Charlotte Harding

Author: Charlotte Harding

02/12/2021 11:41:20

Charlotte is co-Head of NLG support at NGA and is co-chair of governors at a primary school in the West Midlands and is trustee at a Wolverhampton secondary school.

It has been an absolute pleasure and a privilege to manage the Department for Education (DfE) funded Leading Governance development programmes for NGA.

Many of our cohorts started what they thought would be a blended programme with a large face-to-face element, but found themselves paused while the world took stock in 2020, and then resumed in entirely different ways over Zoom. During this period, we’ve all had our own personal challenges to deal with as well as massive changes in education practice – so hats off to the governance professionals, chairs and future chairs who have put so much hard work and effort into their learning as they have continued their own continuing professional development (CPD)!

Another huge thanks need to go to our central team and all our skilled consultants and facilitators who very quickly had to design new systems and processes, learn a new method of delivery, and generally rallied round to make the experience what we hope was as enjoyable, and as good for networking, as if it had been completed face-to-face.

I’m a great believer in the need for training to be practical. Our time as governance volunteers is always limited, isn’t it, and we want to make sure that what we’re doing will make a difference. Personally, if I’m going to give my time to training, I want to know how this is going to improve what my board and I do in practical and useful terms.

Feedback on this front has always been really positive, with graduates from our chairs’ programme saying that they’ve been able to take their learning back to the board and implement changes to improve effectiveness and efficiency quickly. Our chairs say the development increases not just what they know, but perhaps more importantly, their confidence to carry out their role more decisively.

“Improved understanding of strategic responsibilities, and the need to support especially new governors to understand this, which has a positive impact on keeping board discussions focused”

“Board meetings being shorter and more focused”

“Governors and trustees having the confidence to drill down and find out why something ‘isn’t working’ and ask the question, ‘why are we doing it this way?” 

“The purpose of school visits is clear, they have appropriate foci, reports are clear and evaluative”

“Improved communication skills on how to build consensus and how to conduct courageous conversations, while building an inclusive team”

The success of the chairs programme has been such that, when the DfE funding stopped at the beginning of 2021, we decided to continue providing this CPD on a ‘paid for’ basis. The original funding was £500 a head, and the original programme was designed to ensure we used every penny. However, we listened to feedback from those wanting to take advantage of a leadership-focused course (post-funding) and understood that this was a lot to ask many schools and trusts to pay. Chairs were writing to us saying that they wanted and needed the development but couldn’t ask their school and trust leaders to pay out of their already stretched budget.

We have therefore launched a revised leadership development programme. Our new programme offers a comprehensive suite of eLearning modules through Learning Link, dedicated materials and a copy of our Chairs Handbook. It also includes what our alumni say was the most beneficial part of the original programme, the virtual face-to-face workshop sessions. At our revised price of £249, participants will attend three 2.5 hour sessions led by an experienced NGA consultant and cover topics such as strategic leadership, team dynamics and leading and driving change.

We have also chosen to keep our cohorts small. There’s sometimes a tendency to open these sessions to huge groups and they end up taking on more of a webinar feel. The best thing about our virtual face-to-face workshops is that they are exactly that – workshops. The opportunity to learn from each other, the discussion and debate that is so beneficial, must continue to be at the heart of these sessions. Small sessions allow everyone to have a voice and be heard.

We have also differentiated between those governing in maintained and single schools, and those governing on a trust board. The challenges that you face are often very different, so we have created separate cohorts to reflect this. Saying that, many trustees have enjoyed working in mixed cohorts and report that seeing how others govern in different settings to their own has improved their practice and understanding of individual school settings. The choice is ultimately yours as to whether you prefer a mixed or setting-specific cohort. Cohorts are now open for registration for the Spring and Summer term 2022 (time seems to be such a strange concept these days – not sure how I feel about it being 2022 in just under a month!)

Recently, I have spoken to a couple of our partners – local authorities we worked with when Leading Governance was delivered face-to-face. These partners have talked to us about NGA facilitating both the original and revised programme in person to a group of their local chairs. If this is something you think your local authority – or your trust perhaps, would be interested in – please do get in touch for more information.

As always, I would encourage you to talk to us if you want more information or want to discuss your options. Visit the Leading Governance page, or my team can be reached through leading.governance@nga.org.uk or by phone at 0121 237 3780.

 

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