Governor's Corner #4
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!
The White Paper
You cannot have missed the publication of ‘The Importance of Teaching’ the latest Schools White Paper. Much of its contents was already known so it posed few surprises. Now that we see it in all its glory, Governing Bodies will be looking at the implications for their school alongside the effects of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
There is mention of changes in the way teachers are trained, a review of the curriculum, extension to the Academies programme and a reading test for six year olds. Among the headlines which may be of particular interest to Governors, the White Paper removes the necessity for schools to have a School Improvement Partner (SIPs), an end to Contextual Valued Added data, an emphasis on the role of schools (including GBs) on setting their own priorities for improvement and an option to adopt a model of governance that is more suited to the individual school. This may result in smaller, more focused GBs. All of these are part of the wish to give schools more autonomy and choice.
A more robust strategic role of GBs will become more essential in my view and for some of us this will present problems. Local Authorities have already been drawing up plans on how they can make savings and many of them have specifically targeted school improvement. These include support to schools on training and self evaluation. The National Strategies which have for a number of years provided training for classroom teachers will come to an end at the end of March 2011. Many streams of ring-fenced grants are also to be stopped giving the decision on where to spend the limited budget firmly back to the school. Whilst the HT and staff will be taking those organizational, management decisions, it will be for the GB to provide the challenge to ensure that their school continues to offer the best educational experience for pupils.
Whilst I do not adhere to the ‘dependency’ model where schools are totally reliant on the Local Authority or some other external body for their direction, many schools and GBs are not in a position to take advantage of this autonomy. The White Paper speaks a great deal about good schools knowing how to set appropriate targets and self evaluate, but it is for those schools that are still struggling that I have concerns. I suspect that a closer look at some of these schools would reveal a less that effective GB. In which case, the recommendations removing some of the support in terms of self evaluation will be a further nail in some of these coffins. If LAs are to move more to traded services, the GB need to have the skill and understanding to know what support it needs otherwise precious funds will be wasted. At this point I’m not sure where that training for Governors will come from. There is going to be the offer of training for Chairs of GB (CoG) but it is not clear whether it will be statutory. Not all CoG will want to take this up and there will be a financial cost to it. The White Paper mentions support for Governors in easier access to data but we know weighing the pig does not make it fatter! How do you know what questions to ask?
There is a suggested list of ten questions for GBs to ask. I’m not sure that they are the right ones to really challenge school improvement. You might like to engage with this is debate here and put forward your own questions.
So….what will the White Paper mean to you as a Governor? Do you feel confident that you and your colleagues can take up the challenge and lead school improvement? Have you enough skills among you to offer that challenge?
By the way, I wonder what head teachers will think of that?!!!