Challenge & Support – message for HTs / Governors

Reblogged from Governing Matters 

Challenge and support matters; a Head’s view. With thanks to Ros McMullen

Today I read a brilliant blog post by Ros McMullen. She is the Principal of David Young Community Academy (DYCA) in Leeds and the CEO of LEAF Academy Trust. In her post Ros talks about why staff at DYCA remain so very positive and how the ethos remains so strong. Many of the things Ros talks about resonated with me. These are about support and challenge and the importance of both of these. Ros talks about support and challenge of and by staff at DYCA but these are equally applicable to governors. After all, support and challenge are the raison d’être for governors and governing bodies.

Image courtesy of tungphoto at    

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Below I am reproducing those parts of blog post which I think are pertinent to governors. I think governors would benefit from knowing that Heads value both support and challenge. Or at least good Heads do!
Something for Chairs of Governing Bodies: Ros terms these the “golden rules” of leadership. These are just as important for the Chair as they are for the Head.

  • Never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.
  • Model behaviours you wish to see in others in ALL interactions.
  • Be prepared to admit mistakes.
  • Deal with the urgent urgently, and give time to the important.
  • Never pass the buck and deal with the most difficult people yourself.
  • Be generous with your time.
  • Don’t make excuses.
  • Tell the truth.

Now something for all governors to remember:

  • If an academy or school knows its community well, understands its mission, has robust self-evaluation procedures and effective governance, then it should have the self confidence to “keep calm and carry on”.
  • High levels of challenge / High levels of support: There isn’t much to say about this other than you have to do both.
  • What [is sometimes] dressed as support [is] nothing of the kind – it [is] lack of challenge, and this damage[s] everyone.
  • It is impossible to have high levels of support without high levels of challenge.
  • Great moral purpose (I believe and I’m sure you will all agree that governing bodies and governors need to have a moral purpose to all that we do). We are not about personal credibility or ambition; we are about service, and this comes from our great moral purpose

Thank you to Ros for a brilliant post. Her governing body is lucky to have a Principal who understands the concepts of support and challenge. Her blog post should be required reading for all heads!

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