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Is governance fit for purpose ?

Discussion in 'Governors' started by neddyfonk, May 18, 2016.

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How do you feel about governance ?

Poll closed Jul 18, 2016.
  1. I do not know enough to have an opinion

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. It serves no purpose I value

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. It should stay as it is to challenge and hold to account

    60.0%
  4. It is now archaic and needs restructuring

    40.0%
  1. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    Just a quick survey. I love being a governor and getting to grips with all the new fangled educational advances / debates / innovations. Coming from 30 yrs in IT / business though I cannot understand where some of the governance guidelines could have come from. Minute takers are reluctant to name names, There are no detailed financial breakdowns, not even by vendor. We talk about one pupil with 'learning difficulties' who may or may not be one of three with behavioral problems. Pupil premium funding is used for whom, to do what? using the term intervention could be anything. I have useful skills , but I am not supposed to 'interfere' with 'operational' things ( as defined by the chair ).
    We have come a long way since Victorian times when many institutions ( workhouse, orphanages, schools and asylums ) had boards of governors who were often more interested in ensuring religious observance than wellbeing or education. Are more changes needed ?
     
  2. digoryvenn

    digoryvenn Lead commenter

    Governance is not fit for purpose.
     
  3. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    Very enlightening - would you care to elaborate ?
     
  4. digoryvenn

    digoryvenn Lead commenter

  5. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    I have to suggest that you have a bad experience of governance, and that perhaps the right questions are not being asked for your body in terms of gleaning the information you might like.
     
  6. stonerose

    stonerose Occasional commenter

    Would love to write a book on this one but will confine myself to this:

    Think of what it takes to be a teacher: quals., study, experience, inspections, observations, monitoring, on going hurdles like continuing professional development (often in own time and/or unpaid).... teachers please feel free to add you own. Years out of your life in preparation before you even get you foot in the door.

    Then compare it to what is required as a governor of a school: responsibility for what to ordinary folk are eye-watering large sums of money, the professional futures of teachers (do they thrive or don't they under governance), whether you think we deserve a pay increase or not, OKing or not policies that have taken hours to devise at staff meetings when their own subject knowledge is suspect e.g. the governor who has never passed even a basic functional skill let alone a GCSE but from their 'experience of life' -oh yes that well-known university that doesn't need to furnish a certificate - feel free to tell the subject leader who has a degree in the subject that it's wrong in so many ways etc.......... again add your own list. But what qualifications/ requirements are needed to become a governor. A cynical colleague once observed after having a run-in with one of their governors, that they need only a records check and a pulse!!!

    Surely, if you require so much from teachers before during their careers then we should be looking very hard at governors too.
     
  7. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

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    Most of the things you mention @stonerose are decided by heads not governors, but leaving that aside if you don't think schools should be accountable to governors who do you think they should be accountable to? DfE civil servants? Regional Schools Commissioners' office staff? Multi-millionaire owners of academy chains? Nobody?
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    Last edited: May 27, 2016
    harsh-but-fair likes this.
  8. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

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    When you did new governor training @neddyfonk was this point explained by your trainer?
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  9. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    That is exactly why governing bodies have been told to seek new governors with relevant skills. Ironically with 30yrs IT I was not consulted when one of my schools took advice from an IT supplier who suggested they should buy thin client technology on the basis of reduced cost. When it eventually came to my attention after orders had been accepted my concerns about network infrastructure,bandwidth, server capacity, software management, backup, security and future budget requirements were dismissed because the decision had already been made by the head who knew very little about IT outside of the needs of delivering the curriculum.
     
  10. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    Yes - and I challenged it due to the fact that the official governance handbook states that governors may do some work on a pro-bono basis if they have the appropriate expertise / experience. Due to my business analysis expertise I offered to do a procedural audit which was declined. An official audit subsequently highlighted many such problems and as a result the head nearly lost devolved powers to spend money.
     
  11. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    .

    That's a misleading summary of what the DfE say @neddyfonk I've quote it in full at the end, it makes clear that if you do the sort of audit you were proposing you aren't doing it as a governor. It's got nothing to do with your role as a governor, it's being a parent or community volunteer. As a parent/community member you volunteered to do an IT procedural audit, the school declined your offer. Nothing to do with governance and not evidence that school governance isn't fit for purpose. It seems to me from your posts that your have a personal grievance because your offer to help as a parent/community volunteer was declined.

    Some of the things you say about your own governing body do suggest it isn't very effective (although some of your complaints are trivial - "Minute takers are reluctant to name names" - and others it's hard to see why governors would need to know - "one pupil with 'learning difficulties' who may or may not be one of three with behavioural problems").

    The tender process for the IT system certainly doesn't sound as if it complied with financial regulations and governors should be holding the head to account for that.

    "Pupil premium funding is used for whom, to do what?" is a cause for concern if you mean that this information isn't on the school website, which it is legally required to be. Ofsted will certainly pick this up for statutory non-compliance - the governing body has the legal duty to ensure it is on the website.




    DfE Governance Handbook

    10. It is essential that boards recruit and develop governors with the skills to deliver their core functions effectively. However, it is equally important to emphasise that the skills required are those to oversee the success of the school, not to do the school’s job for it. For example, a governor with financial expertise should use their skills to scrutinise the school’s accounts, not to help prepare them. If a governor does possess skills that the school wishes to utilise on a pro bono basis, then it is important that this is considered separately from their role in governance, and steps should be taken to minimise conflicts of interest and ensure that this does not blur lines of accountability
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    digoryvenn likes this.
  12. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    Not at all. I analyse, find things that need addressing and conclude that the process is either unnecessary or flawed in some way. If that is the case I try to seek solutions. Budgets are a good case in point because they can be created from a top-down or a bottom-up process but in meetings we are presented with a simple total for 'Educational Resources' (for example) which gets adjusted to make the books balance but never any breakdown of what it is being used for which could be dictionaries, science equipment, bought-in worksheets, jigsaws, play money, skipping ropes etc etc.
    At the other end of the spectrum we have RAISE and Dashboards which governors are supposed to use to challenge pupil progress etc. These make it quite obvious that Yr 2 are lagging behind with reading or Yr 5 have excelled in maths, and the reasons should be known by the head who will have taken it up with leaders/teachers. The head normally preempts the expected challenge by revealing the action plan to demonstrate the situation is in hand. That is the heads job !!
     
  13. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

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    I can't see how that's evidence that governance in your school isn't fit for purpose. Why would a governor want to get involved in deciding whether the educational resources budget should be spent on dictionaries, science equipment, bought-in worksheets, jigsaws, play money, or skipping ropes? It isn't your job to decide that, nor do you have the expertise. That's the head's professional responsibility.

    Are you putting that forrward as evidence of good practice or bad practice @neddyfonk ? it's the former surely? Although having an action plan doesn't prevent challenge and discussion.
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    Last edited: May 31, 2016
    digoryvenn likes this.
  14. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    Governors are supposed to be involved with strategic planning and approving future budgets looking forward 3 years.. How are they supposed to approve them if they have no benchmarks or details ? Is £60k a reasonable figure to budget for 200 pupils ? Is there a record of store/issues with an annual stocktake to confirm what is available and how much was used last year? I have never seen one but it is normal business practice - accountability.
     
  15. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

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    If you were managing the school it would be normal practice. But governors aren't managing the school. The head is statutorily responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school, governors are not. There are benchmarks aplenty provided by DfE if you look for them. Why don't you ask head to carry out a benchmarking exercise? That's reasonable.

    I beginning to understand why your Chair has told you that you are interfering in operational matters @neddyfonk . There are things your governors should be doing which they aren't, and things that you are trying to do that you shouldn't. These are problems with your governing body, not problems with school governance nationally.
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    digoryvenn likes this.
  16. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    Yes - all of which are subject to approval by governors who may challenge a heads decision and even block one by democratic vote although I have never witnessed this because governors often to not have the right 'tools' to do their job effectively.
     
  17. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

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    No they are not - read the regulations @neddyfonk ! The head is accountable to the governing body for the outcomes - educational and financial - but is not required to take directions from the governing body on how to manage the school. If your governing body takes the approach you hold you are heading conflict, and I predict it will not end well for governors.

    There are circumstances where the governors could reasonably give directions to the head - statutory non-compliance for example - but not for the examples you have used
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    digoryvenn likes this.
  18. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    The word 'outcomes' has been horribly abused by the educational establishment, often to replace the word objectives. By the time there are educational or financial outcomes it is too late to do anything about it. They should be talking about how objectives can be realized and how they should be project managed ( almost a dirty word in all aspects of education( especially the DfE ) ).
     
  19. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    It means results not objectives, or if you prefer the word used in law, performance.

    There's something very odd about your school if they are not talking about this. Most governing bodies spend much of their time discussing the improvement plans, monitoring their implementation and whether they are meeting milestones and achieving their objectives. If your governing body isn't I can only wonder what you are all doing there. Even odder considering you posted earlier that the head had presented their action plan(s) to governors.
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    digoryvenn likes this.
  20. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    Action plans and milestones are in abundance but many are conveniently forgotten about due to the lack of project management. Minutes never reflect which milestones have been achieved or what remedial action will be taken to put things back on track. Too often I have to steel myself to ask 'what happened to the plan to ' do whatever. This particularly applied to the review of governance which ended up being a paper exercise that was never followed through.
     

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