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Towards a skilled, professional, inclusive governance community

Image credit: c r e p u s c u l u m by Arnie Sacknooson - licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Towards a skilled, professional, inclusive governance community

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Cathy PearsonCathy Pearson has been a community governor for about 7 years in a secondary school which is part of a MAT. She has a background in healthcare and tends towards lateral thinking, while at the same time being a self-confessed nerd regarding legislation. You can follow Cathy on Twitter at @Pearson_Cathy.

Some context

With my Chair of Governors Development Programme certificate hot off the press and clutching the updated Governance Handbook and Competency Framework, my thoughts are focused on governor training and development.

These mighty tomes tell me (and I’m paraphrasing here) that an effective governing body should be a small, cohesive and dynamic group of highly skilled people, recruited from the workforce for their (pre-existing) relevant skills, knowledge and experience. Oh, and fulfil our duties within the Nolan principles and the “seven C’s”. And all resolutely on a voluntary basis.

So, not the 44% of governors stated in the NGA 2016 survey who stated that they started as parent governors as an “entry point to long term governance” then. Parent governors are elected in order for the governing body to “stay accessible and connected to the community they serve” and provide a “diverse range of perspectives around the table”. Parent governors getting “subsequent support and training” to become as effective as those “chosen for their skills” . Oh dear, as someone not in paid employment who is a parent, how can I possibly compare? Do all my years as a healthcare professional before having children count for nothing?

Letters of note

My next thought stemmed from when we were discussing how we praise teaching staff at a committee meeting. Our staff are supported and encouraged to develop themselves and their careers – and as a result of this, have a range of lettered titles including SLE, NLE, NPQML, NPQSL, SENCo, NPQH. Wow! What a myriad of opportunity and recognition, and well deserved too.

But what about us – highly skilled – governors? It seems that NLG or CoG are the only lettered options we can achieve, and anecdotally CoG is “awarded” as much for willingness to carry out the role as necessarily having proven skills in the area.

Having been a governor in various schools for over 7 years, I realise that none of us are in it for the fame and glory, but could we get something more from the role than the warm fuzzy feeling of anxiety when we get “the call”? Could we take control of our training and development and streamline it? Could we produce training that recognises prior knowledge, experience and skills as well as ensuring and evidencing that we have reached required competencies? Something that incorporates practical skills, background knowledge with core and optional modules? Something that would not need to be obligatory but would be nationally recognised? The letters I am seeing are:

N, V and Q. [?]

Or perhaps we should align a little more with the teaching profession? Wouldn’t it be helpful to have an accessible database of Specialist Leaders of Governance, with specific areas of expertise and certified competence? This would encourage sharing of good practice (I picked up so many excellent ideas from other governors on my course), and so much could be carried out using digital technology, which might help reduce the rather insular nature of governance.

My FGB has found it effective to allocate specific responsibility areas to individual governors: we have each developed our knowledge and experience relevant to that area and feed back to the FGB as appropriate. So what about SLGs in the six competency framework areas of strategic leadership, accountability, people, structures, compliance and evaluation? I see that governors would need competency in all these areas but we all have stronger and weaker areas, which could be supported by specialists.

Leading our own development

One thing I took from my development course is that governors are leaders, and highly skilled ones too! Perhaps it’s time that we looked at ourselves and took leadership of the training and development of our unpaid profession?

I hope this hasn’t been too challenging or critical, I’m curious to see what you make of my creative ideas to collaborate as a national body, committing to develop ourselves and grow ever more confident in our skills. See? I’ve got the hang of the seven C’s already!

Questions for your governing board

  • Do we have a governor responsible for training and development / CPD?
  • Do we have a budget allocated for governor training – or is it just “whatever is left”?
  • Do we  create opportunities to share good practice?
  • Do we give ourselves time, in meetings or otherwise,  to discuss our CPD needs – both individually & as a whole board?
  • What do we do to encourage and support governor development and aspiration?
  • Could we use our skills audit to inform our succession planning?

Image credit: c r e p u s c u l u m by Arnie Sacknooson – licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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