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A Ten Minute Bill to make school governance easier, more effective and rewarding

The APPG on Education Governance & Leadership meeting in Committee Room 6, Houses of Parliament

A Ten Minute Bill to make school governance easier, more effective and rewarding

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APPG on Education Governance & Leadership – December 2014

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Education Governance and Leadership’s December meeting was held on Monday the 8th December in Committee Room 6 at the House of Commons. The meeting focused on two main topics. The first was the 20 questions every governing board should ask itself – or actually a revised version of those questions, which are detailed here in a post from July 2012. There was some debate around the wording and scope of the revised questions – they’re not included in this post as they will be (re-)released in January 2015.

The second and main focus of the meeting was on Neil Carmichael’s School Governors (Appointment) Bill 2014-15,introduced under the Ten Minute Rule on the 28th October 2014. You can read the transcript from Hansard – and although Ten Minute Rule Bills allow for a response to oppose the Bill, none was made. Neil (who chairs this APPG) said at the outset that it is quite possible that this Bill won’t become law, but that it could influence subsequent legislation around governance – so it would effectively act as a pathfinder to enable more substantial legislation to be enacted. In attendance were Lord Nash, Emma Knights from the NGA, Nick Knight from Inspiring Governors, as well as representatives from The Key Governor Support, SGOSS, local authorities, academy trusts, local governor associations, NAHT, ASCL, the FE sector and others.

APPG agenda

The agenda for the APPG on Education Governance & Leadership, 8th Dec 2014

Neil Carmichael led the meeting through the various elements of the Bill – you can see them in the image on the right (click to enlarge). They’re listed below – with notes taken from the discussion around each point accompanying it in italics.

1. Working with employers to recruit skilled governors and trustees: the barriers and the solutions

  1. Flexibility of time off & the right to seek time off for academy governors/trustees;
  2. Trying to influence a board as a new member;
  3. Is the constitution still a barrier?

 

Discussion points:

  • SGOSS are collating data on how companies support staff who are governors in terms of what’s offered to staff who are governors.
  • Concern from NGA that it’s becoming difficult to be in full-time employment and government, or at least chair.
  • From HE: we should encourage SME governors, not just from large corporations – how about people from public sector, health trusts etc.
  • Governing bodies need to align themselves with governors in order to get good governors – times of meetings as an example.
  • There’s a need to ‘sell’ governance as something ‘different’ – not the sort of thing imagined by previous generations.

2. The role of Chair of Governors

  1. The time & commitment
  2. Appointing chairs

 

Discussion points:

  • What sort of person should become chair?
  • What about recruiting a chair from outside the governing body?

  • Chairs now do a very different job to that of 5 years ago.
    How about distributed governance – where governors responsible for particular issues take full responsibility for the school’s direction in that area?
  • Having better clerks makes for more effective chairs.
  • We need a better model of effective clerking – a pool of qualified clerks available to schools in an area. The sort of thing local authorities used to and in many cases still offer…?


3. CPD for governors and trustees

  1. Induction;
  2. The reducing role of the NCTL;
  3. Quality assurance of training.

 

Discussion points:

  • Induction: scope for governors to engage in the evidence base – movements such as ResearchED should include governance as part of their remit, rather than just teaching;
  • The NGA is of the view that governors should be trained;
  • Lord Nash: if training is mandatory then some governors (for example staff and the HT) would find some of it unnecessary;
  • Skills audit could be used to identify which skills should be used – identifying gaps in knowledge for each governor.


4. Interim Executive Boards

  1. Paying members of IEBs;
  2. Developing a pool of IEB members.

Discussion points:

  • When governance fails on the back of leadership failure it’s a devastating event in the life of a school;
  • Communication with parents needed for IEBs to be successful in a school’s community;
  • A pool of effective IEB members would be useful;
  • Paying IEBs – should this be a civic duty – i.e. volunteering – or paid?

5. Removing governors

  1. Does (the process of removal) this need strengthening, especially for elected governors?.

 

Untitled

Discussion on the ideal size of governing bodies

Discussion points:

  • How easy is it to remove someone who is incompetent?
  • What are the mechanisms for removing different governors?
  • Should there be a test for whether a governor should remain. Should this be the same for all governors?
  • CofE will remove governors whose behaviour brings the school into disrepute;
  • Much discussion around the size of governing bodies:

  • Considering the investment in time, effort and thought around governing bodies it seems crazy that some of them only meet three or four times per year;
  • Lord Nash: smaller groups (“six”) having shorter & more focused meetings which happen more often;
  • The model for professional, smaller, governing bodies with more skilled members may work in London and other metropolitan areas, but where recruiting governors is difficult, for whatever reason, it may be untenable;
  • Lord Nash: there is a process for removing governors, but it’s not widely known about or used:

 


6. Civil recognition

  1. Can local or national honours systems support the recognition of governors and their work?

 

Discussion points:

  • If national honours are not appropriate, what scope is there for local civil honours in recognition of governance?
  • Lord Nash: we did work with HR thoroughly opaque honours system to recognise education more
  • Give recognition of those  employers who recognise he importance of governors by giving hem time off
  • Recognition by national events – e.g. reception at Houses of Parliament?

Untitled

Time to put governance on Parliament’s agenda?

Before going in to Committee Room 6, there was speculation among those waiting outside regarding how interactive the meeting would be – based on previous experience of APPGs, some said it would be a lecture with little room for discussion. Refreshingly, Neil Carmichael MP wanted to make use of the expertise, experience and wisdom of those in the room, and anyone who wanted to contribute could, subject to the usual time constraints of a meeting. If this Ten Minute Bill is intended to influence subsequent and possibly more substantial legislation, then engaging with and influencing it could have significant outcomes for the legislative framework for school governance in the future.

If you feel that it should be given wider support, then you can write to your MP, or even ask them to attend the APPG on Education Governance and Leadership:

The next reading is on the January 23rd 2015 – if you want to keep up-to-date on progress on the bill then you can sign up for email updates from the Parliament web site. The Modern Governor blog will cover the updated 20 Questions when they’re released in the New Year.

Postscript

If you attended the APPG meeting or have any reflections on this, please add a comment, or respond to the tweet of this blog post if you’re on Twitter. Any comments will be published below, and this post will be updated with any tweets.


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