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Markaggedon!

This is a very important post by Adam. Governors, please have a read of this.

A Chemical Orthodoxy

Markageddon*

Earlier this school year, my Headteacher (who is a legend) asked me to present to governors on the topic of marking. Internal school politics and policies aside, I have attached the document I wrote for them as well as the slides I used when presenting. It does not represent anyone’s views but my own and does not speak for the school or carry its endorsement. I hope it comes in use!

Marking Review for sharing

Marking for governors new abridged (1)


*Unfortunately, I was gazumpted to the best “marking” blog title  

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Meeting matters: 3 reasons why leaders should talk less in meetings

I came across an article by Brendan Reid in which he discusses why leaders should talk less during meetings. This is something people chairing governing body meetings should think about too. The article is reproduced below with Brendan’s kind permission.

 

I’ve stopped talking so much in meetings. More precisely, I’ve stopped talking first in meetings.

A while back, I was in a meeting led by another manager and I noticed something that has stuck with me ever since. This manager had a very strong presence and personality, and he was very quick to inject his opinions into a multi-person conversation. So much so, the entire dynamic of the meeting was altered by his presence. Other meeting participants seemed reluctant to contribute. Any subsequent ideas shared seemed to be based on his initial concept. It all seemed very constrained.

On the surface, a strong, vocal manager appears to demonstrate classic (stereotypical?) leadership qualities. Clear, direct, confident, intelligent. But what I observed in this meeting indicated the exact opposite to me.

Since this meeting, I’ve been extremely aware of leadership behaviors in meetings. I watch other managers. I watch myself. I observe the behaviors and reactions of meeting participants and contributors. And, I’ve ultimately concluded that most managers (myself included) are talking way too much and way too early in meetings.

In this week’s blog, we’re going to look at 3 specific leadership advantages to speaking less and waiting longer before talking in meetings.

Some of the qualities that make for good leaders – confidence, decisiveness, passion, intelligence – can have undesired consequences if you’re not careful. The very attributes responsible for the leadership opportunities you’ve been awarded can backfire if left unchecked. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?

You’re in a 6-person meeting with several different personality types represented. The type “A” leader dominates the conversation and leaves the meeting feeling it went well. Everyone else leaves quiet and confused.

You’re a meeting participant and a senior executive expresses a very strong opinion early in the conversation. Others either sit quietly or jump on board with her idea trying to seem agreeable and avoid embarrassment or conflict.

You’re a leader in a meeting and you kick it off by sharing your perspective on the issue and then ask for other ideas. You ask people to challenge you. Nobody does. The team ends up aligning to your original idea with very little debate or discussion.

Two dominant personalities are in a 6-person meeting. After some initial dialogue, the entire discussion gravitates to their ideas only. In the end, the group only compares those two loudly voiced ideas and any others are forgotten about or never heard in the first place.

We’ve all been in meetings like this. I would argue they are the norm. As leaders, we want to offer direction and clarity. As contributors, we want to have our ideas heard and be viewed as strong and assertive. But what impact is that having? Are we actually leading or are we just acting like we think a leader should?

Here are 3 reasons I think leaders should speak less and wait longer to speak in meetings:

1. Inspire Creativity

When a leader speaks early and decisively in a meeting, he or she artificially constrains creativity. Put yourself in the shoes of the other meeting participants for a moment. A strong leader or manager makes a decisive argument at the beginning of the meeting and then asks for other ideas. This sets artificial constraints for everyone else. Whether you realize it or not you’ve set mental boundaries for the types of ideas now likely to be brought forward.

For example, the problem set out for a meeting is to close a gap in sales. The leader starts off with a strong idea about a new type of marketing campaign. Then he asks for other ideas from the group. The tendency now will be to build on the first idea or to suggest other ideas for marketing campaigns. Without knowing it, the leader has artificially constrained all the thinking and dialogue. What if a marketing campaign wasn’t the only way to close the sales gap? What if there are entire other lines of thinking? You’ve lost those now.

When a leader speaks assertively and early in a conversation, the other participants are more likely to align to that idea or build upon that idea. To insert a fundamentally different idea feels combative. It feels risky. You’ve inadvertently created a situation where only the strongest participants will have the courage to counter your thinking. You’ve limited creativity.

My advice to managers is to start meetings by setting the most basic context e.g. here is the problem we’re trying to solve. Then, whether you have a great idea or not, start by soliciting ideas from the group before giving an opinion. You’ll free the team up to be creative and you’ll probably end up discovering your ideas weren’t as good as you thought they were.

2.  Activate the Introverts

Most meetings are dominated by extroverts. This is not optimal because they don’t hold a monopoly on good ideas. When you start too strong in meetings, by inserting your opinions and taking strong positions on issues, you make it harder for anyone other than type “A” personalities to participate. This is a flawed strategy that reduces the number of potential ideas in any meeting you’re in.

The best managers actively solicit ideas. They pull them out of the more introverted among us. They are committed to creating an environment that feels comfortable to share ideas and opinions. Too many managers allow the loudest voices to dominate meetings which leads to suboptimal results and engagement.

My advice to managers is to start by soliciting ideas from the quieter members of your team. As an introvert, I can say I’m much more comfortable answering questions or responding to a request to share my idea than interjecting it spontaneously into a heated debate. The truth is, the extroverts will get their ideas heard one way or the other. You don’t have to worry about them. Start by proactively engaging the less vocal members of the team first and then let the others participate.

3. Reap the Benefits of Information

In a poker game, there is a huge advantage to playing your hand last. It’s called positional advantage. You have the benefit of seeing what everyone else does before you have to do anything. That information gives you a better chance to win. The exactly same principle holds true in meetings and in negotiations. There is a major advantage to waiting before acting.

When I’m in an important meeting, I’ll often ask for opinions of the group before sharing anything. That way I can learn about their perspectives and positions and tailor my points based on what I’ve heard. I have time to refine my argument, build counter arguments or decide to support one of the ideas that has already been presented.

Some managers feel like they need to speak early and loud so nobody beats them to the punch. They can’t stand the thought of another person stealing their idea. The meeting degrades into a bunch of loud voices all competing for time. I think this strategy is flawed. I’d much rather listen and then share my thoughts after I’ve benefitted from everyone else’s perspective. I can show leadership by combining pieces of other ideas. I can show judgement by identifying gaps in early ideas. I can hit a homerun by learning from the reactions to early ideas and then offering my own optimized idea.

My advice to managers is to wait a little longer before injecting your opinions into meetings. Not just to inspire creativity and activate less vocal participants, but also to benefit from the informational advantage that comes from acting later.

Many leaders operate with only one gear. They’re aggressive. They’re vocal. For years, I’ve observed this type “A” tendency in myself and other managers around me. I think it’s a strategic flaw and I’ve made a point of controlling it. There are times when acting aggressively is warranted but I see many advantages to speaking less and speaking later.

 

Robert Hill’s views on various matters to do with MATs; Part 2

Robert Hill, Visiting Professor at UCL Institute of Education, policy adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair and other Cabinet ministers, senior research manager for the Audit Commission, management consultant and social policy researcher,  has written three guest blogs on the topic of MATs for Capita Sims. These blogs are bing posted here with Capita Simms kind permission. Below is the second blog of the series. To read the original please click here. 

Making the sums add up: financial challenges facing academy trusts

The financial outlook for many schools is tough. In July 2017 the Department for Education re-allocated part of its budget and increased school funding by £1.3 billion for two years starting in April 2018. The additional money will help ease the introduction of the national funding formula (NFF) – though some schools will still lose out as the NFF kicks in. Overall, however, while spending per pupil is now being maintained in real terms between 2017 and 2019, if you take the whole of the spending review period from 2015 to 2019 then, according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, the impact of inflation and increasing pupil numbers, means that there will have been a real-terms cut of nearly five per cent.

Schools and academies also face the issue of how they are going to fund a pay increase for staff if there is a settlement of more than one per cent – the level assumed when the funding settlement was fixed. Single academy trusts will find it hard to navigate these financial pressures on their own, but multi-academy trusts (MATs) also have some big challenges to confront.

The challenge for MATs

The first is whether to allow each academy in a MAT to receive its total General Annual Grant (GAG) or whether to pool GAG funding between schools and for the trust board to allocate it according to the needs of particular academies. At the moment only a small minority of MATs are using the provisions for pooling set out in the academies financial handbook. But the DfE Academy Trust Survey 2017 reports that over half of MATs are planning to do this. However, the advent of the NFF may well push policy on pooling in the other direction. Academy leaders and local governing bodies are likely to argue that the NFF means they are entitled to the formula allocation for their school – if a MAT starts to reallocate funding between schools then it could be argued they are acting like a local authority under the funding system that is being replaced and that this undermines the whole point of the NFF.

The second big strategic issue for MATs to wrestle with is how to manage reserves. There is a strong case for saying that as a MAT board legally holds the risk for all schools in the trust, it should set the rate and pool and manage reserves centrally. The fact that capital and condition improvement funding is allocated to a MAT, rather than an individual academy, reinforces this approach. However, when schools join a MAT they are either in deficit or have reserves. If it is the latter they might well argue that they have been putting money aside for a particular project and would want a guarantee that they could access ‘their’ balance when they were ready to spend it. These are tricky waters to navigate but some MATs have worked through the issues and come up with a comprehensive reserves policy.

Efficient management of academies and MATs finances

More generally my five top tips for developing sound financial management of both standalone academies and MATs would be:

  1. Plan your budget over a three-year time horizon – the advent of the NFF should help to do this and trusts can also project forward pupil numbers for each school to provide an estimate or potential scenarios of their likely income. Boards are under an obligation to set a balanced budget for their trust. They should avoid approving a deficit budget for any particular academy unless there are exceptional one-off costs, there is a clear and swift path to balancing the budget and reserves and cash-flow are sufficient to cover the shortfall and sustain smooth and timely financial transactions across the trust.
  2. Authorise your director of finance (trusts are required to appoint an appropriately qualified chief financial officer) to integrate financial management systems, reporting and personnel as early as possible in the life of the trust. This will support better internal assurance and understanding of each academy’s finances. Also ensure that the scheme of delegation and, if the trust has one, governance handbook make crystal clear the respective responsibilities of the trust board, finance committee and local governing bodies for drawing up, approving and monitoring budgets.
  3. Optimise the use of procurement frameworks. The DfE Academy Trust Survey 2017 revealed that only 55 per cent of trusts were using a procurement framework. Both standalone academies and small MATs that do not have purchasing muscle in their own right, can draw on established procurement frameworks to start benefiting from economies of scale.
  4. Benchmark your costs and use this information to highlight areas where there could be the greatest scope for efficiencies. The Education and Skill Funding Agency’s benchmarking tool provides a starting point for doing this. The chart below shows where academy trusts say they are currently making savings. Some trusts are using activity cost budgeting (ACB) to take a more fundamental look at the finances of individual schools. ACB involves analysing and comparting how much it costs to teach a course, subject or group, for a given number of pupils, and then analysing how and why some schools are able to achieve comparable or better outcomes for less cost than others.
  5. Use clusters to help realise economies of scale. A report by the Education Policy Institute has found that MATs that are more geographically dispersed tend to spend more per pupil on back office costs. Clusters also provide the basis for sharing leadership posts and specialist teaching roles. Obviously this point applies primarily to MATs, but standalone academies should increasingly be thinking about sharing functions or using local consortia for their back-office and support functions.
Where Academy Trusts are making savings

Pictured above: where academy trusts are making savings.

Source: DfE Academy Trust Survey 2017; Base: 159 MATs with two or academies and 257 standalone academy

Finding or advertising a teaching job on Twitter with #teachingvacancyuk

Governors, have a look at this and give it a go when advertising for headteacher (& other) posts.

Scenes From The Battleground

I have got two of my last three positions by asking on Twitter if anyone wants a traditionalist maths teacher. This hasn’t always worked, but if you have enough followers it might. Generally, however, Twitter is not great for finding employment because while people do tweet adverts or tweet that they are available for work, the tweets are unlikely to be seen by those they want to see them.

What we need is a shared format that can be used by those advertising positions, that can then be easily searched by those looking for positions. I’ve been experimenting with this for a bit and I thought it was time to get this going properly. Some words of warning first.

  1. This idea will only work if a large number of people use it. This means that if it doesn’t work the first time people try it, then people give up, it…

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Staff wellbeing matters. Part 2

In my previous blog I reproduced a post by Kevin McLaughlin who wrote very movingly about his experience. The issue of staff wellbeing is one that we, as governors, should keep very high on our agendas. After reading Kevin’s post I started to think of some questions we should be asking ourselves/our heads. The questions which I came up with are as below. In this post when I refer to staff I mean anyone who is working in schools, be they teaching or non-teaching staff members.

Culture

  1. Does your board foster a culture where everyone feels they can seek support without feeling that their position may be threatened?
  2. What would you say if I asked you about the culture of mutual trust, respect, transparency, and recognition in your school? This all feeds into wellbeing.
  3. Have you thought about doing anonymous staff surveys with questions on wellbeing, work/life balance and workload with results reported to the board?
  4. Do you question if you notice a high staff turnover?
  5. Do you do exit interviews? These may give you valuable information about the culture in the school and how staff are feeling.
  6. Do you get data about staff sickness and days off? Can you identify any trends?
  7. Do you know what support is put into place once staff return to work after illness?
  8. Do you have a wellbeing policy/governor? Do they report back to the board? How are their reports used to change/modify your practice?
  9. Are you aware of your duty of care as employers?
  10. Do you regularly review what you are doing to look after the head’s wellbeing? This is important for two reasons. Firstly because as governors we would want to ensure that we are looking after and supporting our heads. Secondly, a stressed head may result in rest of the staff becoming stressed too.
  11. Are staff are happy to talk to you and do they believe you have their interests at heart?
  12. Are you sure that the initiatives you/the school have introduced to address wellbeing are more than just a gesture/tick in the box?
  13. How do you prioritise raising awareness of Mental Health issues?

Workload

  1. Have you thought about adding something in your SDP about teacher workload?
  2. Do you ask about the effect on teacher workload when new initiatives/policy amendments are brought to the board?
  3. Do you ask school leaders to justify new initiatives they bring to you for approval?
  4. Do you ask what is being dropped to accommodate new initiatives?
  5. Are members of SLT/teachers with additional responsibilities given sufficient non-contact time/working at home days to facilitate their leadership & management responsibilities?
  6. Do you make sure you ask for information well in advance of when it’s needed? It can help to draft agendas for the whole year, in consultation with the head, so that the head and school know in advance what information is required at what time of the year. This will help with managing staff workload.
  7. Is there a communication policy? This should deal with communication between staff, between governors and staff and between parents and staff.
  8. Do you set an example yourself as a governor by ensuring that everyone, including your clerk, knows that you may be emailing at a time when it’s convenient to you but you do not expect an immediate reply?
  9. Do you think about the reports/data you are asking the school to provide? Are they necessary? Are you duplicating? Can you get the same information but with less data/ fewer reports?
  10. What would your clerk say if I asked them how your practice affected their workload? Do you, for example, send out the papers you need to on time? Do you respond to the clerk’s requests on time?

Work/life balance

  1. What would your head/SLT say if you asked them if they can tell you how many extra hours are teachers putting in and why?
  2. Are your meetings held at mutually convenient times for governors and staff (including the caretakers who will be locking up the school if meetings are held in the evenings) who attend?
  3. Do your meetings run to time?
  4. Do you place items for which the responsible/presenting member of staff who doesn’t need to stay for the whole meeting, at the top of the agenda?
  5. How do you/your school leaders deal with requests to go part time?

Are there any other questions we should be asking or issues we should be thinking of? Please add these in the comments and I will incorporate them.

Further reading:

1. Workload and wellbeing by David Jones.

2. Leading on staff mental health by Patrick Ottley-O’Connor

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.

 

Reviewing 2017 and governance matters. With links.

Another busy year for governors. This was the year in which we saw, amongst other things, the publication of the Competency framework and the change in legislation which now allows governing bodies to remove elected governors.

The notable events of the year as they happened:

January

2017 started with some good news about governors receiving gongs in the New Year’s Honours list. As we are the largest volunteer force in the country it is good to see governance getting recognition.

January also saw the publication of the latest version of the Governance handbook and the Competency Framework.

Amanda Spielman took up her post as HMCI.

Ofsted inspectors starting leading short inspections.

February

Governors and trustees of 40 schools in West Sussex wrote to MPs to warn them that they would refuse to sign off budgets and carry out their supervisory work because of their concerns about funding.

Education Datalab warned that a minority of “pupils are being ‘managed out’ of mainstream schools… with the effect of boosting the league table performance of the school which the pupil leaves”.

The Teacher Development Trust analysed schools’ spending on CPD and found that, across the whole sector, on average this accounts for just 0.7% of their income. Schools rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted were spending less on average than others and over 20,000 teachers work in schools where there is no CPD budget.

NGA produced some questions that governing boards could use as a basis for discussing staff CPD: Questions for governing boards to ask: Staffing

Vicky Beer, RSC for Lancashire and West Yorkshire, who had announced that she would be stepping down in May to lead the newly formed Greater Manchester Learning Trust reversed her decision to resign and decided to stay on as RSC for the area.

NGA and the school leaders’ union NAHT published an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, calling for more money to be allocated to the education budget.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Education Governance and Leadership discussed school funding. Contributions were made by MPs, governors, trustees, headteachers, teachers, school business managers and parents. The minutes of the meeting are available to download here.

The government announced that the “sugar tax” would raise a total of £415 million. For local authority (LA) schools, a proportion of the money will be paid directly to the LA. Larger MATs will also receive a direct allocation. Smaller Mats and single academy trusts will need to bid for the money through a “healthy pupil’s capital fund”. The funding will not become available until April 2018.

The Social Mobility Commission has published new researchnto “the barriers to progress that low income pupils face at secondary school”, emphasising that “decisions and actions taken by schools can have a profound impact on outcomes”

March

NGA published a new version of its skills audit tool

Justine Greening,announced her intention to put Relationships and Sex Education (SRE) on a statutory footing, “so every child has access to age appropriate provision”.

The Education Select Committee released a report detailing the findings of its inquiry into the performance of multi-academy trusts, outlining “significant concerns” about the performance, accountability and expansion of MATs and noted there was no evidence to support “large scale expansion”.

The Department for Education released reports and recommendations from a number of 16-19 education area reviews across England. Beginning in 2015, these reviews were designed to “ensure that colleges are financially stable into the longer-term” and “well-positioned to meet the present and future needs of individual students and the demands of employers”.

DfE published advice to help schools understand their obligations and duties in relation to asbestos management in schools.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman announced “a major investigation into how well schools are using the curriculum to ensure children receive a broad education”.

Ofsted published a study of the reliability of Ofsted’s new short inspections. It found that In 22 of the 24 inspections (of primary schools), both inspectors agreed on the outcome of the short inspection.

The 9th School Inspection update had some useful clarifications around “short-inspections”, safeguarding, new GCSE’s, technical qualifications and how inspectors will liaise with executive leaders and the board of trustees in multi-academy trusts (MATs). The update also made it clear that in MATs the trust board and senior executive leader will be both informed about an inspection of one of their schools and invited to the feedback sessions and the lead inspector will also offer to meet with the MAT’s executive leader and the chair of the board.

John Edwards’ appointment as RSC for or East Midlands and the Humber was announced.

Schools Week published an article looking at CEO pay in MATs.

DfE started a consultation on its proposed revisions to the statutory guidance on the exclusion of pupils.

Health and Education committees started a joint inquiry into the role of education in the mental health of children and young people.

BBC published the results of a survey of 4,000 governors where the funding issue was one of the issues raised by governors.

Ofsted released official statistics about the outcomes of school inspections in autumn 2016/17:

  • 70% of schools inspected were judged “good” or “outstanding”
  • 61% of schools previously judged “requires improvement” improved to “good” or better
  • across England, 89% of schools are currently “good” or “outstanding” overall

Members of the National Union of Teacher (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lectures voted to amalgamate to form the National Education Union (NEU).

The National Governors’ Association officially became the National Governance Association to reflect changes in the way schools are governed.

DfE launched a public consultation on the future of the primary assessment system in England.

Inspiring Governance service published a new recruitment guide, ‘The right people around the table.’ This is designed to help school governors and trustees plan and carry out recruitment and induction.

The Education Secretary wrote to the Education Select Committee Chair confirming that a grade 4 in the newly reformed GSCE system (with grading set between 1-9, with 9 being the highest level of achievement) would now be considered a “standard pass” and a grade 5 a “strong pass”.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) merged with the Skills Funding Agency to form the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)

An independent review on behaviour management in schools entitled ‘Creating a culture: How schools can optimise behaviour’ by behaviour expert Tom Bennett was published.

DfE published statistics on pupil absence in primary and secondary schools for the 2015 to 2016 academic year.

April

School Governance (Constitution and Federations) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 published giving maintained school governing bodies the power (from 1st September 2017) to remove elected parent and staff governors by majority decision of the governing body. From 1 May 2017, any person who has held office as an elected parent or staff governor and removed from the governing body during their term of office, will be disqualified from serving or continuing to serve as a school governor for five years from the date of their removal.

Dr Tim Coulson, (RSC for the East of England and north-east London) announced that he will be stepping down and moving on to become the chief executive of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust.

DfE published a Competency Framework for clerks.

May

On the final day of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) annual conference members discussed a motion about governance which received considerable twitter reaction. The motion was “Conference calls on the National Executive, working with the National Governors’ Association and other relevant organisations, to campaign for a reduced emphasis on governance within the judgement for leadership in Ofsted and reduce the expectations, workload and ever-increasing accountability of the volunteers who put themselves forward as governors of our schools.” The retention of governors was also listed as a concern, with this being linked to headteachers’ careers which were “being put on the line by bewildered governors”. Emma Knights and Russell Hobby discussed this in the NGA’s blog.

The House of Commons Education and Health Committees published a joint report into the role of education in supporting the mental health of children and young people

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Education published its report on its inquiry on how well schools prepare children for their future.

Alison Critchley, Chief Executive of RSA Academies wrote a guest blog for NGA about the role of members in academy trusts.

BBC and Schools Week reported that over 20 school governing boards in West Sussex planned to hold a symbolic strike today (Friday 19 May) in response to fears over school funding and the projected £3bn in real-term budget cuts by 2020.

June

The general election resulted in a hung parliament. Justine Greening, Nick Gibb and Robert Halfon were re-elected. Edward Timpson, lost his seat in Crewe and Nantwich. Neil Carmichael, previously chair of the Education Select Committee and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Governance and Leadership, was defeated in Stroud. Former Conservative Education Secretaries Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan retained their seats, as did Labour Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner and her predecessor Lucy Powell. Sarah Olney, previously the Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, was not re-elected. Former teachers Emma Hardy (Hull West and Hessle) and Laura Smith (Crewe and Nantwich) were newly elected MPs.

DfE confirmed that Rebecca Clark, the RSC for the south west of England would be stepping down. Both the TES and Schools Week reported that she will be joining Ark as regional director for secondary schools in London and Portsmouth.

NGA wrote to Justine Greening asking for greater focus on stakeholder engagement, and highlight the fundamental change in school governance brought about by the growth of multi academy trusts.

Ofsted launched a consultation on proposed changes to the process for short inspections of ‘good’ schools. The consultation proposed extending the period in which a converted inspection will be completed from 48 hours to 15 working days and that schools “in complex circumstances” (identified through Ofsted’s standard risk assessment) will automatically receive a full inspection.

Ofsted amended its guidance about raising concerns and making a complaint about Ofsted.

The Queen’s Speech set out the government’s legislative programme for the next two years. There was no mention of removing the ban on new selective schools and ending universal infant free school meals. The government will continue to convert “failing” schools to academies.

The NGA, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Local Government Association (LGA) produced a new edition of What governing boards should expect from school leaders and what school leaders should expect from governing boards”.

Governors were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to education.

Secretary of state for education Justine Greening reaffirmed the government’s commitment that no school will lose funding under the national funding formula proposals.

DfE appointed Sue Baldwin as the new regional schools commissioner for the East of England and North East London, replacing Tim Coulson who resigned.

July

DfE announced ministerial portfolios.

  • Justine Greening Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities
  • Nick Gibb Minister of State for School Standards with an expanded brief that includes Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) and Minister for Equalities
  • Robert Goodwill Minister of State for Children and Families
  • Jo Johnson Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation
  • Anne Milton Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills and Minister for Women
  • Lord Nash Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System with responsibility for school governance.

Nick Gibb confirmed the government would drop plans for removing infant free school meals and that no school would see a cut in funding as a result of the move to the new national funding formula.

University of Coventry published a research report on What the Prevent Duty means for School and Colleges in England.

DfE published its response to the consultation on the Implementation of the English Baccalaureate. The consultation received a total of 2,755 responses, 69 of which were submitted by school governors or trustees.

The Secretary of State announced that the Department for Education’s Schools financial benchmarking site had been updated and improved.

DfE published updated guidance on school exclusion to clarify rules that apply to exclusions and process of review.

DfE published findings of a survey of academy trusts covering topics such as reasons for conversion and how they are using their academy status.

The Social Market Foundation published “Commission on Inequality in Education”, an independent, cross-party initiative which examined the causes and effects of inequality in education.

DfE launched an updated and improved version of Analyse School Performance (ASP), the replacement service to RAISEonline.

August

DfE) released the latest version of the STPCD, giving a 2% uplift to the statutory minima and maxima of the main pay range and a 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of all other pay ranges in the national framework (including headteacher groups) and all allowances across pay ranges.

Eileen Milner appointed as CEO of Education and Skills Funding Agency.

September

DfE released an updated version of the Statutory Guidancesetting out the arrangements for the constitution of governing bodies of all local-authority-maintained schools.

The new edition of Ofsted’s School Inspection Update provided details of how inspectors are instructed to approach school performance data.

The membership of the House of Commons Education Select Committee announced.

  • Robert Halfon (Chair)     Conservative
  • Lucy Allan        Conservative
  • Michelle Donelan    Conservative
  • Marion Fellows        Scottish National Party
  • James Frith        Labour
  • Emma Hardy        Labour
  • Trudy Harrison        Conservative
  • Ian Mearns        Labour
  • Lucy Powell        Labour
  • Thelma Walker        Labour
  • Mr William Wragg    Conservative

Lord Theodore Agnew was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, taking over from Lord Nash

The scoping report ‘Who Governs Our Schools? Trends, Tensions and Opportunities’ by Dr. Tony Breslin FRSA published by the RSA launced at APPG on Education Governance and Leadership.

A new consultation on changes to short inspections announced.

DfE launched ‘Get Information About Schools (GIAS) – the new register for schools and colleges which replaced the previous Edubase system.

October

Justine Greening announced new measures at the Conservative Party conference

  • 12 million funding for a network of new English hubs starting in the North of England to improve literacy
  • Extra £6 million for Maths hubs
  • New focus for the £140 million Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF) to boost literacy and numeracy at Reception
  • £30 million in “tailored support” to get teachers into schools struggling with the recruitment and retention of teachers
  • Student loan “forgiveness” pilot in regions that struggle to recruit high quality teachers, initially targeted to attract 800 modern foreign language and 1700 science teachers
  • New style bursaries for trainee maths teachers with £20000 upfront and further increments in years 3 and 5 of teaching

Ofsted published its 5 year strategy of being “a force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation”.

NGA published results of the NGA/TES survey of governors.

Chief inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, published a commentary on preliminary research findings into the primary and secondary curriculum.

NGA wroteto the Chancellor of the Exchequer outlining the difficulties with school budgets and seeking additional funding for schools.

Results of the headteacher board elections announced. 32 academy leaders were elected to the eight headteacher boards.

DfE introduced a new fund (open to existing trusts that plan to take on and improve at least two additional schools and to those planning on forming a new MAT which takes on and improves two schools or more).

DfE updated its guidance on strategies schools can employ to spend the year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium effectively. This money is given to schools “to support year 7 pupils who did not achieve the expected standard in reading or maths at the end of key stage 2”.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, and Chair of Ofsted, Julius Weinberg, gave evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee. She

  • Said she had “some level of discomfort” about Ofsted outstanding
  • Said she wanted Ofsted to have the power to inspect multi academy trusts (MATs) on a “whole level basis”
  • Raised some concerns around the quality of early years’ providers

The government released details of the allocation for the PE and sport premium as well as updated guidance for how schools can spend the funding.

November

House of Commons Education Select Committee held a scrutiny session with Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening. She talked about DfE Opportunity areas, review of exclusions. She confirmed that the additional £1.3billion moved into the core schools budget protects per-pupil funding in real terms to the end of the spending review period. She also informed the committee that she had asked Sir Theodore Agnew, the new under-secretary of state for education, to look at how MAT boards can be improved.

Research produced by the Education Policy Institute for Ambition School Leadership looked into the characteristics and performance of MATs. It found

  • There is no clear relationship between pupil progress at Key Stage 2 or 4 and isolation
  • Trusts with more sponsored academies exhibit slightly better improvements over time
  • Trusts with more converter academies exhibit higher overall pupil premium attainment
  • There is mixed evidence about the connection between growth and performance
  • There is some evidence that trusts with a mix of phases are more likely to show improvements in performance at Key Stage 2 and 4

DfE updated its guidance on primary and secondary school accountability to include the ‘coasting’ schools definition for 2017. A school will be below floor standards if

  • Primary school : Less than “65% of pupils meet the expected standard in English reading, English writing and mathematics” or the school does not make the required amount of progress, which is “at least -5 in English reading, -5 in mathematics and -7 in English writing”
  • Secondary school: “it’s Progress 8 score is below -0.5, and the upper band of the 95% confidence interval is below zero”.

A school will be considered to be coasting if

  • Secondary school: In 2015, fewer than 60% of pupils achieved 5 A*-C at GCSE” and, in 2016 and 2017, if “the school’s progress 8 score was below -0.25”.
  • Primary school: “in 2015, fewer than 85% of pupils achieved level 4 in English reading, English writing and mathematics and below the national median percentage of pupils achieved expected progress in all of English reading, English writing and mathematics” and, in 2016 and 2017 “fewer than 85% of pupils achieved the expected standard at the end of primary schools and average progress made by pupils was less than -2.5 in English reading, -2.5 in mathematics or -3.5 in English writing”.

Education Policy Institute published a report on free schools. It found

  • Two thirds of areas in England are not within a reasonable distance of either a primary or secondary free school
  • Free schools are helping to meet the need for new school places
  • The programme has been ineffective in targeting areas of low school quality
  • Free schools are more likely to be located in areas of disadvantage, but disadvantaged pupils in these areas are less likely to be admitted than would be expected

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner, gave evidence to the Education Select Committee on a range of issues including mental health, behaviour policies and exclusions.

The autumn Budget included extra funding to boost maths and computer science but no extra core funding for mainstream, high needs and post-16 education budgets.

Professor David Berridge (University of Bristol), Kiran Gill (Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Founder of The Difference), and Philip Nye (Education Datalab) gave evidence before the Education Select Committee covering PRUs, AP academies and AP free schools as well as non-maintained alternative provision provided in Independent Schools, Unregistered Schools and Illegal Schools.

TES wrote a series of articles focusing attention on significant rises in the salaries of some school leaders and related-party transactions. These can be read here, here and here.

December

ASCL published a guidance paper on setting executive pay.

Peter Lauener, chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) wrote his last letter to academy trust accounting officers before his retirement this term. He highlighted three key areas.

  • The need for accounting officers to be mindful of their responsibilities and ensure that the finances are managed in accordance with the Academies Financial Handbook
  • The need for those governing to be clear about their responsibilities, have the skills to undertake their role and avoid concentrations of power, the need to maintain vigilance over related party transactions
  • Reflections from the ESFA’s assurance work over the last year.

The think-tank LKMCo has published a new report entitled ‘Testing the Water: How assessment can underpin, not undermine great teaching’. One of the recommendations is to ensure governors have appropriate training in understanding the assessment process and the information it produces.

Ofsted announced that it will go ahead with reform of the short inspections system following a recent consultation.

Lord Agnew, Sir David Carter, Vicky Beer and John Edwards (Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) appeared in front of the Education Select Committee. The session focused on the effectiveness of oversight and intervention in the academy system. The collapse of the Wakefield City Academies Trust and the lessons learned from this and similar cases were discussed. Concerns were raised about transparency around the intervention taking place and how this is communicated to parents. Schools Week covered the session here

The Education and Skills Funding Agency published a letter written by new Chief Executive, Eileen Milner, addressing excessive executive salaries in trusts with only one academy.

DfE in partnership with NGA published a guide to help governors and trustees make effective decisions when recruiting and selecting headteachers and other school leaders.

Amanda Spielman presented her first Ofsted Annual Report. To read what the report says about governance click here

DfE released its plan to improve social mobility through education.

DfE launched a call for evidence to better understand what changes are required to the existing guidance on SRE to reflect changes in technology and society since it was last updated 17 years ago.

Schools Week asked me to review 2017 from a governance perspective. This can be read here.