Tag Archives: Governors

Vision statement matters

One of the core functions of governors is to ensure clarity of vision. Myatt (2016: 79) has made the point that

The strongest governing bodies express hope for their school.

This statement is the basis of the core question governors should ask themselves when they start thinking of their vision for their school.

Tarnow (2001) suggests that an organisation’s vision statement can serve the same purpose as that of a team jersey; it can serve to unite people to work towards a shared goal. Every organisation, irrespective of its size or its purpose, needs to be able to define its vision; its hopes for the future. Smith (2016) has discussed why a clearly defined vision is important. Although he has focused on corporate companies, what he says is equally applicable to schools. According to him, amongst other things, vision helps companies create effective strategies. As governing bodies are responsible for setting the strategic direction of their schools, it follows that they should create, develop and monitor the vision for their school. Indeed, whilst ensuring the clarity of vision is one of the core responsibilities of governing body, effective leadership for school improvement itself requires clear goals (Goldenberg, 2004, 15). Governors can make schools better by shaping and guarding the values and vision of the school through its key roles of strategic planning and monitoring and evaluation (Brighouse and Woods, 2013:60).

A vision statement is a company’s or organisation’s high level road map, indicating both what the company wants to become and guiding transformational initiatives by setting a defined direction for the company’s future and development (Quigley, 1994). In essence, the vision statement is an aspirational, but realisable description of what an organisation would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action and thus determining short or near term operational goals.

The question, “Why are we working in schools?” can be broadly answered by saying, “To provide education to our pupils”. The follow up question, “Why are we working in our particular school?” is the reason why governing bodies invest time in developing the vision for their school. However, a vision statement is not solely for internal consumption. Governors, staff, pupils, parents and carers, and the community, all of whom are our stakeholders, need to understand where we want to be in the future. Indeed, a school should be readily identifiable from its vision statement.

According to a parent governor of a school in South Africa, provision of first rate education is facilitated when vision forms part of the school’s comprehensive strategic plan (Modiba, 2001). Buck (2016: 61) says that the heads of schools judged to be outstanding all talked about the importance of a clear vision of a school’s strategic plan and a shared purpose. Governors, therefore, need to ensure that the vision has clear goals for the future which the SLT can lead the school towards.

Jones (2007) argues that developing a vision is a critical part of school improvement. She also makes the point that developing the vision for a school is an evolutionary process. Once the vision has been developed and agreed by all the stakeholders, it then needs to be reflected in classroom practice. This is the operational side of managing schools and it is the responsibility of Headteachers and their teams to develop and implement the resultant School Development Plan. Governing bodies are then required to the hold the Leadership team to account for the delivery of the agreed vision. Gabriel and Farmer (2009:45) state that “Stopping to confirm common goals among the stakeholders will help the team meet its objectives”.

Below I explain how the governing body can go about developing a vision statement for their school.

The first step could be to organise a series of workshops in which the governors and the senior leadership team (SLT) can come together and contribute equally to the development of the vision. According to Gabriel and Farmer (2009:46), it is important for all staff members to have a “common, agreed-on destination” to avoid wasting energy in un-focused efforts. It is also important for the governing body to involve the staff so that the vision becomes a shared vision. Buck (2016: 62) asserts that for a school to be successful there needs to be a sense of a shared direction of travel. The vision will only be deliverable if everyone has a hand in creating it and takes ownership of it. According to Covey (1992: 142):

As important as the end product is-a piece of paper that captures the family mission-even more important is what happens in the process of creating it.

If you ask people to work in groups during the workshops then ensure that governors and staff are equally represented in each group. The SLT attending the workshops should have meetings with the rest of the staff before the workshops so that the view presented by them during the workshops reflects the views of the rest of the staff too. In a similar way they can gather the views of the students too which can be discussed in the workshops. Gurley et al. (2015) have reported that when they surveyed students, 62% of the respondents indicated that their school had a vision statement but only 20% were able to recall any part of it. By gathering student views, not only would you get an insight to what they want their school to be like; they would have ownership of the vision.

In a similar fashion, parents could be asked to express what type of school they envision for their children.

When drawing up a shared vision, people participating in the exercise should be able to “describe a desirable future” and identify the leadership which will deliver the vision (Harvard Business School, 2003: 26). The specific questions which can be discussed in these workshops are:

  • Challenges being faced by the school and various opportunities available to us
  • Think of a student who joined Year X in September. What is your ambition for that student when he/she leaves school?
  • What opportunities do you think the school is able to offer its students and staff?
  • What do you think the school will look like in 5 years from now?
  • What are the characteristics of effective leadership which would help make the vision a reality?
  • How do we unlock potential of every student?
  • How do we nurture each student?
  • How do we develop “the whole person?”
  • Who is our community and what can we offer to various members of this community?
  • What are the hallmarks of our school leaders?
  • What type of environment do we want to create in our school?
  • What will a student leaving our school “look like” at the end of their time with us?
  • What will our school be like in three to five years? How might people describe it?
  • What are the challenges facing our students?
  • What could the challenges be in the future?
  • How can the school prepare them for life after school?
  • What are the key aspects which should be developed in schools and in our school?

Notes should be taken during each session and distributed before the next session. Themes which emerge during one workshop can be explored further in subsequent workshops.

Once all the issues have been explored and key themes identified a working party can be tasked with drawing up the vision statement which is then shared with governors and SLT. Try and keep the statement short and to the point. It should be specific to your school. The agreed draft can then be passed onto students, rest of the staff and parents for comments. The final vision statement is then written after comments have been taken into consideration, and published.

References

Brighouse, T., and Woods, D., 2013. The A-Z of School Improvement. Bloomsbury

Buck, A., 2016. ‘Leadership Matters’ John Catt Educational Limited

Covey, S.R., 1994. Principle-centered leadership. Fireside Press

Gabriel, J.G. and Farmer, P.C., 2009. How to Help Your School Thrive Without Breaking the Bank. Virginia. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Goldenberg, C.N. ,2004 Successful School Change: Creating Settings to Improve Teaching and Learning New York, NY: Teachers College Press Pg 15

Gurley, D.K., Peters, G.B., Collins, L. and Fifolt, M., 2015. Mission, vision, values, and goals: An exploration of key organizational statements and daily practice in schools. J Educ Change 16:217–242

Harvard Business School, 2003. Managing Change And Transition. EBook Edition, Boston, Mass. Harvard Business Review Press. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [Accessed 5 May 2017].

Jones, L., 2007. The Importance of Visions for Schools and School Improvement [Online]. Available from: http://cnx.org/contents/YQkJG7Yj@1/The-Importance-of-Visions-for- [Accessed 3 October 2017]

Modiba, S. N., 2001. The importance of vision and mission statements in promoting school effectiveness in Northern Province schools. Thesis (PhD) Rand Afrikaans University

Myatt, M., 2016. Hopeful Schools. Mary Myatt Learning Limited

Quigley, J.V., 1994. Vision: How leaders develop it, share it, and sustain it Business Horizons. 37 (5), pp. 37-41

Smith, G., 2016. 7 Reasons Your Company Needs a Clear, Written Mission Statement [Online]. Available from: http://www.glennsmithcoaching.com/7-reasons-your-company-needs-clear-written-mission-statement/ [Accessed 3 October 2017]

Tarnow, E., 2011. A Recipe for Mission and Vision Statements IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, Vol. 44, NO. 2, 138-141

Advertisements

@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?

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.

 

Academy Directors and their duties matter

This is a short blog. I thought it would be good to remind ourselves that although we are volunteers, we have various duties  placed upon us. Academy governors are company directors and therefore need to comply with Company Law. They are also charity trustees so need to comply with Charity Law too. Then there are the seven principles of public life.

Trustees’ Six main duties

  1. Ensuring that the charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit
  2. Complying with the charity’s governing document and the law
  3. Acting in the charity’s best interest
  4. Managing the charity’s resources responsibly
  5. Acting with reasonable care and skill
  6. Ensuring the charity is accountable

Duties of Directors under the Companies Act 2006

  1. Duty to act within powers
  2. Duty to promote the success of the company
  3. Duty to exercise independent judgment
  4. Duty to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence
  5. Duty to avoid conflicts of interest
  6. Duty not to accept benefits from third parties
  7. Duty to declare interest in proposed transaction or arrangement

 Seven Principles of Public Life: Nolan Principles

Selflessness
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

Integrity
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

Objectivity
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

Accountability
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

Openness
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

Honesty
Holders of public office should be truthful.

Leadership
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

 

Parent governor matters

The move to make governing boards skills based and move away from the stakeholder model has been on the cards for a long time. Lord Nash famously stated, “Volunteer, not amateur”. That comment was welcomed by governors as an indication that the government recognised the importance of governor training. Looking back now I think that was perhaps the first indication of the direction of travel.

The Governors handbook published in January 2015 said

The eligibility criteria for elected parent governors and staff governors remain the same; but when a vacancy becomes available, governing
bodies should make clear the skills they are looking for, to inform the electorate.
(Page 39. My emphasis).

Under Governor Elections, the Statutory guidance for governing bodies of maintained schools and local authorities in England (Aug 2015) stated

22….The best governing bodies set out clearly in published recruitment literature: ….any specific skills or experience that would be desirable in a new governor, such as the willingness to learn or skills that would help the governing body improve its effectiveness and address any specific challenges it may be facing. (Page 9. My emphasis).

The Governance handbook issued in November 2015 said

All boards, however many schools they govern, need people with skills appropriate to the scale and nature of their role; and no more people than they need to have all the necessary skills. (Page 5; Foreword by Lord Nash. My emphasis).

2….They include the importance of the board having: The right people with the necessary skills…. (Page 7. My emphasis).

3. All boards of maintained schools, academies and MATs should be tightly focused and no larger than they need to be to have all the necessary skills to carry out their functions effectively, with every member actively contributing relevant skills and experience. (Page 20. My emphasis).

5. The membership of the board should focus on skills, and the primary consideration in the appointment and election of new governors should be acquiring the skills and experience the board needs to be effective. Boards should therefore develop a skills-based set of criteria for governor selection and recruitment… (Page 20. My emphasis).

6. Meaningful and effective engagement with parents, staff and the wider community is vital, and not achieved by the presence of various categories of governor on the board. Governors must govern in the best interest of pupils; it is not their role to represent a stakeholder group. (Page 20)

8…Where governors are elected, every effort should be made to inform the electorate about the role of a governor and the specific skills the board requires and the extent to which candidates possess these. (Page 21. My emphasis).

Under present regulations, boards are required to have at least two parent governors (in a MAT they can be at the board level or on the LGB). Parent governors are appointed through elections. If no parent stands for election the board can appoint a parent to the position of the parent governor. Then came the White Paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere, which stated

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.

The White Paper did not come as a surprise to me as reading the above extracts from the handbook etc I had been expecting this. It has led to people complaining that the government is planning to remove parent governors (they are not; they are just removing the requirement). As things stand at the moment academies are free to have LA governors if they want to. Some academies opt to have them; others drop that clause from their Articles. This is what I think the government wants to happen with parent governors too. If a trust wants to retain parent governors then they can. What the White Paper suggests is that if a trust decides not have parent governors, it will be given the freedom to do so.

Those opposing this say this reduces parental engagement. The government had already made it clear that they do not see parent governors as means of engaging with the community.

6. Meaningful and effective engagement with parents, staff and the wider community is vital, and not achieved by the presence of various categories of governor on the board. Governors must govern in the best interest of pupils; it is not their role to represent a stakeholder group (Governance handbook, Nov 2015; Page 20).

Others point out that this will reduce the role democracy plays in education. Jonathan Simons of the think tank Policy Exchange has written eloquently about the role democracy plays (or not!) in education. I started my governor journey as an elected parent governor in a secondary school with just over a 1,000 students. As each parent/carer is entitled to vote, I assume nearly 2,000 ballot papers were sent out. I won the election and though I can’t remember the exact number of votes, I think they were in the region of 150 votes. Not an overwhelming mandate, wouldn’t you agree?! I suspect this low turnout is true for many, if not most, parent governor elections. So, although I became a governor by standing for election, I’m not too worried about not appointing governors through elections. (I also think that in many cases parent governor elections are a popularity contest, which is my other worry about appointment of governors through elections.)

Some of the objections to the White Paper have been based on the fact that

  • The Conservatives won the election by getting only around 36% of the votes and hence don’t represent the country
  • The White Paper proposals were not in the manifesto and hence undemocratic.

Both of the above objections have been addressed by Tarjinder Gill in her blog. (Targinder’s website is being revamped so this link is currently unavailable).

Parent governors are not parent representatives. Once they enter the boardroom they need to think, discuss, ask and vote according to what they think is in the best interest of ALL the students. As must other governors! So, I am not too worried about removing the requirement of having elected parent governors but seeing the strength of feeling I think what the government should do is as amend the proposal so that it says:

We will expect all governing boards to focus on seeking people with the right skills for governance. Local governing bodies (LGBs) will have two, and only two, parent governors. LGBs will be free to appoint parent governors either through election or appointment. These parent governors (irrespective of whether they are elected or appointed) will be subject to the same rules and regulations as other appointed governors.

The above modification retains the role of the parent governor at the local level (where they will be of most value) but removes the need to hold elections. This, I think, is a good compromise. It allows those LGBs who want to hold elections to continue to do so but as it frees those LGBs which may historically know they will not get anyone to stand for election, thus saving them time and money. It also allows LGBs to appoint a parent whose skill is needed but who may not want to stand for election or having stood, not win. This is not something which doesn’t happen under the present system. Many GBs co-opt parent governors who have come to the end of their term but whose skills are valued by the board. It will also allow the government to say, “You asked, we listened”.

Note 1: The Governance handbook when discussing federations states:

40. We have recently consulted on reducing the requirement for parent governors from one per school to two, and only two, with the proposed changes expected to come into force from September 2016.

I wonder if the above change will now come into effect or be quietly dropped while the government waits and sees how the White paper progresses.

Note 2: Jonathan Simons has also argued about retaining parent governors.

Note 3: Lord Nash explains the government’s thinking about parents and parent governors in the White Paper. School Week’s article discussed this here.

Feedback from Twitter:

Update: I have been asked if the number 2 refers to the number of governors in the “Parent governor” category or does it include governors who are appointed as governors in another category but happen to be parents too. My proposal is that number of governors in the “Parent Governor” category be limited to two and if other governors happen to be parents then they would not count towards the Parent Governor “quota”.

The Governance handbook Section 3: Working out what’s new matters. Part 4

This blog looks at Section 3 of the new Governance handbook. Additions in the new handbook are in red. Black text indicates that the text is from the old version and my comments are in green. The numbering used is that of the Governance handbook.

Section 3 – People

3. The department has given governing bodies more freedom to determine their own constitution, in addition to relaxing rules that, in the past, have meant some governing bodies had to be large. The department wants governing bodies to be All boards of maintained schools, academies and MATs should be tightly focused and no larger than they need to be to carry out their functions effectively with every member actively contributing relevant skills and experience. In general, the department believes that smaller governing bodies boards are more likely to be cohesive and dynamic, and able to act more decisively. Boards cannot afford to carry passengers.

The last sentence is a strong statement and one which I feel should be clearly stated as here.

5. The membership of the governing body should focus on skills, and the primary consideration in the appointment and election of new governors should be acquiring the skills and experience the governing body needs to be effective. Boards should therefore develop a skills-based set of criteria for governor selection and recruitment which can also be used to inform ongoing self-evaluation and governor training. For maintained schools, the School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2012 require all appointed governors to have the skills required to contribute to effective governance and the success of the school.

6. Meaningful and effective engagement with parents, staff and the wider community is vital, but not guaranteed and is not achieved by the presence of the various categories by the presence of the various categories of governor on the board.

Replacement of “not guaranteed” by “not achieved” is indicative of the fact the Department does not think engagement with stakeholders can be via stakeholder governors.

7. Governing bodies may consider re-constitution if things are not going well – for example following an Ofsted inspection or in the light of an external review. They may also consider re-constitution as a positive and proactive move to ensure they are fit for purpose for the future, including in the context of a conversion to academy status They should also reflect regularly on whether they have the right overall balance of people and skills, and consider the benefits that might result from restructuring the board’s constitution and membership. A Possible Road Map for Governing Board Reconstitution’ aims to help boards with the practicalities of how to approach the process of reconstitution.

8. Boards and others responsible for nominating or appointing governors should make use of all available channels to identify suitable governors. Where governors are elected, every effort should be made to inform the electorate about the role of a governor and the specific skills the board requires and the extent to which candidates possess these.

12. Having some members who have no close ties with the school can help ensure that the board has sufficient internal challenge to how they carry out their strategic functions.

This is interesting. Some boards may have a large number of governors who have close links with the school. This can happen when the term of a governor ends and the board re-appoints them in a different category.

17. Effective boards seek to secure or develop within their membership as a whole expertise and experience in analysing performance data, in budgeting and driving financial efficiency, and in performance management and employment issues, including grievances. They seek to recruit and/or develop governors with the skills to work constructively in committees, chair meetings and to lead the board.

19. All trustees of academies must by DBS checked, and the department is consulting on introducing the same requirement for governors of maintained schools – details on DBS checks in schools are within the statutory guidance Keeping children safe in education.

3.4 Transparency

29. Governors hold an important public office and their identity should be known to their school and wider communities. In the interests of transparency, all schools and academies boards should publish including
on their school website up-to-date details of the structure of the governing body and any committees, together with the names of their governors and their particular roles and responsibilities within that structure their governance arrangements in a readily accessible format. Further detail of the information that should be published is available in the statutory guidance Constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools and in the Academies Financial Handbook.

The details of what should be published has been left out and replaced by the link to where this can be accessed.

Part One looked at Contents

Part Two looked at Section 1

Part Three looked at Section 2

Shena Lewington has an online version of  Section 3 on her website