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Should school governor training be compulsory?

Should school governor training be compulsory?

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speech bubblesThe National Foundation for Educational Research has published a report titled “Governance Models in Schools“. In it, they state that “Key to effective governance was perceived to be governors having a clear understanding of their role (and its limits) and an understanding of the strategic responsibilities of governing bodies.”

Training forms a huge part of this; without adequate training in their role and responsibilities, how is a governing body expected to reach the right decisions and ask the right questions of their school?

According to the report, barriers to governors attending face to face training include a lack of employer support, a lack of time, variable encouragement from their school, and an unwillingness to travel.

Making training available online is (obviously!) something we support wholeheartedly. E-learning enables governors to learn at a time to suit their busy schedules.  It also allows governors who are unable to attend face to face training an opportunity to undertake training they would otherwise miss.

People tell me that there has to be an element of face to face time for governors to network with their colleagues and to exchange ideas – this might be in the form of networking events or training sessions from their local authority governor support unit.  But is a comprehensive events calendar sustainable from a local authority perspective? If not, will governors expect more from their local association?

We’ve set-up a quick poll on our homepage – and at the time of writing this post, the overwhelming majority think that governor training should be compulsory.

What do you think?

Should governor training be compulsory?

Who would/should pay for it?

Who would/should deliver it?

How would any compulsory training be monitored/tracked?

If training became compulsory, would this discourage people from becoming governors?

Would you expect to be paid for completing any compulsory training?



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71 Comments
  • Keith Ingram
    Posted at 11:10h, 26 May Reply

    I am interested to read this blog. It is often forgotten that here in Welsh Wales we actually don’t run in the same way. We don’t have Ofsted, we have our own legislative framework, our own minister of education etc etc. Some things we don’t have such as SATS, we tried them, didn’t like them and that was that. I’ve been the chair of 2 governing bodies and I always twitch at the word compulsory. School governors are volunteers who give of themselves and their time. A good governor, the majority, does do training. We have a very high percentage take up on induction training. The training has to be accessible, relevant (spending time training all governors on a topic eg inspections when you’ve only just been inspected makes it obsolete when it finally comes around), set at just the right level (governors are NOT professionals) and complementary to their work as governors.
    I would ask the question in the other way. “Are governors currently performing SO badly that legislation is required to make training compulsory” I say NO.
    Yes we all benefit from more training but my view, and remember I’m in Wales is that I am happy with our own governor support unit and the training they provide.

  • The Obligatory Wordle - your responses to our question "Should school governor training be compulsory?" | Modern Governor
    Posted at 11:46h, 26 May Reply

    […] recent question has prompted lots of you to comment – you can view our blog and all comments here (don’t forget to add your comment […]

  • mary
    Posted at 12:08h, 26 May Reply

    What’s happened to the first 51 responses? When I go tho this thread it only shows paost 52 onwards. is this just me or is there some way of getting to the others taht i can’t find?

  • Simon Gosney
    Posted at 22:50h, 26 May Reply

    I think it should be compulsory, but there are lots of ways that it can be delivered. I think we need to move beyond the idea of expecting governors to show up for lots of classroom-based courses and instead diversify the range of learning methods. As well as the online learning that the Modern Governor provides, I’d like to see greater use of webinar-based training as a cost-effective, timely and involving way of keeping governors up-to-date with current thinking and new developments.

  • Peter Monk (aka VideoP)
    Posted at 23:38h, 26 May Reply

    I support Mary’s comment wholeheartedly.. What we now have is interesting BUT far from the whole range of comments, many of which have been quite eye-opening.

  • Neville Cordingley
    Posted at 08:28h, 27 May Reply

    As a newly elected governor just over twelve months ago I was very interested to be told of the modern governor scheme. I attended my first ‘training’ session (2 hours) and was bored to tears. I then had a look at modern governor and was much impressed. I have completed all modules that are available and, i’m sure, gained more knowledge by completing each each in a relaxed envirnment at home. The great advantage of course is the fact that you can go over each section as many times as is necessary to fully understand it’s content. I await further modules.

  • Elaine Walton
    Posted at 10:42h, 27 May Reply

    @all Sorry the first 50 comments have temporarily disappeared – we’re working on it now and they’ll be back up soon…

  • Elaine Walton
    Posted at 12:31h, 27 May Reply

    @all Folks, all the comments are now back up on this site with handy “older comments” and “newer comments” navigation buttons. Apologies for the glitch! There are now 57 comments up, so do take a look and send in your thoughts.

    Thank you @Simon Gosley and @Neville Cordingley for your kind comments about Modern Governor. I’m really pleased that it gave you a flexible way to access governor training.

  • Rex Beech
    Posted at 18:01h, 27 May Reply

    Although my vote was in favour of training for governors, I strongly agree with the comments of Keith Ingram. I have been a governor for over 25 years and one of my concerns is that governors are not as highly valued as they should be by all sections of society because they are unpaid and, in some cases, untrained – they have little status other than in their own domain.

  • Houria Djaafar
    Posted at 20:12h, 27 May Reply

    In my opinion it should be compulsory because we all benefit from it and more training we can develop our skills. All what it expected from us to spend time for training so, I can see this quality training is vital for all school governors to enhance governance effectiveness.

  • Colin Drain
    Posted at 22:50h, 29 May Reply

    Governing bodies in general have to work hard to get volunteers to fill the posts. Governors not only give time for meetings, but also school visits,committees and interviews. Telling people that they must undertake training is a sure way to put them off.
    I have found the online training to be perfect, as I have little spare time to attend training courses. Letting other new Governors know that they can get a better understanding of the position with a small amount of effort is preferable to telling them it’s compulsory.
    As for who should pay for training, I think the LA gets a good deal out of us and should enable all governors to have free and easily available training.

  • Steve Acklam
    Posted at 22:50h, 02 June Reply

    One additional input from me that I wish I’d made earlier, and this the basic question of what training should be considered to be made compulsory? Finance and budgeting training for everyone, because the whole Governing body is accountable ? Or recruitment and selection training for all because the GB appoints the Head Teacher? And won’t the inevitable variations in the skill sets of each governing body imply different training needs in each instance? On this basis it feels more about specific need( a point I did make earlier in respect of Chairs) than a general necessity, and at a time of constrained resources this may be the most realistic approach.

  • Sue Pagliaro
    Posted at 14:29h, 07 June Reply

    I have read all these comments with great interest. I am the head of governor support in York and the energy behind the training scheme which we offer to governors in partnership with St John University, York and which Elaine has linked earlier in this discussion thread. The scheme makes available a range of training including: face-to-face classroom-type with optional accreditation from the University, online (via Modern Governor) and whole-governing-body sessions to name but three.

    I believe very strongly that school governors are part of the workforce which ensures that all our children, regardless of ability or background, are given the very best educational opportunities they can be to enable them to achieve their full potential. This must be the driver to anyone involved in education.

    If governors want to be taken seriously and given the recognition they so richly deserve, then they must walk-the-walk. Don’t call yourselves “only volunteers” and see that as some reason for not being rigorous and vigorous (to quote OFSTED) in the execution of your duties. Hold up your heads and BE equal partners with the headteacher in the leadership and management of the school. If you feel you don’t have the knowledge or skills to take on that role – go out and get the training you need!

    It’s disappointing when governors refused to engage in important decisions because they don’t understand the issues: “we don’t understand that, just let the Head get on with it”. That isn’t taking governance seriously and does a great disservice to the governing body they are part of and governance in general! A short training session, delivered by an enthusiast who is good at getting the message across, would have opened those governors’ eyes and given them the knowledge to understand the issue and make objective and informed decisions about it. They wouldn’t be experts after the training – of course not – but it would give them a good basic working knowledge.

    I was saddened too, to read about the governor who was prevented from attending training because the acting-head wouldn’t agree her attendance. This is why the budget for training shouldn’t lie with the school – or if it does a minimum sum should be ringfenced for governor support. It used to be 6% of Standards Fund 1 (which indicates how long I’ve been in this job!!). This was a small enough amount, but did at least mean that governor training wasn’t jostling alongside other claims on the budget. It also ensured that governors actually DID spend something on their own needs – they are generally very reluctant to do so.

    Governors are accountable for, in some cases, multi-million pound budgets – is it right that an untrained workforce should hold that responsibility?

    Governors are part of the workforce which secures the educational opportunities for some of our most vulnerable children and young people – is it right that an untrained workforce should hold that responsibility?

    Governors carry out the headteacher’s performance review, often linked to salary – is it right that an untrained group of people should do that (albeit with an adviser)?

    Whether training becomes compulsory or not, I am convinced that training is essential, but that it needs to be flexible and focussed on need. Some governors will come into their role with a huge amount of experience, knowledge and skills. For them a quick gallop through, for example, school funding streams, will meet their needs. This could be done informally by the school bursar for example. It isn’t a classroom session, or an online course – but it’s training all the same.

    Formal face-to-face training will always have its place and it is a good opportunity for governors to meet and engage with other governors. Sure – governors are volunteers and the majority give unstintingly of their time and are passionate about educational opportunity for all. This is why we, who design and deliver governor training opportunities, have a duty to ensure that the sessions are engaging, relevant and focussed. We must ensure that the training is flexible enough to meet the needs of the majority and available at times to suit. We must go the extra mile to engage governors in training by offering tailor-made solutions where appropriate – perhaps through one-to-one training, mentoring and peer support.

    This is absolutely not easy in these times of financial constraint – but it doesn’t half focus the mind on searching for creative solutions!

    The danger of decreeing that training should be compulsory is that it gets tied into nationally prescribed models which stifle the creativity and imagination that should be engaged when offering training to volunteers. That’s not to say that the national training programmes aren’t of great value – they are because they ensure that where they are used they are delivered within a common framework and offer governor trainers another tool amongst others that they can use to provide a wide and varied range of opportunities.

    If you’ve read all this – thank you. I’ll stop there because I’ve probably said enough for now. You will have gathered that I’m pretty passionate about this subject and could probably bore for England once I get going…..!

  • Elaine Walton
    Posted at 14:54h, 07 June Reply

    @Sue Pagliaro Hi Sue and thanks for giving us your comments.

    From my point of view, your model offers governors a tremendous degree of flexibility of training delivery (online and offline). You make plenty of noise about your training programme, so governors are aware of it. And you do go the extra mile in making sure that governors have access to face to face events to network/communicate with other governors. I think engagement is the key when it comes to governor training – particularly a new governor. If a new governor joins a governing body and doesn’t know where/who to go to for training, or feels they are overwhelmed by the role, they’re more likely to become disillusioned with the role and feel they’re “not up to the job”.

    I like your questions about whether an untrained workforce should have the responsibility of multi-million pound budgets/headteacher performance and educational responsibilities.

  • Colin Drain
    Posted at 20:11h, 07 June Reply

    I agree that training is essential, as most people who join a Governing body will not have experience in either education or management, and rarely both. The requirement of a school governor in lots of schools is a willingness to turn up!
    When I first joined a Governing body I told the Head that I was slightly embarrassed by the letter I had written supporting my application. Her response was that I needn’t be as the return of my form meant I was ‘in’.
    I think the Governing body itself should encourage it’s members to undertake training and be as informed and professional as they can. I am going to suggest to our Training Link Governor that we hand out a form for governors to fill out, listing things they dont understand fully or would like more information about. That way we can suggest certain courses or online training to suit their needs.
    I will also suggest that we get together and go through some online training, so that people who might be a bit nervous of the internet can see how simple it is.
    Knowledge of your role can only increase your efficiency and enjoyment.

  • Michelle Taylor
    Posted at 20:25h, 07 June Reply

    In response to a couple of other posters
    @ Dorothy Williams said ” It’s all common sence, as far as I can see… I can honestly say that the governors have made sure that the boys and girls are happier now than they have ever been..” This worries me as a governors role is not to make sure the children are happy, but that they are learning. I think Dorothy is right in that common sence does play a large role in what we do and how we question and why we question, but there is a lot more to it than just common sence, there is the fact that we also have to comply with the law (which isn’t always common sence) and guidance and it is the knowledge of such guidance and legislations that governors need basic training.
    That training need not be at the LA offices, or at the time convenient to the trainer. It needs to have a range suitable for all. A governing body could sign up for such as modern governor and do the training in their own home, but for those who are not so PC freindly the school could set up a training session themselves and go through the modules together on a white screen. It’s not impossible to be flexible.

    @ Mary said “A volunter is some one who does something without being under legal obligation to do it” Actually this isn’t exactly correct. There is a sort of legal obligation to attend meetings as per the The School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2007 schedule 6 (quote from Page 22 of the governors guide to the law “39. A person is disqualified from holding or from continuing to hold office as a governor or associate member if he or she: fails to attend the governing body meetings – without the consent of the governing body – for a continuous period of six months, beginning with the date of the first meeting missed (not applicable to ex officio governors)”)

    My view is that although we are unpaid volunteers that does not mean to say that we should be amateurs as we shouldn’t be. We should be professional in how we go about our business and that includes the training aspect. We hold a great deal of responsibility including being responsible for other professionals careers.

  • Michelle Taylor
    Posted at 20:26h, 07 June Reply

    In response to a couple of other posters
    Dorothy Williams said ” It’s all common sence, as far as I can see… I can honestly say that the governors have made sure that the boys and girls are happier now than they have ever been..” This worries me as a governors role is not to make sure the children are happy, but that they are learning. I think Dorothy is right in that common sence does play a large role in what we do and how we question and why we question, but there is a lot more to it than just common sence, there is the fact that we also have to comply with the law (which isn’t always common sence) and guidance and it is the knowledge of such guidance and legislations that governors need basic training.
    That training need not be at the LA offices, or at the time convenient to the trainer. It needs to have a range suitable for all. A governing body could sign up for such as modern governor and do the training in their own home, but for those who are not so PC freindly the school could set up a training session themselves and go through the modules together on a white screen. It’s not impossible to be flexible.

    Mary said “A volunter is some one who does something without being under legal obligation to do it” Actually this isn’t exactly correct. There is a sort of legal obligation to attend meetings as per the The School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2007 schedule 6 (quote from Page 22 of the governors guide to the law “39. A person is disqualified from holding or from continuing to hold office as a governor or associate member if he or she: fails to attend the governing body meetings – without the consent of the governing body – for a continuous period of six months, beginning with the date of the first meeting missed (not applicable to ex officio governors)”)

    My view is that although we are unpaid volunteers that does not mean to say that we should be amateurs as we shouldn’t be. We should be professional in how we go about our business and that includes the training aspect. We hold a great deal of responsibility including being responsible for other professionals careers.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 08:50h, 22 June Reply

    Governors are volunteers and cannot be compelled to take training; suggestion, persuasion and coercion by the chair of governors and the rest of the board might be the way and certainly stress the benefits of training.

  • Elaine Walton
    Posted at 11:55h, 22 June Reply

    @all An interesting blog called “School Governor Training: A Cause for Concern?” has been published today (22.06) http://bit.ly/mBf4hv

  • Mrs Belinda Brenton
    Posted at 15:59h, 19 July Reply

    I have just become a foundation Governor at the comprehensive school that my daughter will be attending in September. My parish priest put my name forward, and he then told me the date of the next meeting. I attended this meeting and was very confused at the jargon that was being used, and the format of the meeting, I wish somebody had explained to me beforehand what being a Governor involved, as I have no experience in this field whatsoever, and felt very overwhemed, and embarrassed when I had to report back to the board after being placed with the Head of English, who was a very nice gentleman, but at no time did anyone tell me the procedure. I really want to continue being a Governor, but would like more information on the role, and what is expected of me.

  • admin
    Posted at 11:59h, 21 July Reply

    @ Mrs Belinda Brenton It sounds like you’ve had quite a challenging time! I might be able to help by putting you in touch directly with your governor services team/diocese who can support you in your new role.

    Being a school governor is challenging in the beginning, but there are many rewards (once you get your head around the jargon!). You should be really proud of yourself for supporting your local comprehensive, and I’m sure it will become clearer in time.

    You can email me at elaine[at]moderngovernor[dot]com and, of course, any information you send me via email will remain confidential.

    Best wishes
    Elaine

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