Tag Archives: Review

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:


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.


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”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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”.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Third anniversary matters

Three years ago, in March, I set up this blog. As blogs go, three years is not very long, but I am happy that I have managed to keep blogging. I may be the only one who looks at blog stats but the fact that three years ago the blog was viewed just over 2,000 times and now the number of views is much, much higher makes me very happy. In the last few days my post on the White Paper has been viewed so many times that WordPress told me my stats were booming!

The two posts I enjoyed writing and feel were the most useful ones were Understanding academy governance terms matters and Busting the myth about Ofsted draft report matters. The first post will, I feel, get many more views now because of the White Paper. The second post continues to be important as there are still people out there who think that the draft inspection report cannot be shared with all governors.

The post which received the most views was Questions you may be asked and other Ofsted Inspection matters. Ofsted, in fact featured in the top five most viewed posts; Ofsted Questions for Governors (second most viewed) and Short Ofsted inspection matters; a Chair’s story (fourth most viewed). The other two posts in the top five were Heads’ reports to GBs; good relationships matter (third) and The Governance handbook Contents: Working out what’s new matters. Part 1 (fifth).

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

  • Ofsted questions for governors
  • Ofsted grade descriptors 2015
  • Governing matters
  • Questions Ofsted ask governors
  • Governors Ofsted questions

Just over a year ago (on 12th February 2015) I published Does it matter if there is no central record of governors? in which I argued against a central register of governors. The White Paper has made it clear that DfE will go ahead with this. Edubase will be extended to record this information with schools and governing bodies required to submit details of governors from September 2016.

I was surprised to see the stats for the “About” page. Andrew Old, the blogging guru, advises bloggers to keep this page updated. I do check out the About page when I come across a new blog. Seeing the number of times my About page has been visited means others do too.

Many of you know I have another blog too which I set up in order to write about non-governance matters. I don’t think I would have set that up if I hadn’t had such positive feedback on this one. One of my posts from that blog (Why I am not a woman of colour) even made it on to Andrew’s list of  top blogs of the week which made me very happy, as you can imagine.

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 (see for example my end of year review). Blogging also gave me a chance to thank Shena, who’s blog, Clerk to Governors, was the first blog I followed. Shena is a font of all governance knowledge. She will be missed when she puts her pen away. The very best of luck for whatever you do next, Shena.

Though I blog for myself, I’d like to thank all of you who read, comment and share my posts. I hope I’ll see you all at the 4th birthday party too! Governance is undergoing change at a very fast pace. It would be interesting to see what the future holds for governors and governance.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Second Anniversary Matters

This blog is now two years old (it turned two on 28th March). I know that as blogs go, two years is very young, but I am happy and proud to have reached this milestone.

My first post was on governor training. Training was the topic I came back to again and I’m sure I will continue to blog about it in the future too.

The posts which had the most views were

Search terms most frequently used by readers which led people to my blog were

  • Ofsted questions for governors
  • Ofsted questions for governors
  • Questions Ofsted may ask
  • How to answer Ofsted questions
  • How to answer Ofsted questions

As you can see from the most read posts and search terms, Ofsted was the topic readers were most interested in. This also explains why the account of my visit to Ofsted headquarters where I met Mike Cladingbowl and discussed governance and inspection with him was amongst the ten most read posts. Readers were also interested in finding out more about me which meant that the About page also made it into the list of the top posts. When I had started blogging this page had very little detail about me. While helping Andrew Old add missing details on the spreadsheet of bloggers he was he was compiling, I realised how important the About page is. I then went back to mine and added more details.

I was asked to contribute a post to The Schoolbus and to Paritor Quorum which I was very happy to do so. While writing the latter one I returned to the topic which is very close to my heart, governor training.

The post which had the most comments on Facebook was the one in which I discussed why academies needed to be aware of and avoid becoming an influenced company. The post which needed the greatest deal of research was the one in which I reviewed 2104 from a governor’s perspective. This is something I may do at the end of 2015 too as it means I can collate all the important information and links and they are then easily accessible to everyone.

The post which had the most likes and comments from bloggers who aren’t governors was the one about blogging!

So, from a blogging point of view, this has been a busy but enjoyable year for me. Thank you to all who have read, commented and shared my posts. Hopefully, I’ll see you all at my third birthday party!


 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net




Reviewing 2014 and governance matters

2014 was a year in which governance made the news rather frequently. Some of the headlines concerning governance were somewhat  worrying and some not. Notably, the Trojan Horse galloped through schools in Birmingham, the echoes of which are still being heard! There was a great deal of talk about British values but no one could agree on one clear definition or even if “these” values were uniquely British.


 Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The Wellcome Trust wrote to Chairs of Governors of secondary schools highlighting free resources for practical science education.

In January, DfE initiated a consultation on changes to School Governance Constitution Regulations and associated statutory guidance in a drive to increase the focus on skills of governors. The key change proposed was that governing bodies of maintained schools would be required to reconstitute by September 2015. Departmental advice on Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 was also published as was an updated version of the Governors’ Handbook. The Handbook would be revised again later in the year.

On 31st January Sir Michael Wilshaw announced the start of one day, unannounced Ofsted visits to schools where there were concerns regarding behaviour.


There was a great deal of discussion regarding the lack of female headteachers and whether this was because governing bodies were reluctant to employ women in these key positions.


Birmingham City Council announced it had received an anonymous letter alleging a plot (termed Operation Trojan Horse) by some hard-line Muslim groups to take over schools in the city. Park View Academy received a snap inspection and Dfe announced that it was investigating allegations that Operation Trojan Horse had targeted 12 schools.

Lord Nash, while speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Education Governance and Leadership on Monday 17 March, emphasised that, in his opinion, governing bodies were not different from Boards of Directors. As such the emphasis should be on skills which, in the past, had sometimes taken a back seat to stakeholder representation. During his address Professor Chris James (University of Bath) said, “The governing environment is a thoroughly enjoyable one as well as being challenging. People learn new skills to then take back into the workplace. This can be a virtuous cycle.”

March also saw the launch of the NGA/University of Bath survey into the state of school governance.

Sir Michael Wilshaw proposed light touch inspections for schools rated good (one day inspections, once every two years).

Former Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, called for mandatory training for governors to ensure effective governance, a view supported by 90% of governors in the annual TES/NGA survey. She emphasised the need to resolve the conflict between having a local voice on governing bodies and having governors with skills to provide strategic leadership. She also asked governing bodies to consider whether forming alliances with other governing bodies was a way to address capacity issues.


Birmingham City Council announced an investigation into 25 schools and appointed former headteacher Ian Kershaw to lead the investigation. Council leader Sir Albert Bore said he did not believe that there was a plot. DfE appointed Peter Clarke, the former national head of counter terrorism, to lead an inquiry. Sir Michael Wilshaw took charge of Ofsted’s investigation of these schools.

Lord Nash invited governors who had received national honours and representatives of governor organisations to the House of Lords.


NGA launched a pilot of a new resource, from Wellcome Trust for secondary school governors. This contained background information and questions governors could ask when monitoring science and maths at their schools.

The Report on the survey carried out by NGA and University of Bath was published. Over 7500 governors participated making it the largest survey of governors to date. The key findings were that overall governance is functioning well and is improving but is becoming more challenging. Governors contribute in excess of £ 1 billion in unpaid services. Governors need a range of skills. Recruitment is becoming a problem, especially in challenging schools.

May saw the launch of the Inspiring Governors Alliance, which alms to encourage more skilled people to volunteer as governors. Opening the event, Michael Gove encouraged people to become governors and said that as this would increase their happiness and make other people’s lives better “It is a shared enterprise and how could anyone possibly say no.” He told employers addressing employers, “There is no excuse: if you care about employability of young people you must get involved in governance.” However, the part of his speech which received the greatest attention and coverage was when he said ‘The thing about being a governor is that it’s not just a touchy feely, sherry pouring, cake slicing exercise in hugging each other and singing Kumbayah. The whole point of being a governor is that you ask tough questions.” This had governors up in arms! Emma Knights, Chief Executive, NGA wrote to Michael Gove saying, “Language which paints a ridiculous picture of current governance practice could also seriously undermine the alliance’s drive to attract new volunteers.”

DfE updated the Governors’ Handbook. There was a new section on changes to the School Governance, more information on the difference between strategic operational matters and updated information on external reviews of governance and careers advice. This updated version would be revised again!

Amendments to the School Governance Constitution and Federation Regulations were laid before Parliament. DfE published statutory guidance on the constitution of LA maintained schools. The amendments require all governing bodies of LA maintained schools to be constituted under the 2012 Constitution Regulations or the 2012 Federation Regulations, as appropriate, by 1 September 2015.

Prospects Academy Trust became the first trust to close.


Ofsted published reports on 21 Birmingham schools, placing five in special measures; a sixth one remained in special measures. Sir Michael Wilshaw wrote to SoS setting out his findings. He observed that some governors had inappropriate influence on policy and the day-to-day running”. He made the following recommendations.

  • Mandatory training for governors be considered
  • Professional governors where governance was weak
  • Schools should be required to publish registers of governors’ interests.

EFA found serious issues with governance at Park View and Oldknow and that the funding agreements had been breached. Lord Nash wrote to Park View to inform them of the Secretary of State’s intention to terminate the agreement and to Oldknow to say that the agreement would be terminated unless the Trust implemented certain measures.

Ofsted announced that it would bring inspections in-house, giving it more control over the training of inspectors and quality assurance.

DfE launched a consultation on strengthening powers to intervene in independent schools failing to promote British values.

Michael Gove replied to Emma Knights’ letter (see above) saying governing bodies had his respect and admiration.


Sir Michael Wilshaw in giving evidence to the Education Select Committee said while there was no evidence of extremism there was promotion of a culture which, if left unchecked, could give rise to extremism. He also called for governing bodies to have professional governors saying that “we have relied on amateurish governance to do a professional job.”

Francis Maude talking about how to keep schools open during teachers’ strike said, “For example, governors, who will all be vetted and have clearance, could go in and act as volunteers to supervise and just to enable the school to stay open.”

July saw Gove being replaced by Nicky Morgan in the cabinet reshuffle. Nick Gibb returned while Lord Nash, David Laws and Edward Timpson stayed in their posts.

Trustees of Park View Education Trust resigned.

I met Mike Cladingbowl and discussed governance with him. This was a series of meetings Mike and Sean Harford have been having with a view to encouraging a two way dialogue between Ofsted and people in education.

Ian Kershaw and Peter Clarke reports were published.


Ofsted published new guidance on school inspections.


Education Select Committee heard evidence from Ian Kershaw, Peter Clarke, Councillor Brigid Jones and Mark Rogers (Chief Executive Birmingham Council).

Ian Kershaw: Due to stretched resources the council ignored schools which were good or outstanding. A professional clerk was important. LA governors should be given the task of auditing and risk assessment. Graham Stuart disagreed, saying from his experience this is the last thing he would want LA governors to do. NGA agrees as this would undermine collective accountability.

Peter Clarke: Academy conversion was an “opaque” process. MATS quickly became multi million pound enterprises and needed people with requisite skills.

Mark Rogers: Balance of accountability needed to be correct. A poorly performing head when challenged by governors may feel bullied. Governors were usually right and needed to be able to challenge. A knee jerk reaction may miss this distinction.

Lord Nash wrote to Chairs of governing bodies emphasising the need for recruiting for skills, importance of training and the benefits of academy status.

The Governors’ Handbook was revised again. The updated version has a more detailed explanation of governors’ duties, in light of Trojan Horse inquiries, in setting the ethos for their schools keeping in mind fundamental ‘British values’.

Research published by the Committee suggested that tighter control was needed to manage conflicts of interests in academy trusts.


Ofsted launched a consultation on proposals to change the way it inspects various institutions.

Lord Nash wrote to Directors of Children’s Services stating that reconstitution should not be treated as a paper exercise. When reconstituting governing bodies the priority should be to ensure that they are no bigger than they need to be and that governors are appointed for their skills. He also made the point that LA governors, too, should be appointed for skills and that to link the right to nominate LA governors to the local balance of political power was anunacceptable practice.

Sir Michael Wilshaw wrote to Nicky Morgan after the first monitoring visits to the schools in special measures in Birmingham. He recommended that DfE

  • should consider how governors and trustees in these schools could be changed quickly
  • should review responsibilities to draw up effective improvement plans in those cases where governance was inadequate
  • ensure that local authorities and the Department for Education consistently carry out their statutory responsibilities for safeguarding children in schools
  • ensure that the local authority promptly shares its single integrated plan with Ofsted.

Lord Nash wrote to diocesan directors of education about reconstitution of governing bodies. He told them that expectations of foundation governors should be set high and they should be recruited on the basis of skills. He said,I believe governing bodies cannot function fully effectively if they carry passengers” and added, “the watchword should be children before adults.”

Nicky Morgan appeared before the Education Select Committee during the session on extremism. She emphasised the importance of skills but, in response to question about Sir Michael Wilashaw’s suggestion that more governors should come from an educational background, she said she was happy with the status quo. She said she would not allow the inspection of chains as Ofsted had the powers it needed to inspect governance and that DfE had no plans to change the law on collective worship. She appeared again before the Committee during its inquiry into Academies and Free schools. There was discussion about the role of Regional School Commissioners and Headteacher Boards. She said again that Ofsted did not need more powers to examine chains.


The National Audit Office published its report on EFA’s oversight of related party transactions at Durand Academy. It found instances of undisclosed conflicts of interests. The Public Accounts Committee heard evidence from, amongst others, Emma Knights. She said that the autonomous nature of academies meant that the oversight role of governance became more important. She said the speed of conversion in some cases meant that the governance structures weren’t looked at properly. The rapidity of expansion of some MATs also meant that governance arrangements and schemes of delegations had not been properly considered.

NCTL published a survey report into the effectiveness of NLG’s. The survey found that 85% of chairs/headteachers felt that the NLG support met their needs.

Ofsted announced that no-notice inspections would not become routine.


DfE published advice on the promotion of fundamental British values as part of SMSC in maintained schools and academies.

The APPG Chair, Neil Carmichael MP, during a meeting of the group, explained his new bill on school governor appointments.

Ofsted published its Annual Report raising concerns about behaviour and performance of secondary schools.

And with this 2014 drew to a close. I think it would be fitting to end by quoting Graham Stuart MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee. While speaking at the “A New World of School Governance”, a joint NGA/BELMAS Conference in Birmingham, he said, “Governance is now almost sexy”!!

Anniversary matters

It has been a year since I started blogging on governance related matters. I thought now was a good time to pause and reflect on the year gone by. When I started blogging it was a means of putting my thoughts down. I was being stalked on Twitter by someone, which is why I decided to post anonymously. I have previously written about why I blogged anonymously so won’t go into that again. Suffice it to say that I was shocked at being stalked and more so as my stalker belonged to the field of education!

The first post I wrote after I “came out” was on governor training. Those who know me know how strongly I feel about this. It is not enough to be a committed, to be passionate about education and to have the time to devote to governance if governors won’t attend training. Hopefully, they will bring their “day job” skills to the board room but school governance is an entirely different ball game! A year down the line and I’m still telling anyone who’ll listen how important training is! And I’ll continue doing so till powers that be make it mandatory (I’m not holding my breath for this to happen anytime soon though!).

The next two topics I blogged about were clerking and the question of paying governors for their services. These, again, are still live issues, though I’m happy to say that more people now recognise how important good, professional clerking is. The other topic which is close to my heart is support for governors. We don’t have a union, we don’t strike and we don’t get paid, but this doesn’t mean that we don’t need support from time to time. This is why @UKGovChat is setting up a “gov buddy” system. This is being run as a 6 month pilot.

The above were some of the topics I had written about in 2013 and they are still “live issues” in 2014. We are living in what are very exciting times as far as education is concerned. At the same time, these are very challenging times too. Governance is under the spotlight as never before and rightly so. We are slowly moving from a stakeholder model to a more skilled based model; again rightly so in my opinion. The educational landscape is constantly changing. One of the core functions of governing bodies is holding the headteacher to account. We must, at the same time, remember that we are accountable too. We owe it to our students to “get it right”!

Has anything changed for me personally in this year? Well, for one thing I am now the Vice Chair of my Governing Body, a role which is keeping me very busy. I, luckily, have the support of some very experienced governors on whom I rely. A lot! I was involved in recruiting our headteacher. I have started the NCTL Chair Development Course which I am enjoying. I continue to attend conferences and meet governors and people interested in education. This is one of the best forms of CPD in my opinion and I would encourage everyone to attend as many conferences as they can. Twitter is the other CPD tool which I absolutely cannot do without now! The year has ended on a high for me. UKEdChat.com asked for nominations for the top educational blog and this blog has been nominated! I am very happy and also humbled as I am in the company of some really great bloggers. All too often governors are sidelined and I’m, therefore, really happy to see blogs by governors (clerktogovernors.co.uk by @ClerktoGovernor and onbeingagovernor.wordpress.com by @clare_collins) figure on this list. I’m going to have some cake now to celebrate one year of blogging, of governors being nominated for the top educational blog and for my blog being one of them!


                                    Image courtesy of mrsiraphol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net