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The New Chair: the calm before

Humility by Toni Verdú Carbó - licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The New Chair: the calm before

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This is the third 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 or answers to the questions the author poses below, then please leave them as a comment on this post – subject to the new chair’s availability s/he might answer as s/he is able.

Is this getting a bit easier?

I think so.

There’s certainly none of the panic that I felt in the first few weeks, which is nice, and I’m really starting to enjoy the job. Setting my own agendas for meetings (rather than having that first meeting thrust upon me!) has been really key to this as has close contact with the headteacher and staff. All of the ‘small stuff’ like websites and reports that I was preoccupied by at the time of my first post seem to be under control – and I’ve had my first parental complaints and swiftly realised they aren’t always bad news!

Big stuff that’s going on:

We’ve had a couple of governors resign

– one of whom will be missed greatly for the work she puts in, the other less so as he was at the other end of the spectrum commitment wise. We’ve filled one of these roles already, the other will be tricky. However one of these was the old chair of governors and as soon as he left the rest of the governors stepped up, and we’re a much more coherent, energetic team;

We’ve been considering the academy question

– see my previous post on this – but we’ve made the decision – what I hope is a wise one – to concentrate on being the best school we can be and consider the academy question after our next Ofsted visit. Being so close to an Ofsted, we can’t distract ourselves by politics;

Ofsted

– they’re not here yet, but they could be any day. Our data isn’t great, and with a new chair and new head with new policies, curricula, assessment and philosophies, it feels as though we’re juggling an awful lot of things and hoping that some of them embed before the big O lands. However there are no more new things happening, the staff love the new curriculum and that is showing in the pupils’ work. We have a lot of positives to talk about as a school which is great!

The headteacher is settling in really well

– pupils, parents and staff really like her (or him). As always with new leadership there is change, but this was needed and welcome, we just need the chance to embed it before Ofsted arrive!

Questions for other chairs

  1. Bearing in mind Ofsted’s tweet just below (which quotes Sir Michael Wilshaw speaking at the 2016 ASCL Conference today) – have any of you had Ofsted come in whilst you were in your first year as chair? Have you any tips you can share?

  2. Do you think that we’ve done the right thing by putting the academy question aside until after the next Ofsted?
  3. (This seems a very simple one…)
    How often do you meet with your headteacher? How do you record these meetings? Are they formal or relaxed?

Image credit: Humility by Toni Verdú Carbó – licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


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3 Comments
  • A governor
    Posted at 11:26h, 08 March Reply

    I think I may be in your shoes very shortly, old chair going who has been there for many many years, Ofsted due any day soon and the finances looking very precarious to say the least. 😉

    With regards to the academy question then I would argue that as long as you have got a sound plan and method of evaluating it in place then fair enough. But be careful of events overtaking you.

    It is obvious that the ‘pace of change’ is being cranked up by the government, so a GB needs to be flexible enough to move quickly if the situation demands it.

    I believe there is not a strictly right or wrong decision here, only the best decision that can be made at the time with the facts available, taking into account what is most likely (after all, change is constant, as they say) to happen in the future. Happy days 😉

  • The New Chair
    Posted at 14:10h, 10 March Reply

    Thank you very much for the comment, and thank you for the sound advice! As you say, we need to be flexible!

  • sane4sure
    Posted at 12:01h, 20 March Reply

    I am in a very similar position to you. Elected at the start of the school year in September and finding out that there is a significant commitment to being a chair and hoping that I can dedicate enough time to do the role justice.

    1. We are also facing Ofsted any day now and my outlook on it is that we just need to be as prepared as we can be. I just love the quote from Sir Michael Wilshaw – so easy to say not to spend inordinate time preparing for the inspection. Is he really not aware of the pressure schools are under to do well during these? Talk to your head and other subject leaders and make sure you understand where your school is and what the plan is to realistically get it to where you want it to be. Of course, one of the battles is to ensure that ALL members of the governing body understand the ins and outs of the data and the School Improvement Plan.

    2. As to the ‘academy’ question, the other replier to your post hits the nail on the head. You are probably wise to not get distracted by the process just now, but need to be prepared for the process when/if you do need to go down that path.

    3. I meet weekly for an informal chat with the head. I pop in one evening on my way home from work. We discuss lots of issues and make a handwritten record in a notebook. This contains just bullet points of the things discussed. I find these meetings absolutely invaluable as I get to learn lots of things (good and bad!) about the school. They provide me with lots of background information and give me a clearer view on what’s going on and the challenges faced. I feel that the head also finds the chats useful as they can talk about things to someone ‘independant’ and sometimes they just need to get things off their chest.

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