Tag Archives: Chair of Governors

Supporting your governing body’s clerk matters

A good clerk is pivotal in ensuring that the governing body is as effective as it can be. It is true that good schools will have good governing bodies. It is, I think, equally true that good governing bodies have good clerks. For the purpose of this blog, I will assume that your governing body has an independent and professional clerk. What follows are some ideas on how you can support your clerk in order to help the clerk support you.

  • Write a good job description so that everyone is clear about the roles and responsibilities of your clerk. A clear job description also supports the clerk’s effectiveness.
  • Your clerk will be responsible for writing the agendas (in consultation with he Chair and Head) and circulating the agenda and papers. The Chair should make sure they make time to discuss the agenda with the clerk well before the meeting.
  • If you are responsible for a preparing a paper for the next meeting, do send it to the clerk in time for the clerk to include it in the meeting pack.
  • If you had some actions from the last meeting let the clerk know where you are with them. It will make the clerk’s job less stressful if they don’t have to chase you for papers or updates on actions.
  • As the Chair do ensure that when the clerk sends you the draft minutes you turn them around as quickly as possible. Consider using track changes which will help your clerk.
  • Support your clerk by ensuring they have access to good CPD.
  • Chairs should do a low stakes annual appraisal of clerks. This should be an opportunity for both to discuss how they think the governors and clerk worked together, what went well and what could be improved and how.
  • Ensure that your clerk feels like a valued member of the team. Ask for and listen to their advice when you are unsure.
  • Being introduced to and meeting the clerk should be part of your induction process for new governors.
  • There should also be an induction for a new clerk. They should be shown around the school, especially the room where you normally meet, introduced to the Head/SLT and any other member of the school staff they may need to contact and introduced to all the governors.
  • It may be helpful to agree a routine for regular communication between the Chair and the clerk which may contribute to effective use of both the chair’s and the clerk’s time.
  • It may be helpful to have a school email address for your clerk. This can be communicated to everyone via your website. This has various advantages
    • It will help parents and others know how to get in touch
    • It’s preferable than having the clerk’s personal email address in the public domain
    • If your clerk works for other governing bodies then this will help them in organising paperwork for the different governing bodies
  • Can your school provide a pigeon hole for your clerk? There may be instances where people will write to the clerk/GB/Chair. This correspondence should go to a dedicated pigeonhole which the clerk can access easily.
  • Encourage your clerk to keep up with the latest legislation/developments. If your governing body is a member of NGA (and I highly recommend that they are) then see that your clerk knows this and has signed up for the weekly newsletter.
  • Any governor can ask for an item to be put on the agenda. It would be helpful if the Chair would remind governors how to do this and how much notice is required. Clerks shouldn’t have to deal with last minute requests. (If there is a really urgent matter that can be dealt with under AOB and the governors should have an agreed process for this).
  • Make sure the clerk’s pay reflects what they do.
  • Lastly, and very importantly, in all your dealings with your clerk do consider their life/work balance. The chair should not hesitate to intercede if they feel that unfair demands are being made of the clerk.

Is there anything you would add to the above list?

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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

Schools White Paper 2016; governance matters

Schools White Paper 2016 (Educational Excellence Everywhere) was published on 17th March 2016. The governance related parts (Chapter 3) are as below. (text in bold is my emphasis).

Strategic leadership and oversight by skilled governing boards

3.27. As we move to a more autonomous school-led system, it is increasingly vital that schools operate under effective governing boards. As the key decision maker and accountable body for their school(s), governing boards have a vital strategic role, which they should deliver in a dynamic and professional manner: focusing strongly on their core functions of setting the vision and ethos for their school(s), holding school leaders to account and making sure money is well spent.

3.28. The growth of MATs will improve the quality of governance – meaning that the best governing boards will take responsibility for more schools. As fewer, more highly skilled boards take more strategic oversight of the trust’s schools, MAT boards will increasingly use professionals to hold individual school-level heads to account for educational standards and the professional management of the school, allowing school-level governing boards to focus on understanding and championing the needs of pupils, parents and the wider local community. This does not mean less accountability – MATs must publish a clear scheme of delegation to set out how their governance is organised, including any functions they choose to delegate to regional or school level.

3.29. In recent years we have given governing boards more freedom to appoint the best possible people with the skills the board needs to be effective.

3.30. We will expect all governing boards to focus on seeking people with the right skills for governance, and so we will no longer require academy trusts to reserve places for elected parents on governing boards. We will offer this freedom to all open and new academies, and as we move towards a system where every school is an academy, fully skills-based governance will become the norm across the education system.

3.31. Parents often have these skills and many parents already play a valuable role in governance – and will always be encouraged to serve on governing boards. We will also expect every academy to put in place arrangements for meaningful engagement with all parents, to listen to their views and feedback.

3.32. To encourage everyone involved in governance to develop their skills, we will work with schools and MATs to develop a competency framework defining the core skills and knowledge needed for governance in different contexts. We will also set a new, stronger requirement on all governing boards to ensure that individuals are properly inducted, and receive the training or development they need to develop the skills set out in the competency framework. We have extended licensed delivery of NCTL training programmes for chairs and clerks until September 2017, and will review our approach to governance training programmes in light of the new competency framework.

3.33. Clear, high quality information about performance is essential for good governance, and so we will make it easier for members of governing boards to access high quality, objective data about their school’s educational and financial performance.

3.34. In March 2016 we launched a new, clearer website displaying school performance tables, making it easier for governing boards, parents and others to find key information and compare the results of schools (see more in chapter 7). We will continue to develop this in response to feedback to make it easier than ever to understand a school’s performance. Where data suggests that there may be an issue within a school or MAT, we will pilot a proactive approach to alert governing boards so that they can investigate and, if necessary, take action.

3.35. We have a long and rich tradition of voluntary trusteeship and we expect the vast majority of those involved in governance will continue to be unpaid, volunteering to serve their community and give their school(s) the benefit of their expertise and commitment. As the scale of the challenge in governing large and growing MATs increases, we may see more of them seeking Charity Commission authorisation to offer payment to attract the very best people into key positions such as the chair of the board.

We will establish a database of everyone involved in governance. We intend to legislate so we can bar unsuitable individuals from being governors of maintained schools (as we can already in academies and independent schools).

The crucial role of governance makes it more important than ever to ensure that only the right individuals are involved. So we will extend Edubase to establish a database of everyone involved in governance, requiring schools and MATs to start providing information from September 2016, and we intend to legislate so that we have the power to bar unsuitable individuals from being governors of maintained schools, to mirror the existing barring power for academies and independent schools.

 

Heads’ reports to GBs; good relationships matter

Trigger warning: This blog has been written because I felt the need to “rant”!

While browsing Twitter this morning I read a few tweets discussing  a TES article. As this was on governance I naturally clicked the link to read it. I wish I hadn’t!

The article discusses how heads can “get the best” out of their governors. The second suggestion is a good one. Governors will, I think, appreciate hearing from the staff. They will appreciate being given an opportunity to interact with staff and to ask them questions directly. Staff, too, may appreciate being given the chance to talk about what they do. This will also bring governors and staff closer to each other with each understanding what the other does.

So what, I hear you ask, is my problem with the article? Well, the problem is the first suggestion. The suggestion is that heads should include a deliberate mistake in their reports to governors “just to check they’ve been reading it“. It is this suggestion that I find unhelpful and even patronising. Let me state right at the beginning that there are governors who turn up at meetings unprepared and not having read the papers beforehand.

Reports_Dlbert

This article, however, does not distinguish between those who come prepared and those who don’t. It makes a blanket generalisation which isn’t helpful. The article also states,”We try to get everything out in writing to governors with at least a week or a long weekend to read and digest the contents before the actual meeting.” There is no acknowledgement that “trying” to get the papers out on time is the problem. Legislation does not say that the school should “try” and send out papers in advance. Legislation actually requires that papers be sent out at least seven days in advance of the meeting. I find the “long weekend to read” comment funny too. Are governors not entitled to a work/life balance? Why should governors be expected to spend their weekend, long or otherwise, reading papers they should have had in advance? I’ve heard some people say that heads are busy so governors should not complain if papers are late. I’m sorry but that doesn’t wash! It’s part of the head’s job to supply the information requested by the governors and supply it at least seven days in advance of the meeting.

If a head feels that certain governors are attending meetings unprepared then I think the way to handle this is to have a quiet word with the Chair. The Chair, I hope, would have picked up this him/herself too and can deal with it in an appropriate manner. But peppering your report with  deliberate mistakes in order to try and “catch them out” will not help matters and may ruin any trust that exists between the head and the governing body. What about those governors who have read the report and then question the deliberate mistake? How would they feel when the head replies, “Ah! That’s a deliberate mistake I put in there to see if you’d spot it. Well done for reading the paper.” Secondly, just because someone spots a typo doesn’t mean they will also ask strategic question. This isn’t the way to help governors think and ask strategic questions. Thirdly, what if they do spot it but say nothing because they want to spare your blushes thinkng you’ve made a silly mistake? Or what happens if governors spot the mistakes and send the report back with red marks all over it, asking it to be re-done? That’s the governors’ and the head’s time wasted!

rejected stamp

Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Something to think about: In which other industry/job will you find the employee trying to catch out his/her employer by adding a mistake in the report the employer has asked for? Also ask yourself what sanctions would the employee face if this were to happen!

I’ll end by making two comments. Firstly, I hope this was an attempt at humour and not an actual serious suggestion to fellow heads. Secondly, as there are “good” governors out there, there are also excellent heads who are a joy to work with, who enjoy and welcome the challenge and support from the governors and who think that the school is best served if the staff and governors work well together. One such head is Jarlath O’ Brien whose five ways for heads to turn governors into critical friends is well worth a read.

Rant over!

Five ways for heads to turn governors into a critical friend

This is an edited version of an article written by Jarlath O’Brien (headteacher of Carwarden House Community School in Surrey) published in the 9 October edition of TES. To read the full article, subscribe to TES. It is being posted here with their permission.

My first brush with school governors came fairly early in my teaching career. All new staff were asked to meet the governors in the library at the end of the day. As I trooped in with my colleagues, I was accosted by a diminutive, regal-looking lady.

“Ah, good evening. You must be the head boy,” she purred.

“No. I’m the [28-year-old] head of physics,” I replied.

That was it for me and governors for about six years.

I only really got to know the ins and outs of governance when I was a deputy headteacher at a large special school. Later, as a head, I began to grasp the delicate nuances of the relationship. Finally, after four years of headship, I realised the truth of the matter: you end up with the governing body you deserve.

What do I mean by this? Well, as a headteacher, you have the power to turn your governors into the strategic driving force they should be – or into an irritant to be avoided and reluctantly tolerated. Governors may start off in either camp (and anywhere in between), but where they end up during your headship is entirely down to you.

In the 9 October issue of TES, I detail seven ways to make sure you and your governors are at the positive end of the spectrum.

  1. Work on your relationship with the chair
    This trumps everything else. This relationship has equal importance, in my view, to the ones you have with your deputy and your school business manager. You’re not there to be best friends, but you do need to be professionally aligned. I tell my chair of governors everything and really value their perspective on things. When other heads say “I just tell my chair what to do” or “I ignore my chair”, I know a big opportunity has gone begging and a brake has been applied to progress.
  2. Respect your governors
    Get reports and papers to them on time so they can read them. It’s the least you can do. I used to complain about meetings on a Tuesday evening, preferring them later in the week. It never occurred to me that it might be the only night my governors were free – juggling, as they were, the rest of their busy lives.
  3. Help governors to feel less isolated
    The role of school governor can be a lonely one. They rarely have the luxury we have of visiting other schools regularly and building a professional network (although Twitter has been brilliant for governors). I’ve been able to help that along a little by organising meetings with other governing bodies to discuss key issues, although I hope to do more.
  4. Spread the love
    If yours is the only voice the governors hear at meetings, something needs to change. As a matter of course, I do not attend all committee meetings – our exceptional deputy head does a superb job in my place. Were I to attend alongside her, I’d find it hard to shut up; she would have less room to develop and the governors wouldn’t get to hear from other leaders. Make opportunities for other senior leaders and middle leaders to attend meetings, to discuss their areas of accountability and to be questioned by governors.
  5. Make your headteacher reports count
    These reports are for the governors’ use and the format and contents should be set by the board. The governors dictate what information they want to see – it’s your job to present this in as accessible a format as possible.

 

Dispelling Ofsted and other myths and leadership matters with thanks to Mary Myatt and Jill Berry

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

Fact_fiction

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?

Leader

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

  • Hope
  • Humanity
  • Humility
  • Humour

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.

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Matters concerning advertising the post of Chair of Governors

The other day I came across a “job” advertisement different to any I have seen. This was a school looking for a Chair of Governors. The ad was tweeted by Matt Mullarkey and can be found here.

This led some of us on Twitter to wonder when and why would a GB advertise to recruit a Chair.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One obvious reason could be lack of a member willing to take on the role of the Chair.

The other reason a GB may want to advertise the post is if the GB wants to get someone with specific skills, experience or a fresh perspective to lead them. Note that I say GB not the school. This is an important distinction as it’s the GB who should be electing someone to lead them and not the school.

Although this was the first time I had come across such an ad, this has been suggested as a means of appointing chairs by the Academies Commission. The Commission published a report, Unleashing Greatness in 2013. The report states,

The Commission believes that the process for appointing chairs of governing bodies should become more professional and rigorous, in order to ensure high-calibre appointees. Chairs’ posts should be advertised, as is widely the case with other public sector Board roles, and schools should be expected to have at least one independent person on the selection panel for a new Chair.”

If I was asked to design an ad for a Chair, what would I put in it? In other words what would the job description and person specification be? The NCTL guidance describes the role of the chair is to

  • Ensure effective governance
  • Building an effective team
  • Acting as a critical friend to the Head
  • Ensuring school improvement
  • Ensuring statutory requirements are met

As far as person specification is concerned the candidate should

  • Be a team builder and team player
  • Be a good communicator
  • Have an interest in education
  • Be able to ask challenging questions of the school leadership
  • Be able to form a strong and professional relationship with the Head
  • Be able to manage time effectively
  • Be able to work effectively with the Clerk

The ad should also make clear what the GB’s expectations are. The Academies Commission’s Report goes onto state

In addition, any new Chair should be expected to undertake formal training within six months of being appointed. The Commission would like to see the National College hosting an annual conference for chairs of governors (which there is an onus to attend).”

As far as training is concerned, that should be an essential requirement. It may be argued that if a candidate has experience of chairing a board, that should be sufficient. In my opinion chairing a school governing board requires specific skills for which training is essential. One type of formal training which is available is the NCTL Chair Development Programme. Chairs undertaking training will also, hopefully, ensure that other governors keep their training up to date.

Another prerequisite in my opinion is experience of governance. Ideally, I would expect at least two years experience as a governor for anyone considering standing as chair. “Professional expertise” from other sectors is undoubtedly useful but school governance requires specific skills and knowledge, for example understanding progress and attainment data. Then there is the educational jargon!

In order for a GB to recruit a Chair through advertisement there needs to be a vacancy on the board for an appointed governor. Under current regulations only a serving governor can be elected as the Chair. The GB needs to agree the selection criteria and shortlisting, interview and appointment processes. Once these are in place the successful candidate can be elected as Chair. Will we see more and more GB’s advertising for Chairs? Only time will tell.