There are all sorts of times for taking stock and the end of the year is definitely one as I review 2017 and prepare for NGA’s strategy day in January. And what has struck me is just how many people are contributing to the governance of schools.
Let’s start with the people closest to NGA – our staff team is growing, and the recent survey of our members showed how well staff are serving members. I hope it is not invidious to mention one person: Ravinder Banger, our administrative officer, for over five years now has been the person you are likely to have spoken to first if you phoned Governor HQ; there is no request that has been too much trouble for Rav. He has exemplified service to all and has always brought positivity and wise words to the office. Although we are very sorry that he is leaving us in January, it is typical that Rav is going to lead a team of volunteers in Ghana. Thank you Rav and the whole team, including Mark, Katie, John and Victoria who left during the year.
NGA’s board of trustees have quietly performed their role, keeping us on the straight and narrow, well actually not so narrow. Ian Courtney stepped down after his three year term as chair of NGA at our board meeting last week, and I would like to him for his support and advice to me personally as well as to the organisation. Despite all his other commitments, Ian has always been at the end of the phone when I have needed a sounding board and helped me work carefully and calmly through situations. Thank you Ian and all our trustees. I look forward to working with our new chair Maggi Bull.
We also have a team of over twenty consultants across England who carry out commissions for schools and trusts to help them improve the effectiveness of their governance, and we are adding to our number of freelance trainers as we are invited to deliver development programmes in new areas – thank you for being NGA’s eyes, ears, heads and hands locally.
Thanks to all those members who attend events and share their practice, whether that is at regional meetings or at one of our special interest forums: for special school governors and for Community MATs. A special thank you to those trusts brave enough to have agreed to be part of our new series of case studies, beginning with the Spring Partnership Trust and the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust.
Thanks to all those clerks who have enthusiastically engaged with our latest round of events aimed specifically at them. Apologies to those who couldn’t get a place at our first Clerks Conference and make sure you have saved the date for the next: Monday 19th February.
Thanks to the volunteer judges of our biennial Outstanding Governance Awards: Duncan Haworth, Siddique Hussain, Stephen Adamson and Mandy Parsons.
Outside the immediate NGA family there are:
- Those who are mentoring others or volunteering to run local associations of governors and trustees, yet more volunteering in the good cause of sharing practice and experiences;
- fifty local partners of our Leading Governance partnership which delivers development programmes for chairs, future chairs and clerks: this has been a hugely successful collaboration to improve governance across the country and we look forward to welcoming others into the partnership in 2018;
- our legal partners Browne Jacobson, with particular thanks to Richard Freeth and his team;
- Virtual College, our technology partners in our biggest development of 2017: our very own e-learning, NGA’s Learning Link;
- colleagues from the Education and Employers who are delivering Inspiring Governance, the school governance recruitment and support service with us;
- Andy Buck of Leadership Matters who provided leadership development sessions to our staff team pro-bono;
- Speakers who give up time on Saturdays to share their expertise at our events for members; these have included many of the DfE’s Regional Schools Commissioners;
- Fischer Family Trust team who not only developed the Governor Data Dashboard but also provide free training on it;
- Professor Chris James from the University of Bath and other academic colleagues, including Sarah Fitzgerald from York St John University, who collaborated with us on research projects;
- Colleagues at the Arts Council with whom we are promoting the role of governing boards with the arts;
- Colleagues at the Wellcome Trust with whom we are not only promoting the role of governing boards with STEM and careers, but are also reviewing our guidance on setting strategies;
- Tony Breslin and colleagues on the RSA’s advisory group for their recent publication Who Governs Our Schools? for thought provoking discussion and recommendations
In 2018 we are going to be working more closely with ICSA: the Governance Institute to further professionalise clerks’ development, with the Catholic Education Service to improve access to governance resources, and with Whole Education to support their network in developing a rounded education.
I have not forgotten two of our most important partners: the professional associations who represent the senior leaders that governing boards hold to account: National Association of Head Teachers and the Association of School and College Leaders. This year we published a new edition of What governing boards should expect from school leaders and what school leaders should expect from governing boards, but the relationship and respect is deeper than that, and we look forward to doing more to promote CPD for our executive leaders, as well as for those governing, next year.
I would also like to thank Stephen Munday for taking on the chair of the Foundation for Leadership in Education and to Carolyn Roberts who chairs ASCL’s Ethical Leadership Commission superbly.
We of course work with a large number of civil servants, and their quiet dedication and skill should be acknowledged. In particular Chris Caroe, who moved on last summer after about five years as Head of the DfE’s Governance Unit, not only exemplified the civil service values but had also built up a knowledge of school governance that was second to none (apart from NGA’s of course!) – he was a joy to debate issues with.
Thank you to those politicians who have taken an interest in governance and promoted its importance. At the top of that list was Neil Carmichael who set up the All-party Parliamentary Group on Education Governance and Leadership, and is continuing his interest by recently joining NGA’s board of trustees. Thanks also to Angela Rayner MP and Opposition spokesperson for education who came and visited us this term. Thanks to our indomitable President Baroness Elspeth Howe.
Lord Nash, Under-Secretary of State for Education, who stepped down from his role in September had been a keen champion of governance, and one of his final public events as minister was to present our 2017 Outstanding Governance Awards.
Apologies for the length of this – I am not known for my brevity. I am sorry if I have left anyone out – feel free to make yourself known! I am also pleased that as NGA grows, there is more capacity to work with new partners, so each year we seek out those who want to provide the best, affordable service to governing boards.
However supporting governing boards is not an end in itself – we all do it because the role of governing schools is critical in ensuring pupils in England get the best education possible. It would be to no purpose without the voluntary effort of the governors and the trustees.
So to you, our members, who give freely your time to improve the lives and prospects of young people, thank you so very very much. Your commitment is humbling.
Have a peaceful and happy Christmas holiday. You deserve it.