On 14th April 2018 I attended #BrewEdLeicester. If you are unaware of what BrewEd is, then this will give you some idea. The Leicester BrewEd was organised by the fantastic team of Mr_P_Hillips,Teacherglitter, Muggle Teacher and Matt Payne They put on a great show and everyone who came or followed on twitter had a wonderful time. In this blog I’ll write a bit about the presentations but mainly concentrate on what I, as a governor, took away from them.
The day started with Ed Finch telling us how BrewEd started. He told us that the whole point of BrewEd was to get people together to talk about education and in the process have a laugh and get to know each other. These events are organised by volunteers and are free from corporate sponsorships. The ticket prices are kept as low as possible. Those of you who read my blog or follow me on Twitter will know that I try to attend as many educational events as I can. I think it’s important for governors to go along to educational events. The events which are based around governance will obviously be directly useful to us but even those events where the emphasis isn’t governance will give us pause for thought. They are also a good way to engage with educators and find out what are the issues facing people teaching our children in schools we govern.
The first presentation was by JL Dutaut. He and Lucy Rycroft-Smith have edited a book called Flip the System UK.He told us that both Lucy and he had suffered burnout and asked the audience if they know people who had. A large majority of hands went up (about 95%). As governors we need to be aware of how our heads and staff are feeling. Do we look after the wellbeing of our heads and staff? JL made the point that there is a culture of blame in our education system. He quoted David Weston who has written a chapter in the book. David wants us to be data smart. He says that by the time the data has been aggregated and passed up to senior leaders, not only is there a time lag, the data has lost nuance and context. As governors we need to be very aware of this.
- We should think carefully of the data we ask the head and their team to provide us.
- Are we adding to workload?
- Are we asking for/aware of the context and the narrative behind the data?
- Is the reason we ask for data is to see if we are better than other schools or are we actually trying to see if our education for our students is getting better?
JL then asked us to read an extract from the book. This made me think whether governors read around the subject. When is the last time you read a book/article/blog about governance which wasn’t directly related to an issue faced by your board/school?
JL also told us that there are quarter of a million qualified teachers who are not currently teaching. As governors, teacher turnover is one something we should be monitoring in our schools.
- Are you aware of the number of teachers who leave your school?
- How does that number compare with other schools/national figures?
- Does your school conduct exit interviews?
- Do you get the results of these interviews and do you discuss any issues highlighted by these interviews?
During the question/answer session which followed JL’s session a point was made that autonomy and teacher agency can add to workload. For example while its very gratifying to design your own curriculum it will add to teacher workload. As governors, when your senior leaders bring a proposal to you do you ask about the effects that will have to teacher workload?
Next up was Jenny Holder who talked about developing an ethos for reading for pleasure. As governors are you aware of what the school’s approach/ethos is as far as reading for pleasure is concerned? When asking questions regarding this we will have to be careful that we don’t step over the strategic/operational divide.
The next presentation was by Dan Edwards who spoke about the need for closer relationships/collaboration/conversations between the primary and secondary phases. He feels that the collaboration isn’t as good as it can be because we don’t know enough about each other.
My questions for governor colleagues:
- Do governors have a part to play in this?
- Should we play a part in this?
- Do we know what happens to our students when they leave our primary school and go to the secondary school?
- Is the above something boards should be asking school leaders about?
Hannah Boydon talked about her school’s experience with making links with international schools. This is a good way to broaden your children’s experiences and expose them to different cultures. Again, this is something a board would not necessarily ask the head to do but if the head were to bring a proposal to the board then it’s worth considering. Hannah made the point that the eTwinning her school takes part in has helped with teacher retention in her school.
Then it was my turn to talk governance. I have published my slides on my blog if you want to see what I talked about. I’m aware that governance is a bit of a mystery for many people.
I hope I was able to demystify governance a bit. The most satisfying thing was the conversations which were sparked by the presentation.
- We talked about the difference between working strategically and the operational work of running the school by the head and their teams
- We discussed how to ensure that school monitoring visits did not result in putting teachers under stress.
- We also discussed how the head and governors should work together to ensure that these monitoring visits yielded results which the governors could use but were not seen by staff as almost like an inspection visit.
At the start of my talk I had asked for a show of hands from people who were governors and was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few hands go up. At the end of my talk I asked if people who weren’t already governors would think of becoming one in the future and was again very happy to see many people saying they would.
During the panel discussion at the end Dan made the point that if governors were visible and known to the staff then the fear about what they do will reduce. The panel members were asked if they had a magic wand which could change on thing what that would be. It will come as no surprise that my answer was to make training, at the very least induction training, mandatory for governors.
The theme which emerged was collaboration; collaboration between teachers, between phases, between school leaders and governors. I’m really grateful to the organisers for inviting me to talk governance. If you get a chance to attend a BrewEd event or for that matter any educational event, do go. These events give us a chance to tell our teachers what we do. At the end of the day we all want the same thing; a good education for all our children and if we get to know and appreciate the work done by everyone involved in education that task becomes that much easier. And you may even inspire someone to become a governor!
If you want to read a bit more about the sessions then I have collated the tweets using Wakelet which will give you a flovour of the day.
Once again, thank you to the organisers for having me and for organising such a great event.