Tag Archives: Review

Governance in the spring and summer terms; reflecting and looking ahead matters

This has been a long and tiring term. As Easter approaches and governance slows down (it never stops completely!) I find myself sitting down with a cup of tea and looking back and reflecting on the term that was and also looking ahead to the last term of the year.

A major event in the Spring term was an inspection. One of the schools, Crofton Junior, belonging to Connect Schools Academy Trust where I’m a trustee, was inspected just before half term. This was a Good school and had had a short inspection last April. The inspection felt very thorough but fair. Governors and trustees met with the Inspector and had a chance to talk through what we knew of the school’s strengths and where we could do even more. The Inspector had read our minutes and understood MAT governance. The feedback was constructive. On a professional level, the inspector we met was knowledgeable and we could tell he had done his homework. On a personal level he was very accommodating. I had had to leave by a certain time and the inspector had no problem with that and quickly put me at ease. I didn’t have to reference Sean Harford’s myth busters as any trustee/governor who could attend the feedback was invited to do so. Ofsted come in for a lot of criticism (and some of that is justified) but I think when they get things right then we should talk about those too. This inspection was one such example. Although we don’t things for Ofsted, it was reassuring to find that they thought the same as us, that we were providing an education which our children are entitled to. Looking back, the one thing which stands out about the two days is how the whole community pulled together and were happy to do so. Our children are amazing. The staff and parents too. I think that’s what makes it an outstanding school. Yes, results are amazing, behaviour impeccable but it’s the “this is my school, I’m proud of it and I’ll do my best for the children” attitude which makes me really happy. Looking to the next term, we will continue doing what we’ve always done; our best for every child under our care.

The second thing which has been keeping me busy is governor recruitment. We have been looking to fill our community governor vacancies. We appointed two governors last term; one who is a deputy head in a local secondary school and the other has extensive experience of stakeholder engagement and project management. I’m not sure whether it’s because we are in a leafy, London suburb or just lucky but to get such great governors to add to the skill set we already have bodes very well for us. These candidates came to us via Inspiring Governance and Governors for Schools.

Reflecting on the process, I’m quite happy with the way we did it. We gave the candidates all the necessary information, sent them links to the Governance handbook and made clear the responsibilities that we as governors have. We had an interview process where we probed how their skills could complement those already present. We also worked through some scenarios. Although both candidates were not current governors they were able to work through these scenarios and gave us answers which indicated that they were aware of issues such as conflicts of interest, confidentiality etc. I think we will continue to use this process when we have further vacancies. It gives the candidates an idea of what’s involved and it gave us a chance to see how they could fit in with the team. I’m also a firm believer that although we are volunteers we need to approach governance in a professional manner and going through an interview process makes that clear. I am, however, aware that there are areas where there aren’t many people who put themselves forward to become governors and so interviewing someone who does may be a luxury people can’t afford. If that is you, I would still encourage you to meet with prospective candidates so that they have a chance to find out what being a governor is all about.

We have also thought about how to ensure that these governors understand their role. The trust is putting together a training programme and the first one they’ve been invited to is an induction session. I am also in the process of putting together an induction pack which will be ready by the time we go back. Once they have had a chance to work through it, I would like to ask them their thoughts about the whole induction process. I’d like to know what worked best, what didn’t and what could be made better. They have been assigned a mentor each and maybe this is something they could discuss with their mentors.

While I was writing this blog, I was made aware of this tweet.

This is something GBs should think about. If you have a vacancy then it may help to advertise the fact on your website. You never know, someone may come across it and decide to get in touch with you.

I have also been reflecting upon the Leadership Conference I attended as Chair of an LGB. My school is part of United Learning. Once a year they hold a two day Leadership Conference where all heads of schools and chairs of LGBs are invited. The members of the board, the CEO, Jon Coles, the Regional Directors and the Company Secretary attend too. This is a really good way to get to know other heads and chairs, to hear from the board and the CEO and to feedback to them. Communication in a MAT is very important and needs to be two way; from the board to the LGBs and from the LGBs to the board. The Leadership Conference is one way United Learning accomplishes this (there are other events too where the board and LGBs get together). Education with character is what United Learning is all about. This was evident at the conference from the keynote speech from Andrew Triggs Hodge OBE (retired British rower and a triple Olympic Gold Medallist and quadruple World Champion) to the stunning musical performance by students from Manchester Academy, a United Learning sponsored academy.

If MATs decide to have LGBs then these LGBs should add value and to do this LGBs should know what’s happening at the board level and should be able to communicate what’s happening at the local level. The vision and values that drive the work of the trust should be explicit and should drive the work of the LGBs. My other trust is a much smaller (and newer) than United Learning. Trust wide communication is something we are very keen to get right. We are exploring how we can best achieve this.

Looking ahead to the summer term we will continue looking at the curriculum, something we had started doing before the inspection. Communication, as I mentioned above, is another thing we will be working on. The board has started reviewing our vision and values. This is important as the trust is growing. On a personal level, I’m looking forward to attending educational events and presenting at some of these. I have the following events in my diary. It would be lovely to see you at some of these events.

There will also be the summer term board and LGB meetings. Looks like the next term will be a busy one too but that’s just how I like it to be.

Holidays between terms are a good time to sit back and reflect and also to look ahead. What was your last term like and what are you looking forward to in the summer term?

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Sixth anniversary matters

My blog is six years old today (28th March 2019)! When I started blogging I wasn’t sure how long I would keep going or if people would even want to read what I write. Six years later, here I am, still blogging and the number of people reading (and subscribing) steadily increasing. Thank you to all of you who read, comment on and share my blog.

A look at the past year:

The top ten most viewed posts were:

10. Schemes of delegation matter

9. Informing governors about inspection matters

8. SEND governor matters

7. Maximising governance time matters; a checklist. With thanks to Aidan Severs

6. Ofsted inspection handbook (Sept 2018) and governance matters

5.Elected governors and removal from office matters

4. Questions you may be asked and other Ofsted inspection matters

3.Good practice matters for governing bodies

2. Ofsted grade descriptors;Sept 2015; Guest post by Shena Lewington

The most read blog this year was

1. Ofsted questions for governors

The five most used search terms which led users to my blog were:

1. Ofsted grade descriptors
2. Ofsted questions for governors
3. Ofsted questions for governors 2018
4. Ofsted questions and answers
5. What are the procedures to remove a parent governor

This year two of my blogs made it to the Julia Skinner’s list of Top Blogs of the Week in Schools Week. The first was Why Blogging Matters and  the other one was Relationships between Charity Boards and Executive Teams Matter. 

This blog has been viewed in 104 countries (a big jump from 64 last year)! I’m sure most of them must have ended up here by mistake as I can’t imagine why anyone in Kyrgyzstan, for example, would be interested school governance in England. Most of the views, as expected, were from the UK, followed by the US.

I can honestly say that even after six years I still enjoy putting my thoughts down on here. It gives me a chance to tell people where I stand on various issues and enter into debate on governance related topics.

I also use my blog to review what has happened during the year and that blog serves not only as a review but also as a repository of important links.A shorter version was published by Schools Week too.

One of the things I enjoy blogging about is my account of the conferences I attend. I try and look at the presentations from a governor’s point of view. An example of this is my recent blog on researchED Birmingham (researchED is a grassroots movement trying to make teaching more evidence based). In this blog I’ve written about questions governors should be thinking about and asking about the topics covered in the presentations.

Lastly, I was really happy to see this tweet.

It’s wonderful that Brian sent this during March. Best birthday present ever! Thank you, Brian.

Staff wellbeing surveys matter: Guest Post

Bruce Greig is an entrepreneur and school governor. He served as Chair of Governors through two Ofsted inspections and worked with four headteachers. He set up School Staff Surveys after discovering how enlightening an anonymous staff survey can be and decided to make it easy for every school to run them. Below is a guest post written by Bruce on the topic of staff surveys.

I’ve been a school governor since 2011. A long while ago we asked our headteacher to run a staff wellbeing survey. We had heard mutterings of discontent from some staff, but others seemed very happy. Sometimes governors’ work is like the blind men appraising an elephant: you only see little glimpses of what’s really going on.

That survey we ran turned out to be transformational. It started a gradual, but dramatic, improvement in our the school staff culture.

Culture is very hard for governors to assess. Staff are often on their “best behaviour” during a learning walk or other governor visit. You don’t necessarily get a sense of how staff interact, and how they feel, when governors are not around.

We now do the same survey every year, and I think that every school should do this. In fact, I became so taken with the idea I set up a little side business just doing staff wellbeing surveys for schools: School Staff Surveys.

Here are some of my favourite questions (there are 69 questions in all, adapted from the world-renowed UK Civil Service People Survey).

Simple questions, but telling. And you can’t really ask a staff member this face-to-face (or, if you did, you can’t be sure of getting an honest answer). Of course, this survey question won’t tell you for sure whether or not your head is doing a good job, but it will help inform you. Staff might answer “Agree” because they just love the fact that the head lets them hide away in their classroom untroubled by observation or feedback. Or they might “Disagree” because they dislike a head who is actually doing a great job.

So the survey digs a little deeper into this, with questions like:

You can see that these more probing questions would help governors understand in more detail how the school is being led and managed.

Developing staff

As governors, we are well aware that recruiting staff is difficult: distracting, time-consuming and hard work. So it is much better if schools can do everything they can to develop and grow their existing staff. How’s that going? This question gives you an steer:

Staff might agree to this because they think to themselves “yes, I could go on those courses if I got round to asking”. Does your school actually have the processes in place to ensure that that development actually happens, and is it worthwhile? This more specific question gets to the crux of that:

And if you are able to develop and grow your staff, you should then get a resounding Strongly Agree to this question:

Feedback and appraisal

Since the introduction of performance related pay for teachers in 2014, it has been absolutely crucial that schools get their appraisal process right. Back in 2013, the last TALIS survey showed that around half of all teachers in England felt that feedback and appraisal was just a box-ticking exercise. If that shows up in the next TALIS survey, a lot of schools will be sitting on a tinderbox of potential grievances.

You are unlikely to hear from a teacher face-to-face that they think their appraisal is a waste of time. But if they do quietly think that, you could have a big problem on your hands – if their pay has been determined each year by a process they think is inadequate.

A regular wellbeing survey can look at this issue with questions like:

It isn’t just about how teachers view their own appraisal. It is just as important that staff feel others are managed well too, especially if they think other staff are not doing a good job. A question like this addresses that:

Teamwork

There are few things more toxic for a school staff culture than a staff member who doesn’t muck in. Won’t share resources, makes no effort to help out colleagues. I have heard of a school where a teacher appeared super professional and dedicated in her interactions with governors, but completely wrecked the school’s team culture in her interactions with staff. Literally leaving other teachers in tears. Had it not been for other staff speaking up, governors would have had no idea of the effect this teacher was having on the rest of the small team.

Being fair and respectful

Now we are getting into more sensitive territory. You’d hope that, if staff were not being treated fairly, or were suffering harassment, they would speak up. But I’ve learned that teachers are very reluctant to speak out about anything which might rock the boat (compared to my experience of other modern workplaces). If they keep their heads down, they have a very secure job. If they rock the boat, they fear that they might attract the dreaded career-ending “capability procedure”.

Your survey should include a couple of basic questions on this, like:

But also explicitly ask about discrimination:

And harassment:

Now then if you get a “yes” to either of these questions, the school can’t necessarily take any action. The survey is anonymous. The respondent might wish to remain anonymous. But your head, or CoG, could at least say to staff that the survey has shown that someone feels they have not been treated right and make sure everyone knows how to address their grievance safely if they want to.

There are another 40 questions in the survey that I run. There are plenty of ways that schools can run a survey like this. The UK Civil Service People Survey questions are in the public domain – you can put them into a Google Form or into Survey Monkey for free. One step up from that is a simple paid-for version like mine (School Staff Surveys), which takes the time and effort out of doing it all yourself. Or there are other providers like the Education Support Partnership who will administer a survey for you and follow it up with consulting and advice to help you address the issues it raises.

 

Reviewing 2018 and governance matters. With links

The year started with a new Secretary of State, Damian Hinds,  taking up office and ended with him writing to Amanda Speilman, HMCI, about Ofsted’s summary evaluations of multi-academy trusts (MATs).

The notable events of the year as they happened:

January

Emma Knights, CEO National Governance Association received an OBE in the New Years’ Honours List along with other governors.

Damian Hinds became the Secretary of State for Education. Sam Giymah replaced Jo Johnson as minister for higher education, Robert Goodwill was removed from his post as minister of state for children and families and Nadhim Zahawi was appointed as parliamentary under-secretary of state.

The updated its statutory careers guidance for schools to bring it in line with the government’s new careers strategy.

Amanda Spielman, while speaking at the Association for Science Education’s annual conference discussed the importance of a challenging curriculum with sufficient time to teach science stating “exams should exist in service to the curriculum, rather than the other way around.” She also said that “too few governing bodies look to understand curriculum quality or hold leaders to account for the curriculum beyond looking at test outcomes”.

Staff wellbeing was in the spotlight throughout the year. Figures released as a result of a freedom of information request showed that 3,750 teachers were on sick-leave for a month or more during the 2016-17 school year as a result of stress and mental health issues.

Sir David Carter (National Schools Commissioner) said governors and trustees are the “unsung heroes of the education system”. He also said that “effective governance lies at the heart of school improvement.”

Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP (Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee) wrote to Lord Agnew, the minister with responsibility for the school system and school governance, expressing “concerns over a lack of transparency and accountability” in the multi academy trust (MAT) system, lack of communication to parents and an overlap between the roles of regional schools commissioners (RSCs), Ofsted and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in the accountability system and MATs “stripping assets from their schools”.

National Foundation for Educational Research (NEFR) published a report on the effect of changes to school funding on school spending in England. Amongst other things it found that

  • The “observed benefits of higher spending are typically greater” for disadvantaged pupils
  • Schools are expected to face ongoing significant cost increases, especially in regard to staffing

The £45 million MAT Development and Improvement Fund, announced last year, was allocated to over 400 multi-academy trusts (MATs) “to improve underperforming schools” with £30 million of this money going to around 300 academy trusts in areas facing the greatest challenges across England”.

The next six Opportunity Area plans (Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent) were announced. They would share £25 million across 75 projects aimed at giving “more support for schools, many of which will increase pupils’ literacy and numeracy skills”.

Damian Hinds, wrote an article in The Times welcoming the “rigorous new curriculum and a return to core academic subjects” introduced in recent years and supporting the need for “high-quality vocational routes” post 16.

The changing role of governors in MATs was discussed in tes and concern expressed that the number of governors was being slashed as schools joined MATs.

The revised 2016/17 GCSE exam data for secondary schools and were published showing 365 schools are below the floor standard in 2017 and 271 meet the coasting definition”. This means that 12% of state-funded schools are “below the secondary floor standard”.

DfE released official statistics on MAT performance measures for 2016-2017. The MAT performance tables comparison and benchmarking of performance for both Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4. These tables currently only include MATs with three or more schools that have been part of the trust for at least three years.  According to these tables, 45% of MATs performed “significantly below average” in terms of pupil progress in Key Stage 4 in 2017.

DfE updated its guidance for schools causing concern emphasizing that formal action for coasting schools would occur only in exceptional cases and, most commonly, “the RSC will look to work collaboratively with school leaders to bring about improvement” using a range of support mechanisms.

Damian Hinds and Nick Gibb spoke at the World Education Forum. Damian Hinds spoke about core academic subjects being at the heart” of preparing students for success in the future and the importance of soft skills, character and resilience.  Nick Gibb spoke about the importance of a curriculum in ensuring education equity by furnishing pupils with the knowledge they need, so that they are best prepared for the rigours of a globalised 21st century jobs market.

Automatic disqualification rules for charity trustees and charity senior positions were issued. As academies are chariots these will apply to academy trustees too.

Sir David Carter wrote an article for NGA’s Governing Matters magazine setting out how governing boards can help support disadvantaged pupils.

February

During a debate at the Institute of Education Sir David Carter said that he would bring to an end the practice of visits on behalf of RSC in close proximity to visits by Ofsted as that created pressure and added to the workload of school staff.

National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) called for a “national framework for salaries within the state school system” following concerns of high pay of certain academy CEOs.

The Local Government Association (LGA) submitted a briefing to the House of Lords focusing on the LGA’s concerns around councils having no power to enter homes or see children who are home educated which made it difficult for them to carry out safeguarding duties. The briefing also raised concerns around illegal schools.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi MP, responded to questions on educational outcomes of children with autism recognising that it is frequently taking too long for children to receive a diagnosis of autism and the disproportionate number of children with autism being excluded from school.

The Education Committee held its second evidence session into Alternative Provision (AP). Witnesses were critical of rigid school behavioural and zero tolerance policies. Witnesses emphasised the failure to recognise the impact of poverty.

March

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System, Lord Agnew, wrote to the chairs of all academy trusts in England

  • Recognising the important work that they do for young people’s education. He emphasised that trusts that are performing well should not see frequent interventions from the Department for Education (DfE).
  • Urging them to ensure that budgets are managed to deliver value for money, particularly when setting the pay of lead executives
  • Emphasising the role of chairs in reducing teacher workload by only collecting the necessary information
  • Ensuring that trust governance contacts are up to date

The National Audit Office (NAO) published a report on conversion of maintained schools into academies.

  • The conversion of almost 7,000 schools has cost roughly £745 million since 2010-11.
  • Challenges around the conversion of schools into academies are likely to increase in future
  • Creating coherence in the school system “will be crucial to secure value for money and provide children with access to good end-to-end schooling”.

In 2016 the government had consulted on its proposed reforms on reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect.  The outcome of the consultation and  the government’s response confirmed that no further legal duties will be imposed on school staff (and other practitioners, groups and organisations) to report child abuse concerns or to take appropriate action where they know or suspect a child is at risk of or actually suffering from child abuse.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman told the Education Select Committee that “accountability systems need to reflect the way that the system actually operates today” which was why Ofsted would like to be able to inspect MATs. While speaking at the ASCL Conference she talked, amongst other things, about curriculum, about Ofsted not expecting schools to prepare for inspections and about moving away from a compliance approach to safeguarding.

DfE announced a review to better understand the inequalities surrounding the school exclusion system.

The Education Select Committee heard from Damian Hinds (who acknowledged the significant cost pressures that schools are experiencing but suggested there would be no additional funding ahead of the comprehensive spending review in 2019, did not answer directly if Ofsted were to be permitted to inspect MATs) and  Nick Gibb (who told MPs that the DfE is not struggling to find sponsors for schools across the country as a whole).

April

The chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, Eileen Milner, wrote to the chairs of all academy trusts in England that pay two or more salaries between £100k and £150k, asking them to justify these salaries.

James Bowen, a senior director at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) writing inTes talked about the important role played by governors and trustees in schools. He also emphasised the need for high quality training, mentoring and support.

Ofsted announced changes to its inspection timeframe under which schools previously judged ‘good’ will now receive a short inspection approximately every four years rather than every three years. Schools judged ‘requires improvement’, ‘serious weaknesses’ or ‘special measures’ will be re-inspected within 30 months (previously the timeframes were 30, 18 and 24 months respectively) while monitoring inspections would continue as before.

The Education Select Committee announced inquiries into the level of school and college funding and into support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Ambition School Leadership and LKMco published research “into the leadership, vision, strategy and operations of multi-academy trusts (MATs)”. Five models of school improvement within MATs were identified, which trusts may move through as they grow.

Sir David spoke about the crucial role of governance in ensuring schools are the best they can be at the London Regional Conference. He also expressed the view that it was not good practice for the lead executive in an academy trust to also be a trustee. Later on in the month Sir David announced his retirement from the Civil Service.

May

Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, addressed the National Association of Headteachers annual conference in Liverpool and  discussed the role of Ofsted, the future of accountability measures, academisation and improving career support for teachers.

DfE  announced the setting up of a Selective Schools Expansion Fund of £50 million for existing selective (grammar) schools to expand their premises to create new places.

The Education and Skills and Funding Agency  published information on the enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate that chairs of academy trusts must have. Chairs are also required to have their application countersigned by the secretary of state for Education.

The Public Accounts Committee heard evidence from Emma Knights of NGA as part of their inquiry into the value for money delivered on converting schools to academies.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report on the value for money of Ofsted inspection of schools. It found that “as a result of decisions by the Department and Ofsted, the level of independent assurance about schools’ effectiveness has reduced”. It also reported that 44% of headteachers said that inspection had led to improvements in their school while 71% agreed that inspectors provided useful feedback. 99% of Ofsted inspectors who are also serving practitioners said that the knowledge and experience gained was valuable to their own school(s).

The House of Commons Education Select Committee held an accountability session with the minister for school standards, Nick Gibb. Grammar schools, executive pay, recruitment and retention and English Baccalaureate were some the topics he was asked about.

June

The NGA, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) published a joint letter to thank school governors and trustees.

Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds and Shadow Secretary of State Angela Rayner attended the NGA Summer Conference. The Minister announced

  • Doubling of funding for governance training and support to £6 million up to 2021.
  • Requirement for academy trust accounts to detail staff earning over £100,000 and the percentage of teaching time those individuals undertake.
  • A “more robust process” to manage related party transactions within which “from April 2019 trusts will have to seek approval from EFSA [Education and Skills Funding Agency] for related-party transaction payments of more than £20,000” whilst “transactions below £20,000 will need to be formally declared”.

The Academies Financial Handbook, effective September 2018, was published

  • Requiring rusts to share monthly management accounts with the chair
  • Requiring trusts to meet regularly enough and for bigger trusts to consider meeting more than three times a year
  • Removal of the term “ex officio” from the description of the senior executive leader, to show that he or she does not automatically become a trustee.
  • Requiring trust boards to ensure their approach to executive pay is transparent, proportionate and justifiable

Dominic Herrington was  confirmed as the interim National Schools Commissioner (NSC).

Education Policy Institute published a report comparing the performance of ‘academy chains’ and the collective performance of maintained schools under different local authorities. They found

  • “What matters most is being in a high performing school group, not being in an academy rather than a local authority maintained school or vice-versa”
  • Local authorities in London outperform other areas of the country
  • There are cases of high performance and of sustained underperformance among both local authorities and academy chains

The education and youth ‘think and action-tank’ LKMco and the school mental health organisation Minds Ahead  published a report into the scale and causes of youth mental health issues. The report found that “75% of mental health problems begin before the age of 18”. The report also highlighted that “school leaders, including governors [and trustees] have the power to set the climate within their schools and to place pupil wellbeing at the heart of their decisions”.

SEND Governance Review Guide commissioned by Whole School SEND and co-funded by the DfE and Driver Youth Trust in partnership with governance leaders was published.

Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) published a guide for governing boards on Understanding your Data setting out the broad range of information governing boards might need to consider when fulfilling their duties.

Secretary of state Damian Hinds appeared before the House of Commons Education Select Committee to answer MPs’ questions on a whole range of issues including school funding, careers guidance, the wellbeing of pupils, exclusion of children with SEND, the accountability system and teacher workload and retention.

July

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman spoke at the Education Policy Institute about the inspection of schools which are part of multi-academy trusts (MATs). She reported two common misconceptions that inspectors encounter:

  • Schools in MATs often see themselves as separate to the leadership of the trust rather than part of the same legal entity
  • “Local governing bodies” are the accountable body for the governance of the school when in fact that is the role of the trust board

She also reported that Ofsted will begin a training programme to improve inspectors’ understanding of MAT structures and governance.

DfE published non-statutory guidance for mixed schools (maintained, academies and other independent schools) on gender separation and aims to provide support to school leaders, staff and governing boards in identifying what is legally acceptable when it comes separating pupils by sex.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) published a new analysis comparing changes in school spending per pupil in Wales and England since 2009-10. It found that spending per pupil reduced by 8% in England compared to 5% in Wales.

Ofsted published an update for its inspectors, which includes a clarification that schools should inform all governors/trustees of the inspection and that arrangements should be made for inspectors to meet the chair of governors/chair of the board of trustees and as many governors/trustees as possible during the inspection, and that as many governors/trustees as possible should also be invited to attend the final feedback meeting.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published a report in to its converting schools to academies inquiry. The report said that the government seemed not to be learning the lessons from high profile academy failures. It called for greater transparency for parents and for support for schools which wanted to become academies (including finding sponsors).

Education Select Committee (ESC) took evidence from experts as part of its inquiry into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). In her evidence Baroness Warnock said that schools should be rewarded for inclusivity.

Data released by DfE showed that there was a 15.5% rise in the number of permanent exclusions and a 12.5% rise in the number of fixed rate exclusions in 2016/2017 compared to 2015/16.

A new research report from Ofsted into obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in primary schools outlines that schools should not be seen as a “silver bullet” to tackling the complex societal issue of childhood obesity.

August

DfE published the results of a study using a series of “two-day, in-depth, qualitative case studies” with a range of London and non-London schools with consistently good and poor outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. The research looked to assess whether school cultures and practices conducive to high performance were “unique to, or more deeply ingrained in, high-performing London schools” compared to others across the country.  The report concluded that pupil performance was a better indicator of cultures and practices than where a school was located geographically. High-performing schools tended to “hold particularly high expectations”, “engender positive relationships” across the school community and “responded positively to pupils’ aspirational goals” regardless of location.

Ofsted published the findings of its Annual Teachers Survey 2018: Teachers’ Awareness and Perceptions of Ofsted. It found:

  • 51% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “Ofsted acts as a reliable and trusted arbiter of standards across all different types of schools in England” compared with 35% who agreed or strongly agreed
  • 62% of teachers whose school had been inspected by Ofsted felt “the final judgement reached by the inspection team was a fair and accurate assessment”.
  • Two thirds (66%) of teachers had heard of off-rolling and a fifth (21%) had seen it happen

A ruling from the Upper Tribunal means that schools must make appropriate adjustments for pupils with violence linked condition before looking towards exclusion.

September

The Tes/NGA survey report, “School governance in 2018” was published. Amongst other things it found

  • Three quarters of governors and trustees have a negative view of the government’s performance in education over the past year
  • Just one in five are confident that they can manage budget constraints without compromising the quality of education. Only half of respondents said that that they are balancing income and expenditure with almost a third drawing on reserves
  • Staff recruitment is particularly challenging in regions surrounding London and in schools with lower Ofsted grades

In a letter written to CEOs, principals and Chairs of Trustees, Eileen Milner, Chief Executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), outlined the most significant changes to the Academies Financial Handbook. The letter drew their attention to the changing of rules on related party transactions, the expectations for trusts to ensure that they are “transparent, proportionate and justifiable” in regard to executive pay, the role of trustees in scrutinising the trust budget, and ensuring they keep up to date on the monthly financial management reports of the trust.

Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Ofsted, published a new commentary which outlined that a new inspection framework will have the curriculum as a central focus and acknowledged that Ofsted had placed “too much weight on test and exam results”.

Over 1,000 headteachers from all over the country marched to Westminster to deliver a letter to Phillip Hammond, the chancellor, calling for increased funding and outlining how seven years of budget cuts have resulted in financial crisis for a lot of schools.

October

Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education, announced key policy measures:

  • English hubs
  • Maths hubs
  • £10 million to “support the spreading of best practice and knowledge on behaviour management and classroom management”
  • Careers guidance
  • T Levels: capital funding to support the roll-out of the new technical qualifications
  • Sports Action Plan

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, has announced some of the changes Ofsted plans to make to the schools inspection framework. The aim of these changes is to move Ofsted’s focus from headline data to how schools are educating pupils and the substance of the curriculum. A formal consultation on the new draft framework will take place from January with implementation planned from September 2019.

Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education, announced a £24million government investment in the North East of England. The “Opportunity North East” scheme is intended to provide opportunities and job prospects to young people, tackling issues which can cause areas to feel “left behind”.

Key for School Leaders published a report entitled The Challenges of Leading a Rural School . It discussed the specific issues facing rural schools.

While speaking to the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) Nadhim Zahawi, children and families minister, talked about  the important contribution maintained nursery schools make to closing the attainment gap.  He urged “all councils, all local authorities, not to make premature decisions on the future of these schools at this stage.”

November

The Institute of Directors published report setting out six key challenges facing school governors, as it seeked to encourage and enable business leaders to bring their expertise to the boards of schools and school trusts.

House of Commons education select committee heard from educational experts, schools and local authorities as part of their inquiry into education for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

DfE’s Workload Advisory Group published its report which includes recommendations for governing boards. The Secretary of State for Education accepted all of the report’s recommendations and committed to take action in a joint letter which was signed by NGA, amongst others.

The Department for Education (DfE) published the academy sector annual reports and accounts for 2016/17. The accounts show

  • 125 trusts (4% of academy trusts) were paying at least one member of staff more than £150,000
  • Details of the numbers of academy trusts (185 in all) in cumulative deficit at the end of August 2017
  • The number and value of related party transactions conducted in that year: 2,399 totalling £134 million.
  • Figures for pupil attainment in different types of school

DfE updated its guidance on mental health and behaviour in schools with information on how to identify behaviours that may be related to a mental health problem. It Also covered are the questions of working with other professionals and external agencies, along with where to find extra support.

DfE announced that a new statutory assessment system for pupils not in subject-specific study will replace P scales 1 to 4 from 2020. The ‘7 aspects of engagement’ approach focuses on abilities in specific areas such as awareness, curiosity and anticipation.

School Dash and RS Assessment produced a report exploring the association between pupil characteristics and outcomes in primary reading and maths. The data which will be useful for governors focuses on

  • Performance of summer born children as compared to their peers
  • Comparison of performance in maths between boys and girls
  • Comparison of attainment in reading between disadvantaged children and peers

House of Commons Public Accounts Committee held an inquiry into academy accounts and performance.

December

Ofsted published its annual report for 2017/18.

Key findings relating to schools:

  • 95% of early years providers are judged good or outstanding, with 86% of schools judged at least good.
  • Between January 2016 and January 2017, 19,000 pupils in years 10-11 “dropped off schools rolls”, with around half of these not appearing on another school roll.
  • Ofsted identified around 300 schools with “exceptional levels” of pupils coming off-roll.
  • Local area SEND inspections found continued lack of coordinated 0-25 strategies and poor post-19 provision.
  • A subsection of schools which have been persistently judged less than “good”, with over 490 “stuck in a cycle of poor performance” since 2005. Spielman called these “stuck schools”.
  • Leadership capacity within the sector is “worryingly thin”.

Priorities for the year ahead:

  • In December, following some targeted piloting and inspector training, Ofsted will be changing the process for reviewing MATs by introducing MAT summary evaluations.
  • From September 2019 Ofsted will use the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) to rebalance inspection and look more into school curriculums.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director, Education, published a blog setting out “A new approach to evaluating the work of multi-academy trusts”. Ofsted published guidance for inspectors for summary evaluation of MATs. Damian Hinds wrote to Amanda Spielman saying that Ofsted will “need to be clear that these are in no sense a school inspection, or something which can affect the normal schedule for school inspections, and ensure there is no suggestion that these schools have been assessed or inspected.” He also urged that inspectors “ensure that these visits do not create undue burdens on the schools or MAT”.

Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards, wrote to Amanda Spielman asking that Ofsted increase the level of inspection for outstanding schools to 10% (rather than the current 5 – 10%).

Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) released new guidance to help schools engage with their parents to “improve children’s academic outcomes”.

Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) released new guidance to help schools engage with their parents to “improve children’s academic outcomes”.

Primary school performance tables for 2017/18 were released.Governors can compare the performance of their school with comparable schools.

Schools Week published my review of 2018 which can be read here.

Reviewing 2017 and governance matters. With links.

Another busy year for governors. This was the year in which we saw, amongst other things, the publication of the Competency framework and the change in legislation which now allows governing bodies to remove elected governors.

The notable events of the year as they happened:

January

2017 started with some good news about governors receiving gongs in the New Year’s Honours list. As we are the largest volunteer force in the country it is good to see governance getting recognition.

January also saw the publication of the latest version of the Governance handbook and the Competency Framework.

Amanda Spielman took up her post as HMCI.

Ofsted inspectors starting leading short inspections.

February

Governors and trustees of 40 schools in West Sussex wrote to MPs to warn them that they would refuse to sign off budgets and carry out their supervisory work because of their concerns about funding.

Education Datalab warned that a minority of “pupils are being ‘managed out’ of mainstream schools… with the effect of boosting the league table performance of the school which the pupil leaves”.

The Teacher Development Trust analysed schools’ spending on CPD and found that, across the whole sector, on average this accounts for just 0.7% of their income. Schools rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted were spending less on average than others and over 20,000 teachers work in schools where there is no CPD budget.

NGA produced some questions that governing boards could use as a basis for discussing staff CPD: Questions for governing boards to ask: Staffing

Vicky Beer, RSC for Lancashire and West Yorkshire, who had announced that she would be stepping down in May to lead the newly formed Greater Manchester Learning Trust reversed her decision to resign and decided to stay on as RSC for the area.

NGA and the school leaders’ union NAHT published an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, calling for more money to be allocated to the education budget.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Education Governance and Leadership discussed school funding. Contributions were made by MPs, governors, trustees, headteachers, teachers, school business managers and parents. The minutes of the meeting are available to download here.

The government announced that the “sugar tax” would raise a total of £415 million. For local authority (LA) schools, a proportion of the money will be paid directly to the LA. Larger MATs will also receive a direct allocation. Smaller Mats and single academy trusts will need to bid for the money through a “healthy pupil’s capital fund”. The funding will not become available until April 2018.

The Social Mobility Commission has published new researchnto “the barriers to progress that low income pupils face at secondary school”, emphasising that “decisions and actions taken by schools can have a profound impact on outcomes”

March

NGA published a new version of its skills audit tool

Justine Greening,announced her intention to put Relationships and Sex Education (SRE) on a statutory footing, “so every child has access to age appropriate provision”.

The Education Select Committee released a report detailing the findings of its inquiry into the performance of multi-academy trusts, outlining “significant concerns” about the performance, accountability and expansion of MATs and noted there was no evidence to support “large scale expansion”.

The Department for Education released reports and recommendations from a number of 16-19 education area reviews across England. Beginning in 2015, these reviews were designed to “ensure that colleges are financially stable into the longer-term” and “well-positioned to meet the present and future needs of individual students and the demands of employers”.

DfE published advice to help schools understand their obligations and duties in relation to asbestos management in schools.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman announced “a major investigation into how well schools are using the curriculum to ensure children receive a broad education”.

Ofsted published a study of the reliability of Ofsted’s new short inspections. It found that In 22 of the 24 inspections (of primary schools), both inspectors agreed on the outcome of the short inspection.

The 9th School Inspection update had some useful clarifications around “short-inspections”, safeguarding, new GCSE’s, technical qualifications and how inspectors will liaise with executive leaders and the board of trustees in multi-academy trusts (MATs). The update also made it clear that in MATs the trust board and senior executive leader will be both informed about an inspection of one of their schools and invited to the feedback sessions and the lead inspector will also offer to meet with the MAT’s executive leader and the chair of the board.

John Edwards’ appointment as RSC for or East Midlands and the Humber was announced.

Schools Week published an article looking at CEO pay in MATs.

DfE started a consultation on its proposed revisions to the statutory guidance on the exclusion of pupils.

Health and Education committees started a joint inquiry into the role of education in the mental health of children and young people.

BBC published the results of a survey of 4,000 governors where the funding issue was one of the issues raised by governors.

Ofsted released official statistics about the outcomes of school inspections in autumn 2016/17:

  • 70% of schools inspected were judged “good” or “outstanding”
  • 61% of schools previously judged “requires improvement” improved to “good” or better
  • across England, 89% of schools are currently “good” or “outstanding” overall

Members of the National Union of Teacher (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lectures voted to amalgamate to form the National Education Union (NEU).

The National Governors’ Association officially became the National Governance Association to reflect changes in the way schools are governed.

DfE launched a public consultation on the future of the primary assessment system in England.

Inspiring Governance service published a new recruitment guide, ‘The right people around the table.’ This is designed to help school governors and trustees plan and carry out recruitment and induction.

The Education Secretary wrote to the Education Select Committee Chair confirming that a grade 4 in the newly reformed GSCE system (with grading set between 1-9, with 9 being the highest level of achievement) would now be considered a “standard pass” and a grade 5 a “strong pass”.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) merged with the Skills Funding Agency to form the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)

An independent review on behaviour management in schools entitled ‘Creating a culture: How schools can optimise behaviour’ by behaviour expert Tom Bennett was published.

DfE published statistics on pupil absence in primary and secondary schools for the 2015 to 2016 academic year.

April

School Governance (Constitution and Federations) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 published giving maintained school governing bodies the power (from 1st September 2017) to remove elected parent and staff governors by majority decision of the governing body. From 1 May 2017, any person who has held office as an elected parent or staff governor and removed from the governing body during their term of office, will be disqualified from serving or continuing to serve as a school governor for five years from the date of their removal.

Dr Tim Coulson, (RSC for the East of England and north-east London) announced that he will be stepping down and moving on to become the chief executive of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust.

DfE published a Competency Framework for clerks.

May

On the final day of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) annual conference members discussed a motion about governance which received considerable twitter reaction. The motion was “Conference calls on the National Executive, working with the National Governors’ Association and other relevant organisations, to campaign for a reduced emphasis on governance within the judgement for leadership in Ofsted and reduce the expectations, workload and ever-increasing accountability of the volunteers who put themselves forward as governors of our schools.” The retention of governors was also listed as a concern, with this being linked to headteachers’ careers which were “being put on the line by bewildered governors”. Emma Knights and Russell Hobby discussed this in the NGA’s blog.

The House of Commons Education and Health Committees published a joint report into the role of education in supporting the mental health of children and young people

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Education published its report on its inquiry on how well schools prepare children for their future.

Alison Critchley, Chief Executive of RSA Academies wrote a guest blog for NGA about the role of members in academy trusts.

BBC and Schools Week reported that over 20 school governing boards in West Sussex planned to hold a symbolic strike today (Friday 19 May) in response to fears over school funding and the projected £3bn in real-term budget cuts by 2020.

June

The general election resulted in a hung parliament. Justine Greening, Nick Gibb and Robert Halfon were re-elected. Edward Timpson, lost his seat in Crewe and Nantwich. Neil Carmichael, previously chair of the Education Select Committee and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Governance and Leadership, was defeated in Stroud. Former Conservative Education Secretaries Michael Gove and Nicky Morgan retained their seats, as did Labour Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner and her predecessor Lucy Powell. Sarah Olney, previously the Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, was not re-elected. Former teachers Emma Hardy (Hull West and Hessle) and Laura Smith (Crewe and Nantwich) were newly elected MPs.

DfE confirmed that Rebecca Clark, the RSC for the south west of England would be stepping down. Both the TES and Schools Week reported that she will be joining Ark as regional director for secondary schools in London and Portsmouth.

NGA wrote to Justine Greening asking for greater focus on stakeholder engagement, and highlight the fundamental change in school governance brought about by the growth of multi academy trusts.

Ofsted launched a consultation on proposed changes to the process for short inspections of ‘good’ schools. The consultation proposed extending the period in which a converted inspection will be completed from 48 hours to 15 working days and that schools “in complex circumstances” (identified through Ofsted’s standard risk assessment) will automatically receive a full inspection.

Ofsted amended its guidance about raising concerns and making a complaint about Ofsted.

The Queen’s Speech set out the government’s legislative programme for the next two years. There was no mention of removing the ban on new selective schools and ending universal infant free school meals. The government will continue to convert “failing” schools to academies.

The NGA, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Local Government Association (LGA) produced a new edition of What governing boards should expect from school leaders and what school leaders should expect from governing boards”.

Governors were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to education.

Secretary of state for education Justine Greening reaffirmed the government’s commitment that no school will lose funding under the national funding formula proposals.

DfE appointed Sue Baldwin as the new regional schools commissioner for the East of England and North East London, replacing Tim Coulson who resigned.

July

DfE announced ministerial portfolios.

  • Justine Greening Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities
  • Nick Gibb Minister of State for School Standards with an expanded brief that includes Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) and Minister for Equalities
  • Robert Goodwill Minister of State for Children and Families
  • Jo Johnson Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation
  • Anne Milton Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills and Minister for Women
  • Lord Nash Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System with responsibility for school governance.

Nick Gibb confirmed the government would drop plans for removing infant free school meals and that no school would see a cut in funding as a result of the move to the new national funding formula.

University of Coventry published a research report on What the Prevent Duty means for School and Colleges in England.

DfE published its response to the consultation on the Implementation of the English Baccalaureate. The consultation received a total of 2,755 responses, 69 of which were submitted by school governors or trustees.

The Secretary of State announced that the Department for Education’s Schools financial benchmarking site had been updated and improved.

DfE published updated guidance on school exclusion to clarify rules that apply to exclusions and process of review.

DfE published findings of a survey of academy trusts covering topics such as reasons for conversion and how they are using their academy status.

The Social Market Foundation published “Commission on Inequality in Education”, an independent, cross-party initiative which examined the causes and effects of inequality in education.

DfE launched an updated and improved version of Analyse School Performance (ASP), the replacement service to RAISEonline.

August

DfE) released the latest version of the STPCD, giving a 2% uplift to the statutory minima and maxima of the main pay range and a 1% uplift to the minima and maxima of all other pay ranges in the national framework (including headteacher groups) and all allowances across pay ranges.

Eileen Milner appointed as CEO of Education and Skills Funding Agency.

September

DfE released an updated version of the Statutory Guidancesetting out the arrangements for the constitution of governing bodies of all local-authority-maintained schools.

The new edition of Ofsted’s School Inspection Update provided details of how inspectors are instructed to approach school performance data.

The membership of the House of Commons Education Select Committee announced.

  • Robert Halfon (Chair)     Conservative
  • Lucy Allan        Conservative
  • Michelle Donelan    Conservative
  • Marion Fellows        Scottish National Party
  • James Frith        Labour
  • Emma Hardy        Labour
  • Trudy Harrison        Conservative
  • Ian Mearns        Labour
  • Lucy Powell        Labour
  • Thelma Walker        Labour
  • Mr William Wragg    Conservative

Lord Theodore Agnew was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, taking over from Lord Nash

The scoping report ‘Who Governs Our Schools? Trends, Tensions and Opportunities’ by Dr. Tony Breslin FRSA published by the RSA launced at APPG on Education Governance and Leadership.

A new consultation on changes to short inspections announced.

DfE launched ‘Get Information About Schools (GIAS) – the new register for schools and colleges which replaced the previous Edubase system.

October

Justine Greening announced new measures at the Conservative Party conference

  • 12 million funding for a network of new English hubs starting in the North of England to improve literacy
  • Extra £6 million for Maths hubs
  • New focus for the £140 million Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF) to boost literacy and numeracy at Reception
  • £30 million in “tailored support” to get teachers into schools struggling with the recruitment and retention of teachers
  • Student loan “forgiveness” pilot in regions that struggle to recruit high quality teachers, initially targeted to attract 800 modern foreign language and 1700 science teachers
  • New style bursaries for trainee maths teachers with £20000 upfront and further increments in years 3 and 5 of teaching

Ofsted published its 5 year strategy of being “a force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation”.

NGA published results of the NGA/TES survey of governors.

Chief inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, published a commentary on preliminary research findings into the primary and secondary curriculum.

NGA wroteto the Chancellor of the Exchequer outlining the difficulties with school budgets and seeking additional funding for schools.

Results of the headteacher board elections announced. 32 academy leaders were elected to the eight headteacher boards.

DfE introduced a new fund (open to existing trusts that plan to take on and improve at least two additional schools and to those planning on forming a new MAT which takes on and improves two schools or more).

DfE updated its guidance on strategies schools can employ to spend the year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium effectively. This money is given to schools “to support year 7 pupils who did not achieve the expected standard in reading or maths at the end of key stage 2”.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, and Chair of Ofsted, Julius Weinberg, gave evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee. She

  • Said she had “some level of discomfort” about Ofsted outstanding
  • Said she wanted Ofsted to have the power to inspect multi academy trusts (MATs) on a “whole level basis”
  • Raised some concerns around the quality of early years’ providers

The government released details of the allocation for the PE and sport premium as well as updated guidance for how schools can spend the funding.

November

House of Commons Education Select Committee held a scrutiny session with Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening. She talked about DfE Opportunity areas, review of exclusions. She confirmed that the additional £1.3billion moved into the core schools budget protects per-pupil funding in real terms to the end of the spending review period. She also informed the committee that she had asked Sir Theodore Agnew, the new under-secretary of state for education, to look at how MAT boards can be improved.

Research produced by the Education Policy Institute for Ambition School Leadership looked into the characteristics and performance of MATs. It found

  • There is no clear relationship between pupil progress at Key Stage 2 or 4 and isolation
  • Trusts with more sponsored academies exhibit slightly better improvements over time
  • Trusts with more converter academies exhibit higher overall pupil premium attainment
  • There is mixed evidence about the connection between growth and performance
  • There is some evidence that trusts with a mix of phases are more likely to show improvements in performance at Key Stage 2 and 4

DfE updated its guidance on primary and secondary school accountability to include the ‘coasting’ schools definition for 2017. A school will be below floor standards if

  • Primary school : Less than “65% of pupils meet the expected standard in English reading, English writing and mathematics” or the school does not make the required amount of progress, which is “at least -5 in English reading, -5 in mathematics and -7 in English writing”
  • Secondary school: “it’s Progress 8 score is below -0.5, and the upper band of the 95% confidence interval is below zero”.

A school will be considered to be coasting if

  • Secondary school: In 2015, fewer than 60% of pupils achieved 5 A*-C at GCSE” and, in 2016 and 2017, if “the school’s progress 8 score was below -0.25”.
  • Primary school: “in 2015, fewer than 85% of pupils achieved level 4 in English reading, English writing and mathematics and below the national median percentage of pupils achieved expected progress in all of English reading, English writing and mathematics” and, in 2016 and 2017 “fewer than 85% of pupils achieved the expected standard at the end of primary schools and average progress made by pupils was less than -2.5 in English reading, -2.5 in mathematics or -3.5 in English writing”.

Education Policy Institute published a report on free schools. It found

  • Two thirds of areas in England are not within a reasonable distance of either a primary or secondary free school
  • Free schools are helping to meet the need for new school places
  • The programme has been ineffective in targeting areas of low school quality
  • Free schools are more likely to be located in areas of disadvantage, but disadvantaged pupils in these areas are less likely to be admitted than would be expected

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner, gave evidence to the Education Select Committee on a range of issues including mental health, behaviour policies and exclusions.

The autumn Budget included extra funding to boost maths and computer science but no extra core funding for mainstream, high needs and post-16 education budgets.

Professor David Berridge (University of Bristol), Kiran Gill (Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Founder of The Difference), and Philip Nye (Education Datalab) gave evidence before the Education Select Committee covering PRUs, AP academies and AP free schools as well as non-maintained alternative provision provided in Independent Schools, Unregistered Schools and Illegal Schools.

TES wrote a series of articles focusing attention on significant rises in the salaries of some school leaders and related-party transactions. These can be read here, here and here.

December

ASCL published a guidance paper on setting executive pay.

Peter Lauener, chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) wrote his last letter to academy trust accounting officers before his retirement this term. He highlighted three key areas.

  • The need for accounting officers to be mindful of their responsibilities and ensure that the finances are managed in accordance with the Academies Financial Handbook
  • The need for those governing to be clear about their responsibilities, have the skills to undertake their role and avoid concentrations of power, the need to maintain vigilance over related party transactions
  • Reflections from the ESFA’s assurance work over the last year.

The think-tank LKMCo has published a new report entitled ‘Testing the Water: How assessment can underpin, not undermine great teaching’. One of the recommendations is to ensure governors have appropriate training in understanding the assessment process and the information it produces.

Ofsted announced that it will go ahead with reform of the short inspections system following a recent consultation.

Lord Agnew, Sir David Carter, Vicky Beer and John Edwards (Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) appeared in front of the Education Select Committee. The session focused on the effectiveness of oversight and intervention in the academy system. The collapse of the Wakefield City Academies Trust and the lessons learned from this and similar cases were discussed. Concerns were raised about transparency around the intervention taking place and how this is communicated to parents. Schools Week covered the session here

The Education and Skills Funding Agency published a letter written by new Chief Executive, Eileen Milner, addressing excessive executive salaries in trusts with only one academy.

DfE in partnership with NGA published a guide to help governors and trustees make effective decisions when recruiting and selecting headteachers and other school leaders.

Amanda Spielman presented her first Ofsted Annual Report. To read what the report says about governance click here

DfE released its plan to improve social mobility through education.

DfE launched a call for evidence to better understand what changes are required to the existing guidance on SRE to reflect changes in technology and society since it was last updated 17 years ago.

Schools Week asked me to review 2017 from a governance perspective. This can be read here.

Fourth Anniversary Matters

I started blogging four years ago this March. At that time I didn’t know how long I would keep on writing so I’m quite pleased to be still here four years later. As in previous years, I’ve decided to look back at the year that was.

I’m pleased that my viewership is gradually increasing as is the number of people who follow my blog.

The top ten posts of this year were:

10. Good practice matters for governing bodies

9. Educational events matter; what I took away from #Michaela

8. “Types” of heads and sustained school improvement matters

7. Competency Framework matters; knowledge and skills needed by all

6. Parent governor matters

5. Competency Framework Matters- The Slides!

4. Ofsted Inspection Handbook and governance matters

3. Ofsted questions for governors

2. Ofsted Grade Descriptors, Sept 2015. Guest post by Shena Lewington

And holding on to the first position from last year was the post

1. Questions you may be asked and other Ofsted Inspection matters

Ofsted also featured in the top five search terms which led readers to the blog.

  • Ofsted questions for governors
  • Ofsted annual report 2016
  • Ofsted grade descriptors 2015
  • Ofsted grade descriptors

My blog, surprisingly, was viewed in 79 countries. Many obviously would have ended up here by mistake as I don’t know why anyone living in Brunei or Madagascar for example would be interested in school governance in England!

I enjoy blogging as it gives me a chance to put down my thoughts, tell people where I stand on various issues and enter into debate on governance related topics. I also use it as an archive for various links, reports etc (for example see my end of the year review post. And its because of blogging that I was asked to review 2016 for Schools Week.

This blog was also the reason I started my other blog A Roller In The Ocean I found that once I started blogging there were many other issues I wanted to write on but they had nothing to do with governance which is why I started the othe blog. 

Thank you to everyone who reads and comments on my blogs. Hopefully, I’ll see you at the 5th anniversary party too!

Reviewing 2016 and governance matters. With links.

Another busy year for governors. The year started with local governing bodies featuring in the news and ended with Ofsted’s report into governance. The notable events of the year as they happened.

January

The academy chain E-Act replaced its local governing bodies (LGBs) with academy advisory groups.

The House of Commons Education Select Committee’s first report of this parliament, into the role of regional schools commissioners (RSCs) was published.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, launched a new website, Educate Against Hate, which provides practical advice for parents, teachers and school leaders that will help to protect children from a “spell of twisted ideologies”.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw spoke at the education think tank CentreForum, setting out his ambitions for the future of English education. He stated that good leadership was the most important force in driving up standards, but that we currently do not have enough good leaders or governors. He said not a lot had been done in the past three years to improve the professionalism of governing bodies. He reiterated that governors should always been chosen for their skills. He also opined that paying governors should be considered.

Future Leaders Trust published a report (Heads up: Meeting the challenges of headteacher recruitment) into headteacher recruitment.

February

Sir David Carter was appointed as the new National Schools Commissioner (NSC) from 1 February 2016 taking over Frank Green.

The Education and Adoption Bill 2015 completed its passage through Parliament, requiring every school judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted to be turned into a sponsored academy. It would also allow the SoS to issue directions, with time limits, to school governing bodies and local authorities, to speed up academy conversions.

Ofsted published the outcome letter from its inspection of E-Act. The inspections found that, although progress had been made in the two years since the last focused inspections, “the quality of provision for too many pupils in E-ACT academies is not good enough”.

March

School Governance Constitution Regulations 2012 were amended requiring all serving governors in maintained schools to have  DBS checks by 1 September 2016. The government also amended the School Governance Federation Regulations 2012 which means federations will no longer be required to have one elected parent governor from each school, instead the federated governing body must include a total of two elected parent governors drawn from all the schools in the federation.

Educational Excellence Everywhere White paper was published. Among other things, it proposed to remove the requirement for elected parent governors.

The DfE confirmed that a new governor database would be hosted on the Edubase website. For every governor (including members, trustees and those on the local governing body in academies) this will record name, date of appointment, date that term ends, the appointing authority, and whether s/he is the chair. The DfE will also gather additional information for its own due diligence, including governors’ addresses and nationalities, but this information will not be publicly available.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw wrote to the Secretary of State, outlining the findings from eight focused inspections of academies in multi academy trusts (MATs) over the past year. The findings were described as “worrying several of these related to failures of governance.

The Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan recommended Sally Collier as her preferred candidate for the post of Ofqual Chief Regulator.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan spoke about “unconscious bias” affecting governors’ decisions when recruiting headteachers. She labelled the lack of female heads as a ‘crippling waste of talent’.

The Department for Education (DfE) issued updated guidance on making significant changes to an open academy. The main change to the guidance is that the Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) will take over many of the duties that were previously reserved for the Secretary of State for Education.

Education and Adoption Act 2016 received Royal Assent. Among the Act’s provisions are:

  • that all ‘inadequate’ schools will be converted to sponsored academies
  • removal of the requirement for consultation from the academy conversion process in many circumstances
  • introduction of a new category of ‘coasting’ schools which will be ‘eligible for intervention’ from Regional Schools Commissioners

DfE issued a consultation into National Funding Formula.

The Education Select Committee launched an inquiry into multi academy trusts (MATs).

April

DfE published a myths and facts document on academies.

NGA published its model schemes of delegation for MATs.

NGA wrote to Nicky Morgan to express dismay at the compulsory academisation plan and the removal of the requirement for elected parent governors on the boards of academies.

DfE published their memoranda of understanding between it and the Church of England and Catholic Church underlining the commitment of the DfE to ensure that the religious character and ethos of faith schools are secured in relation to intervention, academy conversion and sponsorship.

DfE published information about the role of Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) including an “RSC decision making framework” which describes the role of RSCs, terms of reference for the Headteacher Boards which advise and challenge RSCs, and regional vision statements.

NGA celebrated its 10th anniversary and celebrations included the launch of Growing Governance, a national campaign challenging school governors and trustees in England to step up and set the educational agenda in 2016 and beyond.

In collaboration with the NGA, Music Mark and the Arts Council produced A Guide for Governors-Music Education.

May

Nicky Morgan announced that compulsory academisation, as proposed in the white paper, would not go ahead.

DfE abolished the post of Mental Health Champion.

Analysis by  PWC this week revealed the gulf in standards of academy chains. This showed that only three of the sixteen biggest secondary academy chains had a positive impact on pupil progress and  only one of the 26 biggest primary sponsors – the Harris Federation – produced results above the national average.

The Queen’s speech announced the Education for All bill.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nursery Schools and Nursery Classes called for local authority (LA) maintained nursery schools to be allowed to convert to academy status.

June

Nicky Morgan responded to Emma Knights’ open letter in which she had outlined concerns about the White Paper.

Nicky Morgan, recommended Amanda Spielman for the post of HMCI of Ofsted.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw and National Schools Commissioner Sir David Carter appeared before the House of Commons Education Select Committee as part of MPs’ inquiry into multi-academy trusts (MATs).

Eight governors (Jane Owens, Ariana Yakas, Andrew Child, Matthew Miller, Robert Palmer, Maria Heywood,  John Wallace and Paul Yeates) received Honours in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List.

July

NGA published new guides on parental engagement.

NGA, in collaboration with the National Foundation for Educational Research (NfER) and the Future Leaders Trust (TFLT) published research into the role and responsibilities of executive headteachers.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) published the 2016 Academies Financial Handbook (AFH).

The EPI published a report comparing LAs with MATs, using the Department for Education’s own methodology. The Sutton Trust published a report looking at the performance of disadvantaged pupils in sponsored academies that are part of an academy chain.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, wrote to the education secretary Nicky Morgan to update her on the situation in Birmingham, two years since the so-called Trojan horse case. He reported that two of the schools had been upgraded from inadequate to good and the schools placed in special measures had undergone changes of leadership and governance and were now “generally improving”. However Sir Michael also emphasised that the situation remained fragile with headteachers in East Birmingham reporting that it had “gone underground”.

Justine Greening was announced as new Secretary of State for Education.

Emma Knights gave evidence to the Education Select Committee during their inquiry into MATs and explained why the NGA was against the proposal to remove the requirement to have elected parent governors.

Nicky Morgan launched a review into the role of local authorities (LAs) and also clarified that DfE had no intention to permit LAs to set up MATs in future.

Ofsted published a new report on the effectiveness of LAs and early years providers in tackling the issues facing disadvantaged families and young children. It recommended schools ensure key information was shared promptly when children move between settings and use of the early years pupil premium was reviews to ensure maximum impact.

School funding reforms delayed toil 2018

Education DataLab, the research arm of the Fischer Family Trust, suggested that the introduction of the EBacc had largely benefitted pupils.

Notwithstanding criticism from the Education Select Committee, who said they were concerned that she did not have the sufficient passion and understanding for the role, Amanda Spielman was approved as the next HMCI of Ofsted by the Privy Council.

Ofsted issued updated inspection handbooks for Section 5 and Section 8 inspections. Some of the updated sections related to governance for example para 85 while discussing MATs states, “directly responsible for exercising governance of the school and for overseeing its performance”. It also states that inspectors will consider governors commitment to their own professional development.

Government announced proposals to increase the number of grammar schools.

DfE published a list of resources for academies looking to expand their MATs.

Ofqual confirmed how it will set the grade standards for new GCSEs in England.

NGA published its updated model code of conduct.

Justine Greening announced that she did not intend to remove the requirement for elected parent governors.

Government launched the “Schools that work for everyone” consultation.

Ofqual published guidance for the Progress 8 measure in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Think-tank Reform released a report recommending that DfE allows remuneration for both maintained school and academy “local governors” and NGA published its response.

Findings from a 2016 survey of 5,000 school governors and trustees carried out by NGA and TES were published. More than half of respondents were ‘very negative about the direction of government policy, increasing from 31% in 2015 and only 4% of respondents disagreed that induction training should be mandatory for new governors.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb spoke at the Academy Ambassadors Board Development Day and acknowledged that governing boards have a crucial role to play in the success of a school.

A helpline and email support opened for newly appointed governors and trustees’ recruited through the new Inspiring Governance programme.

October

DfE published its updated statutory guidance on the constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools. The key updates:

  • Disclosure and Barring Service checks
  • Supplying information to the secretary of state about those involved in governance
  • Clarified information on governors’ access to training
  • Clarified information on parent governors

National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, told schools that the programme of multi academy trust (MAT) “growth readiness audits” will continue to be piloted.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) wrote  to all academy accounting officers setting out their key responsibilities and said that EFA intervention often was the result of misunderstood personal responsibilities.

Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, using focused inspections of seven “stronger performers, wrote about the characteristics of high performing MATs.

Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, wrote to all Chairs of academy trust boards drawing attention to the importance of good governance to robust financial oversight and management.

DfE released information on how progress 8 and attainment 8 measures are calculated.

November

The government confirmed that it would not publish the Education for All Bill, which could have seen good schools forced to convert to academy status.

DfE published more information regarding the definition of “coasting” schools for primary and secondary schools.

Neil Carmichael MP, chair of the committee wrote to Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education (DfE), providing a response on the DfE’s dry run of the Sector Annual Report and Accounts.

DfE released provisional figures on the number of schools (479 primary schools [3.5% of the total] and 327 secondary schools [10.7% of the total]) whose performance fell within the “coasting” definition.

NGA published its Welcome to a Multi Academy Trust Guide.

NGA wrote to Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, expressing concern over delays to fairer funding reform in schools.

The State of the Nation report on social mobility in Great Britain was published by the Social Mobility Commission.

NGA published revised model schemes of delegation. It also published (jointly with ASCL and Browne Jacobson) the updated guidance: Staying in Control of your School’s Destiny.

December

Education Select Committee heard from Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash and Education Funding Agency chief executive, Peter Lauener. This formed part of the committee’s ongoing inquiry into multi academy trusts (MATs).

Ofsted’ Annual Report 2015-16 was published. This was Sir Michael Wilshaw’s fifth and final report as HMCI. It made the point that weak governance is often found to be at the root of school failure.

National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) released new research into the “evolving schools’ landscape” since the introduction of Regional School’s Commissioners (RSCs).

DfE) published guidance on establishing and developing multi-academy trusts. The non-statutory guidance entitled Multi-academy trusts – Good practice guidance and expectations for growth, builds on the commitment made in the DfE white paper Educational Excellence Everywhere to publish ‘design principles’ setting out what the DfE knows about successful MATs.

The government announced the second stage of consultation into a new national funding formula for schools.

National Audit Office published its report on financial sustainability of schools.

Ofsted published a new report on the state of school governance, called Improving governance: Governance arrangements in complex and challenging circumstances. Emma Knights called it a missed opportunity.

Schools Week published my review of 2016 which can be read here.