It was only last Saturday that I was at the Association of School Leaders and College annual conference with a huge number of school leaders, but it already seems an age ago. The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, gave a speech which began with an emphasis on coronavirus and the role schools are playing in this national crisis. When thanking school leaders, the Secretary of State said: “You continue to inspire so many of us with your calm, resilient, optimistic leadership in the face of adversity.” I don’t usually purport to speak on behalf of all governors and trustees in England as they number a quarter of a million people, diverse individuals with their own opinions, but in these unprecedented times I do want to say on behalf of the governance community: “Thank you so much to our school leaders who are managing this hugely stressful situation and to our school staff who are coming into work when so much of the rest of the British workforce is now working remotely. This crisis underlines once again how schools and those who lead them are at the heart of our communities.”
The National Governance Association (NGA) produced our first coronavirus information sheet for governing boards last week and today published an update. We will update the information sheet again tomorrow (19 March), in light of the announcement that from Friday all schools will close except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, to include the immediate priorities for governing boards. NGA has made our GOLDline advice service available to all governing boards that have questions relating to the implications of the coronavirus for governing board business and practice.
This week you will have received our latest Governing Matters magazine with our Visible Governance campaign on the cover. Just a few weeks ago the campaign had got off to a flying start with many partners pledging support. We had been blown away by the positive response and the way in which governors, trustees and clerks have embraced the ideas and used resources. We have appreciated receiving all your emails and social media posts. But right now and in all likelihood for some months to come schools, governing boards and our valued local and national partners will have more important things to focus on. So we are postponing the first ever school governance awareness week. At the right time we will return to the campaign with energy.
I began agonising over the effect of coronavirus on our events programme a fortnight ago but by this week there was no further agonising required; all the events we had planned for the summer term and advertised in the magazine are cancelled. Many of them we hope to be able to afford to rearrange into the autumn term, but sadly 2020 will not see our summer conference set for Manchester on 6 June. We hope to connect with our many North West members at another event, but more on that later.
For all our members, we will instead be running a series of webinars and podcasts: and bookings will open on the events page in due course.
We are all learning to do more business remotely: good luck to governing boards attempting for the first time a remote board meeting. The challenge for all of us is to stay connected even when physically remote. Governance many perhaps not be quite as visible as we had hoped in the spring of 2020, but NGA will attempt to stay as visible, as connected and as accessible as possible for the governance community. We still would love to hear from you. As always, I am firstname.lastname@example.org.