It’s been another productive academic year for the NGA team, and our busiest yet. Here is our round-up of new resources and opportunities available to those governing and to clerks, as well as some of our proudest moments.
Influencing policy and representing you
Our biggest campaign to date focused on the biggest issue facing governors/trustees: funding. Our lobby of Parliament in February, which sought to set out the scale and severity of the impact of funding cuts, saw those governing in at least 140 constituencies in England contact their MP about the difficult decisions they are having to make about what to cut in their school. Many boards contacted their MP to tell them about their own experiences, and one school even receive a visit from the Chancellor.
Consultation on and the subsequent publication of Ofsted’s new education inspection framework was also a major feature during the academic year. In her address to our summer conference, HMCI Amanda Spielman thanked governors and trustees for “engaging so fully” with the consultation and praised NGA’s “thoughtful and comprehensive” response. The changes come in to effect in September 2019, and to help those governing understand what it means for them, Emma Knights recently took part in a webinar with Ofsted’s deputy director. We will be publishing updated guidance for governors/trustees on the topic of Ofsted inspections imminently too.
We have also been involved in DfE advisory groups looking at several aspects of staffing: workload, recruitment and retention, data and flexible working and have been promoting the findings and recommendations of the final reports to those governing, including refreshing NGA guidance on these topics.
Since launching the Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, over 250 schools and trusts signed up as pathfinders to test out resources designed by NGA which aim to support those leading and governing schools to make ethical decisions, and a second cohort of pathfinders will begin considering their own decision making within an ethical framework from September.
On top of this, NGA’s team were out and about at hundreds of events throughout the year, from keynote addresses at national conferences to practical workshops with local associations, sharing good practice and challenging those governing, executive leaders and others across the education sector to continue to improve their governance.
Improving our membership offer
The most visible change for members came with the new NGA website which launched in April. With the aim of giving members greater control over their account and what they see, the website offers handy features including improved search and navigation, bookmarking content and managing personal communication preferences. Development of the site will continue over the summer ready for September.
Another packed calendar of member events culminated in June’s summer conference where Amanda Spielman and Dame Professor Alison Peacock gave keynote speeches to members, alongside a choice of practical workshops and lots of networking opportunities. For our Clerks’ conference in February, Lord Agnew recorded a short video message where he said “I want to be very clear that governance professionals are the cornerstone of effective governance: they are vital.”
Professional development for governance volunteers and professionals
Our funded development programmes for chairs, clerks and boards continued to grow and reach even more people across the country – over 1,000 chairs and clerks are now participating in cohorts. At the summer conference we also recognised the first chairs and clerks to successfully complete the programme, and thanked them for extending their commitment to their role by undertaking this additional development. With the recent news that two fully funded places per board are available for chairs (including vice, committee and future chairs) on our Development for Chairs programme, next year looks set to see an even greater number of participants involved in our programme which blends face-to-face training, eLearning and a school based project. We have received lots of great feedback on our programme over the year with participants particularly valuing the opportunity to network with their peers and to build local support groups.
Learning Link turned two in April and we are delighted that our eLearning is now used by over 40% of boards in England. Creating new modules is an important part of the development of the service, and this year we introduced a new safeguarding module, an ‘arts and cultural education: improving your school and its curriculum’ module funded by Arts Council England, and a case-study based module on effective MAT governance.
Celebrating outstanding governance
One of the proudest moments in the NGA calendar was the Outstanding Governance Awards where we recognised the achievements of eighteen governing boards and clerks for their significant impact on their school/trust. In a ceremony at the House of Commons, finalists showcasing the very best of school governance practice received their awards and the opportunity to celebrate their success.
Utilising MAT governance expertise
Bringing together all our evidence and expertise on the key challenges facing MAT governance, we launched a comprehensive report in June on ‘Moving MATs forward: the power of governance’ which explores eleven issues with governance and oversight which both impact a board’s ability to carry out its core functions. As well as making recommendations to trustees and policymakers, the report highlights four debates which NGA believe need to happen in order to progress the system in which MATs are governed.
Based on this insight, guidance from the NGA team to support trustees in their role published this year covered executive pay and the role of members in academy trusts. Two new case studies also joined our series of insights in to MAT governance and the challenges and solutions faced by those governing on their journey. Research on the time taken to chair a MAT was launched in April which identified the significant time commitment and value of time which MAT chairs give to their role.
For those schools considering their future formation, we updated our popular series of joint guidance papers on ‘taking the next step’. The papers outline the benefits and types of collaboration and the steps schools need to take to form or grow a group of schools accountable to one governing board.
Getting the right people around the table
We continue to support boards in getting the right people around the table through our work with Inspiring Governance – the free service connecting schools with governance volunteers. Our Educators on Board campaign launched in May, receiving widespread support from organisations that represent, support and develop education professionals – leaders of these organisations shared their views on why encouraging education professionals to govern in a different school is a valuable idea. Look out for the next phase of this campaign next term. We have also continued our Everyone on Board campaign, which launched last year to try and improve the participation of young people and people from ethnic minorities in school governance, by being one of the first organisations to sign up to the Department for Education’s statement of intent on race. Helping boards through the recruitment process from identifying needs to effective induction, we updated our popular ‘the right people around the table’ guidance with more focus on board diversity and volunteer management. Ensuring boards have good leaders is important too, so our new guidance on succession planning helps boards to be proactive in preparing their future leadership – including how Future Chairs can help.
On the horizon in the new term is the publication of the School Governance in 2019 report which will show the latest picture of who governs and the views of governors and trustees on education policy – these findings ensure we can continue to champion the voice of those governing schools across the education sector. We also have forthcoming updated guidance on the important topic of parental engagement, supporting boards in their important role of listening and working well with all school stakeholders. There will be a new instalment of the Educators on Board campaign, featuring education professionals, executive leaders and chairs of governors/trustees already benefitting from this arrangement. Finally, the team are finalising plans for our regional conferences and meetings which take place during the autumn term, culminating with our annual conference which will be held on 16 November – watch this space for announcements about our keynote speakers.