On 1st April 2015 I made my way to Quintin Kynaston to attend a London Teachmeet. Although these teachmeets are primarily for teachers, I decided to go along as I wanted to meet a few twitterati who I had yet to meet in real life. I managed to say a quick hello to @TeacherToolkit, @AmjadAST@ @ICTEvangilist and @MaryMyatt but missed meeting Jill Berry.
I have storified my tweets of the day and so I will limit this post to discussing presentations by Mary Myatt and Jill Berry. Both of these presentations were aimed primarily at school teachers/leaders but many of the points raised are applicable to and of interest to governors. I have used green coloured text to indicate wherever the issues raised can have governance implications.
Five myths by Mary Myatt
Mary is a well respected educator and Inspector. Amjad Ali, in his introduction, said that if you were to be inspected then Mary was the Inspector you would like to have on the team. I think Amjad is spot on! Mary discussed 5 myths, some related to Ofsted and others general.
First Myth: Purpose of Inspection
Mary made it clear that Ofsted was not “out to get you”! Mary advised people that if they thought that, then that should be cause for a complaint. She went onto say that schools should not be run for Ofsted teams but should be run for children. Governors too need to keep this at the forefront and make sure that the school is led and managed with this in mind.
Mary said that inspections, as far as she was concerned, have three purposes; safeguarding (this encompasses everything from bullying to LGBT issues to e-safety), how robustly does the school self evaluates its performance and what is the school like and what does it feel like being in the school for children. This is very important from a governance point of view too. Governors need to assure themselves that all aspects of safeguarding are adequately covered, that there is no bullying of any sort and if there is then measures are in place to identify when that happens, act quickly when it is identified and support is put in place to help all those who are affected. At this point I’m reminded of those instances where staffs have experienced bullying. The board needs to make sure that staff as well as students are protected, that there are robust whistleblowing and grievance policies and procedures and that the staff are aware of these.
Governors need to also assure themselves that the self evaluation process being followed is robust and clear. Governors need to come to their own conclusions and not rely solely on the Head for information. If, when asked, “How do you know this?” the answer is, “It was in the Head’s report” then governors are probably not performing their monitoring duty as they should.
Second Myth: What works
Mary repeated what Sir Michael Wilshaw said what works is what’s good and vice versa. There is no magic bullet and no “prescription”.
Third Myth: Progress every ten minutes!
Mary said it had always been about sustained progress and the new curriculum has nailed that now. It is no longer as race through the content but is about making sure students develop a deep understanding. Mary also told teachers not to stop a lesson for anyone coming into their classrooms unless they were going to do it anyway.
Fourth Myth: Use of data
Mary reiterated that it was up to schools to decide how to track their students. Teachers know who is “getting it, who is struggling and who is on top of what is being taught and could be stretched even further”. Schools just need to be able to identify this and Ofsted will talk to them about that.
As governors we need to ask ourselves if we fully grasp our school data. Are we aware of how students are tracked, how different groups of students are tracked, do we validate the data independently and how do we monitor what is happening in our schools?
Fifth Myth: School is all there is to life
Mary was keen to point out that teachers need to give consideration to their well being and home and personal life. Mary reminded everyone that it was important to remember that “we are human beings first and professionals second” and “make sure you have a life outside school too”. Though Mary was addressing teachers, governors need to remember this too. The GB has a duty of care towards the Head and staff of the school and needs to make sure it is not making unreasonable demands upon the Head and SLT. Similarly we need to appreciate the fact that many governors have day jobs and many of these day jobs are stressful ones. Those governors, who do not work, do do something else. It is wrong to assume that just because governors are volunteers they have no other commitments. This needs to be taken into account when deciding on the timings of meetings which should be at mutually convenient times. Governors need to have papers and agendas well in advance (at least seven working days of meetings so that they are able to read these papers. Similarly, though clerks work for the governing body, governors and SLT should not expect them to be available 24 hours a day. Everyone who has dealings with the clerk should help the clerk in the organization of meetings by sending him/her the relevant documents in time and by responding to his/her requests on time.
Jill Berry: Would anyone want to be led by you?
Jill spoke to school leaders (heads, deputies) and aspiring leaders about leadership but the points she raised are equally applicable to governors, especially chairs and aspiring chairs. Jill said leaders and aspiring leaders should ask themselves would anyone want to be led by you?
What is leadership?
According to Jill, leadership is simple and at the same time complex. Leadership is all about getting the best from people one leads. Jill suggested that leaders need to remember that the people in their organisation will have different personalities and those will, in all probability be different to the personality of the leader. This is very true of governing boards too. The next time you are at a governing board meeting, have a look around the room. You will see everyone responding to the same agenda item in very different ways. This is not a bad thing! Different people will bring different perspectives to the problem and will offer different solutions as they have different skills. A good leader, one people would like to be lead by, will acknowledge this and use everyone’s skills to the advantage of the board.
Why are some people very challenging to lead?
Jill talked about two types of people a leader will come across; those who are very easy to lead and from whom it is relatively easy to get the best from and those who are challenging to lead. A good leader needs to understand why these people are difficult to lead. According to Jill they may be difficult to lead because they
- Have a different world view than you
- Be less resilient than you
- Be less committed that you
- Be frightened of change
Jill said that in her view if someone was resistant or appeared complacent it was because at some level they were frightened. A good leader will still try and get the best from them and help them deal with their fear.
As Chair of Governors if you do come across resistance, do consider if it is because of any or all of the above factors. Knowing what makes people react the way they do is the first step towards being able to lead them and the board well. Jill said that a good leader will never give up of people.
Qualities of a good leader.
As Jill said, leadership is about people and relationships. She went onto to ask the audience various questions. I think that the answers to those questions go some way to define good leaders and good leadership. So if you are a good leader you will
- Take people with you
- Work alongside the team and pull his/her weight
- Inspire people rather than direct them from afar
- Make people calm even if you aren’t very calm yourself.
- Create stability especially when “the seas are very rough”
- Have integrity and will cling to your core values
- Be positive, optimistic and cheerful
- Remember what it is all about. People come into education to make a difference. Becoming a leader you will be able to make a difference to the lives of even more people
The four “Hs’ of leadership
Jill quoted John Dunford according to whom leadership is about
These four qualities are necessary if you are to lead well. As Chair of Governors ask yourself if you have these qualities and what can you do to develop these further.
Jill said that she agreed with Steve Mumby who talked about resilient leadership and compassionate leadership. A leader needs resilience in order to hold others to account (this is especially true of Chairs of Governors as one of the core purposes of governors is to hold the Head and senior leaders to account and the Chair needs to be able to lead this). Leaders need to be compassionate and humane at the same time.
If you would like to see a recording of the proceedings then click here to see the first half and here to see the second half.