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Outstanding School Governance


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What is outstanding school governance? The story of how Stradbroke Primary School moved from satisfactory to outstanding in less than three years.

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Outstanding School Governance

  1. 1. Outstanding School Governance<br />James Hargrave<br />Chair of GovernorsStradbroke Primary Schoolv1.1P 7October 2011<br />
  2. 2. Agenda<br />What is "outstanding" governance<br />The StradbrokeStory<br />Academy Status<br />My Personal Perspective<br />Questions<br />
  3. 3. Abbreviations<br />CoG= Chair of Governors <br />GB = Governing School <br />HT = Headteacher<br />LA = Local Authority<br />This presentation is my personal opinion and not necessarily the view of Stradbroke Primary School or its Governing Body<br />
  5. 5. Ofsted “outstanding” criteria 1<br />Link to Ofsted 2009 Criteria<br />Governors make an exceptional contribution to the work and direction of the school. <br />They have high levels of insight and are extremely well organised and thorough in their approach. <br />They are vigorous in ensuring that all pupils and staff are safe.<br />In discharging their statutory responsibilities, they have very robust systems for evaluating the effectiveness of their implementation, keeping the work of the school under review and acting upon their findings. <br />
  6. 6. Ofsted “outstanding” criteria 2<br />Governors are innovative, flexible and adapt to new ideas quickly, supporting the work of the staff in improving outcomes for all pupils. <br />They are confident in providing high levels of professional challenge to hold the school to account. <br />Governors engage very effectively with parents, pupils and the staff as a whole and are well informed about users’ views of the school. They use these views to inform strategic priorities for development.<br />
  7. 7. Proposed 2012 Criteria Changes<br />There is no longer a separate score for Governance under Leadership and Management<br />New Framwork is at<br />“how relentlessly the leaders, managers and governors pursue a vision for excellence, for example through: <br />the rigorous implementation of well-focused improvement plans <br />
  8. 8. Proposed 2012 Criteria Changes<br />the consistent application of policies and procedures <br />the extent to which staff, pupils, parents and carers are engaged by and contribute to realising the vision and ambition of leaders, managers and governors <br />accurate monitoring and evaluation of the school’s performance with a secure understanding of the individual skills and attributes of pupils and staff, and taking account of the views of parents, carers and other stakeholders <br />
  9. 9. Suffolk Governor Ofsted Training<br />05/12/2011 – 9.30am-12.30pmWest Suffolk House<br />06/12/2011 – 1.30pm-4.30pm CornwallisHotel, Eye<br />08/12/2011 – 9.30am-12.30pm OrbisEnergy, Lowestoft<br />08/12/2011 – 1.30pm-4.30pmKesgraveCommunity Centre<br />09/01/2012 – 9.30am-12.30pm CornwallisHotel, Eye<br />12/01/2012 – 1.30pm-4.30pmKesgraveCommunityCentre <br />
  10. 10. Ofsted “Learning from the best”<br />Report on school governance from Ofsted in May 2011 based on case studies<br />Available online at<br />Outstanding governors are able to take and support hard decisions in the interests of pupils: to back the head teacher when they need to change staff, or to change the head teacher when absolutely necessary. <br />
  11. 11. Ofsted “Learning from the best”<br />Effective governing bodies are driven by a core of key governors such as the chair and chairs of committees. They see themselves as part of a team and build strong relationships with the headteacher, senior leaders and other governors. <br />The governing bodies constantly reflect on their own effectiveness and readily make changes to improve. They consider their own training needs, as well as how they organise their work. <br />
  12. 12. THE STRADBROKE STORY<br />
  13. 13. Just Satisfactory to Outstanding<br />June 2008: “Satisfactory” Ofsted<br />LongstadingHeadteacher just left and new Head appointed in post for two months<br />Satisfactory overall with some inadequate areas<br />March 2011: “Outstanding” Ofsted<br />Every single lesson was judged outstanding<br />Outstanding judgment in all major areas<br />Criteria changed between inspections<br />
  14. 14. Stradbroke Primary School…<br />“…has improved considerably since its last inspection owing to the relentless drive of the headteacher, whose dynamic and innovative leadership has built a very strong team of outstanding staff…Parents and carers are delighted with the work of the school. One, speaking for many, said, ‘Mrs Barrow and her team never stay still! The school is always moving forward and the children are excited and ‘pumped’ about school and learning, week in, week out. That is an accomplishment indeed!’ “<br />
  15. 15. The Governors…<br />“The senior leadership team is constantly looking for solutions rather than finding problems, and they are joined in this by the highly effective governing body, whose strategic view has placed the school on a firm financial footing and whose expertise has supported all aspects of the school’s development. Governors display considerable levels of challenge, like everybody else, expecting the best from the school’s leaders.”<br />
  16. 16. The Journey<br />We took carefully considered risks<br />We backed the new Headteacher and her vision in the face of some opposition from parts of the school community<br />We challenged the Headteacher showing both our confidence in her ability to succeed and our determination that she would deliver<br />When she said she wanted the school to be “Good” we said she needed to aim for “Outstanding”<br />
  17. 17. The Journey<br />At times we had to take difficult decisions<br />We had to challenge the LA for example to deal effectively with HR issues<br />As Governors we provided both support and challenge<br />We did not seek to make operational decisions but backed those made by the Head<br />We worked together with the Head to build an outstanding team of staff<br />We had high expectations of staff but did not forget praise and encouragement<br />
  18. 18. Getting our own house in order<br />I became Chair of Governors in September 2007<br />At the time Governors met only once a term and LA papers seemed to take meetings over<br />I did not feel that Governors were offering enough challenge or encouragement<br />It all seemed too “cozy”<br />We began to ask challenging questions<br />
  19. 19. Getting our own house in order<br />We increased the number of meetings to two per term, one for LA papers and a “school matters” meeting with the agenda around the Head’s Report<br />We looked at the Committees and Working parties and changed membership and terms of reference<br />The Head retired and we took a long hard look at what the School needed<br />
  20. 20. Organisation Tips for small Governing Bodies<br />Do most things as a whole GB<br />Have at least one formal committee with some delegated powers for finance and staffing issues <br />Keep your committee structure regularly updated, review at least termly<br />Assign individual Governors to subjects and areas eg safeguarding, SEN, Maths<br />Use Working Parties for other things where you need small groups, less admin<br />Have joint meetings with staff to discuss important issues<br />
  21. 21. Making a major decision<br />GBs have to make crucial decisions in the life of schools such as appointing a new Head or deciding on academy status<br />The GB should consult the school community in a genuine way<br />The GB should provide some leadership and ideas as part of the consultation not just say “what do you think”<br />The GB is at the end of the day accountable for its decisions so a consultation is what it says on the tin and the GB make the final decision<br />
  22. 22. New Head Arrives<br />We appointed Melanie as our new Head in March 2008<br />At the time at 28 she was the youngest Headteacher in the country but we felt she had the right skills to take the school forward<br />Some people were less sure…<br />It was a calculated risk that paid off<br />Now our Head is a Local Leader in Education and regularly speaks at NCSL events<br />
  23. 23. The Head and Chair: the “critical” friendship<br />The relationship between the Chair and Head is crucial to the school’s success<br />It is one of the main ways the Governing Body achieves the key roles of critical friendship and securing accountability<br />It is not the job of the Chair to Line Manage the Head<br />The Chair should feel comfortable in constructively criticising the Head and Head the Chair<br />The Head should feel able to run ideas past the Chair – or just call if he/she has had a bad week<br />
  24. 24. The Chair as “leader” <br />The CoG is more than just the person who chairs full governing body meetings<br />The Chair has a leadership role both within the Governing Body and the whole school community<br />The Chair has “emergency powers” to act between meetings for example overturning an exclusion so a child can take a public examination or suspending the Head in exceptional circumstances. The CoG is accountable to the Governors for action taken.<br />
  25. 25. The Chair as “leader” <br />The Chair has a representative function speaking on behalf of the GB to parents, the media etc even appearing before legal hearings when necessary<br />The Chair has an important role making sure complaints and other formal processes are dealt with in a fair and legal way<br />In the past the Chair’s role has been seen more as “first among equals”, personally I think a leadership role with strong accountability is more suitable<br />
  26. 26. Building the Team<br />When there are vacancies for Governors we looked to try and bring In skills we needed<br />For example we felt we needed someone who knew more about finance and were lucky to find a parent who did<br />Some Governors of course are elected but we ensured we used all the skills that they brought with them and were able to develop<br />
  27. 27. Governing Body Development<br />Each Governor has something unique to offer the School<br />For some this will be technical skills, perhaps in finance, buildings, management, IT etc<br />Others bring an understanding of stakeholder views from the staff room or school gate<br />Others bring a strong community perspective<br />The Chair needs to try and get the most out of each Governor<br />
  28. 28. Governing Body Development<br />At Stradbroke we have put a strong emphasis on governor development and training<br />We look at training each meeting and all of our Governors have attended the introductory and further training<br />We are now looking at whole school governor training and working with our local pyramid of schools to ensure these take place locally<br />Training is for everyone, not just new Governors<br />
  29. 29. Strategic Action<br />Too many Governing Bodies spend much of their time on operational matters<br />This is the job of the Head and his/her staff<br />The Head is accountable to the Governors for fulfilling the strategic objectives they set<br />Strategy is the job of Governors<br />The Head is both a Governor (usually) and the principal professional advisor of the Governors and has both a strategic and operational role<br />
  30. 30. Strategic Action<br />Strategy is a military term originally so the rules of engagement and if you should fight the war at all are strategic decisions<br />Fighting the war is operations and tactics<br />In a school strategic decisions are for example:<br />How many staff we need<br />Financial planning over next few years<br />Should we become an academy<br />Changing size/age range of school<br />Should we join a partnership<br />
  31. 31. Strategic Action at Stradbroke<br />We set a strategy to transform the school <br />We made solid financial management a key part of our work making decisions like having the HT teach to balance the books Solid finances allowed us to call the shots<br />We pre-empted the economic downturn saving money for a “rainy day”<br />We created a culture of high achievement and success where excuses and “good enough” had prevailed<br />We praised and rewarded success<br />
  32. 32. Dangers for Governing Bodies<br />“Strawberry Layer Cake” – too much like a PTA. Leave that to the PTA!<br />“Nodding Dogs” – need to provide support AND challenge to the school not just agree with the HT<br />Too comfortable and “cozy” – not likely to be challenging when needed to be, danger of cliques<br />Too formal or “stuffy” – it’s not parliament or even the County Council. GB need to be seen a part of the school community<br />
  33. 33. Dangers for Governing Bodies<br />Individuals Dominate (HT, CoG or both) – Miss out on ideas from other Governors<br />Weak Chairing – meetings drag on too long but nothing much gets done<br />Poor clerking – Governors don’t have the paperwork they need or miss meetings, decisions vulnerable to legal challenge<br />Too many committees – Full GB meetings just become a “rubber stamp”<br />Not enough committees – Too much business to get through in Full GB meetings<br />
  34. 34. Outstanding Schools<br />In some ways it is very simple<br />Outstanding teachers supported by outstanding staff teach outstanding lessons making an outstanding school<br />People are the key. Schools are people organisations and the staff are the key asset<br />Building and developing an outstanding team is the key to success<br />Governors have an important role to play in this <br />
  35. 35. ACADEMY STATUS<br />
  36. 36. Academies<br />The last two governments pitch academies as a radical way of improving schools<br />In truth they are no such thing but the logical conclusion of the long road to self-governance that has been LMS (local management of schools)<br />Current governance and management of maintained schools is confusing<br />Sometimes things fall between the cracks of the LA and school<br />
  37. 37. Academies<br />Already the HT and Governors pretty much run maintained schools<br />With Delegated Budgets governors can and do overrule the LA<br />We refused to take part in the redeployment scheme from middle schools insisting in following our own recruitment processes<br />We did not follow advice from the LA to withhold increments to our TAs and Admin staff and paid these as usual<br />
  38. 38. Academies<br />Academy status means schools are self-governing responsible for the land, employing staff and deciding on admissions<br />But this is a lot of responsibility for smaller schools<br />At Stradbroke we have been working on an innovative solution. A partnership between the High School and its 6 feeder primaries<br />This partnership would form a “chain of academies” with an “umbrella trust” <br />
  39. 39. Stradbroke Pyramid Schools<br />
  40. 40. Stradbroke Pyramid Partnership<br />Pyramid schools are committed to work together in our mutual interest<br />Supporting weaker schools<br />Ensuring the survival and viability of small village schools<br />Obtaining best value through collective purchasing<br />We already have a “business manager”<br />The first schools are expected to become academies in January 2012<br />Schools retain their own self-governance as each will be an academy in its own right<br />
  41. 41. MY Personal PerSPECTIVE<br />
  42. 42. A personal perspective<br />Governance makes a big contribution to the success or failure of a school<br />It demands time and commitment<br />It can be exciting, dull, fraught with conflict, fun, demanding and sometimes frustrating<br />There is a huge payback in return<br />Being part of turning round a school on the verge of failure is immensely satisfying and rewarding<br />It is the achievement that I am most proud of in my working life and I didn’t even get paid for it!<br />
  43. 43. A personal perspective<br />I can remember standing in front of all the school’s staff and Governors and announcing the Ofsted inspection result<br />But even more I now visit a friendly, happy school painted in bright colours with lively staff who have a “can do” attitude<br />And happy children who are learning as well as they can, safe and having fun<br />The School just has a “buzz” now<br />I can’t make strawberry layer cakes or teach reception children but this is my contribution!<br />
  44. 44. Links<br />Stradbroke Primary School Website<br />My Personal Blog<br />Follow me on Twitter@onlygeek<br />This presentation is Copyright © James Hargrave 2011 unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. All Rights Reserved<br />
  45. 45. QUestions<br />