03 Dec The New Chair – Introduction
This is the first in a series of blog posts by a newly-elected chair of governors in a primary school documenting the experiences s/he has starting out in the role. For obvious reasons it’s anonymous – if you have helpful questions then please leave them as a comment on this post – subject to the new chair’s availability s/he might answer as s/he can.
A quick introduction
I’ve been a governor at three different schools over the last ten years – four years of which have been at the school I’m a chair at now. I became chair of governors at the start of this term. The school is a large village primary school, Ofsted says we’re good with outstanding and it’s not going to be that long before they’re back to inspect us again. We had a new headteacher start in September. We’re still part of the Local Authority, and yes, as with many other schools we’re considering our options around academisation.
I was elected chair at the first full governor’s meeting of the term, and I very quickly realised two things:
- I hadn’t thought about this enough before the meeting – I was about to chair a meeting without any real preparation. This isn’t normal for me, at work I’d have planned for any meeting I’m chairing, but the uncertainty that I’d even be Chair threw me.
- I wasn’t going to get much help from the outgoing Chair. He is staying on as a governor, but had wanted to retain his position as Chair, and there’s been almost no support from him since.
Learning to learn
I’d already attended a Chair’s course, and done an online module on Modern Governor but there’s a big difference between the theory and reality. Since then, I’ve read everything I can get my hands on from DfE handbooks, Ofsted guidance, The Perfect (Ofsted) School Governor by Tim Bartlett and much, much more. Having done so, I realised how little our governing body does – we’d been sleepwalking with our previous (very experienced) headteacher in charge, and it showed in a number of areas – here are the first three that come to mind:
- our results are poor, and there’s very little understanding of progress between year groups;
- headteacher reports were the domain of the headteacher, not guided by the governing body;
- statutory reports were not adequately fulfilled – you should see our pupil premium reporting (or not if you’re from Ofsted).
I’ve changed a few things – the easy and quick areas such as ensuring our website is up-to-date; starting new processes – a new headteacher report format and pupil premium tracking; improved our communication – the last chair made it a policy not to meet with parents or ask for feedback – we’ve changed both of those things already.
It is a heck of a lot more work than I expected it to be, although it is interesting and challenging, so it doesn’t feel like hard work at all. The school is great, and there’s a real sense of togetherness under the new headteacher. Governors have a long list of things we need to do to ensure we’re ‘Ofsted ready’ – a lot of them are in understanding of data, progression, asking challenging questions and more. But we’re on the right track and we’ll get there!
Questions for you
I’d be fascinated to hear about your experience of becoming the chair of governors in your school. If you can answer any of these questions please reply with a comment. Thank you!
- How did you prioritize your first term in the job?
- If the previous chair is still on your governing body, how do you manage them and the agenda s/he possibly still has for the school?
- How do you manage to motivate the rest of the governing body to step-up and take some responsibility?