There was an interesting discussion on UKGovChat (@UKGovchat) last week about what difference we make as governors. It was called ‘Making a Difference‘.
The discussion was an interesting one as it is sometimes hard to have solid evidence of our impact. Indeed there has been a debate on Twitter lately about splitting a judgement on governance from that of the Leadership and Management judgement one on an Ofsted report. There was a fair amount of debate on that suggestion! The inspection framework says :
The contribution of governors to the school’s performance is evaluated as part of the judgement on the effectiveness of leadership and management. As with the meetings between inspectors and pupils, parents and staff, meetings with those responsible for governance should take place without the headteacher or senior staff.
As a National Leader of Governance (NLG) I am sometimes called upon to do a Review of Governance at a school where governance has not quite reached the Ofsted expectations. These External Reviews of Governance (ERGs) are suggested by Ofsted as a way of moving the governing board to a better position. There may be some great practice but there are evidently some barriers there which prevent Ofsted from seeing what the board does really well.
I have often found common themes in my reviews. . I have spoken previously about relationships. The relationship between the Head and the Chair is crucial. There is a good document produced by the NAHT and the NGA,, that I often recommend, which shows clear expectations around behaviours. The document can be found via this link http://www.naht.org.uk/EasysiteWeb/getresource.axd?AssetID=9650
Clerking is also vital in recording that challenge and support. What do your minutes say about your Board? Over reliance of the Board on information provided by the Head is also another key area. Where are your purposeful visits? Has anything changed as a result of your visit?
As an NLG I find it can take a while before impact is apparent. We NLGs work with the Board looking at practice and evidence and assist in producing an action plan.
Let me give you an example :
January 2014 – Judgement ‘Inadequate’
Governance is weak because they do not hold leaders and managers to account with sufficient rigour.
Governors have benefited from the input of a National Leader in Governance who has conducted an external review, as recommended at the previous inspection. This review identified areas of weakness and actions have been outlined to remedy any failings.
The governing body has responded to the increased demands made upon them with confidence, enthusiasm and commitment. Governors are now much more knowledgeable and challenge school leaders to take urgent action to sort out areas of weakness, such as mathematics. Members of the governing body come into school more frequently and are utterly ‘on the ball’ when it comes to holding staff to account. Since the previous monitoring inspection, governors have conducted a gap analysis to find out how the governing body itself could be improved. The new members of the team have complementary skills that have helped to strengthen further this astute and loyal governing body
The governing body has developed a profound understanding of the school’s work and has grown immeasurably in its confidence in holding the school to account. Governors have developed an effective link to departments and continue to attend breakfast meetings at school to challenge subject leaders about their performance. The governing body, led astutely, humanely and expertly by the Chair, has a very clear understanding of the school’s strengths and areas for further development. The governing body is an honest, loyal and dedicated group of individuals that serves the school very well as an increasingly knowledgeable and effective ‘critical friend’.
June 2015 – Judgement ‘Good’
Governors have welcomed the lead provided by the new headteacher and have developed well since the previous inspection. They have been inspired to take a far more active role in the running of the school and have contributed well to its improvement. – Governors are self-critical and have commissioned an audit of their skills. They have appointed new governors to fill any gaps in their areas of expertise. As a result, they have a sound basis on which to challenge the school to improve further.
I am not going to say that this sea change has been solely due to my input as an NLG but it was a contributory factor. The review meeting went well and I returned to do a Performance and Impact Review some months later. This school clearly embraced the changes needed after the initial Ofsted report.
What can we learn from this for our own Boards? Do we do enough to measure our impact? Where would we find the evidence? Do we evaluate what we are doing?
Happy to have your thoughts.