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Staff Support Governors - access to Information

Discussion in 'Governors' started by MidnightRider, May 20, 2015.

  1. Dear Stephen

    i was appointed as the Support Staff Governor last year and attended a formal training session held by the local LA. I am only allowed to sit on the GB committee for Curriculum and Trust meetings when and if invited. I am asked to pass minutes at these meetings from the other committees that have taken place. Our school financial situation can not be described as very good and as a result a re- structure is imminent. I noticed certain points in minutes from a finance committee meeting and challenged them and also requested to see the current and forecast budget. The chair wanted to know my reasons behind this request and when I declared that My request was neither job or person specific and that as a Governor I had the right to request any information in order to fulfil my duties. I have received a reply basically stating that the Trust and GB considers my questions to be outside my remit as a staff Governor as There maybe a conflict of interest. My sole purpose for wanting this information is to assess if the strategic direction of the school is the right one.. At my formal training when I queried whether a staff governor could request financial information I was advised this was correct. Who is right and what action can I take as I feel I have only been appointed to fulfil legal requirements rather than to provide the GB with useful/ constructive input?
     
  2. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Are you posting under your real name? If so I'd recommend you change it (easiest way is to ask TES admin to do it by reporting your own post to contact them - click the triangle with the ! in it).

    Can you clarify a couple of points. Although you did training with LA it looks like you are in an academy, yes? Is it a standalone academy or part of a multi-academy trust (MAT)? If standalone are your a relatively recent converter (ie since around 2011)? Did your training cover that governance in academies is two-tier, with the Academy Trust as the ultimately accountable body, delegating functions to the governing body?
     
  3. montiagh

    montiagh New commenter

    If you are an academy and you are part of a MAT are you serving on a local governing body known as LGB? If you are in a maintained school you will get a different response. Either way your request for information is exactly what most of the governance fraternity would be expecting you to do. Your trust and GB say you are outside the bounds of your remit, if that is the case, do you have a copy of your remit or is it being dreamt up on the hoof?

    Whether you are in an academy/MAT or a maintained school all are spending chunks of the national purse and their finances must be scrutinised and challenged if needed.

    You should not be asked to approve minutes at meetings you were not present at but it is right and proper that you have copies to know what is going on in other areas of your governance.

    Better answers can be given if we can ascertain more about your school. Like RW says don't use your correct name and if you were born in the year in your name get rid of that also. You never know who might track these forums.

    Unfortunately these days there are different answers to different school's legal entity.
     
  4. Thank you for the advice I will get my name altered on the site.

    I do work in a standalone academy which converted in 2012. The training did cover the Roles of the Trust and Governing body. I just feel that I might as well go to meetings and read a book as I am not permitted to query anything. My understanding after the training that although I was a staff Governor my role was just as important as all the others,

    Any advice you can give will be welcome.
     
  5. As I have explained to RW below we are a standalone Academy over 2 sites with one Trust and 2 GBs. Staff Governors are new to the GBs from last year.

    No one gave me or the other staff governor a remit but we were told that we could not sit on any other committees and this is stated within the Terms of Reference. I understand that I could go to another committee meeting and That I would not be allowed to vote, but i have also been told that in regards to the Finance and HR committee it would probably not be worth going as I would be asked to Leave when they were discussing staff issues, including collective issues.

    The questions I queried re the Finance minutes were about staffing costs, as they just didn't make sense to me, for example it stated that staffing costs had increased considerably over the last and present year even though we have lost and not replaced staff?! Since asking for this information I have received emails suggesting that my interest is personal, but I am only trying to understand the financial situation in order to best fulfil my role as Governor. With these obstacles being placed in my way it appears that my role as Governor is being considered more of a hindrance to the other non staff Governors.

    I thought we were supposed to act for the common good! Do you have any suggestions, is there any point?
     
  6. montiagh

    montiagh New commenter

    The problem that you have setting aside your ideals which are admirable and exactly what we expect in the maintained sector is that Academy schools are run by their trustees (a select clique of only a few) except if you are a cooperative trust academy.

    These trustees have the power to appoint and get rid of you just as quickly. As regards your terms of reference these are determined by your Trustees and can be altered by them to suit at any time.

    You will have a set of articles in school that you should acquaint yourself with. The latest model version for a single academy can be found here. Yours may well be circa 2012.

    www.gov.uk/.../academy-model-memorandum-and-articles-of-association

    You can get a set of full accounts for your school as you are a company from Companies House.

    May I suggest you also contact Governorline their helpline number is 08000 722 181 and they are available Monday–Friday from 9am–8pm they can give you one to one personal guidance.

    https://form.education.gov.uk/fillform.php?self=1&form_id=YkzRACPxB35&noLoginPrompt=1

    Finances will be squeezed for all schools over the next few years so it is a top of the agenda subject. Maybe those at the top of your school have had above inflation increases.

    Perhaps in your current situation it may be wise to stay low and off the trustees radar.
     
  7. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Good advice from montiagh. This illustrates only too well how academies can get away with things that would be prohibited in an LA school. Is it surprising that most of the recent financial scandals in schools have been in academies? They seem to have formalised the position in the formal terms of reference and under academies legislation there's nothing to stop them doing that. It's wrong in terms of good governance but unfortunately it isn't easy to tackle this as a staff governor without the risk of negative consequences for your employment so you will have to consider how far you want to push this..

    Although montiagh is correct that you can get the published accounts easily enough, these probably won't help you much as (a) they won't include the detailed operating accounts that governors see, (b) they will probably be at at least a year old and (c) they won't have future forecasts or budgets. The academy's obstruction is odd in one sense because if you had made a freedom of information request for them they would almost certainly have to produce them for you (although you might have to fight to get them - they sound like the sort of the academy that will try to ignore its FOI obligations). You could ask a friend unconnected with the academy to make the FOI request. Even when successful though I appreciate that would only be a partial answer. You don 't only want to see the financial information but to take a full part in discussing it.

    They're not the first academy (or LA school) that doesn't understand the difference between conflict of interest and confidentiality. Conflict of interest relates to the decision-making process, that someone who has a personal interest in the outcome or who cannot take an impartial view should not take part in the decision-making. But that doesn't mean that after the decision has been made they should not be told the outcome. Confidentiality is an entirely different matter. In an LA school you wouldn't have a personal pecuniary interest in finance or in staff collective issues and policies because regulations specify that staff do not have such an interest unless their interest is "greater than that of the pecuniary interest commonly held by those paid to work at the school". There is no equivalent provision for academies.
     

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