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The 2015 NGA Awards for Outstanding Governance

Tristram Hunt MP addressing the outstanding governance awards

The 2015 NGA Awards for Outstanding Governance

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nga-awards-2015Yesterday the National Governors’ Association held its annual awards ceremony in recognition of those who have been judged to be outstanding in school governance. The awards recognise exceptional governing and trust boards from schools and academies as well as the clerks who perform a critical, but often little-appreciated and understood role in supporting school governors.

The NGA Awards ceremony took place on the Terrace of the Houses of Parliament overlooking the Thames and was hosted by Neil Carmichael MP, who restated his intention to run for the vacant position of Chair of the Education Select Committee recently vacated by Graham Stuart and also that he intended to proceed with his previously tabled private member’s Bill on school governance:

Originally scheduled to be presented by the Secretary of State for Education, it was instead the Shadow Secretary of State, Tristram Hunt MP, who was present to lend his support to the role of good governance in schools – drawing attention to and similarities with the critical role that good clerking plays in effective school governance and the day-to-day political life of Westminster. He also gave his support to Neil Carmichael’s bid to be chair of the Education Select Committe and was unequivocal in his opinion of the importance of governors in a changing school environment:

Outstanding Clerk to a Governing Board 2015 – the finalists

The judges were looking for good organising skills; a scrupulous attention to the basic mechanism of running a governing board; a thorough understanding of what the role and functions of a governing board are; knowledge of the law as it relates to governance; an ability to get on well with people, especially in the key relationships with the chair and head; the ability to be the governing board’s critical friend; and something special that they have brought to the governing board beyond the basics.

Four clerks – two from Wales, two from England – were nominated for the NGA Outstanding Clerk to a Governing Board award:

  • Anwen Bumby from Ysgol Glan-y-Mor;
  • Sally Coulter from William Farr Church of England Comprehensive School;
  • Helen Barber from Riverhead Infants’ School;
  • David Walker from St George’s Church of England Academy.

All four were presented with their awards – with Sally Coulter and David Walker announced as joint winners overall. You can read the background citations of all four nominees on the NGA web site (PDF) but it’s helpful to share those of the winners here (emphasis added):

Sally Coulter of William Farr Church of England Comprehensive, Lincoln

Sally Coulter receiving her award

“Sally takes a clear role in the management, development and implementation of governance and the governing board. She has a strong focus on the strategic role and function of the governing board, enabling governors to concentrate on their core function. Sally provides a great support to the chair, ensuring that the governing board is driven by the school improvement agenda. She is proactive and provides appropriate support, information and guidance where required, drawing upon her in-depth and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of governance and the wider educational landscape. She keeps herself well informed and up to date.”

David Walker of St George's Church of England Academy Trust, County Durham

David Walker receiving his award

“David is very much at the heart of the governing board, ambitious for it and for the school. David is an essential part of the leadership of the governing board, in an understated but effective manner. He has a high level of knowledge, understanding and experience in school improvement and governance and is able to use this knowledge alongside his expertise as a facilitator to assist the governing board to assess its own impact and improve practice. He has a direct impact on the professionalism and function of the governing board.”

Outstanding Governing Board Award – the finalists

The second award is for an Outstanding Governing Board in England, who by its good governance has increased opportunities for achievement by their children and young people. The part played by the governing board in achieving that had to be demonstrated.

The finalists were:

  • Ashmount School, Loughborough;
  • Churchill Community College, North Tyneside;
  • Kingsway Community Trust, Manchester;
  • Plantation Primary School, Halewood, Merseyside;
  • Silver Springs Academy, Stalybridge, Manchester
  • Upland Primary School, Bexleyheath.

with the governing board of Churchill Community College being announced as the overall winners. Again, please read all of the finalists’ citations on the NGA website, but it’s worth including Churchill’s here:

“The school has progressed from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’ in terms of Ofsted inspection and is now a teaching school.
“The breadth of experience and skills of the governing board are wide ranging and their expertise has enabled them to challenge leaders well, holding them to account for the progress made by all. The vision of the college – “excellence for all” – has resulted in an outward-facing school prepared to not only share its experience and knowledge but also continue to learn in the process.
“The college is used by North Tyneside local authority, the North Tyneside Learning Trust and other local authorities to provide support to other schools. The governors are instrumental in enabling school to school support and modelling such good practice by being associate governors elsewhere.”

Closing the event, Laura McInerney from SchoolsWeek confessed that, as a teacher, she’d had an assumption that the newspaper would be for teachers, hear from teachers, and be about teachers – but had been (pleasantly) surprised by the volume of contact from governors. “We often hear complaints that an incoming Secretary of State for Education has never been a teacher” said McInerney, with the Shadow Secretary of State stood almost in her line of sight, “but I’d like to ask any prospective Secretary of State ‘Have you ever been a school governor?’ – that would be a sign of real commitment.”

Congratulations to all of the finalists – and to the volunteer judges, who were clearly inspired by what they saw when they visited governing boards around the country. We’ve a gallery of images from the awards ceremony, including all of the finalists, on Flickr, but before you look at those, why not contemplate which of the following questions you might like to answer at your next full governing board meeting?

Questions for governing boards

  • Read the citations for the six governing boards. Do any of the situations these governing boards have worked in mirror your school’s? What can you learn from them?
  • Likewise, read the citations for the clerks. Do they exceed the expectations your governing board has for its clerk? If so, how might you address that to ensure that you get the most out of the person who attends your meetings to support you in governance? How does your board need to change the way it uses its clerk?
  • How would you rate your governing board in its performance and effectiveness? Good in all areas? Where could you improve? Would you know how to start that process?
  • What would you hope would be ‘outstanding’ about your governing board this time next year? Will you nominate your board for the 2016 Outstanding Governance Awards?

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