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Modern Governor module spotlight: Church Schools

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Modern Governor module spotlight: Church Schools

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The Modern Governor Church Schools module has been completely updated this year to reflect the changing worlds of policy and practice and how these interact with the more established settings across all types of church schools – or as the 2015 Education Act describes them and other institutions, “schools with a religious character”. In this post Sue Noakes, the module’s subject matter expert and Assistant Director of Education for the Chester Diocesan Board of Education, reflects on some of the issues around governance in church schools.

Churches have been involved in schools for hundreds of years, providing education far before the state education system came into being. Yes, the nature of governance in any school, never mind the church school, has changed beyond recognition since those early days; however the main object of the church school, to provide education of the highest quality within a Christian context, has not changed and remains the object of each church school and its governing body today.

The educational landscape is constantly shifting and under the current administration the drive towards academy status is bringing a new structure and emphasis that brings schools more into the business world and encourages them to reconsider how they run their schools and manage their resources. Again, despite this, the core object of the church academy (multi- or not) is still the same – providing an excellent education but within the Christian framework of a church school.

What does this show? That no matter what the changes are to curriculum, structure, testing and finance, the purpose of the church school remains the same; and that is actually the point of governance to steer the school through the stormy seas of change, always keeping in mind the core purpose of the school and providing the strategic vision and lead to ensure that all changes are managed in such a way to ensure they support and develop that purpose. To provide support and challenge to leaders and teachers as they manage the innovations and in the church school to ensure that the Christian nature of the school provides the foundation and is the basis of the development of our future generations.

When seen in these terms, involvement with a school through governance is a privilege. To know that the decisions we make will impact the lives of the citizens of the future, that the time we give up voluntarily is so important to the academic and personal development of young lives. It can be difficult to see sometimes when inspection is due, knowing that inspectors will be looking at us and our work both in terms of attainment and achievement and also church school distinctiveness; but if we keep in mind our core purpose and that we are there for the children in the school and not the inspectors then we see the impact and benefits of being involved in church school education.

The church school module gives some of the background to where church schools come from and how their core purpose was developed. It also explains some of the practical differences between church schools and what the role of the governor is within this. It aims to give governors the tools to help develop our role and our understanding of what a distinctive Church school is.

The module’s structure:

As with all Modern Governor modules, the purpose of the Church Schools module is to equip an entire governing board with a core understanding of the issues and principles around a particular aspect of governance. This will enable all governors to start from a shared understanding of those issues and work out the implications in the local context of the school. The module’s structure is as follows – some screenshots are shown above:

Certificate awarded for completion of Modern Governor Church Schools module.

A sample certificate which would be awarded on completion of the Modern Governor Church Schools module.

  • Introduction – understanding how church schools came into existence and what a church school is;
  • Types of church schools – the differences in the several types of church schools;
  • The governor’s role – understanding the role of a governor in a church school;
  • Ethos – the behaviours that can help a school become an exemplary church school;
  • Quiz – a check on understanding in addition to the knowledge checks included in the preceding modules;
  • Summary – reflection on what’s been covered in the module’s units.

In common with all Modern Governor modules, once they’ve finished governors are able to download a personalised certificate in PDF format as evidence of completion of the module. On request representatives from a local authority, diocese, academy trust or chain, or if required the school’s development governor can easily run an online report showing detailed course enrolment and completion statistics by governors from a school, academy or (with appropriate permissions) across a trust, chain, diocese or local authority.

The module is available to subscribers to the Modern Governor service along with nearly thirty other modules. All new and updated modules are available in a smartphone- and tablet-friendly format and are updated by subject matter experts as appropriate.

Questions for governing boards:

  • Whether your school is a church school, a school with religious character or has no affiliation to any faith, what is its ethos? Is it clearly articulated, displayed in all aspects of the school’s life and demonstrated in your strategic aims as a governing board?
  • Do governors have a clear and shared understanding around what additional responsibilities might be asked of them if they are governors in a church school?
  • How do the proposed measures – particularly those relating to schools with a religious character – in the 2015 Education and Adoption Act affect your school?

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