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Five governance principles that matter

Bloggers have recently been writing posts about five things. Old Andrew has listed five of these posts. I thought I’d write one too so here are my five governance things which I think are important for good, effective and ethical governance, governance which should ensure that the children in our schools get the best possible education. 

1. Nolan Principles of Public Life

Governors hold public office. We are responsible for spending public money. Nolan Principles should be the foundation on which we base our governance. This would ensure we govern ethically. 

2. Strategic vs Operational 

It’s imperative that governors understand the difference between strategic and operational and stick to doing the strategic. Focusing on the strategic would mean they do justice to their core responsibilities. It would also mean that the line between school leadership and management isn’t blurred. Thirdly, focusing on the strategic is one of the ways governors can try and ensure their workload remains manageable. 

3. Corporate responsibility

Governing boards are corporate bodies. Governors need to remember that debate and expressing opinions in the boardroom are important and needed but once a decision is made then everyone needs to ensure that they back that decision. 

4. Continued Professional Development 

Every profession expects people to undertake some form of CPD. Governance should be the same. The Board should make it clear that it expects governors to keep up to date and attend relevant CPD courses. Governors, in turn, should be provided opportunities to do so by the Board. Governors sometimes ask, “Can we afford to attend courses?” My reply to that is, “Can we afford not to?” Yes, budgets are tight but be creative. Join with other boards to access training, if your board is a member of NGA then use the weekly bulletin, the magazine and conferences to keep up to date. Join Twitter and Facebook. 

5. Accountability 

As far as governors are concerned, accountability is a two way process. Governors hold the head and the school accountable and are themselves accountable to DfE/EFA/LA, Ofsted, parents and community. In the case of academies the board of directors is also accountable to the Members of the Trust. In the case of multi-academy trusts the board also holds the local governing body accountable. Academy governors also have to abide by Company Law and Charity Law rules. If governors ensure that there are robust accountability systems in place then that would aid good governance. 

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.

What governors think of the NAHT motion matters

Today scrolling through Twitter I came across the following tweet.

This was the NAHT debating a motion asking Ofsted to REDUCE emphasis on inspecting governance as part of Leadership and Management. I asked for comments from other governors. Almost all were surprised at this. We couldn’t understand the reasoning behind the motion. There were some light hearted comments such as “Isn’t it lovely that they are concerned about extra pressure on us. They are only looking out for us.” Another comment, in similar vein, was from me. I said that reading this gave me the impression that somewhere a conversation like the one below had taken place which led to the motion.

GB to Head, “Could you include x,y,z in your report, please?”

Head to GB,”Don’t worry about that. I’ve got it under control.”

GB to Head, “No, we really do need it. For one thing it’s our job. For another, we are due an Ofsted and we want to ensure we know our stuff.”

Head to GB, “Ah, Ofsted! Don’t worry about that. We’ll get them not to hold you to account. We’ll tell them you’ve got too much work to do.”

Other governors had also read the Schools Week tweet which led to more discussions. Numerous serious points were made in response to my question and question/comments by others. I’ve summarised discussions from different threads on Twitter and Facebook below.

  • This may indicate that heads don’t really understand governance
  • The role and responsibility has changed since I’ve been a governor. The workload means it’s like a job now
  • There are some heads who get frustrated by their governors and we must acknowledge this. On the other hand there are also heads who try and run the school as their personal fiefdom and try and exclude the GB. We have a duty to be as professional as we can and heads need to understand and respect what governance is and what we do
  • Not a straight forward debate. Looking at the framework, it is a part time job
  • Collaboration is key
  • Power grab?
  • We are volunteers which means that if the workload gets too much we can leave. “But I’m a volunteer” should not be used as an excuse
  • Unfortunate that those who may have had a poor experience of governance assume it’s typical in every institution
  • Are they are considering our health and wellbeing?
  • We have gone from “cup of tea, sticky bun and agree with the head” to a very different model. Some governors and heads have kept up and some haven’t
  • Getting paid may be a better route than downplaying the role in Ofsted inspections. But if you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys!
  • Some governing bodies create an unnecessary workload for themselves and do not distribute workload effectively.
  • Training of governors is an issue
  • Motion was proposed and passed at the conference. The reason for it needs to be heard
  • If governance goes wrong then everything will
  • Schools need good governance and governance needs to be accountable
  • Really disappointed to see this motion
  • Governance is essential in any organisation
  • My role as chair is far more stressful than my job (I’m saying this tongue-in-cheek)
  • If this happened, where is the incentive to fix bad governance? One role of god governance is to hold heads to account. How would that happen?
  • Perhaps they don’t want to be held to account
  • I feel passionately that strong governance remains
  • Personally I would prefer separate judgement for governance
  • I don’t agree the governance should be a separate judgement. We are part of leadership and management and this emphasises that
  • GBs are accountable in law. Reduce work load by discouraging unneeded hoop jumping? Yes. Make GBs less accountable? Absolutely not!
  • Train governors to understand role. That will help in reducing workload
  • I can see two sides to this. The possible impact of poor governance on a head and the inability of a head to control good governance
  • Ofsted don’t have the expertise to measure governance accurately
  • Inspectors shouldn’t be judging without full understanding
  • Can have good school leaders let down by poor governance. Opposite also happens
  • In some schools senior leaders have little or no contact with governors. Not great for headship preparation
  • Many heads do not do governance training and do not understand the role
  • In one GB meeting the head brought so many staff that they outnumbered the governors
  • Part of the issue is the paucity of governance subject content in many NPQH courses. Starting with a low knowledge base does not help

The debate wasn’t live streamed and the only other tweet I saw was one saying that the motion had been carried. So, we don’t know the context to the motion or how the debate went. Governors would like to know more about what was behind the motion but want to make it clear that we do not wish for reduced accountability or reduced emphasis on governance within the leadership and management judgement. If the motion had called for induction for new governors and CPD we too would have been behind the motion. 

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

New governor induction matters


Governance is a huge responsibility. Yes, it is a voluntary role but that does not mean that it should not be done well. New governors need support to understand the role and their responsibilities. One way you can do this is by having a good induction programme in place. I’ve decided to jot down my thoughts on what this programme could look like.

  • Arrange for a tour of the school and show them where the meetings are held. (If you hold meetings in the evenings, do make sure new governors know how to gain access to the building)
  • Arrange for the new governor to meet the Chair of Governors (if they haven’t met before), the Head and the Clerk
  • Introduce them to all the governors at the next meeting
  • If your governing body has bought into a training package, make sure the new governor knows how to access it
  • Make sure they know if any induction training is available. If you have not bought into a training package, then do let the new governor know how to access the free online induction module put together by SGOSS, The Key, and Lloyds Bank
  • Assign an experienced governor to act as a mentor who can go through all the documents in the Induction Pack

Induction Pack

Below are some of the documents I think should be included in the Induction Pack.

  • Glossary of educational terms, acronyms, educational jargon (including school specific ones)
  • Articles of Association and Funding Agreement for academy governors (these should be on your website so you can provide a link rather than paper copies)
  • List of governors (include a photograph, role each governor has been assigned, contact details). In case of MATs, if the new governor is member of the LGB then the governor should know how to get in touch with the Trust Board
  • List of the members of the Senior Leadership Team (include details of the SBM, SENDCo, Safeguarding Lead)
  • Contact details of the clerk
  • Details of committees
  • Minutes of last year’s meetings
  • Any Standing orders or Terms of Reference the governing body has agreed
  • Dates of meetings
  • Nolan Principles
  • Code of Conduct (the mentor should go through this and the new governor should fill this and return to the clerk)
  • Business Interest form (to be filled and returned to the clerk)
  • Skills audit (to be filled and returned)
  • Details of any memberships that the governing body holds (such as NGA, The Key, Local governor association)
  • Document detailing expectations (see below)
  • School Development Plan
  • Self Evaluation Plan
  • List of useful websites (including @UKGovChat and School Governors UK Facebook page)
  • If the Governing Body is a member of the NGA then include their publication, Welcome to Governance
  • Governor expenses policy and claim form (if the governing body has agreed one)
  • If the school is part of a MAT a list of schools in the MAT
  • If there is an agreed schedule of governor visits then that should be included as well as the visit protocol and details of how the visit is reported
  • Contact details of the school
  • School calendar

Expectations

  • What new governors can expect from the governing body:
    • A mentor who will be able to offer support and answer questions
    • Meeting papers will be sent out at least one week in advance of the meeting
    • Training will be signposted
    • We will assign you a role/committee to make best use of the skills you bring to the governing body
    • Support from the Chair and Clerk
  • What the governing body expects from you:
    • Attend meetings and be on time
    • If for any reason you cannot attend a meeting then send apologies to the clerk as soon as possible
    • Read all the papers which have been sent to you in advance of the meeting
    • Do ask questions/clarifications. There are no naive questions which shouldn’t be asked. You will bring a new perspective and the other governors will appreciate and welcome it
    • Be responsible for your CPD
    • Try and keep up to date with developments in the field of education and especially governance

Is there anything you would add to the above (or omit?)

@ICSA_News and House of Lords’ Select Committee report matters

ICSA: The Governance Institute is the professional body for governance with members in all sectors. They work with regulators and policy makers to champion high standards of governance and provide qualifications, training and guidance. Below is their article discussing the House of Lords’ Select Committee’s report concerning the revised Governance Code. I thought this article would be of interest to academy trustees too so I am reproducing it here with their permission. The original can be accessed using this link.

ICSA: The Governance Institute welcomes the supportive and helpful report that the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities has published today, especially its support for the revised Governance Code for Charities that aims to improve governance in the charity sector and ensure that charities and their stakeholders focus more effectively on the needs of beneficiaries.

‘The report is particularly timely as it will form part of a trio of governance and regulatory recommendations coming from it, the code and the Law Commission review due in the summer,’ says Louise Thomson, Head of Policy (Not for Profit) at ICSA: The Governance Institute. ‘We particularly welcome the Committee’s positive comments on the draft governance code, which we have helped to author and which we believe will bring substantial benefits to the charity sector.’

Welcome recommendations in the Select Committee’s report include:

  • Support for the revised code and the Charity Commission’s decision to refer to it as the benchmark for governance in the charity sector
  • Regular skills audits of trustee boards. Annual audits for large charities
  • Greater emphasis on trustee induction
  • Board diversity
  • Time limits on trusteeships
  • Regular board reviews. For large charities, this should be annual
  • Good governance reporting, for example charities including a statement in their annual report that they follow the Governance Code for Charities, or a similar specialist governance code relevant to their work, and report any actions taken in light of the code
  • Stakeholder feedback: the provision of regular information to stakeholders that enables them to measure the charity’s success in achieving its purposes.

‘All of the above are important considerations and will help to strengthen governance within the sector. Regular skills audits are essential as they are the primary way that charities can ensure that trustees have the necessary capabilities to undertake their vital governance role. With specific regard to the Committee’s suggestion of a template for inductions and free access for smaller charities, we have guidance on this which smaller charities are welcome to access.

‘ICSA actively supports governance in the sector and welcomes opportunities to work with partners to further enhance understanding and the application of good governance in all sizes of charities,’ adds Louise.

Some of the questions about the role of the SEND Governor which matter

The other day StarLightMckenzie led a @UKGovChat discussion on “How can governors ensure SEND gets the attention it deserves?”  There were some very important questions raised during the discussion. I thought it would be helpful to collate them here.

  • Do you consider it good practice to have a single SEND Governor even though it’s the responsibility of whole GB?
  • Where SEND is key role for one governor, how do we ensure the rest of the GB take responsibility?
  • Does it make a difference if the SEND governor has SEND themselves or is the parent of a SEND child?
  • Should the SENDCo work closely with and report to the SEND Governor, if there is one, to ensure best practice for all?
  • How often should the SEND governor meet with the SENDCo?
  • Is it better for the SEND Governor role to be taken on by a parent, community or staff Governor, ideally?
  • Should the GB ask to see documents to show how all trips are made fully SEND accessible for all?
  • What SEND specific training or knowledge is essential for a GB to fulfil their duty?
  • Should the SEND Governor meet with the SENDCo frequently and if so, how frequent should the meetings be?  What about other staff members?
  • How do you know if children with SEND are achieving their potential?
  • Aside from progress, on what else should the SEND Governor challenge the school?
  • Do you think there is a need for a SEND Governors to network and support each other across schools/nationally?

A question which was posed on Twitter after the chat: What should we do if we find SEND but without EHCP making less progress than those with?

If you would like to read the entire chat then please click here.