There is no doubting over the years that the role of school governors and boards has changed dramatically.

When I first became a governor in the early 90’s LMS* had only just appeared and up until then all decisions were made by the LEA*. Governors merely turned up, drank coffee and ate biscuits, chatted a bit about the hot topic of the day, and the Chair may sign a few papers. That was about it.
If something went wrong it certainly wasn’t the Governors fault because they were only doing what they were told!

My how times have changed! Given the responsibility and accountability that Governors now have it is really important that this ownership is taken seriously and decisions taken are the best they can be.

However it raises a fundamental question – Quis custodiet ipsos custodes; “Who guards the guards?”
How do you know you are taking the best decisions you can? Are you adopting ‘best practice’? Do you know what the alternatives are and have you considered them? Who is holding you and your Governing Board to account?

The easy answer I hear you say is Ofsted. Well to a point that is partly correct, but how often does an Ofsted inspection take place, and what happens in between. An Ofsted inspection is a bit like an MOT on your car. It is a snapshot in time. It may only be as good as the day it happens.

So what can you do? There are a number of things but in my view 3 things are really key:

  1. Training – Ensure ALL members have had relevant training, and equally important it is up to date. Some Governors will tell you that they have attended training sessions, but how long ago? Why not at the next meeting ensure your Governors training record is up to date, and instigate a skills audit.
  1. Clerking – How this role has changed, to the point that the title ‘clerk’ is no longer adequate and sends out all the wrong signals. It was ok when they just ‘took notes’ but now their role means that in my view they are THE most important person that sits in that room!
    The NGA* are now using the phrase ‘Governance Professional’ as it far better encompasses their roles and responsibilities.
    A good clerk will do so much more than provide the minutes but are in a position to offer advice on your responsibilities and best practice in governance, so don’t just let them sit in the corner quietly but actively involve them in the meeting, and ‘clerks’ amongst you should have the courage and confidence to interject in meetings if they see poor governance taking place
  1. Your Local Authority – If you don’t already, involve them in your activities. (I know some LA’s are better than others!). This should happen by default in LA Maintained Schools however in a lot of cases Academies have become detached and quite often the LA has no idea what is going on in schools in their area.
    Here is the rub! Whilst Academies get their funding from the EFA, the Local Authority still has ‘a duty of care to ensure that ALL children in their area have the best education possible’.

So regardless of the type of school ensure that your LA gets copies of minutes etc.

So in summary, are you sure as a Governor/Governing Board that you are doing the best you possibly can for your pupils?
How do you know?
Who is guarding you!

Ian J Preston

March 2017

*Glossary – For the non-educationalists and younger governors amongst you! 🙂
EFA        –              Education Funding Agency
LA           –             Local Authority
LMS       –              Local Management of Schools
LEA         –             Local Education Authority
NGA      –              National Governors’ Association


Ian is a school governance consultant.
He provides Governor training to several organisations and LA’s.
H
e has been a school governor for 24 years in primary, high school and academy establishments.
Away from his education work he a leading Keynote Speaker, Trainer & Business Coach.