterprise Trust, click here.

DfE published research into raising attainment of disadvantaged students.

Mandatory reporting of FGM came into force.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s made governance the topic of his  second monthly commentary. He commented on the importance of good governance, mandatory training, paymet to Chairs and Vice Chairs. NGA issued a response and I blogged about it too.

DfE published a revised and renamed Governace handbook. Governing body has been replaced by governing board, there is mopre guidance about MAT governance and it also reflects legislative changes such as that relating to Prevent Duty.

Plans for a new fairer funding formula announced by the Chancellor in the Spending Review.

December

The Education Select Committee continued its inquiry into the role of RSCs and heard Lord Nash’s evidence. Written evidence from Dfe can be found here and here.

The Select Committee launched an inquiry into the purpose and quality of education in England.

Neil Charmichael, MP, Chair Select Committee wrote to Nicky Morgan, SoS calling for the teaching of PSHE to be a statutory requirement in schools.

Nicky Morgan, announced plans to establish closer cooperation between schools and CAMHS with the pilot testing a ‘named single point of contact’ running  in 22 areas.

DfE updated its advice on teachers’ pay.

NGA published new guidance on the statutory framework for school governance of academy and maintained boards.

The Education and Adoption Bill 2015 finished its report stage in the House of Lords. A government ammendment which would give the SoS to intervene in all coasting academies as well as maintained schools was added to the bill. Ammendments by opposition peers (removal of the requirement for ‘inadequate’ schools to be automatically academised and reinstatement of a consultation process following an academy order) were narrowly defeated.

Schools Week published my review of 2015 which can be read here. 

 

Improving school governance: Book review

I was asked by Schools Week to review Nigel Gann’s new book “Improving School Governance” which I was very happy to do.  I gave the book five stars. My review is reproduced below. The orginal can be found here.

Book revie_Nigel

Schools are complex places, as is the process of governing them. Potential recruits to governance often find the workload and responsibility daunting, leaving many governing boards lacking the people and skills needed to fulfil their responsibilities. Any resource which can aid governors has to be welcomed. This book is just that!
The great thing about this book is that you can dip in and out of its ten chapters with ease; especially useful if you need guidance about a certain topic. The first chapter covers the fascinating history of governance, dating back to the 6th century! Such background is important as it gives context to where governance and governors find themselves today.

Ensuring the vision, ethos and the strategic direction of schools is one of the statutory duties of boards. The book describes the difference between vision and ethos, and outlines a process for defining these. Boards should look regularly at their vision to make sure it is fit for purpose.

The difference between “strategic” and “operational” is described in some detail. This is something which governors can, and do, get wrong. Governors need to concern themselves with the former and leave the latter to the Headteacher. The three elements of strategic governance are detailed, noting those areas which governors should monitor and, perhaps more importantly, those they should not. Readers also learn about characteristics of a good school visit.
Coinciding with the conversion of schools into academies, recent years have seen a move away from the stakeholder model towards a skills based recruiting regime. Both these models are compared and contrasted.

The book goes into some detail about the various roles which governors perform; discussing the role of the chair and vice chair as well as that of clerks. The role descriptors are particularly helpful.
The working of governing boards is also addressed. Induction of new governors, hallmarks of good meetings, legal responsibilities of governors and the rights of governors are outlined.

A significant element of governance is obtaining and interpreting relevant information from professionals. The relationship between the Headteacher and the board is important in this process and is examined in some detail. The appointment and appraisal of Headteachers is also discussed, making it clear that effective Headteacher appraisal is effective governance. The ways in which Headteachers can help develop boards is also examined. Readers will, hopefully, understand the difference between leadership and management. I would encourage governors to read the chapter which deals with worries that Headteachers might have about governance.

Any discussion of governance would be incomplete without mentioning inspection. The birth of Ofsted, the increasing importance of governance during school inspections and external reviews of governance are discussed.
The relationship parents have with their schools and boards is an important one and is examined in some detail.
As attention on governance increases, so does the necessity for boards to evaluate their own performance and the effect they have on improving school performance. The book is useful in helping readers understand “good governance” as well as the barriers to it.
The last chapter looks at the issues which governors are facing now and which might present themselves in the future. Understanding these is important from a strategic planning point of view.
The book provides governors with vital resources such as model policies, a pre-inspection checklist and a self evaluation tool and includes an extensive bibliography. This is especially useful for governors who would like to read around the subject.
My one minor point of contention; the use of the term ‘lay governors’. I know this has been used to distinguish between “professional” educators and governors but I would have preferred not to have used “lay” as a prefix.

Governors will find the book very useful in understanding the difference between being a friend of the school and being a governor of the school.

This book is a very welcome addition to the board bookshelf.