Tag Archives: Board of directors

@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.

SEND Governor matters

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

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

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

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

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

Some other points to consider:

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

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

Principles and personal attributes which individuals bring to the board matter

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

Seven principles of public life; Nolan Principles

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

  • Selflessness

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

  • Integrity

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

  • Objectivity

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

  • Accountable

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

  • Openness

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

  • Honesty

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

  • Leadership

    They should lead by example and challenge poor behaviour.

Seven “C”s from the Competency Framework for Governance

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

  • Committed

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

  • Confident

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

  • Curious

    They should be able to ask questions and be analytical.

  • Challenging

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

  • Collaborative

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

  • Critical

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

  • Creative

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

Other attributes

  • Provide challenge and support

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

  • Pull their own weight

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

  • Understand difference between strategic and operational

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

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

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

  • Not afraid to speak up

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

  • Manage conflicts of interest

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

  • Understand duties

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

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

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

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

Competency framework matters; personal attributes of effective governors

The Competency Framework lists personal attributes which governors should bring to the board in order to ensure effective governance. I have previously posted slides which detail the competencies needed by all governors, by chairs and by at least one person on the board. Below are slides dealing with the personal attributes of effective governors.

 

Competency matters; knowledge and skills needed by at least one person

The Competency Framework was published last week alongside the revised Governance handbook.  DfE have identified six features of effective governance in the handbook. The framework lists 16 competencies for these six features. It has tried to “define more clearly the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for governance to play its full part in this [enough good school places for every child] vision.” The framework has been organised so that it first details the knowledge and skills needed by everyone and then explains what’s needed by chairs and finally those skills and knowledge which at least someone on the board must have. The framework lists some of the ways boards can make use of it (how to carry out a skills audit (NGA are revising their skills audit in light of this framework), define training needs, self evaluation etc). Sir David Carter pointed out on Twitter that the framework should not be used a checklist but as a tool. Also remember that, depending upon your context, parts of this may not apply to you.

There have been some comments that the framework is over burdensome. I had a read and decided to split it into three sections; applicable to all, applicable to chairs and finally competencies which at least someone should have. When you split it this way and then read it, I don’t think anyone can argue that this is what we should be aiming for. In fact I would argue that all “good” boards are already doing this and it would help others on their journey to becoming the type of board each and every school deserves. Again, this is not a checklist. Use it to inform your training needs, for example, or to drive your recruitment.

This blog lists the knowledge and skills which at least one person on the board should have or develop with training. The previous blogs dealt with knowledge and skills needed by everyone and those needed by chairs.

2.ACCOUNTABILITY FOR EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS AND FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE

  • Educational improvement
    • Has knowledge of the requirements relating to the education of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)
    • Has knowledge of the requirements relating to the safeguarding of children in education including the Prevent duty, th e duties and responsibilities in relation to health and safety in education
    • Is confident in their challenge to executive leaders on strategies for monitoring and improving the behaviour and safety of pupils/students
  • Rigorous analysis of data
    • Reviews and analyses a broad range of information and data in order to spot trends and patterns
  • Financial frameworks and accountability
    • Has knowledge of the organisations’ current financial health and efficiency and how this compares with similar organisations both locally and nationally
    • Uses their detailed financial knowledge and experience, which is appropriate for the scale of the organisation, to provide advice and guidance to the board
  • Staffing and performance management
    • Has knowledge of human resource (HR) education policy and the organisation’s processes in relation to teachers’ pay and conditions and the role of governance in staffing reviews, restructuring and due diligence
    • Monitors the outcome of pay decisions, including the extent to which different groups of teachers may progress at different rates and checks processes operate fairly

 

Competency Framework matters; knowledge and skills needed by chairs

The Competency Framework was published last week alongside the revised Governance handbook.  DfE have identified six features of effective governance in the handbook. The framework lists 16 competencies for these six features. It has tried to “define more clearly the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for governance to play its full part in this [enough good school places for every child] vision.” The framework has been organised so that it first details the knowledge and skills needed by everyone and then explains what’s needed by chairs and finally the skills and knowledge which at least someone on the board must have. The framework lists some of the ways boards can make use of it (how to carry out a skills audit (NGA are revising their skills audit in light of this framework), define training needs, self evaluation etc). Sir David Carter pointed out on Twitter that the framework should not be used a checklist but as a tool. Also remember that, depending upon your context, parts of this may not apply to you.

There have been some comments that the framework is over burdensome. I had a read and decided to split it into three sections; applicable to all, applicable to chairs and finally competencies which at least someone should have. When you split it this way and then read it, I don’t think anyone can argue that this is what we should be aiming for. In fact I would argue that all “good” boards are already doing this and it would help others on their  journey to becoming the type of board each and every school deserves. Again, this is not a checklist. Use it to inform your training needs, for example, or to drive your recruitment.

This blog lists the knowledge and skills which chairs should have or develop with training. The previous  blog dealt with knowledge and skills needed by everyone  and the third will deal with skills and knowledge needed by at least one  person on the board.

1 STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP

  • Setting the direction
    • Knows about national and regional educational priorities and the implications of these for the board and the organisation
    • Knows about leadership and management processes and tools that support organisational change
    • Thinks strategically
    • Leads the board and executive leaders in ensuring operational decisions contribute to strategic priorities
    • Adopts and strategically leads a systematic approach to change management
    • Provides effective leadership of organisational change even when this is difficult
  • Culture, values and ethos
    • Is able to recognise when the board or an individual member is not behaving as expected and take appropriate action to address this
    • Leads board meetings in a way which embodies the culture, values and ethos of the organisation
  • Decision-making
    • Ensures the board understands the scope of issues in question and is clear about decisions they need to make
    • Summarises the position in order to support the board to reach consensus where there are diverging views
    • Ensures that different perspectives, viewpoints and dissenting voices are properly taken into account and recorded
    • Facilitates decision-making even if difficult and manages the expectations of executive leaders when doing so
    • Recognises the limits of any discretionary chair’s powers and uses them under due guidance and consideration and with a view to limiting such use
    • Ensures the board seeks guidance from executive leaders or others in the senior leadership team and from the clerk/governance professional  before the board  commits to significant or controversial courses of action
  • Collaborative working with stakeholders and partners
    • Knows about the links that the organisation needs to make with the wider community
    • Knows about the impact and influence that a leader in the community has particularly on educational issues
    • Communicates clearly with colleagues, parents and carers, partners and other agencies and checks that their message has been heard and understood
    • Consider how to tailor their communications style in order to build rapport and confidence with stakeholders
    • Is proactive in seeking and maximising opportunities for partnership working where these are conducive to achieving the agreed strategic goals
    • Is proactive in sharing good practice and lessons learned where these can benefit others and the organisation
    • Demonstrates how stakeholder concerns and questions have shaped board discussions if not necessarily the final decision
    • When appropriate, seeks external professional advice, knowing where this advice is available from and how to go about requesting it
  • Risk management
    • Leads the board and challenges leaders appropriately in setting risk appetite and tolerance
    • Ensures that the board has sight of, and understands, organisational risks and undertakes scrutiny of risk management plans
    • Leads by example to avoid, declare and manage conflicts of interes
    • Knows when the board needs external expert advice on risk management

2. Accountability for educational standards and financial performance

  • Educational improvement
    • Works with the clerk, to ensure the right data is provided by executive leaders, which is accessible to board and open to scrutiny
    • Promotes the importance of data interrogation to hold executive leaders to account
  • Financial frameworks and accountability
    • Ensures the board holds executive leaders to account for financial and business management, as much as educational outcomes
    • Leads the board to identify when specialist skills and experience in audit, fraud or human resources is required either to undertake a specific task or more regularly to lead committees of the board
  • Financial management and monitoring
    • Knows about the process and documentation needed to make decisions related to leadership appraisal
    • Is confident and prepared in undertaking leadership appraisal
    • Is able to explain to the board their proposals on leadership pay awards for approval
  • External accountability
    • Is confident in providing strategic leadership to the board during periods of scrutiny
    • Ensures the board is aware of, and prepared for, formal external scrutiny

3. People

  • Building an effective team
    • Knows about the importance of succession planning to the ongoing effectiveness of both the board and the organisation
    • Ensure that everyone understands why they have been recruited and what role they play in the governance structure
    • Ensures new people are helped to understand their non-executive leadership role, the role of the board and the vision and strategy of the organisation enabling them to make a full contribution
    • Sets high expectations for conduct and behaviour for all those in governance and is an exemplary role model in demonstrating these
    • Creates an atmosphere of open, honest discussion where it is safe to challenge conventional wisdom
    • Creates a sense of inclusiveness where each member understands their individual contribution to the collective work of the board
    • Promotes and fosters a supportive working relationship between the: board, clerk/governance professional, executive leaders, staff of the organisation and external stakeholders
    • Identifies and cultivates leadership within the board
    • Recognises individual and group achievements, not just in relation to the board but in the wider organisation
    • Takes a strategic view of the skills that the board needs, identifies gaps and takes action to ensure these are filled
    • Develops the competence of the vice-chair to act as chair should the need arise.
    • Builds a close, open and supportive working relationship with the vice-chair which respects the differences in their roles
    • Values the importance of the clerk/governance professional and their assistance in the coordination of leadership and governance requirements of the organisation
    • Listens to the clerk/governance professional and takes direction from them on issues of compliance and other matters

4. Structures

  • Roles and responsibilities
    • Knows about the importance of their non-executive leadership role, not just in their current position but in terms of their contribution to local and, where appropriate, national educational improvement priorities
    • Leads discussions and decisions about what functions to delegate

5. Compliance

  • Statutory and contractual requirements
    • Sets sufficiently high expectations of the clerk governance professional, as applicable, ensuring the board is compliant with the regulatory framework for governance and, where appropriate, Charity and Company La
    • Ensures the board receives appropriate training or development where required on issues of compliance

6. Evaluation

  • Managing self-review and development
    • Actively invites feedback on their own performance as chair
    • Puts the needs of the board and organisation ahead of their own personal ambition and is willing to step down or move on at the appropriate time
  • Managing and developing the board’s effectiveness
    • Different leadership styles and applies these appropriately to enhance their personal effectiveness
    • Sets challenging development goals and works effectively with the board to meet them
    • Leads performance review of the board and its committees
    • Undertakes open and honest conversations with board members about their performance and development needs, and if appropriate, commitment or tenure
    • Recognises and develops talent in board members and ensures they are provided with opportunities to realise their potential
    • Creates a culture in which board members are encouraged to take ownership of their own development
    • Promotes and facilitates coaching, development, mentoring and support for all members of the board
    • Is open to providing peer support to other chairs and takes opportunities to share good practice and learning