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How do Governors ever find out the 'truth' if their source is always the Head?!

Discussion in 'Governors' started by egyptiangirl, Apr 8, 2013.

  1. This has played on my mind. If all Governors know comes from the Headteacher and certain staff who follow a certain 'story' how do Governors ever know differently?

    Yes we are critical friends but in reality how many Governors actually have the knowledge, time and inclination to seriously question the Head and senior leaders? For most Governors, they could answer with embellished answers anyway. And if we don't know if a particular document exists how can we ever ask for it?!

    Any thoughts?
  2. This has played on my mind. If all Governors know comes from the Headteacher and certain staff who follow a certain 'story' how do Governors ever know differently?

    Yes we are critical friends but in reality how many Governors actually have the knowledge, time and inclination to seriously question the Head and senior leaders? For most Governors, they could answer with embellished answers anyway. And if we don't know if a particular document exists how can we ever ask for it?!

    Any thoughts?
  3. keepthespirit

    keepthespirit New commenter

    If someone doesn't have the time or inclination why have they become a governor ? Sufficient knowledge to ask questions can be gained by reading or taking courses - there are online ones available. There needs to be a climate of mutual respect and honesty. Why should the Head teacher and staff deceive the governing body ? It is in the interests of the school for people to work together.
  4. R13

    R13 Occasional commenter

    As a Head I tell the truth and I certainly feel my Governors believe me BUT I also see it as my role to provide evidence and they see it as their job to probe and ask for it.
    We know that OFSTED and the LA require evidence and one of the things Governors and I look at is not just how effective we are but how effective we feel we can prove we are
    If you can't get behind that - stop being a Governor
  5. It takes a brave person to go against the majority and speak out to which potentially could cause real issues.

    I would argue that it's in the interests of some people to keep their job......
  6. Thanks for the advice but as I wasn't talking about myself I think I'll stick with it.
  7. grrmummy

    grrmummy New commenter

    I agree. It's not about time or inclination -it's about reality. Some people are more trustworthy than others. And some people are better at presenting adequate challenge than others.
    Hindsight is a wonderful thing and sometimes the questions we should ask/have asked are not always apparent (though hopefully with hindsight we will know for next time). We can't get things right all of the time but we can learn from experience. The main thing as governors though is to have access to accurate information and to ask for it if it is not provided i.e.not to be fobbed off with irrelevancies [​IMG]
  8. keepthespirit

    keepthespirit New commenter

    It is asked how many governors have the knowledge, time or inclination to seriously question. Then, if I read it correctly, the implication that the GB will fire the head because they are dissatisfied with something. I have always said to student teachers that we are in the age of accountability. R13 is correct that it is governors working with head teacher to not only do a good job but also be able to prove it. I am concerned that head teachers are having to spend too big a proportion of their time on satisfying bureaucracy rather than being able to get on with their real job. Governors support schools by effective challenges within the right ethos. I've never met a head teacher who would claim to be perfect. Sadly, rather than being developmental too many aspects are becoming judgemental.
  9. Thanks for this. I agree. My fear is that before the hindsight, there will be significant damage.
  10. I think that is how the Head sees it. They will lose their job if they tell the truth. The truth is pretty serious.

    I totally agree with your last comment, if a head spend as much time dealing with the issues rather than working out how to present them in cotton wool to the govs then the school may move forwards!
  11. keepthespirit

    keepthespirit New commenter

    It is always a challenge in forums to fully understand people's values and motives because of the limitations of print. I feel that there is a lot behind this post and you have concerns about a particular situation. Obviously you care and want to do something about it. I'm in the fortunate position of being retired and able to visit the schools where I'm a governor when it is a working day. If possible get in to school when it is in session, or if like minded governor/s might do this if they can. Talk to pupils and other staff - often you can pick up clues. There is also data to analyse which might provide the opportunity to devise suitable questions. Is there anyone from outside the school ( e.g LA advisor ) giving evaluation reports that the GB could ask to see ? In my experience communication is crucial when trying to improve a situation. Can the head teacher be encouraged to be more open if he is anxious about any issues ? I don't want to go on too long. There are so many aspects of the current regime that interfere with genuine progress that it would be possible to fill many forums. Very best wishes for a successful outcome.
  12. grrmummy

    grrmummy New commenter

    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

    </font>I think it is important to recognise that good governance
    really does depend on trust and effective information sharing but when there
    are problems in a school; some governors are sometimes oblivious to the
    strategies that are adopted and the mind games that can go on. The fact that GB&rsquo;s
    and HT&rsquo;s work closely together means nothing if mismanagement exists, the academic
    outcomes are poor and if a school ultimately end up as a cause for concern.
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

    </font>It is very hard to be a committed governor who is part of
    a system that is ultimately failing children and I understand where you are coming
    from and don&rsquo;t think it is being unnecessarily judgmental to speak out in such
    circumstances. Remember it is the responsibility of all governors (not just the
    key ones) to hold the HT and SMT to account. The degree to which this becomes
    necessary is dependent upon the amount and reliability of the information being
    presented to governors and the openness and transparency of the discussions that
    take place at FGB level. If information to governors is unforthcoming or wrapped in cotton wool then
    IMO there is likely to be a problem. I have experienced governance at both extremes.
    One school (a secondary grammar) worked hard to achieve governor mark. We felt
    we owed it to the hardworking staff and pupils to demonstrate we too were
    committed to working hard for the benefit of the school. And Ofsted described
    us as an outstanding GB. At the other extreme I was a governor in a school
    where key officials were preoccupied with creating evidence and ticking boxes
    to prove themselves to Ofsted and who rarely communicated meaningfully at FGB
    level. GB minutes were laughable: things were recorded as having been said by
    governors who had not even attended the meetings! Yet these documents were
    approved by the majority of the FGB and the school hid behind the &lsquo;need to get
    on with the important job of running the school&rsquo; argument whenever legitimate
    challenge was presented. The school concerned is now officially recognised as
    being in difficulty. Such situations are really very sad as they help nobody
    really. It is a real shame when people are fearful for their jobs &ndash; this can
    cloud their better judgment.
    Try to work things through. But for what it&rsquo;s
    worth I do genuinely empathise with where you are and I do hope it all works
    out. And don't forget Governorline are always very helpful (I think they saved me from going under - the LA were pretty useless as at the time they believed the line spun by the school) [​IMG]
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

  13. Thanks to you both for your supportive posts. I wonder, has there ever been a school that goes into a category but Governance is good or a school that is outstanding but Governance outstanding? I'd put money on the former being more recognised, especially as Wilshaw has focused on Governance recently.

    Thanks again
  14. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Good questions egyptiangirl. The short answer is a GB shouldn't rely solely on information coming from the HT and staff, and if they do they can expect criticism when Ofsted come.
    In Ofsted's most recent report on what makes GBs effective the first thing they say is &lsquo;positive relationships ... based on trust, openness and transparency'. Then they say &lsquo;effective governing bodies did not rely solely on what school leaders and members of staff told them'. Ofsted expects GBs to use a wide range of external sources of information to ensure they have a sound understanding of how well the school is doing. One reason Ofsted recently introduced the &lsquo;Data dashboard' is to help them do just that, but GBs should be looking at external data themselves, not rely solely on what they told about it. Do you have an outside school improvement adviser of some sort? Ask them to meet governors and make sure their reports are circulated to governors too. This shouldn't be seen as a lack of trust in the HT, but as providing governors with the tools to do their job properly.
    I don't share the rather Panglossian view I sometimes hear from heads that governors should trust what heads tell them because why would any head want to tell governors anything other than the truth? I don't doubt that the great majority of heads are open and honest with governors but as too many Ofsted reports on inadequate schools confirms this is not always the case, something that I often see when I am supporting GBs in schools where governance is weak and standards are inadequate. I've lost count of how many times I've heard a GB say &lsquo;we thought everything was OK, that's what the head told us,until Ofsted put us into special measures. We didn't realise the head was pulling the wool over our eyes'. Some heads do mislead governors to protect themselves, despite that being an obviously short-sighted approach.
    Generally the leadership & management grade will not be higher than the overall school effectiveness grade although sometimes it can be a grade higher, particularly if there is new HT and GB raising standards rapidly in a school with previously inadequate results. I've never come across an Ofsted report where L&M inc governance was 2 grades higher than overall school grade, I wouldn't have thought that possible. An Outstanding school with Outstanding L&M is usual. Whether the Outstanding L&M really means governance is Outstanding is debateable - I suspect a halo effect, "school is good therefore governance must be good" when actually school may be good despite lacklustre governance.

  15. harsh-but-fair

    harsh-but-fair Star commenter

    I agree with your post, Rott. But beyond some sort of SIP, who in my experience governors may get to question once a year, external 'data' is very hard to come by. This has always been a real concern of mine, having been on a governing body that had the 'wool pulled over its eyes'. Other than asking the questions at committees and FGBs and getting the (partial and inaccurate) replies recorded, I'm still not sure what a GB can really do in this situation.

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