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Announcing Modern Governor Core Skills – taking professional governance seriously

Still from SGOSS video

Announcing Modern Governor Core Skills – taking professional governance seriously

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School governance has undergone a transformation in recent years. Ask anyone who’s been involved in governance for more than half a dozen Secretaries of State for Education and they’ll be able to paint you a picture of the changes in what’s expected of governors – particularly by central government. The watchword now from the DfE’s governance unit is professional – which isn’t necessarily about paying governors, but instead focuses on governors undertaking their role in a professional manner. Some of the roles and responsibilities described in this video from SGOSS would be alien to most governors even ten years ago:

There is a (jaded) view of governance that it’s all a one-way transaction – that we turn up for meetings, take responsibility (a description of governors as “the only group of volunteers directly responsible for implementing national government policy” is close to the mark) and in return lose our evenings, get more email & paperwork, and still have our efforts misunderstood by the wider community and occasionally the Secretary of State for Education.

However, as the SGOSS video above makes clear, there are benefits for those who volunteer as governors and, if they’re in work or have other responsibilities, also for their employers or other organisations they might be involved in:

“…we learn new soft skills and the complex strategies needed to help manage schools…”

There could be an assumption that this will happen automatically – that by some kind of institutional osmosis, being part of a governing board or an academy trust board will equip us with a wide range of hitherto untapped or unrealised capabilities. Anyone who’s been involved in governance will know that this isn’t necessarily the case. Instead there can be a temptation to leave the work to the Chair and the Clerk – excellent (and potentially exhausting) professional development opportunities for them maybe, but what about the rest of the governing board?

Governors – governance geeks, effective professionals, or both?

Often, general governance training focuses on the implementation of and details around governance legislation – at Modern Governor many of our modules focus on areas about which governors and trustees will be examined – working effectively with the headteacher, Pupil Premium, SEN – as well as induction into the roles and responsibilities of governors. Much local authority training and training offered by governance consultants focuses on this as well.

A possible outcome of all of this is that a governing board could become extremely knowledgeable on all things to do with governance; be able to quote page and paragraph of the DfE Governors’ Handbook; describe in detail the statutory functions of a particular school type – but not have the ability to communicate effectively, discuss issues, reach consensus or disagree on something important without coming to verbal blows. The ability to operate effectively with others – and to manage oneself – are known by a number of names – soft skills, transferable skills, core skills – and it’s clear that this area is part of what the DfE means by a ‘professional approach to governance’.

Soft skills, Core Skills

Screen from the Stress Awareness module from Modern Governor's Core Skills collection

Screen from the Stress Awareness module from Modern Governor’s Core Skills collection

Modern Governor’s new Core Skills modules are an essential part of any governor’s professional development. Alongside our leading online CPD for governors, they offer governors the chance for personal professional development in a wide range of areas. The first batch of mobile-friendly learning modules to be made available covers Working with others and, in a further blog post on Monday, we’ll be detailing the modules in this first Core Skills collection.

The modules are going to be released during the course of this term and will cover a wide range of skills – some about working with others within your board, some about managing yourself and being more effective and less-stressed across all of your life, with others covering representation of your school in other situations. All are designed to help governors feel more confident and equipped to do well in whatever they are faced with, either as a governor, at work, in other voluntary roles, or even at home.

Accessing Core Skills

Existing Modern Governor subscribers

If your governing or trust board already subscribes to Modern Governor’s e-learning service, then you can access the first collection of Core Skills modules on Working with others now at no extra cost – simply log into Modern Governor and search or browse for them.

New subscribers

If you haven’t yet subscribed to Modern Governor, then taking out a new subscription will get you access to the Core Skills modules plus all of the leading Modern Governor modules which support your governors’ and trustees’ professional development. If you’ve not yet used the service, then you can sign up for a free 30 day trial of some of the modules, all designed to work with your mobile phone, tablet or computer. If you’d like to subscribe and take advantage of the widest range of online modules available to governors and trustees then get in touch by emailing

Questions for governing boards

  • Do we know what we’re good at as a governing board? Which, if any, practical areas do we struggle in – organisation, communication, something else?
  • Are we aware of the skills and experience around the table when we meet as a board?
  • In the last academic year, was there anything that didn’t go as well as it might have? Have we worked out why that was the case, or simply moved on, hoping it was a one-off?
  • Do we see recruitment of new governors as the main way by which we’ll increase the skills and competencies within our board, or do we have the capacity (and commitment) to encourage and enable existing governors to develop professionally?

Image: Still taken from SGOSS video


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