Governors Corner #2

This occasional series sprang out of a chat with my dear friend Dianne Spencer She is a brilliant head teacher leading her team to provide some amazing educational experiences for their pupils. This space is about and for school governors, one of the most underrated sections of leadership in our schools today. It is here for you to share so please leave a comment with your views and any topics you might like to explore!

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Keep It Simple

Many Governing bodies are gearing up for their first meeting of the year. This is often a ‘house-keeping’ type meeting where people are elected to posts and policies and procedures are agreed. It is also a good time to reflect the work that we will have to do over the next 12 months.

In many ways the work that we will do will largely depend on the people who make up the Governing Body. It is a good idea to really understand ‘the tools we have in the box’! Firstly, we are all volunteers. That means we have other lives which at times will take precedence over school matters. We may not come from an educational background. This means we may not understand the jargon and thousands of acronyms education is known for. What we are not is stupid!! We have made a commitment to the school and it is important that our differences do not get in the way of some excellent support being given to the school.

One way to make sure that things go smoothly is for the information that is distributed to be appropriate. Both sides (the school and governors) have a role to play. The school, predominantly the head teacher, should provide information in simple terms that a lay person can understand. The heads report should be clearly laid out, possibly following the format of the Self Evaluation Form (SEF) that Governors will need to be familiar with. Repeated use of the same headings and formats  do aid understanding.

The content should be such that it gives Governors the details they need to make judgments and provide an informed challenge. It is all well and good to know that the KS1 children went on a visit but far more important that Governors know and understand their progress.

As a Governor, I think it is essential that paperwork is sent out before the meeting.  If Governors are to support the school, they need to engage and understand the information; being given it at the meeting prevents this. I think the ‘official’ recommendation is seven days before. Although things happen to prevent that time scale most Governors have access to email so even if it is sent the night before, it may give time to be looked at.

Governors role in all this information is to READ it! Sounds obvious but it is not a paper exercise. If the school has given you paper or information, it wants you to do something with it. If you do not understand you need to ask for clarification. Head teachers and senior leaders will sometimes forget that things they deal with every day and fully understand can be a foreign language to others. For any head teacher readers, perhaps each FGB meeting should have a time for clarification before discussing the item.

The role of the Governing Body has changed beyond all recognition from being a group of people who would visit school, support events and often rubber stamp what they were told to a group of people accountable for the progress, safety and general well-being of the children.

With a little thought on both sides this process  can be made a little easier and more effective.

Governors – Do you engage with the information?

Senior Leaders – Can the lay-person understand your paperwork?

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